The Caddo Indians: Tribes at the Convergence of Empires, 1542-1854

The Caddo Indians: Tribes at the Convergence of Empires, 1542-1854

The Caddo Indians: Tribes at the Convergence of Empires, 1542-1854

The Caddo Indians: Tribes at the Convergence of Empires, 1542-1854


"In 1542 members of the thriving Caddo Indian culture came face to face with Luis de Moscoso, successor to Hernando de Soto as leader of a Spanish exploration party. That encounter marked a turning point for this centuries-old people, whose history would from then on be dominated by the interaction of the native confederacies with the empires of various European adventurers and settlers. Much has been written about the confrontations of Euro-Americans with Native Americans, but most of it has focused on the Anglo-Indian relations of the eastern part of the continent or on the final phases of the western wars. This thorough and engaging history is the first to focus intensively on the Caddos of the Texas-Louisiana border area. Primarily from the perspective of the Caddos themselves, it traces the development and effect of relations over the three hundred years from the first meeting with the Spaniards until the resettlement of the tribes on the Brazos Reserve in 1854. F. Todd Smith chronicles all three of the Caddo confederacies - Kadohadacho, Hasinai, and Natchitoches - as they consolidated into a single tribe to face the waves of soldiers, traders, and settlers from the empires of Spain, France, the United States, Mexico, and the Republic of Texas. It describes the balance the Caddos struck with the various nations claiming the region and how that gradually evolved into a less beneficial relationship. Caught in the squeeze between Euro-American nations, the Caddos eventually sacrificed their independence and much of their culture to gain the benefits offered by the invaders. Falling victim to swindlers, they at last lost their lands and were moved to a reservation." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved


On May 21, 1542, after futilely engaging in a three-year search for Indian kingdoms in the southeastern region of North America, Hernando de Soto died. His successor, Luis de Moscoso, interred his body in the Mississippi River in an effort to conceal his death from the nearby Indians, for de Soto had "given them to understand that the Christians were immortal," and the remaining five hundred Spaniards feared an attack should the natives learn otherwise.

Abandoning the search for riches, Moscoso led his men westward in an attempt to return overland to New Spain. in mid-July, 1542, the party passed through a province the natives called Amaye and on to another called Naguatex. For three months the Spaniards wandered around the country of the Naguatex, a people described as living in scattered settlements, and their allies. the Spaniards burned a few of these villages to the ground in a desperate attempt to impel the natives to supply them with corn. in addition, Moscoso forced the Indians to provide guides, and though some of these natives attempted to lead the Spaniards astray, they only ended up hanging from the many trees in the woods. Finally, Moscoso decided to leave the Naguatex, retreat back to the Mississippi, and construct boats, in which the Spaniards finally floated downriver into the Gulf of Mexico. It was not until September, 1543, that the remnants of de Soto's failed expedition finally reached New Spain.

Moscoso's episode among the Naguatex, which took place in presentday Louisiana and Texas, represents the first contact between Europeans and a tribe now known as the Caddos. Naguatex is a transliteration of the Caddoan words nawi and techas, which mean "friends down there," while amaye is the word the Caddos use to designate an "older uncle on the male side of the family." Other tribes mentioned by members of the Moscoso party, including the "Nissohone" and the "Nondacao," are so similar to those included among the Caddo tribes that little doubt exists as to whether Moscoso visited the Caddo villages.

The Spanish appearance in 1542 began four-and-one-half centuries of contact between the Caddos and the European invaders. For 150 years the Caddos occupied a critical position on the convergence of various . . .

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