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Rebuilding a Nation

The Supreme Being had made a difference between Americans and his people and had been pleased to endow Americans with more sense and grant them means which the Caddo were entirely without.

The Grand Caddo, Chief Dehahuit, 1806

Wichita Agency area
Wichita Agency area, 1874 map by Asher and Adams. Courtesy David Rumsey Map Collection.

Click images to enlarge

In 1859 official representatives of the United States presented Caddo chiefs and headmen with the Arbuckle Agreement that assured Caddos they would occupy a country belonging to the United States, and not within any State, where none could intrude upon them; and they would remain, they and their children, as long as the waters should run, protected from all harm by the United States. The Superintendent of Indian Affairs defined boundaries for that country that were adequate. The certain promise of permanency and protection satisfied the Caddos' greatest need. In accord with the agents for the United States government, the chiefs and headmen accepted the Arbuckle Agreement on July 1, 1859. Upheaval created by the Civil War soon canceled the Agreement's certainty.

During the white man's war most Caddos spent five debilitating years as refugees in Kansas. Others sought protection with the Seminole Nation or at Whitebead Hill in the Chickasaw Nation. It was 1867 before all returned, only to find their houses ruined, fields and fences destroyed, livestock stolen and large sections of their assigned territory taken away. Houses could be rebuilt, fields replanted, and new livestock raised, but it was not possible to gain self-sufficiency through farming, hunting, and trade without the security of a permanent location with adequate acreage.

Even as the main body of Caddos were returning to their Washita River valley home sites, U. S. agents were negotiating a peace treaty that gave the southern half of the Leased District to warring Comanches and Kiowas. The treaty ignored the Arbuckle Agreement that assigned all of the land from the Chickasaw line to the 100th meridian and from Red River to the Canadian River to peaceable Caddo, Wichita, and affiliated tribes. The Agreement was ignored again in 1869 when an Executive Order located Cheyennes and Arapahoes on a tract overlapping Caddo territory below the Canadian River.

Caddo leaders defended their land boundaries as best they could. They held Council with Agents, pooled their meager funds, sent representatives with interpreters to plead their case at the nation's capitol. But, the last years of the 19th Century passed without a secure land title. During that time, much was learned about coexistence in a world dominated by Americans endowed with skills yet to be acquired by Caddo people.

Jose Maria, Iesh, the Anadarko whose balanced leadership and wisdom guided Caddos, Hainais, and Anadarkos during turbulent years in Texas, died before the end of the Civil War. Guadelupe, Nah-ah-sah-nah, was the accepted leader following the Civil War. Born in 1825 near Natchitoches, Louisiana, he died in 1877. Caddo George Washington (Sho-ee-tat), the recognized leader of the Whitebead Caddos before, during, and after the Civil War, died in 1883.

In 1865 Indians from all of Indian Territory gathered for a Peace Council held in an area on the Washita River that covered the entire present city of Verden, Oklahoma. Disorder and uncertainty had ruled the Territory since the beginning of the Civil War. The grantees of protection by the Federal Government was withheld. The Confederate Government made elaborate offers of protection that seemed, in the beginning, a better chance for the Indians to maintain their existence. Indian leaders soon learned that Confederate promises were never more than spoken words, real protection did not exist. Errant Plains Indian bands and Texas bandits drove off herds of Indian cattle and horses without hindrance. The white man's war created dissension among some tribes. There was fear that the Plains Indians would go on the war path against settled, agricultural tribes. Indian leaders realized that inter-tribal unity was imperative if they wanted to survive.

The 1865 Peace Council was called to organize an Indian league. A compact was signed by George Washington, Tiner, and two other delegates from the Reserve Caddo Nation. It was also signed by delegates from the Five Civilized Tribes in the eastern Territory, Osages from the north, Delawares, and the Kiowas, Comanches, Apaches, Cheyennes and Arapahoes (called the Plains Indians from the west). Texas officials, who had considered the possibility of an alliance with all the Indians in order to help Texas protect her frontier, sent representatives but they played no part in the council.The compact incorporated a motto--the great principal of Confederate Indian tribes-- "An Indian shall not spill an Indian's blood."

As soon as federal boarding schools for Caddo children were opened in 1870-1871, Guadelupe and Caddo George Washington not only insisted that boys and girls attend, they kept close tabs on their progress. Children were taught math, geography, the reading and writing of English as well as New Testament and Genesis lessons by members of the Society of Friends (Quakers).

Indian Territory
The Fort Arbuckle Agreement concluded on July 1, 1859, set the boundaries for land within the Leased District of Indian Territory that Caddo, Anadarko, and Hasinai chiefs and headmen were assured "they would remain, they and their children, as the waters should run, protected from all harm by the United States."
George Washington
Sho-ee-tat, George Washington, was an active leader of the Whitebead Caddo band before, during, and after the Civil War. 1872 portrait taken when delegation visited Washington. National Anthropological Archives..
Guadelupe, Nah-ah-sah-nah,(Warloupe) was accepted as a leader of Caddo and Hasinai communities following the death of Iesh. 1872 portrait taken when delegation visited Washington. National Anthropological Archives.
Wichita Agency rolls
Wichita Agency rolls (census) for 1869. Courtesy Cecile Carter.
Camp Napoleon Monument
The Camp Napoleon Monument, dedicated in 1930, is located on the high school campus in Verden, Oklahoma . It honors representative of Indian tribes who signed a compact in 1865 to preserve the peace, happiness, and protection of their people. The maker is due to the efforts of noted historian and President of the Oklahoma College for Women, Dr. Anna Lewis.
Butler School, 1871
Butler School, 1871. Josiah Butler taught Caddo children at this U.S. Indian School built in between present Fort Sill and Lawton, Oklahoma, 1870.

After the Caddo children had been in school a few weeks, George Washington came in one evening and the next morning he was in the school room when I got up and there he stayed until bed time, having his meals and drink carried to him and his team cared for by the children. After all was over, ending with 'singing geography,' from outline maps, I left the room. Very soon afterward I heard uproarious laughter in the school room. This was repeated the third time, when I slipped out and, looking in the window, found Washington examining his children to see if they could do anything without my being present. While he could talk English quite well, he did not know a thing about the books, charts and maps and so could not use the points at all, and so the children laughed at him. He then got behind the class and made each one in turn use the points and read and spell in English, going over all that I had through the day and giving the meaning in Caddo. He knew they knew no English when they came and, in this way, he proved them as to how much they had learned, and he was satisfied.

Josiah Butler, pioneer teacher at the Comanche-Kiowa Agency school on the site between present Fort Sill and Lawton 1870-1873

This morning school was visited by Guadelupe, principal chief of the Caddoes, who made a long speech to the children, in which he told them that all white children go to school; that they do not talk and laugh out loud—they tried hard to learn; and he wanted them to be like the white children—mind all their teachers tell them, and try hard to learn. He also told them that at night they went to bed to sleep at once; not talk and play, so as to keep all in the house awake.

Thomas C. Battey, teacher at the Wichita Agency school, 1871

As a child his mother sent him to council meetings. He became an interpreter and before the old chief died, he called a council. He told him [her father] to come. Said "I want to talk to you all and tell [you] I'm getting old. I'm not going to be with you long. He [Enoch Hoag] should have been in here, not me. It rightly belongs to him."

Lillie Whitehorn, 1978, daughter of Enoch Hoag, the last of the traditional Caddo chiefs

Stanley Edge
Stanley Edge, interpreter for the last of the traditional chiefs, was sent to Carlisle Indian school. Western History Collections, University of Oklahoma.
Riverside Indian school
The Riverside Indian School near Anadarko, Oklahoma, is the oldest federal government school for Indians in continuous operation. Photo by Steve Black.
Inkanish family butchering steer
Inkanish family butchering steer issued at Fort Still, Oklahoma in 1894. Archives and Manuscripts Division, Oklahoma Historical Society.

Caddo elders traditionally schooled a future caddi (cah-de, a principal leader, chief) from early childhood. By the time he assumed his hereditary leadership position, he was prepared with the necessary knowledge and skills. Forward-looking leaders in 1870 viewed English language skills as vital for the preparation of the next generation of leaders. Their nation's most recent history warned against blind acceptance of oral and written words that led to misunderstanding. Every council with Americans required an interpreter; every treaty marked with an X at the end of unreadable names had failed to meet expectations. Some failures were the result of hidden meanings or untranslatable English words that were ineffectively expressed by the interpreter. Words often had different meanings for people of different languages. There were times when even the most trusted, competent, interpreter was unable to transmit the nuance of a word or phrase. Many interpreters were thought trustworthy, but Caddo interests were not their prime concern. Wisdom demanded that future Caddo leaders be as adept in English as well as their native language.

George Washington died in 1883; Guadelupe in 1887. Caddo Jake, Hah-cah'-yo kee na say a ("once lived in white house") was generally recognized as principal chief 1890-1902). Community headmen, also hereditary leaders, played an increasingly prominent roll in protecting and guiding the rebuilding the nation whose culture was nearly a thousand years older than that of the United States of America they were compelled to accommodate.

Major communities grew, much as they always had, from a nucleus of related families. A man who married a woman from another community usually went to live as part of her family group. All lived in substantial log or frame houses on farmsteads of ten or more acres. Women kept the houses clean and tidy and tended garden patches; men labored fencing fields, cultivating, and raising cattle and horses. Lack of industry and effort did not slow their progress toward self-sufficiency. Blizzards, drought, and poor soil; a pestilence of grasshoppers and epidemics of whooping cough, measles, and influenza; Comanche raids, and Texas horse thieves did.

Rations distributed from the Agency staved off the possibility of starvation and provided a vague semblance of former days spent in hunting deer and chasing of buffalo. The Agent made a yearly census listing the names of headmen and the number of men, women, boys, and girls in their "band". Headmen were appointed "beef chiefs." Traveling ten or more miles on horseback, in wagons, or in hacks, families arrived to set up overnight camps. Each "beef chief" was given a ticket showing his name, the name of his band, his number on the census roll, the number of persons in his family, the total number of rations they were entitled to receive at each issue, and the dates of the issues.

These tickets were turned over to the women who were admitted in line at one door of the commissary, exited at another. Their task was about as pleasurable as standing in a long check out line at Super Wal-Mart. An issue clerk stationed with an interpreter near the entrance punched out the date on the ticket and called out something like "one of flour, two of sugar, one soap, and one baking powder." The women passed the sacks they brought across a counter to an assistant clerk who filled them with the measured amount of flour, sugar, salt, beans, rice, baking powder, and soap to which they were entitled.

High spirits roused when the beef was issued. The cattle were in a corral where all could see them. Clerks recorded weights as herders ran them over scales. They then turned them into a narrow chute that opened onto the prairie. The issue clerk, assisted by an interpreter, called out the names of beef chiefs and pointed out the cattle apportioned to them. The gate was thrown open and as cattle cleared the chute, two to ten mounted Indians fell behind each one. The average turnout was one per minute. Boys on ponies let out a yell and shot arrows in the flank and neck. Men raised their revolvers or Winchesters to spurt up dust, then shot a bullet to make the steer stagger on three legs. When the animal fell, women rushed out to begin the butchering. Thin strips were cut and hung to dry over camp fires.

The Riverside Indian School across the Washita River from Anadarko, Oklahoma grew from the first Wichita Agency school that employed Tomas C. Battey as teacher in 1871. 1899 photograph by Annette Ross Hume. Western History Collections, University of Oklahoma.
"Beef Issue at Fort Still"
"Beef Issue at Fort Still" painting by T.C. Cannon, son of a Kiowa father and a Caddo mother. Courtesy of the Tee Cee Cannon Estate and Joyce Cannon Yi, estate executor.
"Beef Issue, Woman Study"
"Beef Issue, Woman Study," pencil drawing done T. C. Cannon in preparation of his painting "Beef Issue at Fort Still. " Courtesy of the Tee Cee Cannon Estate and Joyce Cannon Yi, estate executor.

"I do not know why it was but Caddos always loved to camp. They'd go visiting other families and camp for two or three days, maybe a week. Then, of course, they always camped at dances."

Wimpy Edmonds, speaking of his grandparents

Caddo Ghost Dance song
Ethnologist James Mooney who studied the Caddo Ghost Dance in 1890-91, described this song, "The sentiment and swinging tune of this spirited song make it one of the favorites. It encourages the dancers in the hope of a speedy reunion of the whole Caddo nation, living and dead, in the "great village" of their father above."

Camping was a favored pastime. Two or three days, even a week of camping was usual while visiting the homes of friends or attending a dance. Someone like the "rich widow" Caddo Jennie would say, "I'm giving a dance" and families from miles around would come to camp, eat, socialize, and dance to the drum of old songs sung since time before memory. The dances were not the dances pictured by people who have only seen movies or gone to intertribal powwows. They were, and still are, family affairs. Songs carrying stories about the beginning of the Caddo people and important historical events validate Caddo existence; frivolous songs cheer dancing couples; morning songs greet the sun at the beginning of a new day.

Camping is still a favored pastime for many Caddo, especially during the summer for dances. Murrow Dance Ground.

In front of those who are dancing there is a pole and on it hangs a portion of everything they are offering to God. In front of the pole a fire is burning. Near by is a person who looks like a demon. He is the person who offers the incense to God, throwing tobacco and buffalo fat into the fire. . .This pole and the fat for the incense-which has already been burned-they offer to God. Every time a dance begins, a man steps forward as a preacher does and tells the people what they are to ask God for in the next dance.

Fray Francisco Cansanas de Jesus Maria, August 15, 1691

Caddo dance party
1892 Caddo dance party. Archives and Manuscripts Division, Oklahoma Historical Society.
John WIlson and John Inkanish
John Wilson and John Inkanish. Archives and Manuscripts Division, Oklahoma Historical Society.

When the Ghost Dance was introduced to Caddos in 1890, they adapted it to long held religious beliefs. They had their own songs, and they had a pole. From the time of the oldest ancestors, Caddos believed: Ah-ah-ha'-yo, father above, hears our daily prayers; he provides and protects us; there is a world beyond this one where our people gather after leaving mother earth. The pole was carved from the heart of a tall cedar tree. Painted black on one side, green on the other, it was erected with the black side facing north, the green side south. The leader stood on the invisible dividing line at the west side of the pole. Facing east, he began the first song telling that the feather signifying the right to lead the Ghost Dance was given to seven men. Sometimes a person in the dance-in-a-circle would fall in a trance. On waking from a trance the person would tell of a vision and a new song would be made. Sometimes healing miracles occurred.

The Ghost Dance began in January 1889, when a Paiute man named Wavoka (Jack Wilson) had a vision during a total eclipse of the sun. He foretold of a coming natural disaster that would swallow up the Whites and allow Indians to return to their lands and way of life. Wavoka's vision spread quickly among diverse groups across the Plains and beyond. John Moon-head Wilson, from the Caddo tribe, was one of the charismatic leaders who helped spread the Ghost Dance in 1890. By taking part in the five-day dance, Indians believed that they would be reunited with their loved ones in the ghost world. The speed and fervor with which the movement spread sparked panic among white settlers and authorities and figured prominently in the events that led to the massacre at Wounded Knee.

Ghost dancing relieved uncertainty that clouded the hopes of Caddo people. The songs were a form of communication with the great Father Above. White people did not understand and wanted to take it away. Failed attempts to gain permanent title to the land they lived on made them apprehensive that the "Great Father" in Washington would take it away if he chose to do so.

John Wilson
John Moon-Head Wilson, a Caddo man who became one of the charismatic leaders of the Ghost Dance movement in the early 1890s. Archives and Manuscripts Division, Oklahoma Historical Society.
1884 map
1884 map of Indian Territory showing the Wichita Agency and area within which most Caddos settled.

White Bread, Chief of Caddos to his excellency The President of the United States, February 3, 1888:

I am here only the representative of the Caddos—My people live with the Wichitas, the Ionies [Hainai], Anadarkoes, Tawaconies, Kechies and Southern Delawares. Each one of these tribes once had a country and homes of their own. Each tribe once had a country where their ancestors had lived for generations and to which they were attached by ties and associations as sacred and dear as those that cluster in the memories and inspire the hearts of the white man for his country and home. We have none now. . . .These things have not happened to us because we were enemies of the white man, and lived by rapine and bloodshed like many other tribes of Red men. The story of our wrongs and sufferings is too long to be told you now—I will not attempt it. . . .

We, the affiliated bands made war on no people, and lived as best we could during the Civil War among the white people—After the war, and after the Comanches, Apaches, and Kiowas had made war upon the white people a treaty was made with them, and our country, the home and country of the Wichitas for generations back, was ceded to them, and the Wichitas and affiliated bands, because of their peaceful lives and friendship to the white man, and through their ignorance were not consulted, and have been ignored and stuck away in a corner and allowed to exist by sufferance.

These are simple truths only half told—I humbly ask the great Father to take pity on his friendless and ignorant children and have these things looked into, and if he finds the story true that he will send for the Chiefs of the Affiliated bands, with their interpreters, and council with them here, to the end that we may have a country of our own, and if allowed that that our present reservation, much of which is poor and sterile, may be extended so that we can make a living for ourselves, and raise our children in comfort and soon teach them the white mans way—I am but an humble man, ignorant and cannot talk as I would wish—and in order that the great Father may know my thoughts I have spoken them and had them interpreted to a friend and asked him to put them in the white mans language for the great Father to read—I hope our Father will give my words attention and some time before long let us hear words of comfort that my people and their friends may rejoice. I am done.

Punjo, Caddo interpreter

Bob Dunlap
Bob Dunlap served as an interpreter for Whitebread, principal chief 1902-1913.
"Beef Issue at Andarko"
"Beef Issue at Anadarko" by Frederick Remmington. From Davis, Richard Harding, 1903, The West From a Car Window. Harper & Brothers.

Combining two Indian nations—Wichita and Caddo—under an Agency titled Wichita and Affiliated Tribes in 1859 has since tended to confuse anyone unfamiliar with their separate histories. References to the Wichita Agency and the Wichita Reservation compounded the confusion. It implies the close association of unrelated members. The Caddo, the Wichita, and Delaware were affiliated but Caddos, Anadarkos, and Hainais were never affiliates, they were all of one blood. Likewise, Wacos, Tawakonis and Keechis were never affiliates of the Wichita, they were all of one blood.

In 1889 the federal government began appointing commissions to "negotiate" with Indian tribes holding large territories to break these up into small individual allotments (160 or 80 acres) for each adult member of the tribe and open up everything else to white settlers. In addition to taking more Indian land, the process had the intended effect of destroying tribal governments and forcing the integration of Indians into American society. At the same time Indian children were being separated from their parents and being forced to attend boarding schools where they were taught in English and forbidden to speak their native tongue.

The commission that dealt with Caddo and Wichita lands was called the Cherokee or Jerome Commission, after its chairman, David H. Jerome. The Jerome Commission, Presidential appointees charged with the task of negotiating with the Wichitas on the subject of accepting allotment of their lands in severalty, actually had to deal with two individual Indian Nations—Wichita and Caddo—each unwilling to accept the government's proposal. Allotment in severalty meant giving each member possession of a 160 or 80 acres, breaking up Indian Nations, and opening unalloted land for white settlement.

Chairman Jerome opened the council in May of 1891 with words that echoed those heard by Caddos before signing the treaty that ceded their Louisiana homeland to the U.S. in 1835. Jerome's statement, another commissioner's remarks and the response of Caddo Jake, Caddo principal leader, are in the record of the proceedings.

Chief Whitebread
Chief Whitebread, Caddo Principal leader (1902-1913), had apprenticed under Caddo Jake.
1890s photo of Caddo house
1890s photograph of Caddo house on Oklahoma prairie entitled "Group of Four near Judge Georg Parton's House." Photo taken by James Mooney before 1896. National Anthropological Archives.

You can get a living better than you do now, and that is what we have come to tell you. The Government has a plan, which if you will adopt and try your best to live up to, will give you more comforts and better living to you, and your families, than you have ever had before. . . The Government of the United States is the only friend and the best friend that the Indian has, and it is the Government of the United States that sends this food here to feed these Indians every day.

Commissioner Chair, David Jerome

Wichitas have "more land than you can use and more than anybody in this nation can use and that is the reason we are come to ask you to take a less piece."

Warren G Sayre, member of the Jerome Commission

The Government should give us time to send our children to school and educate them and then it is time to send this Commission. . .if "pity" were had on the Indians, the Commission would "return to Washington" and this time would be allowed. [Caddo Jake] said plainly that the Wichitas were not able to take land in allotment, were not able to take care of it, and that they wanted to return to their farm work and "not sit around here and talk for several days." The Wichitas had been "quite a little while . . . fixing their country" and felt that it was their own; moreover they preferred to talk about "greater claims" and "old claims" the Wichitas had against the Government, as to how their lands were reduced to "this little strip of land north of the Washita." They said their reservation was "about the right size" and they would like to keep the land for the next generation. "Can you tell us how many children are coming?"

Caddo Jake, in Council with the Jerome Commission,
Anadarko, May 11, 1891


The government's will could be stalled, but it would prevail. The Caddo Nation would falter, but it would survive. Strength lay in the people's ability to hold on to distinctive Caddo traditions that bound them while throwing away old ways that no longer worked.

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