The Caddo Legacy
When Natchitoches National Fish Hatchery was being constructed in 1931, some 100 burials were discovered. Research at that time and subsequent study agrees the site was a part of the Natchitoches Indian village described by the French officer, Henri de Tonti, in the records of his journey here in 1690.
The Caddo or Caddoan language group known more as the "Caddo Confederacy," was found by the French and Spanish explorers and missionaries to be the dominant people along the rivers of the Red River basin, occupying lands now part of Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas.
By the time de Tonti came here he had been in the Mississippi Valley region for about 8 years. He writes of a temple, typically on a raised mound, but details of the site are not mentioned. He does record there were three villages or tribes and names the Natchitoches as one, Ouasita, and Capichi as the other two. In his record he refers to these three as "nations," and having "chiefs," identifying these as not names of the villages but the names of the peoples or "tribes" gathered here in that February of 1690.
It is clear the Natchitoches peoples were of the Caddo and this site is thought to be the seat of the southeast limit of the Caddoan territory. Tonti states the Taensas Indians, who were his guides from the Mississippi River, wished to trade for salt with the Natchitoches, who had access to the salt deposits in the area.
The Spanish Captain Alonso de Leon (1689), who wrote of the Southern Caddo, the Hasinai, reported the people he encountered and their culture was, "as civilized as the Aztecs had been when the Spaniards first came to Mexico."
The earliest European record of the Caddoan people comes from the DeSoto expedition (1542) when they encountered a powerful border land in southern Arkansas. Other early European accounts come from the La Salle expedition and members who survived the French Texas colony attempt in the late 1680's.
The Caddo people and the culture dates far into the past according to archaeologists. Many questions still surround their origins, the cultural developments and society.
A few things are pretty certain however. At the time of European contact from 1552 until 1690, the Caddo had established a remarkable and impressive culture, were in a comfortably powerful position and were known as "The Kingdom of the Tejas," according to the Spanish records.
Many resources are available to learn more of the Caddoan culture and the impact on the region. Much has been lost, yet much has been and is being recovered. The work of archaeologists and the Caddo Nation of Oklahoma continue to seek answers to questions about the people who lived here 550 years ago and maybe more....the evidence of the mound builders and Mississippian cultures are throughout Louisiana.
State and federal laws now work to better protect and preserve our Native American cultures. To learn more follow the links Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) and the Historic Preservation Office of USFWS.
The hatchery is open to all visitors. For group visits wishing a tour, call for scheduling and programs.
The Hatchery Office
The office is open Monday through Friday from 7:00am until 3:30pm. Call 318/352-5324 for more information.