SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) — Would you like to help members of the Caddo Tribe thatch the roof of a traditional grass house at Caddo Mounds State Historic Site on Sunday, November 27?

Kay O’Neal is a member of the Caddo Nation’s Tribal Council and the liaison between the Caddo Nation and the Caddo Mounds State Historic Site in Texas. She explains why it’s so very important to get the thatch roof on the traditional grass house at CMSHS.

“I was here in the tornado. I got out with a few broken ribs,” she said. “Nothing can withstand a tornado. It was surreal to see all of my Tribe members and visitors to be underneath the bricks and debris.”

Anthony Southern, Site Manager at CMSHS, a Texas Historical Commission Property, says the first grass house replica built at Caddo Mounds State Historic Site was destroyed, along with the CMSHS museum, by a tornado in April 2019.

“That moment brought us together as a community. There was no differentiation after that. We all became one as a community rather than being separate entities. There was good that came out of that tornado,” O’Neal said. “The grass house was taken up in the tornado. There were three people in it, and they had a fire going, and they suffered injuries. We decided then we were going to get together and build it again.”

Southern says there is a slight change of plans concerning this weekend’s thatching schedule.

“We’re kicking off on Sunday instead of Saturday because of the rain,” he says. “And if we need to, we’ll keep working through next weekend until it’s done. We’ve got two lift trucks, and we’ll use them once we’re reaching too high. If we have enough volunteers, we’ll use two lift trucks at the same time.”

“We got the frame put together, and now we’re back here, rain or shine. The Spirit of everyone is strong, and there’s not been any grumbling. We’re pushing through, and we’re not letting any obstacles tear us apart. We’re stronger and more determined to finish what we started,” O’Neal said.

The frame of the Caddo Nation grass house is complete, but the grass roof will be constructed beginning Sunday. Volunteers are needed. Image courtesy of Caddo Mounds State Historic Site

A core group of volunteers gathered the willow, the pine, and the grass and stored them.

“We got off to a good start, and then someone came down with Covid, and then just about everybody got it,” O’Neal said. That’s why the project wasn’t finished when it began back in July.

“It will be a great celebration once it’s finished,” O’Neal said with a giggle.

Caddo potter Chase Earles will be giving a pottery lesson and will also demonstrate how Caddo pottery was traditionally fired. CMSHS has also asked Earles to create replicas of artifacts that have been found at the Caddo Mounds site.   

Southern says between 25 and 30 members of the Caddo Nation visited the site in July and helped put the frame of the new grass house up.

“We have an exceptional nonprofit group called ‘Friends of Caddo Mounds.’ Without them, the rebuilding of this grass house would not have taken place,” Southern said. “The friends were instrumental in helping with building the grass house in 2016. But the Caddo Nation is a lot more involved with this new build.”

“Members of the Caddo Nation come in from all points of the US to work on this,” O’Neal said. “No one can say I did this, it’s mine–because it’s ours. It’s a collective. I believe that’s the beauty of it. It’s as we are meant to be. All of us are here together, in this appointed time, as one people, together at Caddo mounds, to carry on.”

Any volunteers who want to join on Sunday are more than welcome. If you’re interested in helping, it’s recommended that you wear closed-toe shoes and get there at 9:00 a.m. on Sunday. The address is 1649 TX-21, Alto, Texas.

And be sure to check out the installation of a new rock mural in Snake Woman’s garden, too. 

A traditional Caddo meal will be provided for those who volunteer.

“We’ve not left,” O’Neal said. “We’ve not diminished. We’re growing stronger and thriving as a Caddo Nation. The land is a part of us as a people, and being here does something inside of you that is greater than words.”