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Source Material on the History and Ethnology of the Caddo Indians

  • First published in 1942, John R. Swanton's Source Material on the History and Ethnology of the Caddo Indians is a classic reference on the Caddos. Long regarded as the dean of southeastern Native American studies, Swanton worked for decades as an ethnographer, ethnohistorian, folklorist, and linguist. In this volume, he presents the history and culture of the Caddos according to the principal French, Spanish, and English sources.

    In the seventeenth century, French and Spanish explorers encountered four regional alliances-Cahinnio, Cadohadacho, Hasinai, and Natchitoches-within the boundaries of the present-day states of Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, and Oklahoma. Their descriptions of Caddo culture are the earliest sources available, and Swanton weaves the information from these primary documents into a narrative, translated into English, for the benefit of the modern reader. For the scholar, he includes in an appendix the entire test of three principal documents in their original Spanish.

    The first half of the book is devoted to an extensive history of the Caddos, from De Soto's encounters in 1521 to the Caddos' involvement in the Ghost Dance Religion of 1890. The second half discusses Caddo culture, including origin legends and religious beliefs, material culture, social relations, government, warfare, leisure, and trade. For this edition, Helen Hornbeck Tanner also provides a new foreword surveying the scholarship published on the Caddos since Swanton's time.

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