One of the readers of All Things Sabine, from Leesville, La., messaged me this morning, asking if I could find something on “an Indian burial site that was excavated back in 1966 or 67.” The reader said he recalled going to the site, which was referred to as “Bison’s Homeplace” and watching the excavations. I found this quite interesting article, which was published in The Sabine Index, Spring of 1966, and written by Index journalist Mary Calcote. The article follows, along with pictures that were published with it:
The was the year 1266. The Sabine River left its banks and rolled over the land in West Louisiana.
It was springtime, and the crops were budding and blooming and trees were green. There was much game to hunt and the fish were plentiful. But in the spring of this year, the Caddo people were burdened with sadness.
The oldest and wisest of the Indian tribe called by the name of Swift River was dying…
The sky was darkening and the amber moon was rising over the trees. It was time to light up the evening fires and begin the chants that would take the sickness out of Swift River.
The time of departure was near for the old Indian and the chants of his followers could not save him. As the sun rose over the hills, Swift River died.
Red Clay, the oldest of his sons, was the one the tribe would turn to today. Swift River was buried that day, along with his eating utensils, drinking vessel, pottery, his arrows and his smoking pipe.
White Man Comes
The years rolled by faster and faster until the white man took over the beautiful country that the Caddos loved so much. Soon, there were cabins built, farms planted, and our ancestors settled in to their new homes in Sabine Parish.
Robert Bison came to own the old Indian Village site, located about eight miles west of Noble. And as he plowed the lands, he would often find the arrowheads and other artifacts left by the Caddos.
Then came the creation of the gigantic Toledo Bend Reservoir, and Bison was among many who had to move out of the Sabine River valley.
In 1963, working under a grant given by the National Science Foundation, a survey was made of Indian Village sites in the Toledo Bend Reservoir area. This initial survey was made by Dan Skarlock of the University of Texas at Austin. He mapped this and other sites in Sabine Parish. Dr. Ed Jelks, a professor of Anthropology at the University of Texas, worked on the project. He later moved to Southern Methodist University.
About mid-April, anthropologists from SMU in Dallas began digging at the site. Ned Woodall served as archeologist in charge of this, the second of four field seasons by SMU this year in the Reservoir area.
This was the third site in Sabine Parish to be explored and other sites in upper Sabine Parish will be looked at later.
When I arrived at the scene Friday afternoon, May 6, the rain was slowly falling, but archeologists were busy under a tent that had made from a parachute.
I introduced myself to Dave Brown, who served as assistant in charge, while Wodall was in Reno, Nevada to give a speech. Assisting Brown was Hiram Gregory, professor of Anthropology at Northwestern State College in Natchitoches, and several of his students.
700 Years Old
Gregory, who is an authority on the Indian cultures of this area, said these Indians lived about 700 years ago. They were Caddo Indians, so very early that the anthropologists gave them the name “Belcher Focus.” The Caddo tribe was believed to be of the same tribe that has baen discovered in a line running into Arkansas and East Texas.
Gregory told me these people were hunters, fishers and agriculturists.
When I was there, four burials had been found. Three had grave goods which consisted of arrowheads, vessels, pottery, and smoking pipes.
To find a lead as to where the graves might be located, the archeologists dig trenches with back hoes. Gregory said these Indians were buried from five to six feet deep. When the archeologists get near the skeleton, they are very careful not to disturb it or any of the grave goods. They carefully use bamboo knives, trowels, and paint brushes as wisk brooms to uncover their finds.
I then saw one of the graves just as they were. uncovering the skeleton and grave goods. It gave me a good feeling to know that I was watching history being made.
Brown told me the digging at this site would definitely go on until Friday, May 13. He said that if other things of significance were uncovered, the exploration may go on longer.
Brown told me the digging at this site would definitely go on until Friday, May 13. He said that if other things of significance were uncov-ered, the exploration may go on longer.
As I left, I looked at Mr. Bison’s old barn still standing a few feet from the grave sites, and wondered if someday archaeologists would be uncovering it. You see, in just a few months it will be covered by about twelve feet of water when the Toledo Bend Reservoir fills.
This was springtime, 1966. I looked at the Sabine River 150 yards from the graves as it rolled by, increased by heavy rains from u north. I looked back at the Indian Village, then again at the river, and left.
Excavation at the 700-year old Caddo Indian village on the Sabine ended a few weeks later. This brought to an end the month of digging at the Robert Bison place, and ended with the uncovering of about 10 grave sites.
Woodall told The Index that his team had found evidence of houses at the old site. He said holes were found in the ground, showing that poles supporting houses were once there. A hearth area was also uncovered.
Woodall said the location was a wonderful place for a village. Clear springs feed the Sabine River about 150 yards from the grave sites. Fishing was good in the river, hunting was good, and the soil was rich.
The anthropologist said that deer bones and mussel shells were uncovered at the site. He said the Indians planted corn and squash.
Those working at the village area said Saturday and Sunday were like carnival days at the site, with steady streams of people coming all the time. They said as many as 500 people were at the site at one time.