Caddo Indians own a beautiful body of music and dance that is at the core of our tribe’s culture. Many of our songs and dances are part of a rich legacy that was carried from our ancient homelands and a number of them may still be performed as they were when Hernando de Soto’s expeditionary force met Caddo groups in 1542.
These songs are at the center of many of our gatherings, uniting old and young, men and women, healthy and infirm, and give us a strong and direct link to the past. Moving along the treacherous trails over the years as we were disinherited from our homelands and harried and chased from one area to another, our ancestors steadfastly clung to these songs and dances in spite of the avalanche of forces that rained on us to give up our land and culture. Finally alighting in Indian Territory in the mid 1800’s, these songs and dances sprang anew in family and clan dance grounds scattered throughout the WCD reservation in western Oklahoma.
Today our songs and dances are probably performed less frequently than in the past, but are done so no less passionately and enthusiastically. While the songs listed here are not specifically religious in nature (except those sung in ghost dance or other special ceremonies), many Caddo people in these celebrations participate in many of the songs and dances in a prayerful and spiritual manner. And while many of the songs/dances performed now are by and large social in nature, the various animal or other names that they carry and the words that are expressed in them no doubt were in former times a recognition of and thankfulness for the bountiful natural resources provided by our creator.
The various separate clans and groups that finally made up the Caddo over time contributed to the songs that we inherited. Many of them have words that are of the Caddo language but are of a specific group or clan that can no longer be interpreted. An example of the scattered dialect/language sources are the songs within one of our ceremonial dances, the turkey dance. The over 50 songs that are included in this dance have words from various dialects and the meaning of many of them have been lost over time. View the Caddo
Turkey Dance here.
Intro Turkey Dance.wmv
Part 1 Turkey Dance.wmv
Part 2 Turkey Dance.wmv
Part 3 Turkey Dance.wmv
Part 4 Turkey Dance.wmv
Part 4 Final Turkey Dance.wmv
Old Caddo Drum on display at the Caddo Nation's Heritage Museum
Dimensions of drum: Approximately 20 inches diameter, 8 inches depth.
Early drums were often hand drums, sometimes filled with water. Drummers in former times sat on the ground during performances. The light beat drumming allows drums to be used for a lifetime and many Caddo drummers have drumsticks that they have used all their days. Many of those sticks are of a simple wooden shaft with soft buckskin-wrapped head and are in contrast to the modern carbon composite shafts meant for the hard, heavy pounding used by inter-tribal powwow drummers.
Drummers at Murrow Dance Ground 1938
Courtesy University of Oklahoma Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History