Journal of Northeast Texas Archaeology




The introduction of the horse to the Americas by Europeans, particularly the Spanish, after 1492 played a very important role in Native American history and societal change. As Peter Mitchell has commented in his book Horse Nations: “the horse was so very widely introduced to population across the world after 1492. It can thus provide a constant against which to evaluate the many changes that those populations experienced after European contact, while highlighting the ‘radically different meanings and impacts in distinctive cultures’ that its arrival heralded.” Among the Caddo Indian peoples, the horse was introduced in the late 1600s from Mexico as well as the Jumano tribe of the Southern Plains, leading to the development of new means to “trade, move, and raid,” and move equipment, as mounted warfare came to dominate the Southern Plains of North America after about the early 1680s. By 1719, the Caddo were domesticating feral horses, as the horse became well integrated into their farming economies. By this time, the horse was the prime exchangeable commodity for Caddo societies south of the Red River.

The Jumano Juan Sabeata had described the Tejas or Hasinai Caddo groups in the early 1680s as “a settled people [who]…raised grain in such abundance that they even fed it to their horses." In addition to the horses, the Caddo also obtained horse gear, such as bridles and saddles. When La Salle came to East Texas in 1686, after his expedition to find the Mississippi River had failed along the Texas Gulf Coast, he purchased several horses from the Hasinai Caddo; when he set out for the Mississippi River in 1687, he did so on horses previously purchased from the Caddo. Father Anastasius Douay, who accompanied La Salle, said that horses were common property among the Caddo and could be purchased for a single iron hatchet. In 1690, when Henri de Tonti was in Kadohadacho villages along the Red River in northeastern Texas, he commented that they had 30 horses, which the Kadohadacho called cavali (after caballo, a horse in Spanish). Furthermore, the Nabedache Caddo in East Texas “possessed them in such numbers that there were four or five about each house." The livestock brought by the Spanish to East Texas became part of the Hasinai herd after the missions were abandoned in 1693.

By this time, the Caddo had already begun a profitable trade in salt, pelts, and horses with French Louisiana and Illinois colonies; in 1714, the Frenchman St. Denis established the Natchitoches post at the abandoned 1702 Natchitoches village to commence formal French involvement in trade with Native Americans. For the sale of horses at the French post at Natchitoches, the Hasinai Caddo received firearms, powder and lead balls, hatchets, knives, hoes, glass beads, mirrors, cloth, garments, and alcohol. By about 1716, “the Hasinai and the Cadohadachos marked, respectively, the saturated frontier of horses moving eastward, and of muskets moving westward in trade." As late as 1800, the Barr and Davenport trading house in Spanish Nacogdoches, Texas, acquired 500 horses from the Hasinai Caddo groups and immigrant Indians living in East Texas.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.



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