The Hebitians, sometimes known as First Hebitians, or Hebitda in the Cardăsda language, were the society on Cardassia Prime and its colonies that preceded the Cardassian Union. This name remained in use until the Cataclysm in the late 19th century (Earth reckoning), where the name changed to "Cardassian." (TNG: "Chain of Command", Star Trek: Sigils and Unions)
The Cardăsda term Hebitda comes from the root h-b-t, a root usually carrying the meaning of "soul." With the "-da" suffix added, the word comes to mean something like "People with Souls." In the wake of the societal upheaval at the beginning of the Cataclysm, which destroyed the theocratic government previously in place and eventually resulted in the near-eradication of the Oralian Way, the term Hebitda was dropped in favor of the religiously-neutral Cardăsda, which is derived from the root c-rd-s, which simply means "person." With the "-da" suffix, Cardăsda translates simply as "The People." (Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--"Point of Divergence")
- Other sources, including Pocket Books New Worlds, New Civilizations, state that the word "Cardassian" means "People of Discipline." No meaning, however, is given for "Hebitian."
Hebitian society was regarded as peaceful and artistic, and was known to be highly spiritual in nature--in some ways quite similar to the Bajoran species prior to the Occupation. However, Cardassia Prime was a resource-poor world and when the Hebitians exhausted these resources, a militaristic rebellion seized power and became the Cardassian Union. Until the Cataclysm, the Hebitians had colonized peacefully to alleviate the strain on Cardassia Prime's ecology, but with the Cataclysm, the planet simply could not sustain its population and the once-peaceful Hebitians became Cardassians bent on conquest. Most remaining remnants of the Hebitian culture were forcibly expunged by the Cardassian government, either by sale to finance military expeditions, or by persecution of those who clung to the old culture. ("Point of Divergence," TNG: "Chain of Command", Terok Nor trilogy)
In the Sigils and Unions: Catacombs of Oralius universe, even though the Oralian Way survived the Cataclysm and the Oralian Way remained central to most of the recovering society, many people moved away from the term "Hebitian" and still adopted the name "Cardassian" on the suggestion of Rhirzum Akleen, and the sanction of Guide to the Castellan Yavenn Pretam. A minority, however, still refer to themselves as Hebitians. The political entity itself became known as the Cardassian Theonomy, a term that, while still holding that the rule of law was ultimately religious in nature, still acknowledged the secular side of Cardassian society.
The culture that was Hebitian translated smoothly into the Cardassian culture; while additional rights were conferred on non-believers and dissenters, such as the Right of Worship, which guaranteed all of Cardassian blood or living legally in Cardassian territory the right to worship or not worship as they felt led, the Oralian Way continued to exert a strong influence upon the culture. Art continued in the Hebitian tradition, although sometimes more sparing in order to ensure appropriate use of the available resources, and uniquely Hebitian forms of art, such as what became Cardassian speculative fiction, continued in an unbroken tradition. ("Point of Divergence," Sigils and Unions: Catacombs of Oralius--"The Desolate Vigil")