There were actually two men with the name of Tinhiouen, a father and son, who were hereditary chiefs, or caddi, of the Kadohadacho Caddo in the late eighteenth century. After Spain took control of Louisiana, these two chiefs became increasingly important figures in diplomatic and economic affairs among colonial authorities, Creole inhabitants, and the many Native American tribes who lived in and around Spanish Louisiana and Texas. The two men shaped relationships between Spanish colonists and Indian tribes, and they gave the Caddo a favored political position in troubled times.
The Kadohadacho were viewed by all other Caddo tribes, and by non-Caddo Indian neighbors, as direct descendants of the mythical or semi-mythical ancient ancestors of all Caddo people. The home village for both Tinhiouens was located on the Great Bend of the Red River in southwest Arkansas, where ancestors of the historic Kadohadacho had lived for hundreds of years before the arrival of Europeans. As hereditary chiefs, both Tinhiouens were the most important authority figures among all Caddo. Their diplomatic roles in events of the late 1700s, and their longevity as chiefs compared to caddi in other Caddo villages in Louisiana and Texas increased the prestige of the Kadohadacho during this period.
The Kadohadacho and their neighbors on the Red River were important allies of Spanish Louisiana. They were economic partners, providing meat, skins, horses, bear oil, and other commodities to merchants, traders, and colonial authorities in Louisiana in exchange for guns, ammunition, the services of gunsmiths, and other trade goods. The Red River villages formed a buffer between the Osage—who raided Indian communities, colonial settlements, and trading parties alike from their villages north of the Arkansas River—and the Louisiana communities. The Kadohadacho chiefs were also important diplomats who could use their prestige with several scattered tribes inhabiting the remote areas of the colony to facilitate relationships between the tribes and colonial authorities.
Little is known about the personal lives of both men. They were probably born in the Kadohadacho village in Arkansas. The younger Tinhiouen moved his village away from the Red River into the interior of what is now northwest Louisiana in 1788 to retreat from devastating epidemics and Osage raids. A decade earlier, a series of epidemics had decimated many Indian communities and colonial settlements. According to some sources, the elder Tinhiouen died either during these epidemics or shortly thereafter on a trip to New Orleans to visit the colonial governor. The younger Tinhiouen reportedly died in 1789 at the new Kadohadacho settlement in Louisiana.
Contemporary witnesses and scholars consider the elder Tinhiouen to have been a highly influential figure in the welfare of Caddo people and colonists alike. Shortly after the transfer of Louisiana in 1770 from France to Spain, the elder Tinhiouen concluded a formal peace treaty with the new government. At the request of authorities, he used his influence the same year to bring many of the other tribes to a peace conference with colonial representatives that he hosted at the Kadohadacho village on the Red River. This event enhanced Tinhiouen’s reputation and influence with all participants. Tinhiouen’s willingness to respond forcefully to Osage raids without retaliating against European traders who supplied arms to the Osage was also important; he was able to negotiate from a position of strength with the Spanish government on behalf of the Caddo and their friends.
The American Revolution and other international events altered relations between Indians and Europeans in Louisiana and brought increasing pressures to Caddo communities. By the late 1770s, the Caddo and other tribes were engaged in extensive colonial trade. At this time, Spanish authorities were unable to provide enough guns and other goods to meet Caddo demands. Fearful of sparking conflict with the new American government, Spanish authorities discouraged Caddo retaliatory raids against the increasingly aggressive Osage, and they also tried to raise the prices of trade goods to offset financial losses to the colony. But Tinhiouen the younger recruited independent traders to bring business to the Kadohadacho village, thereby lowering the cost of trade goods and increasing the supplies they needed for hunting and defense. Tinhiouen’s importance as an ally to Spanish authorities allowed him to continue such independent strategies supporting Caddo economic welfare and political integrity until his death in 1789.
For additional information:
Carter, Cecile Elkins. Caddo Indians: Where We Come From. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1995.
La Vere, David. The Caddo Chiefdoms: Caddo Economics and Politics, 700–1835. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1998.
Smith, F. Todd. The Caddo Indians: Tribes at the Convergence of Empires 1542–1854. College Station: Texas A&M Press, 1995
Swanton, John R. “Source Material on the History and Ethnology of the Caddo Indians.” Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 132 (1942).
Ann M. Early
Arkansas Archeological Survey
Last Updated: 11/10/2020