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American Indian Archaeology and History in the North Louisiana Uplands

By Jeffrey S. Girard The hilly terrain that divides the floodplains of the Red and Ouachita rivers was home to numerous American Indian peoples prior to the 19th century. Most researchers agree that the first American Indians (known as Paleoindians) crossed the Bering Strait and made their way to the south. In North Louisiana the earliest stone tools, known as Clovis points, can be dated back to about 11,500 BCE and were in use for 500 to 600 years. Most of Louisiana's human past falls within a vast span of time that archaeologists refer to as the Archaic Period which dates roughly between 8000 and 1000 BCE. People hunted, fished, and gathered wild plant foods. They did no gardening and did not make pottery containers. However, relative to their predecessors, Archaic people utilized a wider range of stone tools, including ground and polished items such as axes, grinding stones, and celts. Jar and bowl made by Caddo Indians about A.D. 1200

About 6000 B.C. there is evidence that some people began to settle into specific territories. The Conly site in Bienville Parish contains the remains of a habitation area that was occupied for several centuries repeatedly between about 5500 and 3500 B.C. Around 3700 B.C. the Indians began constructing mounds and other earthworks in North Louisiana including the Hedgepeth Mounds in Lincoln Parish. At least 13 Archaic mound sites have been identified in Louisiana, most of which date between 3500 B.C and 2800 B.C. After about 1000 years, the massive Poverty Point site was built in West Carroll Parish. People lived at Poverty Point from about 1750 B.C. to 1100 During the Woodland period (about 1000 B.C. to A.D. 900) settled villages were established in many areas of Louisiana, and people began making much pottery. The bow-and-arrow was used for the first time. A few mounds were built in the western part of the uplands, but we know relatively little about this time for Union Parish.


Much more information is available about people who inhabited the region after the 10th century A.D. Pottery has been recovered from Union Parish and surrounding areas that relates both to the Caddo peoples of the Red River drainage to the west, and to the Coles Creek and Plaquemine cultures of the Lower Mississippi Valley. Examples are Scott Place adjacent to Lake D'Arbonne, and the Lindsey and Three Creeks sites along Comey Bayou. These were large villages and ceremonial centers with multiple mounds that were used by people who lived in communities scattered throughout the uplands. In addition to traditional hunting, fishing, and gathering wild plant foods, the Indians relied heavily on cultivated crops such as corn, beans, and squash.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, the hills of North Louisiana continued to serve as homelands and hunting territories for both Caddo groups (especially the Ouachita) and eastern peoples such as the Tensas. During the late 18th century, Choctaw peoples began to move into the area from Mississippi. A vast trade network developed between the Indians and European colonists. Salt acquired from licks in North Louisiana were an important trade item. T

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