Between the Bayous

The Caddo Indians told an old legend of a cave where the Red River and Mississippi met, a place called Chahkanina, “the place of crying.”  When the Caddoes emerged from that darkness, their leader, Moon, told them to turn west and not look back. Among the bands that turned west were Nacogdoche. They settled in a land of deep woods filled with great pines, the earth shaped by the rivers and creeks that cut through it. The ground there was fertile, and they settled between two bayous, Lanana and Banita. They named their village “Nevantin.”

Nevantin, like other Caddo villages, was a collection of beehive-shaped huts. There they raised corn, beans, pumpkins, sunflowers, and sometimes tobacco, which they considered sacred. They hunted deer and buffalo and small game in the surrounding woods. The village had a caddi, a chief, and a xinesi, a priest or shaman. They worshipped the “Caddi Ayo,” or “Lord of the Sky.”

For hundreds of years the Nacogdoche band continued in this way of life, year after year, harvest after harvest, in trade and marriage and war and peace. Then, in the year of our Lord 1542, a Spaniard named Luis de Moscoso Alvarado passed through East Texas with a company of explorers. News of these strangers from across the sea rippled through the Caddo bands. The story of Nevantin, the village between the bayous, was about to change forever.

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