Heritage & Culture

The Caddo people maintain many of their traditional ways and actively work to preserve their unique tribal culture.

One of the most striking features of traditional Caddo culture is the great quantity of social dances that are preserved to this day. The Caddo have a greater variety of social dance songs, such as the Duck Dance, the Alligator Dance, and the Bear Dance, than any other tribe from the Eastern Woodlands. Furthermore, within each type of social dance, the Caddo continue to sing a greater number of songs than other tribes; for example, while other tribes may only have one or two Bell Dance songs, the Caddo people have dozens.

One of the most important of the Caddo dances in the Turkey Dance. This dance is performed in the afternoon and must be completed by sunset (when turkeys come home to roost). The various songs of the Turkey Dance describe the accomplishments of Caddo warriors. For example,

Kahdii sunda kaniikii?ah (The soldier chief was killed.)
Kahanaabah kaduhdaachu? (They say it was the Caddos.)
Nihayaayuh ha?ahat (When he followed it was all right.)
Nihayniyuudih ha?ahat (When he caught up with us it was all right.)
Tayawkudah Tankaway (The Tonkaway whooped.)
Sawt’anaayah kutsini?ah (He thought, “They’ll be afraid of me.”)
Nidimbi?nah na sik’uh. (They beat him with a rock.)
Ana shuuwi? ta?iyaasa?. (It’s because a warrior was there.)

The Caddo people have dances throughout the year, including a dance to induct the incoming tribal princess, the Murrow family dance in June and the Clara Brown Dance in September. The cultural organizations also hold several dances each year; for example, the Hasinai Society hosts a dance to induct its organizational princess as well as gourd dances to raise funds for the Hasinai Summer Youth Camp.

Other aspects of Caddo culture are alive and well today. One outstanding example is the pottery of Jeri Redcorn. The photo above shows Mrs. Redcorn putting the finishing touches on some of her pottery. Both the shape of the vessels and the designs that decorate them are drawn from traditional Caddo designs. Some of Mrs. Redcorn’s pottery in on display in the galleries of the Caddo Heritage Museum.

There are several organizations within the tribe that work to preserve Caddo culture through regular meetings. During these meetings, members of these organizations may practice Caddo songs and dances, exchange stories, or learn how to make items such as traditional dresses or moccasins. The two organizations are the Hasinai Society and the Caddo Culture Club. Both of these organizations attend dances in Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana, the traditional Caddo homeland.

For more information on the Caddo people, we’ve compiled a brief bibliography of books about the Caddo. It is available here.

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