Southern Agenda

Hallowed Land

Chase Kahwinhut Earles was playing a drum during an afternoon celebration at East Texas’s Caddo Mounds State Historic Site in 2019 when his ears began to pop. He looked at his brother, and they knew it was a tornado. Seconds later, the on-site museum exploded around them, the wind destroying everything in its wake. Miraculously, the storm spared the lives of his family and the nearly eighty others attending the Caddo Cultural Day celebration at the archaeological site, although one person died in a car accident nearby. “You had the whole culture of the Caddo there: the artists, a large portion of the dancers,” Earles says. “That could have been it for the tribe.” This summer, the state is dedicating a new $2.5 million museum designed in partnership with the Caddo tribe. It includes tornado shelters, and honors the burial and temple mounds built by the Caddo people who lived in the region from 700 to 1300. “It’s where we carried out our rituals and ceremonies,” Earles says. “It’s sacred ground.”