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Prehistoric People of the Red River Valley*: Did You Know?

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Kendall Davis is well-versed in the English language. She has 20 years experience as a published author and writing for clients. Her published works include historical articles in museums, magazines, newspaper articles, columns, content marketing, advertising copy, blogging, and academic papers. Kendall also makes her way in the literary world as a copyeditor. Writing about history is her first love interest. If you have editing or content needs on your website or for your books, articles, blogs, or columns, please visit her website to see details and more examples of her work, the services she offers, and contact information.

Who Cares?

That when Oklahoma Territory opened up her vast prairie lands to homesteading, many of her archaeological sites were neglected until legislation was drafted and made into fedral law concerning the preservation of cultural resources in the 1970s? (1)

That archaeologists did not document many Depression and Dust Bowl era sites because of their relatively recent history?

That even though civilization and progress without archaeological documentation continued to cover up unrecorded sites, an amazing prehistoric history in Oklahoma has been archived and gives clear evidence of how prehistoric and historic people lived, socialized, and worshiped along the Red River?

That the Paleo-Indian period is described as the time when people first moved into the Americas, so this period is different for each of the regions located on both the North and South American continents?**

That archaeologists consider the end of the North American Paleo-Indian periods occurring at the end of the last Ice Age in North America?

That studies and experiments with mitochondrial DNA and historical analysis of the evolution of Native American languages proves that inhabitants of North and South America began settling here 20,000 to 30,000 years ago and also possibly shows various times of separate arrivals?

That Oklahoma's archaeological discoveries made crucial advances in documenting Early Arrivals and pre-Clovis settlements throughout the North American continent?

That in two Oklahoma locations, credible evidence for pre-Clovis settlements exist?

One is the 18,000-year-old Cooperton mammoth remains in Kiowa County, and the other is the Burnham site in Woods County where archaeologists discovered human tools and mammoth bones together at that site. Both site’s ages range from 28,000 to 32,000 years ago through carbon dating. (2)

Oklahoma and Texoma Archaeological Sites (3) (4)

That the Timelines for the Oklahoma Prehistoric and Historic Periods Are?

Paleo-Indian:       12,000 to 8,000 years ago

Archaic:              8,000 to 2,000 years ago

Villager/Farming:   12,000 to 500 years ago

Woodland:            2000 to 1200 years ago

That of the 19,000 prehistoric and historic archaeological sites documented for Oklahoma, approximately 68% are strictly prehistoric sites, 24% represent exclusively historic sites, and 8% contain both prehistoric and historic components? (5)

That nearly 10,000 prehistoric sites are known in Oklahoma, but that probably represents only 10% of the actual sites that exist?

That there are 83 archaeological sites in Love, 30 in Marshall, and 212 in Bryan Counties?

That Marshall County Archaeological Sites Ma. #40 and # Ma. 41 are called Paleo-Indian/Archaic Farming and Historic and are described as a series of neighboring camps that may still have preserved activity areas and deposits?

That Marshall County Site Ma. #12 is called Willis Point Archaic and is a potentially preserved camp of some 7,000 years of age and may have features and deposits that could yield data on activities and resources use?

That Bryan County Site Br. #28 is called Archaic and/or Woodland which was an open camp or village that may have preserved habitation features useful for studying settlement and resource uses?

That Love County Hickory Creek Site #Lv. 4 is called an Archaic open camp that may have stratified habitation dating back to 8,000 years ago?

That the total number of Plains Village and Caddoan sites in all four of the above counties is 39? (6)

That the Kichai, Taovayas, Wichita, and Caddo Nations lived in Texoma either in permanent settlements or nomadic camps for hunting?

Growing Food

That people have been farming in Oklahoma for 1,800 years?

That Villagers/Farmers domesticated beans, corn, and squash from Central America, plus native plants like chenopodium, amaranth, marshelder/sumpweed, and sunflower?

That Villagers/Farmers decorated their culinary vessels with incising, engraving, punctuation, appliqué, and polishing?

And that they also used copper, crystal, and other minerals for ornamentation of their artistic creations for items of daily use?

That Villagers/Farmers, as more complex societies increasingly developed, used textiles in expressing ritual and religious ideations?

Unfortunately, many of the textiles that they used did not stand the test of time.

Faith and Spirituality

That along the Red River, and its associated streams, sets of important mound centers of spiritual/religious significance existed?

Modern archaeologists have found mound centers spread from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico and east to the Mississippi River Valley onto the Appalachian Mountains. It is thought that the people made pilgrimages to the mound center nearest them. They brought offerings to spirit beings, who were sources of power, and they also used the mounds for burials of their deceased relatives. An unnamed writer documented two stories of the origin of the mound religion of the Mississippi River Valley in February of 1876:

The True Native Oklahomans

That the true native Oklahoma Indian Nations were the Plains Apache, Caddo, and Wichita, and that they date back 1,400 years?

That native Oklahoma hunters killed mammoth elephants 11,200 years ago with stone-tipped spears?

That most of these Native American’s spoke variations of one language, Caddoan?

That their resources varied but their economies were similar?

When the Invaders Came to Conquer

That between 1540 and 1750, Europeans documented Arikara, Pawnee, Wichita, Kachai, and Caddo villages that farmed for food but used different material resources?

That the Native Indian Nations had developed complicated social and political lifestyles from northern Nebraska south to northwest Louisiana?

That Oklahoma then, like Interstates 35 and 40 today, was a trading route crossroads in terms of origin, evolution, and spread of these native nations? (7)

That, as documented above in trading routes, the Red River links the Great Plains with the Mississippi River Valley?

That Spanish explorers were the first non-natives to call our river red?

They named it Rio Rojo. Other historic doucmentations name it as the Red River of Cadodacho (Kadohadacho) or the Red River of Nachitoches, but by 1830, most maps labeled it as the Red River.

The Red River as a Boundary Defined Sovereign and Federal Controversy Until the Year 2000

That from the early 1600s, Spain and France debated the Red River as the boundary separating New Spain and New France?

That approximately 200 years later, by the Adams-Onís Treaty of 1819, the Red River became the southern border of the Louisiana Purchase?

That, after Oklahoma statehood, in 1923, the U.S. Supreme Court established the south bank of the Red River as the border between Oklahoma and Texas? (8)

That the controversy over the Texas/Oklahoma border continued until 2000?

In 1991 the state legislatures of Oklahoma and Texas created Red River Boundary Commissions.

This commission included representatives of the of the Kiowa, Comanche, and Apache Nations. The commission held public meetings in communities bordering both sides of the Red River and in the two state capitals.

“In spring 1999, both commissions submitted proposed legislation designating ‘The vegetation line along the south bank of the Red River extending on a line from the 100th Meridian east to Lake Texoma as the northern border of Texas.’ The lone exception to the south bank as the northern border of Texas was spelled out under Article II, Section B.1, in which the legislation would declare that in the Texoma area, the boundary would extend from ‘The intersection of the vegetation line on the south bank with the east bank of Shawnee Creek and continues to the foot of the Denison Dam.’ Texas Governor George W. Bush signed the legislation into law on May 24, 1999. Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating followed suit on June, 4, of the same year. In Washington, D.C., Congress passed Joint Resolution 72 entitling the Red River Boundary Compact. It became federal law on August 31, 2000." (9)

Criteria for the Importance of Archaeological Site Preservation 

These are the points of concern that establishes if the remains in an archaeological site are adequate for conservation or preservation actions according to federal laws and regulations.

1.Integrity: Are the sites undisturbed enough to yield reliable information that will answer unresolved questions?

2. Chronological Placement of Materials: Does the site contain carbon, fired clay, etc., that will permit accurate placement of the site in time?

3. Analysis: Does the artifact assemblage contain sufficient variability for thorough analysis? The greater the range of variability in artifact classes, the greater the potential for the site to answer diverse research questions.

4. Habitation: Do habitation features like houses, trash pits, and fireplaces exist? The lack of these features severely limits the information of a potential site.

5. Spatial Patterns of Materials: If there is no patterning of remains, the understanding of activities at the site is severely constrained. (10)

* This is such a limited article of information that is available. Much of this research was done before 1983 and is still relevant today. I focused on the northern shore of the Red River for this account so as not to be confusing because of the difference in research methods I use between TX and OK and the archival differences between the two state’s histories.

** The fact that the Paleo Diet™ is based on different regions and timelines which are fluid gave me an even more confusing perception of the Paleo Diet™. What region and which period should I use for the Paleo Diet™? I do not want to eat sump weed.









8. Glen Roberson, "Red River," The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, (accessed May 04, 2017).


10. Page 30:


1. Wichita Hut by George Catlin: Looks like a Caddo hut, but Wichita huts are much smaller.

Picture Location:

Link Location:

Exterior and Interior Images of Caddo Mound Burials:

2. & 3.: Links to Photo Locations:

2. Interior Caddo Mound Drawing

3. Modern Exterior Caddo Mound Photo

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Lake Texoma Fishing Report from TPWD (Jun. 20)

Water lightly stained; 83–86 degrees; 1.07’ high. Black bass are good on Texas rigged craws, weightless Senkos and soft plastic jerkbaits. Crappie are fair on minnows and jigs. Striped bass are good on slabs and topwaters. Catfish are good on trotlines.