The Caddo selected this site for a permanent settlement about A.D. 800. The alluvial prairie possessed ideal qualities for the establishment of a village and ceremonial center: good sandy loam soil for agriculture, abundant natural food resources in the surrounding forest, and a permanent water source of springs that flowed into the nearby Neches River.
From here, the Caddo influenced life in the region for approximately 500 years. They drew local native groups into economic and social dependence through trade and a sophisticated ceremonial/political system. They traded with other native groups in Central Texas and as far away as present-day Illinois and Florida. Caddo Mounds’ sphere of influence was only a small portion of the broader Caddo cultural landscape encompassing northeast Texas, northwest Louisiana, western Arkansas, and eastern Oklahoma. The Caddo culture, in turn, had trade connections, and perhaps religious and political ties, with similar cultures farther east in the Mississippi Valley, South in Mexico and beyond.
The settlement at Caddo Mounds flourished until the 13th century, when the site was vacated. Archeologists observe that the prominent cultural leaders moved away from Caddo Mounds after a decrease in their regional influence, as outlying hamlets and trade groups became self-sufficient and grew less dependent on the cultural center in religious and political matters. There is no evidence that war played a major role at Caddo Mounds, either in the maintenance of local influence or as a cause of abandonment. The Caddo culture that remained in the area was like the earlier culture in many ways, but varied in practices of ceremonialism and material wealth.
The Hasinai Caddo groups continued to live through the 1830s in their traditional East Texas homeland in the Neches and Angelina River valleys, but by the early 1840s, all Caddo groups had been forced to move to the Brazos River area as a result of Anglo-American oppressive measures and colonization efforts. They remained there until the U.S. government placed them on the Brazos Indian Reservation in 1855, and then in 1859 the Caddo (about 1,050 people) were forced to flee to the Washita River in Indian Territory, now western Oklahoma.
The Caddo continue to live in western Oklahoma, primarily near the Caddo Nation Headquarters outside Binger, Oklahoma.
Did You Know?
- At their peak, ca. A.D. 1100, the Caddo were the most developed prehistoric culture in Texas.
- Many of the exquisite sacred items unearthed by archeologists at Caddo Mounds bear a striking resemblance to artifacts discovered as far away as Illinois and Florida. The raw materials for some of these sacred items originated in distant places, such as shell from the eastern Gulf Coast and copper from the Great Lakes region, all acquired through the broad trade network of the Mound Builders.
- Texas takes its name from the Caddo word tejas, which means friend.