Four major tribes inhabited the Red River Valley of the Southwest before and during European invasion. The
Caddos, Wichitas, Kiowas and the Comanches dominated the region and its history for centuries, if not millenia.

After European contact, fortunes for Native Americans changed drastically. The Red River Valley reflected this
through the migration of the Shawnees, the invasions of the Osages, and the alliances with the Tonkawas.

In the American period, the Red River Valley became home to two tribes, the Choctaws and Chickasaws,
removed from their lands east of the Mississippi River via the final Indian Removal Act of 1830.

Historical travelers can discover their impact on the landscape if they where to look. These pages will be your
guide to learning about these important cultures, their places in history, and where they are now.
Red River Originals
Tribes in the Red
River Valley before
and during
European contact
The Caddos
The Wichitas
The Comanches
The Kiowas
Questions or comments? E-mail me: robin@redriverhistorian.com
Tribes migrating to
the Red River
Valley after
American contact
The Shawnees
The Osages
The Tonkawas
Tribes settling in
the Red River
Valley at the onset
of Indian Territory
The Choctaws
The Chickasaws
End of the Trail
Limited Scopes
Because the original inhabitants of the Red River Valley did not leave a written record of their own, it has often been hard to categorize
the people as being part of a "nation" or, at least, a "confederacy." The first written accounts of the Caddos, for example, came from the
Spanish, who viewed the villages they encountered as resources to exploit. This point of view was evidenced by other European
chroniclers, who documented the Native Americans they encountered in the confines of how useful/beneficial they could be to them.
European chroniclers of the original inhabitants of the Red River Valley include Spanish, French, and Anglo-American accounts- this area
was never under English rule.

Archaeology
Scholarly attempts at reconstructing the history of the aboriginal inhabitants of the Red River rely on several clues that help to piece
together incomplete but workable, broad understandings.

Archaeological digs and artifacts provide some context. The archaeological record can be haphazard, as several, possibly important sites
in the Red River Valley have been destroyed over the years through neglect, ambivalence, or apathy. For example, entire mound cities
once occupied by people of the
Caddos have been destroyed by farming or by relic hunters. The relics left behind by the Comanches
were often purposely destroyed by ranchers. The cultural touchstones of the
Wichitas were outright stolen; one of their major cities near
Wichita, Kansas became a golf course.

Still, scientific surveys of sites that have been explored reveal certain key factors: that at one point, the Caddos and Wichitas belonged to
a much more centralized culture with major ceremonial cities that acted as religious centers and trade conduits. Prior to 1492, something
happened (there is no consensus as to WHAT happened) that made the tribes decentralize and localize. One theory that I support is the
climate change theory: a mini-ice age that led to decline in agriculture output, coupled with deforestation in the vicinity of the cities. In any
case, the ceremonial cities fell to ruin, and smaller, family clans became the centers of villages and settlements. This de-centralization
allowed emerging powers, like the Comanches, access to the area. By the 17th and 18th centuries, the power dynamic shifted further, and
the Europeans came to dominate the region, leading to clashes with the emergent Comanche Empire and the faltering Caddoan and
Wichitan domains.
Linguistic Kinships
Due to the uncertainties and incomplete records that archeology provides, anthropologists rely on language to understand how tribes are
related to each other. Caddos, for example, have a distinctive language base in which the languages for the Nasonis, Kaddahadachos,
Adaes, Natchitoches, Nacogdoches, Hasinais, and others are related. Their language influenced Wichita linguistics, that villages occupied
by the Tawakonis, Wacos, Taovayans, Tehuacanas and Keechis (among several others) held in common. The Comanche language differs
substantially from the Caddoan group: Comanche is a branch of the Shoshone linguistic group, a tribal affiliation that stems from Wyoming.
All of these language bonds help to explain the historical origins of the Red River Valley tribes, too.

Oral Histories
Ultimately, a true understanding of the history of the original Red River Valley inhabitants relies on their own stories. These consist of oral
traditions and tales that have been passed down but which, unfortunately, have also been neglected due to policies that insisted on the
“Americanization" of Indians that led to the destruction of tribal memories. Americanization programs included forcing children to stop
using their language, wear western clothing, and ignore their religion, customs, and traditions on threat of punishment.  Some of these
stories remain and have been recorded, while others still exist as family stories that are passed down through the generations. The oral
versions of the stories are true "living histories," as subsequent story tellers embellish, add, change, or take away some parts of a story
to make it their own.

Tribal Impacts
Today, the Caddo, Wichita, and Comanche tribes are no longer decentralized and scattered - they exist as nations, with constitutions,
courts, and laws. Their national forgiveness towards the U.S. is formidable, too. Native Americans make up a disproportionate number of
veterans and active duty military members relative to their population numbers. In fact, if it hadn't been for the Comanches code talkers,
the U.S. would not have fared as well during World War II.

It’s so very important to know their histories. Follow the links for a primers on the original Red River civilizations.
Map of original native languages in the United States, U.S. Geological 1991 (Library of Congress). Click on the map to see a bigger version.
Please let me know if you have information you want to add/share/correct! E-mail
me:
robin@redriverhistorian.com - I'm especially interested in photographs,
memories, and stories that families have shared.