Indian Culture of North Louisiana

Although archaeologists have determined the oldest
culture to inhabit north Louisiana
to be the San Patrice culture of about 8,000 BC,
the Indian group most commonly
associated with the area is the Caddo culture,
which evolved about 1,500 years ago.

The Caddo Nation, or Confederacy, was a group of tribes
centered around a capitol village near
present day Texarkana, Texas.

The Louisiana Caddo speaking tribes were the Adaes,
Doustioni, Natchitoches, Ouachita and Yatasi.

These groups seem to have been concentrated around
Natchitoches, Mansfield, Monroe and Robeline.
Their total aboriginal territory stretched
from the Ouachita River west to the Sabine River
and south to the mouth of the Cane River.

Although a village of the Natchitoches tribe once stretched
from the present location of the National Fish Hatchery
down the river to Beau Fort Plantation,
a fever epidemic in the mid-1780s virtually
eliminated the Natchitoches band.

When the Americans arrived some 25 years later,
Dr. John Sibley was appointed Indian agent and
kept a meticulous record of the trade with Indian cultures.
I have found no reference to the Natchitoches tribe
in his journal.

In 1835, the Caddo agreed to sell the United States approximately
one million acres of landand the tribe was relocated among the Choctaw of Texas.

In 1859, the Caddo people fled Texan hostility and resettled in Oklahoma.
The Civil War divided the Caddo with those
supporting the Union fleeing to Kansas,
but they returned to the Wichita reservation after the war.

In 1901,the U.S. government effectively dissolved the reservation
with a policy of forced land allotment.

It was not until 1963 that more than 60,000 acres of ceded lands
were restored to the private ownership of Caddo, Wichita and Delaware Indians.
There were about 900 tribal members on or near the Oklahoma
reservation in 1991.

Of these remaining members, there is a Caddo dance troupe
that travels the nation performing the ritual dances of the ancient Caddo.
While they were performing in Natchitoches, I had the opportunity to
interview an elderly chief, or Caddi as they are called,
and inquired about the legend of two brothers founding
twin cities known as Nacogdoches, Texas and Natchitoches, Louisiana.

According to the legend, the brothers were instructed to leave
the main town of the Caddo and walk a certain number of days
to the southwest and the southeast and establish two new Caddo villages.

The elderly gentleman began to translate the words into English,
"Nacogdoches means atop of,or about.
Natchitoches means place of the paw-paw,
or paw-paw eater, depending on how
the word is used.
I have heard that other story before,
but that's just something the Choctaw made up."

Sources: State of Louisiana Anthropological Study Series No. 2,
The Caddo Indians of Louisiana, Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia and personal interviews.
Images courtesy Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and
University of Texas at Austin and their website: