The Caddo Chiefdoms: Caddo Economics and Politics, 700-1835

The Caddo Chiefdoms: Caddo Economics and Politics, 700-1835

The Caddo Chiefdoms: Caddo Economics and Politics, 700-1835

The Caddo Chiefdoms: Caddo Economics and Politics, 700-1835

Synopsis

For centuries, the Caddos occupied the southern prairies and woodlands across portions of Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. Organized into powerful chiefdoms during the Mississippian period, Caddo society was highly ceremonial, revolving around priest-chiefs, trade in exotic items, and the periodic construction of mounds. Their distinctive heritage helped the Caddos to adapt after the European invasion and to remain the dominant political and economic power in the region. New ideas, peoples, and commodities were incorporated into their cultural framework. The Caddos persisted and for a time even thrived, despite continual raids by the Osages and Choctaws, decimation by diseases, and escalating pressures from the French and Spanish. The Caddo Chiefdoms offers the most complete accounting available of early Caddo culture and history. Weaving together French and Spanish archival sources, Caddo oral history, and archaeological evidence, David La Vere presents a fascinating look at the political, social, economic, and religious forces that molded Caddo culture over time. Special attention is given to the relationship between kinship and trade and to the political impulses driving the successive rise and decline of Caddo chiefdoms. Distinguished by thorough scholarship and an interpretive vision that is both theoretically astute and culturally sensitive, this study enhances our understanding of a remarkable southeastern Native people. David La Vere is an assistant professor of history at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, and the author of Life among the Texas Indians: The WPA Narratives.

Excerpt

When I first began researching the Caddos, so little had been published on them that I was torn between writing a traditional political history and taking a more thematic approach. Fortunately, this decision was taken out of my hands, as within the last few years several excellent books on the Caddos have been published. These include Timothy Perttula’s The Caddo Nation, F. Todd Smith’s The Caddo Indians: Tribes at Convergence of Empire, and Cecile Carter’s Caddo Indians: Where We Come From. Because Smith and Carter did such fine jobs chronicling Caddo-Euro-American relations, there was no need to repeat what they had already covered so well. This allowed me to indulge my curiosity and examine themes that show how Caddo society went from powerful, highly ceremonial chiefdoms arising in the eighth century to being forced by the United States to cede thenland in Louisiana in 1835.

Since my subject is not Caddo-European relations, I have tried to avoid the traditional method of dividing the Caddos’ history into French, Spanish, and American periods and the use of year-by-year chronicling. Having been fortunate to get to know several Caddo people while researching this book, I quickly realized that the Caddos, like so many other Indian peoples, had different concepts of historical periodization than did Euro-Americans. They put little emphasis on events and dates, and rarely think of Caddo history as divided into periods named for and by others. Rather, they seem more concerned with activities and relationships. Caddo relationships, occupations, endeavors, and changes in their society spanned all these “periods.” Though a chronological . . .

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