The Hasinai Nation includes the tribes or bands that lived in the Angelina and Neche river valleys in what is now East Texas. In fact, Texas as a Spanish province was named for the Hasinai people with the term for friends or allies—Ta' sha. The bands included the Hasinai, the Hainai, the Neche, the Nacogdoche, the Nacono, the Nabiti, the Nasoni, the Anadarko, the Yona, and the Nabedsche. At one time the Keechi were associated with the Hasinai. In the twentieth century the Keechi are a part of the Wichita and Affiliated Bands. The Hasinai moved first to the Brazos Reservation near Fort Belknap and then to the reservation in western Indian Territory, or present Oklahoma, between the Canadian and Washita rivers, and they have since resided there as part of the Caddo Indian Tribe of Oklahoma.
The Hasinai summarize the Caddo heritage in dance and song by means of tribe members' participation in the drum dance and turkey dance patterns and song images. Particular events are recorded in the sequence of the turkey dance, ranging from the "Creation of Caddo or Sodo Lake" on what is now the Texas-Louisiana border to battle engagements with past foes. New events, which include a story, may be recorded in song by any of the women dancers. The singers create a song. It is done once or may be added to the continuing sequence of songs for the future.
For centuries the Hasinai provided stability in the region that includes East Texas and northwestern Louisiana. Their significance reached even to the Gulf Coast, and they influenced the Atakapa and Akokisa peoples. Their contacts in the Southeast turned to the West in the pre-Columbian period. Their economy depended upon sustainable development. Game animals such as deer, peccary, buffalo, antelope, and bear were important to the Hasinai for food, bones, sinew, and skins. Turkeys lived in great roosts near the Hasinai villages and served as a watch for raiders and provided meat and feathers.
The Hasinai made extraordinary bows of bois d'arc wood and arrows of dogwood, which were sought widely in trade. Their pottery was exceptional in aesthetic and practical ways. The traditional patterns and shapes of the vessels are still among the most admired in North America. The principal crops associated with the Hasinai were varieties of maize or corn, several species of beans, and squash. But the Hasinai had long cultivated important foodstuffs such as seed and plant amaranth, potato, and sunflower seed long before corn, beans, and squash were introduced into the Hasinai country from the south. They also planted and cultivated pumpkin, domestic grape, black berries, pecan, and other comestibles.
In the modern era the Hasinai retained their cultural and material ways of life despite the changes in the hegemony of the region in which they lived. Of the various colonial aliens, the Spanish held sway for an extended period; however, the French offered superior manufactured goods—guns, munitions, scissors, pots, pans, and cloth. The Mexican government lost control of the area, and the Texans were openly hostile. By the time the United States took control of Indian policy in Texas, the Hasinai had been forced from their homeland, and diseases introduced from European and Anglo-American contact had taken a terrible toll in death and disruption. Epidemics repeatedly spread throughout the Hasinai villages, undermining every aspect of civil and political life in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries.
The Hasinai language helped the people keep their balance during this extended period of turmoil. It expresses the interdependence of human experience and extrahuman reality. In all Hasinai expression there is harmony in time and space relationships. The individual is made comfortable within the broad range of particular effort and the collective whole of existence. The Hasinai language developed in relationship to the homeland landscape, which it epitomizes. It expresses the nature of the cultural landscape in very different ways than English, Spanish, or French. These insights offered by Hasinai are invaluable to all who live in the region. As the Hasinai assert themselves in the contemporary world, they demand that the oral traditions expressed in their native language always be an essential component of all serious study of the culture and the region, along with the theories arising from the study of the material culture and the historical interpretations of the literature.
The Hasinai have suffered through a changing American Indian policy that moved from the reservation system, to allotment, to the New Deal, to termination and relocation, to self-determination. In so doing, the Hasinai have found renewed strength in the government of the Caddo Indian Tribe of Oklahoma. It is a federally recognized, sovereign governmental entity that meets the needs of "home rule" governance and human social services. The Caddo Tribal Complex is located on thirty-seven acres of trust land seven miles north of Gracemont. Its focus is around the traditional tribal dance ground and community house. Additional structures include the Caddo Tribal Heritage Museum and enclosed dance area and multipurpose structure, as well as the tribal offices and Tribal Council Chambers. Other buildings are the Hasinai Cultural Center, the Head Start offices and classes, and the Senior Citizens Program Center. Among the outstanding Hasinai elected leaders have been Melford Williams, Hubert Halfmoon, Henry Shemayme, Donnie Frank, and Vernon Hunter. The tribal chairperson at the beginning of the twenty-first century was LaRue Parker, who redoubled efforts in cultural retention and economic development.
The Hasinai participate fully in a hierarchy of power and responsibility in which each person does the duty assigned to him or her. Each voice is weighed according to tradition. This Hasinai tradition lives on as one of the most significant among the peoples of Oklahoma.
Herbert Eugene Bolton, The Hasinais: Southern Caddoans As Seen By the Earliest Europeans (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1987).
Howard Meredith, "Cultural Conservation and Revival: The Caddo and Hasinai Post-Removal Era, 1860–1902," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 79 (Fall 2001).
Vynola Beaver Newkumet and Howard Meredith, Hasinai: A Traditional History of the Caddo Confederacy (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1988).
F. Todd Smith, The Caddo Indians: Tribes at the Convergence of Empires, 1542–1854 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1995).
Irving Whitebead and Howard Meredith, "Nuh-ka-oashun: Hasinai Turkey Dance Tradition," in Songs of Indian Territory: Native American Music Traditions of Oklahoma, ed. Willie Smyth (Oklahoma City: Center of the American Indian, 1989).
The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Howard Meredith, “Hasinai,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=HA045.
© Oklahoma Historical Society.