The Bidai were a band of Atakapa
The Atakapan people are a Southeastern culture of Native American tribes who spoke Atakapa and historically lived along the Gulf of Mexico. They called themselves the Ishak, pronounced "ee-SHAK", which translates as "The People". Although the people were decimated by infectious disease after...

Native Americans in the United States
Native Americans in the United States are the indigenous peoples in North America within the boundaries of the present-day continental United States, parts of Alaska, and the island state of Hawaii. They are composed of numerous, distinct tribes, states, and ethnic groups, many of which survive as...

 from eastern Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...



Their oral history says that the Bidai were the original peoples in their region. Their central settlements were along Bedias Creek
Bedias Creek
-References:**USGS Hydrologic Unit Map - State of Texas...

, but their territory ranged from the Brazos River
Brazos River
The Brazos River, called the Rio de los Brazos de Dios by early Spanish explorers , is the longest river in Texas and the 11th longest river in the United States at from its source at the head of Blackwater Draw, Curry County, New Mexico to its mouth at the Gulf of Mexico with a drainage...

 to the Neches River
Neches River
The Neches River flows for through east Texas to its mouth on Sabine Lake near the Rainbow Bridge. Two major reservoirs, Lake Palestine and B. A. Steinhagen Reservoir are located on the Neches. Several cities are located along the Neches River Basin, including Evadale, Tyler, Lufkin, Silsbee,...

. The first written record of the tribe was in 1691, by Spanish explorers who said they lived near the Hasinai
The Hasinai Confederacy was a large confederation of Caddo-speaking Native Americans located between the Sabine and Trinity rivers in eastern Texas...

. French explorer François Simars de Bellisle
Francois Simars de Bellisle
Francois Simars de Bellisle was a Frenchman who shipwrecked on the Bolivar Peninsula, near present-day Galveston, Texas, in 1722. He had been sailing for New Orleans. He was captured by Akokisa natives, and had to subsist for some time on the land. His documentation of this ordeal is considered...

 described them as agriculturalists in 1718 and 1720.

They had three distinct villages or bands in the 18th century. The Deadose were the northernmost band of Bidai, who broke of in the early 18th century. The 18th century population of Bidai is estimated to be 600, while 200 additional Deadoses.

In 1770, the band colluded with French settlers to sell guns to the Lipan Apaches, as all parties were enemies with the Spanish.

The Bidai suffered several epidemics during 1776-77, reducing their population by at least half. The survivors joined neighboring tribes, such as the Akokisa
The Akokisa were the indigenous tribe that lived on Galveston Bay and the lower Trinity and San Jacinto rivers in Texas, primarily in the present-day Greater Houston area...

s and Koasati. Some settled on the Brazos Indian Reservation in present day Young County, Texas
Young County, Texas
As of the census of 2000, there were 17,943 people, 7,167 households, and 5,081 families residing in the county. The population density was 20 people per square mile . There were 8,504 housing units at an average density of 9 per square mile...

 and were removed with the Caddo
The Caddo Nation is a confederacy of several Southeastern Native American tribes, who traditionally inhabited much of what is now East Texas, northern Louisiana and portions of southern Arkansas and Oklahoma. Today the Caddo Nation of Oklahoma is a cohesive tribe with its capital at Binger, Oklahoma...

 to Indian Territory
Indian Territory
The Indian Territory, also known as the Indian Territories and the Indian Country, was land set aside within the United States for the settlement of American Indians...

. Those that remained formed a village twelve miles from Montgomery, Texas
Montgomery, Texas
Montgomery is a city located in Montgomery County, Texas. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 489. It is the birthplace of the Lone Star Flag of Texas.-History:...

, growing corn and picking cotton for hire in the mid-19th century.

Andre Sjoberg published an ethnohistory of the Bidai in 1951.


The Bidai hunted, gathered, fished, grew maize
Maize known in many English-speaking countries as corn or mielie/mealie, is a grain domesticated by indigenous peoples in Mesoamerica in prehistoric times. The leafy stalk produces ears which contain seeds called kernels. Though technically a grain, maize kernels are used in cooking as a vegetable...

, and bartered their surplus maize. They snared game and trapped them in cane pens. In summers they lived along the coasts, but in winters they moved inland, when they lived in bearskin tents.

Before contact, the Bidai made their own ceramics, but quickly adopted metal utensils from European trade. They still made ceramic pots into the 19th century, and they also wove a variety of baskets. In 1803, Henry Hopkins Sibley
Henry Hopkins Sibley
Henry Hopkins Sibley was a brigadier general during the American Civil War, leading the Confederate States Army in the New Mexico Territory. His attempt to gain control of trails to California was defeated at the Battle of Glorieta Pass...

 wrote that Bidai had "an excellent character for honesty and punctuality."

The structure of their cradleboard
Cradleboards are traditional protective baby-carriers used by many indigenous cultures in North America. There are a variety of styles of cradleboard, reflecting the diverse artisan practises of indigenous cultures...

s altered the shape of their skulls
Artificial cranial deformation
Artificial cranial deformation, head flattening, or head binding is a form of permanent body alteration in which the skull of a human being is intentionally deformed. It is done by distorting the normal growth of a child's skull by applying force...

. They also enhanced their appearance through body and facial tattooing.

Bidai medicine men were herbalists and performed sweatbathing. Patients could be treated by being raised scaffolds over smudge fires. While other Atakapan bands are known for their ritual cannibalism
Cannibalism is the act or practice of humans eating the flesh of other human beings. It is also called anthropophagy...

, the practice was never recorded among the Bidai.


Bidai was an Atakapan language
Atakapa language
Atakapa is an extinct language isolate native to southwestern Louisiana and nearby coastal eastern Texas. It was spoken by the Atakapa people .-Geographic variation:There were two varieties of Atakapa Atakapa is an extinct language isolate native to southwestern Louisiana and nearby coastal eastern...

, which is now extinct. Below are some of the few Bidai words ever recorded.
  • Namah: one
  • Nahone: two
  • Naheestah: three
  • Nashirimah: four
  • Nahot nahonde: five
  • Nashees nahonde: six
  • Púskus: boy
  • Tándshai: corn


Bidai has been spelled Biday, Bedies, Bidaises, Beadweyes, Bedies, Bedees, Bidias, Bedais, Midays, Vidais, Vidaes, Vidays. Their name could be Caddo
Caddo language
Caddo is the only surviving Southern Caddoan language of the Caddo language family. It is spoken by the Caddo Nation of Oklahoma. Today, only 25 elderly speakers are estimated to remain, none of whom are monolingual Caddo speakers, making Caddo a critically endangered language...

, meaning "brushwood." Their autonym was Quasmigdo.

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