Caddo Standards of Decency

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Adultery in American law is a good cause for divorce; but divorce for adultery as far as it might be a public display of jealousy runs counter to Caddo standards of decency. People would think it “an awful disgrace” for a husband to show jealousy in public, to do anything to the other man like hitting him. Privately a man might speak to his wife and tell her to take the other man if she preferred him. For a woman to show jealousy in public is also indecent, bad manners.”

Girls and youths marry at eighteen or nineteen.  White Moon could recall no old maid, and but one old bachelor (see p. 72). If the girl’s parents do not like her suitor, they will “run him off.” White Moon had never heard of an elopement.

If a suitor has nerve,” he will himself ask the parents for the girl, otherwise he will send an old man, relative or friend, to ask for her. If agreeable to the match, the girl’s mother will go about and tell all their relatives, paternal and maternal. Formerly the accepted suitor would bring horses, three, four or more, to the girl’s parents for them to keep or distribute as they wished. He would then take the girl to his folks. Nowadays, after registering at the court house and staying a few days at the bride’s house, the couple will go to their own house. A man refers to his wife’s house as kokojenjia, “where my leggings hang.”

The term for one’s wife’s house also points plainly enough to the practice of matrilocal residence. Today in accordance with White Moon’s statement, it is likely that a newly married couple have their own house or at least plan to acquire a house; formerly, however, matrilocal residence, as elsewhere noted, must have been in vogue. Conspicuous cases appear in studying Genealogy II. The husbands of Sho’sin (Gen. II, 6) and of her daughters lived in their wife’s house, and the three husbands of Chu’’uu (Gen. II, 15) came into her house to live, as did likewise Mr. Blue, the husband of her daughter. Widowed, Mr. Blue left his wife’s household, leaving his son behind. Similarly Mr. Squirrel, Sho’sin’s son-in-law, left the household when his wife died, their children remaining with their maternal grandmother. Grasshopper, the aged kinsman who lives with Chu’’uu, came into the household only after his wife’s death. The six children of her deceased female cousin were brought up by Chu’’uu, not by their father’s people, and one of the girls and her children still live half the year with Ch’’uu. All these facts of residence are obviously characteristic of a matrilocal system, in this family, indeed, the system appears quite as marked as in a culture such as the Pueblo Indian where matrilocal residence is completely developed. A number of other cases of matrilocal residence might be cited from a combined analysis of the genealogical records and the list of houses, as well, of course, as a number of exceptions to the practice. Among the exceptions however, are several where the woman is from another people, a familiar factor in breaking down the practice of matrilocal residence or in precluding its development.en or nineteen.

White Moon could recall but one woman who had never borne children, his father’s sister, Little-white-eyes (Gen. I, 15). People wanted as many children1 he opined, as they could have, and as a rule, he also opined, a woman would have about five children. (The genealogical tables indicate a progeny less numerous, but probably not all the deceased children listed.) Kanushe, a doctor of Binger,2 was summoned at childbirth. “It took him no time to bring a baby.” A child is suckled well past babyhood. A five year old girl was described as still a suckling.

The familiar distinction between the sexes in exclamation occurs in the use of wa’na! or wa’tsisha! by women which if said by a man would sound womanish or, as White Moon says, “sissy.” If something fell and startled or scared a woman or if any slight accident befell her, she might use one exclamation or the other. In like trifling circumstances “a man would not say anything.” In a serious accident, like breaking a leg, a man as well as a woman would say awi!

Formerly women wore their hair in two braids at the back, and men wore their hair in a long Dutch cut, not in braids. Then, in imitation of other tribes-Kiowa, Apache, and Comanche-men wore braids wrapped with beaver and beads.

Men, not women, are the wood carvers, carving plates, bowls, and spoons. Today pottery is not made.


  1. Cp. Crow and Hidatsa, Lowie 1: 94. 

  2. See p. 38. 

MLA Source Citation:

Parsons, Elsie Clews. Notes on the Caddo, Memories of the American Anthropological Association. Supplement to American Anthropologist, Volume 43, No. 3, Part 2. 1921. Web. 25 January 2015. - Last updated on Nov 30th, 2014


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