page had been deleted or moved from its original site and was recovered June
2005 using the Wayback Machine
for use by students of www.Louisiana101.com
"The most prominent indian tribes in the Louisiana Territory"
3. The Natchez
4. The Tunica
Louisiana has the third largest Native American
population in the eastern United States.
Carolina and Florida have more than the 16,040 Louisiana Indians counted
in the census of 1980. The Louisiana Indian in the real world today can be
found driving a bulldozer, directing an oil-field crew, playing a fiddle in a New Orleans restaurant, or cutting pulpwood. Today many Indian
groups are culturally and racially mixed; entire languages will never be heard
again. Panfilo de Narvaez,
sailing westward along the Gulf coast in 1526, reached the mouth of the Mississippi River and then continued westward at some distance from
From one of the castaways, Cabeza
de Vaca, has some the earliest description of Texas coastal Indians related to the Atakapa of southwest Louisiana.
Under their own impetus in the latter half of the seventeenth century,
Europeans in numbers began to reach what was to be Louisiana. They were French men instead of Spaniards, with
the notable exception of Alonzo de Leon, whose expedition of 1690 crossed
overland from Mexico and reached the Caddoan Adai
east of the Sabine River. The chief avenue of approach for the Frenchmen was
the Mississippi River. Louis Joliet and Father Jacques Marquette
descended the river as far as the Quapaw towns near
the mouth of the Arkansas in 1673, and five years later Rene Robert Cavelier de La Salle completed his epic trip down the Mississippi River to its mouth.
Energized by La Salle's journey, a host of missionary priests
descended on Louisiana, and from them have come invaluable
observations on the Indians to whom they ministered. Literature on Louisiana's tribes varies extensively in coverage. The
greater tribes generally were accorded closer attention than, for example, the Atakapa, whose chief distinction lay in the very meagerness
of their material culture. Like many Indians, the Atakapa
called themselves I shak, "the people." The
name Atakapa is of Choctaw, or Mobilian,
origin and means "eater of human flesh." Atakapa
lands included all of what is today southwestern Louisiana, extending from
upper Bayou Teche to the Sabine River and from the
Gulf of Mexico northward almost to present-day Alexandria.
The Atakapa comprised four sovereign
bands, each of which had one or more villages. To early explorers, the
Louisiana Atakapa was an almost invisible people,
seen rarely in their boats along the coast in summer. They sometimes
betrayed their presence by distant smokes and marsh fires. According to
tradition, the Louisiana Atakapa came from the West,
where their cultural kinsmen survived well into historic times. The Caddo
Tribes in Louisiana in 1700 included the Adai,
Doustione, Natchitoches, Ouanchita, and Yatasi. The shifting stream channels.
The Louisiana Caddo were fundamentally a southeastern people their languages
were unlike those to the east but may have been distantly related to other non-Muskogean languages in the Southeast. The Caddo lived well
in a fertile country. Their economy was bolstered by active trade, hunting, and
fishing, in addition to agriculture. Even the bison was at hand and was hunted
a long the northwest Louisiana buffalo trails as late as 1700.
The Tunica were an active people, outstripping even the
Natchitoches and Koroa as traders in salt and busy
with farming, hunting, and fishing. Some have characterized Tunican culture as comparatively plain, but it is possible
that this characterization stems from a lack of more detailed knowledge of the
people. The Natchez speakers, in 1700, were of three tribes: the Taensa and Avoyel in Louisiana, and the Natchez of the Mississippi River's
left bank. Occupying the margins of the Florida parishes-that portion of the
"toe" of the Louisiana "boot' north of the Isle of Orleans-and
intermittently, the Mississippi River's banks from the Red River southward,
were seven sovereign tribes, none of which was large.
Culturally, the seven tribes,
known as the Muskogeans, conformed to the regional
pattern. They spoke Choctaw dialects but
were not members of the Choctaw confederacy. The primary Houma village in 1700 stood on blufflands
flanking the portage between the big meanders of the Mississippi River where a westward loop received Red River, now the site of Angola. Iberville spoke of 140
cabins, arranged in a circle, and estimated the population to include some 350
potential warriors and many children.
The Houma may have been an offshoot of the Chakchiuma, a Yazoo River tribe with whom the Houma shared their tribal symbol, the red crayfish. Houma
is Choctaw or Mobilian Jargon for "red,"
possibly derived from the last two syllables of the parent tribe's name, Chakchiuma. Bayougoula is Choctaw
or Mobilian Jargon for "bayou people. What may
have been the tribe's name for itself, Pischenoa,
Choctaw or Mobilian Jargon for "ours,"
appears once in an early account.
The tribe's totem animal was the alligator. The
four to five hundred Bayuogoula in 1700 were
clustered about a single village on the site of modern Bayou Goula. Iberville found the
settlement a quarter of a mile from the right bank of the Mississippi River, on a little stream that provide
the domestic water supply. Comparatively little is known about the other Muskogean-speaking tribes of Louisiana-the Acolapissa, Mugulasha, Okelousa, Quinapisa, and Tangipahoa. Even
their identities remain uncertain. Those in more remote places were not exposed
to the influx of French observers. All were on the move in historic times.
Tangipahoa is Choctaw for "corn gatherers" or "corncob
people." The people with this name were said to have been a seventh
town of the Acolapissa on Pearl River. Yet, before 1682, at least some of them had moved
to the Mississippi River to establish a village on the left bank two leagues
below the Quinapisa town. By 1682 the town had been
destroyed by the combined Houma
and Okelousa, the survivors fleering back to the Acolapissa on Pearl River.Okelousa
is Choctaw for "black water", a name said to have been given to this
small tribe because it occupied lands around two small lakes in which the water
was darkened by its high organic content.
The lakes are presumed to have been to the west of and
above Pointe Coupee. The group is further
characterized as "wandering people west of the Mississippi" and elsewhere, with the Washa
and Chawasha, as "wandering people o f the
seacoasts." The name Chitimacha may be the
people's own term for "those living on Grand River," or it may be Choctaw for "those who
" The latter allusion is difficult to understand, since all tribes
of the lower Mississippi made and used pottery.
More recently, the Chitimacha have called themselves,
in their own language, "men altogether red."Another
name, Yaknechito, meaning "big country,"
The Chitimacha were a
numerous people. An estimated population of four thousand in 1650 has been
proposed for the three tribes, a figure none too high in view of the number of
villages recorded. Up to the twentieth century, thirteen to fifteen names of
villages could be recalled and the sites identified, and earlier there were
The term Washa is possibly
Choctaw for "hunting place," an appropriate name in view of the
abundance of game in the lowlands the Washa occupied.
Lake Washa, more commonly called Lake Salvador, in St. Charles Parish, and another, smaller Lake Washa, in lower Terrebonne
Parish, still bear the name. The extent to which Washa
material and social culture traits paralleled those of their presumed
linguistic kin, the Chitimacha, is unknown.
The advent of the white men had both
accidental and intentional consequences that were negative in effect. Although the introduction of highly lethal deseases from Europe may be
considered unintentional, it probably was the cause of more suffering than the
white man's deliberate resort to Indian slavery and wars of extermination.
Indian forbearance was ill rewarded. Measles, smallpox, common colds and
influenza, cholera, and other infectious diseases took a disastrous toll on
Indian populations. By the third decade of the eighteenth century, the Chitimacha had been decimated and driven from their
villages near Bayou Lafourche.
Frenchmen and metis,
men of mixed blood, cohabited with Indian women in the villages, traded liquour-especially tafia, the cheap rum made from sugarcane juice-to the tribes, and
corrupted the Indians. Traders, often
with the help of tafia, abused the trade, and Indians
became dependent on European goods. Everything from guns to glass beads was
available in trade for deerskins and furs. By about 1720, the Spanish, seeking
to block French expansion westward, had built a presidio in northwestern Louisiana. No institution was more feared and detested by the
Louisiana Indians than slavery.
The Tunica so abhorred slavery that one woman of the
tribe was said to have hanged herself to avoid it. Other tribes were
equally repulsed by the institution, but Europeans. Who knew of the Indians'
aversion to it, nevertheless held numbers of Indian slaves from a lengthy list
of tribes. Most were Chitimacha, Natchez, and Conneche(Lipan Apache), all of whom were traditional enemies of the
THE NATIVE LOUISIANA TRIBES AFTER 1700
The white man was a greater borrower than
the Indian and sometimes relied almost entirely upon the skill and knowledge of
the Indians as hunters and farmers. The
Indians and Europeans of earlier colonial times were more interdependent and
much closer in material ways than their successors. The gap between the two
peoples widened after1700 as the Europeans introduced Old World Foods, crops,
domestic animals, tools, modes of building construction, and other culture
"The Historic Indian Tribes of Louisiana"
Fred B Kniffen
Hiram F. Gregory
George A. Stokes
Original website: http://web.archive.org/web/20031122120958/126.96.36.199/LouisianaPeople/louisianaindians/louisianaindians2.htm