INDIANS OF LOUISIANA
SPONSORED BY THE INTER-TRIBAL COUNCIL OF LOUISIANA
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- PREHISTORIC LOUISIANA INDIANS
- 1. Lithic Period
- 2. Archaic Period
- 3. Poverty Point Period—Late Archaic
- 4. Tchefuncte Period
- 5. Marksville Period
- 6. Troyville—Cole Creek Period
- 7. Plaquemine Period
- 8. Mississippian Period
- 9. 1540-Present
- HISTORIC PERIOD
- I. ATAKAPA
- 1. Atakapa
- 2. Opelousa
- II. CHITIMACHA
- 1. Chitimacha
- 2. Chawasha
- 3. Taensa (Tensas)
- 4. Washa (Quacha)
- III. CHOCTAW
- 1. Choctaw
- 2. Jena Band
- IV. COUSHATTA
- V. HOUMA
- 1. Houma
- 2. Acotapissa
- 3. Bayogoula
- 4. Mugulasha
- 5. Okelousa
- 6. Quinipissa
- 7. Tangipahoa
- VI. KADOHADACHO (CADDO)
- 1. Caddo
- 2. Addi (Adai)
- 3. Doustian
- 4. Nasoni
- 5. Natasi
- 6. Natchitoches
- 7. Nanatsoho
- 8. Soacatino (Xacatin)
- 9. Washita (Ouachita)
- 10. Yatasi
- VII. TUNICA
- 1. Tunica
- 2. Avoyel
- 3. Biloxi
- 4. Grigra (Gris)
- VIII. INTER-TRIBAL COUNCIL OF LOUISIANA
PREHISTORIC LOUISIANA INDIANS
Paleo-lithic Period (approximately 12,000-5,000 BC):
According to anthropologists there have been people in Louisiana for at least 12,000 years. They probably migrated from the northern United States in search of game as more and more of the northern areas fell under sheets of advancing ice. Louisiana was much cooler and the plant-life very different from modern times.
These early men hunted bison, mastodon, camels, and horses with simple spears made by attaching a sharpened rock flake to the end of a spear. They were the true pioneers of this state. They came here without benefit of guides to show them the best hunting farm lands.
One of their villages has been discovered on Avery Island. Artifacts found among extinct animal bones indicate the area was inhabited when mastodons, bison, and camels, roamed Louisiana. *(Cabildo)
Archaic Period (5,000-1400 BC):
The large animals gradually became extinct as the glaciers melted, the climate grew warmer, and the plant life changed. The native Louisianians were forced by necessity to hunt smaller animals and to supplement their diet with shellfish. The people of the Archaic Period moved from place to place leaving behind huge mounds of discarded shells which eventually increased the elevation of area and reduced flooding. During this period they developed such tools as spear—throwers, knives, scrapers, drills, and darts.
Poverty Point Period (1700-200 BC):
In northeastern Louisiana, near Epps, is an ancient village site called Poverty Point. It contains a unique bird effigy mound and a large geometrical village. Houses of palmetto were built on ridges of earth arranged in an octagon east of the 600 foot long and 70 foot high bird mound.
Since they did not have clay pottery, food was cooked by placing it in an earthen pit lined with hot baked clay balls. Tools, called micro-flints, were made from stone slivers to open shellfish, nuts, and seeds.
There are also indications of developing trade with other areas.
Tchefuncte Period (200 BC-400 AD):
In coastal Louisiana much of the old Archaic tradition of shellfish gathering, augmented by hunting, continued long after the Poverty Point culture was 1,000 years old. About 200 BC crude pottery was added to the basic Archaic Culture on the coast and around Lake Ponchartrain. They continued to eat shellfish, supplemented with small game and wild plants. They lived on shell middens in circular houses made from poles and thatch.
Marksville Period (100-550 AD):
The development of agriculture during this period freed the early Louisianians from daily hunting and food gathering which allowed them time for more religious and recreational activities. They began making fine pottery and flint projectile points for ceremonial and burial purposes rather than for purely utilitarian uses.
They continued building earthen mounds and added rather elaborate burial practices by placing the deceased in the mound with pottery and recreational items such as chunkey stones. Some of these burial artifacts were made from materials from as far away as Yellowstone Park and marine shells from the Gulf. Their artifacts included copper items.
Troyville-Coles Creek Period (500-1200)
This was basically a continuation of the Marksville Period. Mound building became more advanced with a shift toward large flat topped pyramidal mounds as foundations for temples. These were probably used for sacred and ceremonial activities. The burial mounds continued to be built in conical shapes.
Agriculture improvements included clearing fields by slashing the trees and burning them in the fields to provide fertilizer for crops. Bows and arrows were used for the first time which increased their hunting successes. With these improvements came larger populations as the people developed methods for feeding their growing numbers.
It also meant time for improving the art of pottery making. Archaeologists are able to tell the tribe and with whom they traded by examining the styles of decoration and the lines incised on the pottery.
Plaquemine Period (1100-1450)
Maize agriculture was important during this period. Villages were located on bluffs and terraces near large streams and rivers to utilize the rich alluvial bottom land for farming and water for the villagers.
Rectangular shaped houses were built by digging trenches 12-18 inches wide and as deep. Poles 6 inches or smaller were set upright in the trench and earth was packed around them until the trench was filled. Sometimes rocks or horizontal logs were laid in the trench to brace the upright poles. The spaces between the rows of upright poles were intertwined and woven with vines and mud smeared over the entire structure. When the first Europeans came to Louisiana this type of house was very common among the Indians.
The houses were usually arranged in small clusters around several large mounds which surrounded a central plaza. The plaza was used primarily for ceremonies. The famous Emerald Mound near Natchez, said to be the second largest prehistoric man-made object in the United States, is a nearby example of such a village arrangement.
Mississippian Period (1400-1700)
Trade routes with other Indians in the Southwest and Mexico increased and cultural diffusion was extensive. Trade with the first Europeans began during the 16th century.
After 1,000 years the elaborate burial practices from the Tchefuncte Period were revived and expanded into a “Cult of the Dead”. Great burial mounds were built to contain the dead and their burial artifacts. Many wooden forms of men and animals covered with hammered copper, pottery shaped as human or animal heads, and pottery depicting bones, skulls, rattlesnakes, and “feathered serpents” were placed with the corpse in the mound.
Villages were enclosed by walls of poles plastered with mud. During this period Indian populations decreased significantly. As they decreased and the palisade walls rotted, smaller and smaller compounds 4were built around the remaining village.
It is not known how many Indians lived in Louisiana, however, archaeological evidence, as well as written accounts by early Spanish and French explorers indicate there were large numbers. From the northern farmlands of the Caddo and Tunica to the southern swamps and bayous of the Chitimacha; from the southwestern prairie of the Atakapa to the eastern hills and rivers of the Natchez and the Muskhogee (Houma) were many tribes who adapted their culture, their lives, and their economy to available products in their segment of Louisiana’s environment. Following is a brief history of the major tribes and those groups which merged with them.
This large group of Indians occupied the prairies of southwestern Louisiana from Bayou Teche to the Sabine River and from Opelousas to the coastal marshes. They were a semi-settled, partially agricultural people occupying a number of favorable villages along waterways; the lower coast of the Calcasieu and around the shores of Calcasieu Lake, lower Mermentau, Grand Lake, along Bayou Plaquemine, along the Vermillion near the present site of Abbeville and a site near the present town of Opelousas.
They were culturally less advanced than their neighbors, however they were more advanced than their reputation as wandering cannibals would lead us to imagine. They had several semi-permanent villages and are known to have participated in trade with other Indians along the Texas coast. They traded fish to the Opelousas for flints and other items they did not manufacture.
Although individuals frequented various French posts with other Indian tribes, it was well into the 18th century that the Atakapa began to feel the influences of the Europeans on their culture. This was probably due in part to the relative isolation of their villages.
In 1760 Skunnemoke (“Short Arrow”) sold the land on which his village stood along with a wide strip between Bayou Teche and Vermillion village, the group did not abandon their site until the early 19th century. Other lands of the Atakapa were steadily sold and the villages moved and combined to survive the advance of the Europeans.
In 1787 the principle Atakapa village was at the “Island of Woods” later known as the “Island Lacasine”. It was abandoned about 1799 when they moved to a village on the Mermentau. This was the last village of the Eastern Atakapa and is said to have been occupied as late as 1836. Some of the Indians united with the Western Atakapa around Lake Charles, but others scattered as far as Oklahoma. The last village of the Western Atakapa was on “Indian Lake”, later called “Lake Prein”, which was occupied until after the middle of the 19th century.
In 1885 a considerable vocabulary of Atakapa was gathered from two women living in Lake Charles who had belonged to this last Atakapa town. A later survey disclosed a few former residents of the old 6town were still living in 1907-1908 but, by 1942 all known villagers of the last Atakapa town were dead.
Probably a divergent group of Atakapa. They lived in the vicinity of the present city of Opelousas and acted as middlemen in trade between other Indians in the South. They bought fish from the Chitimacha and Atakapa which they exchanged for flints from the Avoyels. Some of these flints were passed on to the Karankawas from the Texas coast for globular or conical oil jugs. They traded such items as Caddo pottery, Texas pots, stone beads, arrow points and salt along routes from the interior of Texas to the coast and inland through Caddo country in northern Louisiana and onward through Arkansas. (737)
The last representatives of this tribe apparently joined the Atakapa to whom they were probably related.
The Chitimacha are the only Louisiana Indians known to currently live in the vicinity of their ancestral homelands. It is evident they were one of the largest tribes in Louisiana. Their large population was probably the result of a favorable environment which provided an abundant food supply of plants, animals and marine life without the necessity of extensive hunting or fishing expeditions, or the necessity to periodically abandon their village sites for lack of food. The men did the hunting and fishing.
Although the women planted such crops as maize and sweet potatoes, many of their foods grew wild. Foods such as beans, wild potatoes, pond lily seeds, palmetto grains, rhizoma of common sagittaria and large leaf sagittaria, persimmons, strawberries, blackberries, mulberries, white berries, many kinds of tree fruits, pumpkins, and several others grew close to their villages.
The Chitimacha inhabited two groups of villages. One group was located along the upper reaches of Bayou Lafourche near the Mississippi River while the other group was located on Grand Lake and the Bayou Teche area. These areas consist of many bayous and swamps which were easy to protect.
They made their houses from poles covered with palmetto leaves on the roofs and walls. All the necessary building materials were readily 7available and easily replaced when damaged or destroyed by storms and hurricanes.
Women exerted strong influence in the tribe’s affairs because important political positions were available to them. Usually the men controlled the governmental offices, however if a chief died his widow could assume his responsibilities if she were a capable leader. Women could also work as medicine men. Only the leadership of religious affairs was denied them.
The political system was run by a group of powerful men. One head chief controlled the affairs of the entire confederation, with sub-chiefs governing the outlying villages. These leaders inherited their offices, lived in large homes, and carried heavily decorated peacepipes to all ceremonies and social affairs as reminders of their importance. They ruled by personal edicts, which were enforced by sub-administrators appointed especially for that purpose. They maintained groups of warriors to protect them, and to defend their villages against raids by neighboring tribes.
The head chief, sub-chiefs, sub-administrators and war leaders were entrenched by the rules of a rigidly stratified society. The Chitimacha were the only southeastern tribe with a true caste system. The leaders and their respective families comprised the “noble class”; all others belonged to the “commoner” class. Noblemen addressed commoners in popular language, but commoners spoke to noblemen only in terms that were used solely for that purpose. With rare exceptions, noblemen married only noblemen because the husband joined the clan of the wife, therefore he would become a commoner. A nobleman was inclined to remain unwed if no woman of his class was free to marry.
Religious affairs were controlled by Holy Men (and assistants who were to succeed them after their deaths). Holy Men were in charge of the sacred ceremonies of their respective clans. They had the responsibility of perpetuating the ancient parables and stories of miraculous events which embodied the moral codes of their villages, and which contained beliefs concerning man’s kinship to nature and to nature’s creatures.
The Chitimacha men wore long hair, weighted with pieces of lead to hold their heads erect. They wore necklaces, bracelets and rings made of copper, gold and silver. Women wore their hair in braids, used makeup of red and white dyes, and wore bracelets, earrings and finger rings.
Their aesthetic appreciation is revealed in their manufacture of objects 8from shells and stones and in their excellent baskets. Basket-makers gathered swamp cane, split it into strands then dyed it either black or yellow or red, and let it dry. When the strands were completely dry they wove them into baskets in two layers, in such a way as to produce symbolic designs on the exterior walls. Their first contact with Europeans in 1699. Between 1701 and 1705 war broke out after a party of French soldiers reinforced by Acolapissa and Natchitoches Indians took twenty Chitimacha women and children prisoner. In retaliation, Chitimacha warriors killed French missionary, St. Cosme, and his 3 companions in a battle near the Mississippi River. When news of the incident reached New Orleans the governor of the new French colony declared war.
When peace finally came thirteen years later many Chitimacha had been killed, displaced, or enslaved. This mighty Chitimacha nation was not only reduced in population; it had lost its power and political importance among the southern Louisiana tribes.
In 1762 another important milestone in Chitimacha history occurred. The Acadians from Nova Scotia began to arrive at New Orleans and move out along the bayous to escape persecution from British colonial authorities. These cajun French people married Chitimachas and within a century full bloods became scarce. The Chitimachas began to speak “cajun French” instead of their own language. Many converted to the Roman Catholic religion.
By 1880 the remaining Chitimacha people were struggling for survival. Since they were too poor to own any of the large sugar plantations they worked on them during summer and harvest time for wages, some of them cut timber, manufactured baskets or raised small quantities of vegetables and sugar cane the rest of the year to supplement their wages. They were an impoverished remnant of the old culture.
In 1905 the Chitimacha fought a court battle to retain the last 505 acres of their once vast territory. An out of court settlement was made and they were given title to 280.36 acres of the disputed tract. This too was almost lost when the attorney in the litigation presented them a bill plus interest almost a decade later. However, Miss Sarah Avery McIlhenney, a wealthy philanthropist intervened and purchased the judgement on the land for $1450. She agreed to assign ownership to the United States government on behalf of the Chitimacha, therefore preventing the loss of the last of their land.
In response to Miss McIlhenney’s efforts government officials took an interest in the Chitimacha affairs for the first time. On May 8, 1916, Congress placed the land in trust for the benefit of the tribe and 9established a roll of all known living members. Only 60 members were named. However, they did not receive any actual government assistance until a reservation school was established in 1934.
Until the 1940’s they still relied upon traditional occupations because there were few job opportunities near the reservations. Many Chitimacha shuttled back and forth between the reservation and area lakes where fishing was good, while others lived out on the lakes. It took all day to get to the outlying lakes from the reservations in their “push-skiff” or pirogue.
World War II marked a general turning point in tribal history as returning war veterans infused the tribe with new ideas, enthusiasm and a desire to insure tribal identity for the future. On November 28, 1946 Chief Earnest Darden resigned as chief and urged the tribe to appoint someone to engineer the formation of a constitutional form of government, thus ending the traditional chief-type of rule that had existed since prehistoric times.
Through the years there were many obstacles to obtaining the education necessary for the Chitimacha to secure well paying jobs. Until recently those desiring a high school education had to attend the Haskell High School in Kansas. Since few tribesmen could afford to send their children to Kansas for a high school degree a cycle of low education and low paying jobs continued.
After World War II several Chitimachas began working in the oil industry on “in-shore” drilling crews and more were working “off-shore” operations by the early 1950’s. Their success soon attracted others to more middle income jobs and today there are Chitimacha working as mechanics, plant workers, carpenters, mental health directors, community health representatives and administrators and other such professions.
On January 14, 1971 the Chitimachas became members of the first organized tribe in the state of Louisiana to be recognized by the United States government.
They were also one of the founding members of the Inter-Tribal Council in May, 1975 and have continued to play an important role in the agency.
A small tribe allied to the Chitimacha living in the alluvial country about the mouth of the Mississippi River. It is possibly this tribe which survivors of DeSoto’s expedition found using atlatls in 1543.
Their village and that of the related Washa was on Bayou Lafourche in 1699 when the colony of Louisiana was founded.
In 1713 British slave traders formed a party of Natchez, Chickasaw and Yazoo to attack the Chawasha under the guise of a peace embassy. They killed the head chief and took 11 prisoners including the chief’s wife.
There seems to have been 2 or possibly 3 successive villages by 1722 all on the Mississippi River. In 1730 in order to quiet panic fears of the French in New Orleans, Governor Perrier allowed a band of slaves to destroy the Chawasha town. Although he described it as a total massacre it is more likely the adult men were absent from the village on a hunting trip and possibly only 7 or 8 of the Indians were murdered.
In 1758 Governor de Kerlerec states they had formed a little village 3-4 leagues from New Orleans. Afterward the population steadily declined, and they seemed to disappear toward the close of the 18th or beginning of the 19th century.
The Taensa occupied 7 or 8 villages near Lake St. Joseph, on the west bank of the Mississippi River in Northeastern Louisiana.
In March, 1700 the temple near Newellton on the west end of the lake was destroyed by lightning and was never rebuilt, fearing raiding parties from the Yazoo and Chickasaw the tribe abandoned their villages in 1706 and moved down the Mississippi River to the Bayogoula village. The Bayogoula treated them well but soon after their arrival the Taensa turned on the Bayogoula killing many and driving the rest away. The Taensa had intended to return to their ancient villages after this massacre, but apparently they remained in the neighborhood of the old Bayogoula town, for they were at the Manchac in 1715. They also had a village during this period on the south side of the Mississippi, (about 30 miles) above New Orleans.
Before 1744 they had moved to the Tensaw River, to which they gave their name and where they remained until the country was ceded to England in 1763. They then removed to the Red River and were later granted permission to settle on the Mississippi at the entrance of Bayou Lafourche.
They were living beside the Apalachee, the settlements of the two tribes extending from Bayou d’Appo to Bayou Jean de Jean and their own village standing at the head of the turn. Subsequently both tribes sold their land and moved to Bayou Boeuf.
Later the Taensa parted with this land also and drifted farther south to a small bayou at the head of Grand Lake, still known on local maps 11as Taensa Bayou.
They intermarried with the Chitimacha and the Alabama becoming gradually lost as a distinct people.
Small tribe living on Bayou Lafourche west of present city of New Orleans in 1699. By 1805 only 5 individuals living with French settlers in 1805.
The Choctaw were the second largest tribe in the Southeastern United States. They were excellent farmers who lived in permanent towns in the territory which is now Southern Mississippi and Southeastern Alabama. Although they were non-nomadic they developed and maintained extensive trade routes with other tribes as far away as Canada. Some of our modern road and highway routes follow those established by this tribe.
The women did most of the farm work, fetched the water and cut firewood. They spun cloth for long skirts from buffalo wool and strong herb fibers, silk grass or mulberry bark. It was a thick canvas-like material which could be worn with either side out.
The men did the hunting, built the houses, made wood and stone tools, and helped the women in the fields. They were fond of games, wrestling and jumping contests as well as ball and chunkey games.
Their houses were circular with clay mixed with straw sides and thatched roofs. Cane seats about 2 feet off the ground lined the walls inside. During the day they were used for seating and for beds at night. The space under these seats was used to store vegetables. In the center of the house was an open fireplace.
Their society was divided into different classes or castes. There were the chiefs, one to preside over war ceremonies and another over peace ceremonies, the upper class (“their own people” or “friends”), and 5 classes of slaves.
The Choctaw women had their babies alone and it was not until later times they accepted the practice of mid-wives. When the mother was about to give birth the father retreated to another house and would not eat until after sunset. He also abstained from pork and salt until the baby was born.
When the baby was born the mother washed him and placed him in a cradle with a bag of sand tied over his forehead to flatten it. This is why the Choctaw were called “flat heads” by neighboring tribes.
Mothers were not allowed to discipline their sons. This was the duty of the maternal uncle who acted as the boy’s teacher. All the boys were schooled morning and afternoon in tribal legends, hunting with bows and arrows, and other manly tasks.
In 1540 the Spanish explorer, DeSoto, began trading with them. The Choctaw were intrigued by Spanish goods, especially metal. They also established trade with the French and by the 1700’s had adopted many French ideas, life styles, cultural attitudes and incorporated French words into their language. Unlike their Indian neighbors, the men continued to wear their hair in full length styles.
The Choctaws served as guides for the European expeditions across Louisiana which resulted in many Choctaw words being used as name locations throughout our state.
As colonization increased pressures to choose alliances with either the French to keep the English and their powerful allies, the Chickasaw and Creek Nations, from closing trade routes to the north and Canada.
From 1754-1763 the Choctaws were in almost constant warfare. In 1763 the French and Indian wars ended with France ceding all her lands east of the Mississippi River to the English. This resulted in half the Choctaw towns being allied to the French and the other half with the English. War pressures eroded inter-tribal tranquility in the Choctaw Nation, leading to civil war.
When the French retreated to New Orleans they in effect deserted their Choctaw allies. On January 3, 1786, the Treaty of Hopewell was negotiated with the United States Government recognizing the Choctaw Nation as a nation and defining the eastern boundary of the Choctaw Lands.
Hostilities with their former Indian allies during the wars, coupled with increasing pressures from settlers desiring their lands, led the tribe to migrate west of the Mississippi River in search of farm land and tranquility.
Between 1801 and 1830 they were methodically negotiated off their tribal homelands in Alabama and Mississippi. In 1830, they signed the treaty of Dancing Creek, agreeing to leave their homelands and not return. The following year the greater part of the nation moved to lands along the 13Red River in Oklahoma granted by the treaty. There they established a small republic modeled after that of the United States government. However, this republic came to an end when the State of Oklahoma was organized.
A considerable number of Choctaw remained in Mississippi while smaller bands migrated to northern and central Louisiana.
Prior to 1778 Choctaw communities moved from north Central Louisiana to LaSalle, Rapides, Jackson, and Grant Parishes in the vicinity of two saw mill towns, Jena and Eden. Other Choctaw communities were scattered throughout the Florida parishes north of Lake Pontchartrain.
Although they function autonomously, the Jena Band of Choctaw continue to maintain a close relationship with their parent tribe, the Mississippi Band in Philadelphia, Mississippi and continue to speak their native language.
In 1974 they incorporated as a non-profit organization and are currently preparing for federal recognition as a separate tribe from the Mississippi Band.
They are basically rural people, but maintain a community at Jena, Louisiana on Highway 167, approximately 46 miles northeast of Alexandria.
The Jena Band of Choctaws are a founding member of the Inter-Tribal Council.
The Coushatta occupied many villages in their Alabama homeland. They lived in towns and farmed the surrounding lands. The tribe was divided into clans. Each clan was allotted specific fields and a portion of their crops were collected for the public granary to protect against poor harvests, war emergencies and to feed the needy and hungry travelers.
The clans elected their best orator as chief who in turn appointed a town chief and war chief for each town. In the center of the town was a square where the tribal leaders met to discuss the religious, political and economic affairs.
The Coushatta were primarily farmers who supplemented their crops of maize, peas, beans, squashes, pumpkins, melons, potatoes, and rice by hunting, fishing and trading with other tribes. They were accomplished archers and 14were reluctant to accept the use of guns. They also used their bows and arrows for fishing or they used blow guns, hook and lines, spears, traps and handnets.
In 1540 a Spanish exploration party led by DeSoto robbed an outlying Coushatta village, kidnapping the chief and other leaders. They threatened to burn their hostages alive unless the tribe agreed to give future explorers whatever they wanted.
Co-existence with the Spanish and French assumed relatively peaceful proportions and was mutually beneficial until the end of the Revolutionary War when land seeking settlers pushed farther and farther into Coushatta territory.
The years were marked by a continuing struggle over land, warfare, broken treaties, migration away from white settlements and a dwindling Coushatta population. The final blow came when 3,000 warriors were killed and 22 million acres of Indian land lost in the Creek War of 1813-1814.
The Coushatta migrated through Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas in their search for unclaimed land where they could re-establish their peaceful agricultural way of life.
By the beginning of the Civil War in 1861, some 250 Coushattas had settled along the Calcasieu River near Kinder. Here the tribe continued its traditions and enjoyed amicable relations with their neighbors, until their peaceful and prosperous existence was again lost when American settlers became interested in Coushatta lands. In 1884 most of the Coushattas remaining in Louisiana moved to a site 15 miles east of the Calcasieu River and 3 miles north of Elton in Allen Parish. Life was hard for the Coushattas, but by 1920 individual tribespeople had carved out an Indian community that encompassed more than 1,000 acres of farmland, forest and lush, green swamps.
In 1898 the United States government placed 160 acres in trust for the tribe and assumed partial responsibility for educating the children. Later a federally sponsored elementary school for grades 1-5 was established and medical services were added for the tribal members. During the repudiated “termination” policy in 1958 the United States government ended its trusteeship of tribal lands and discontinued its meager services. Legally this meant the Coushatta tribe no longer existed.
In 1973 a newly formed corporation, the Coushatta Alliance, Inc. finally succeeded in getting the United States government to legally re-establish recognition of the Coushatta tribe.
With the development of a strong tribal government came the revival of a culture almost lost; a heritage almost forgotten.
The Houmas were accomplished farmers who lived in towns or villages and farmed the surrounding lands. Certain unique cultural traits indicate they may have migrated to Louisiana centuries ago from a homeland somewhere in South America. It is evident they had some contacts, directly or indirectly, with other Indian cultures in Mexico and South America. Several varieties of squash and pumpkin native to the Indian south of the equator were part of the Houma agriculture. Also, grew peas, beans, and other vegetables. They relied heavily on their maize crop but also grew several varieties of peas and beans in addition to squash and pumpkins.
Another indication of ties with South America is their composite type grooved blow-gun. It was made in two pieces and tightly bound with sinew or fiber cord. Although this type of blow-gun was very common among South American tribes it is quite different from the cane blow-guns used by other Southeastern tribes of the United States.
When anyone in their village fell ill two wise men were summoned to the cabin to chase evil spirits away by singing. Their cabins were perfectly square structures made with pole frames covered with a plaster of mud and Spanish moss. There were no openings in the house except for a very small door 2 X 4 feet or less. There were no smoke holes for their fireplaces either. After the house was plastered woven cane mats were attached to the walls inside and out. These mats were then covered with bunches of tall grass canes. Such a structure would last 20 years without repairing.
A red crawfish was recognized as their war symbol. War parties were led by women as well as men. One woman was so fierce and respected, she occupied first place on the council of Houma villages. Women could also serve as chief.
French explorer, LaSalle, first encountered the Houma in 1682 in the area now known as Wilkinson County, Mississippi and West Feliciana Parish, Louisiana near Angola. This was the first known contact with Europeans. When the French returned to the area in 1700 half of the Houma tribe had died of abdominal flu.
In 1706 the Houma and Tunica formed an alliance to strengthen themselves against the Chickasaw and their British allies. Three years later the 16Tunicans turned on their allies and many Houma were massacred in the ensuing battle. Those who survived, fled southward and settled briefly on the Mississippi River near Donaldsonville.
During much of the 1700’s they migrated from place to place searching for a suitable location, free from pressures of other groups, where they could resume their agricultural economy. As their tribe decreased they united with other tribes and pursued hunting, fishing, and trapping to feed and clothe their shrinking group. With other tribes joining and merging with the Houma their cultures and customs were interchanged and blended until the tribes were indistinguishable from one another. Only the various chiefs attempted to maintain their tribal identities.
From 1820-1840 the Houma migrated farther and farther south until they reached the Gulf of Mexico and settled along the bayous and swamps in Terrebonne and Lafourche Parishes. They shared this territory with the French Acadians and gradually adopted the French language and Catholic religion.
Although they formerly had the skills to weave finely decorated cane baskets similar to Chitimachan baskets, this skill was lost and replaced with palmetto, cypress and cane weaving and moss mat making. Many of the men are skilled wood carvers.
By 1940 they supported themselves almost exclusively by trapping muskrats and raccoons in the coastal marshes, by fishing with nets for shrimp and other fish in season, gathering oysters, and in a small part hiring out to cane and rice growers in the lower parishes. Thus their traditional agricultural economy evolved into a hunting and fishing one on the coastal fringes.
Today tribal members are concentrated primarily in Terrebonne, Lafourche and Jefferson Parishes with the majority located in Terrebonne Parish.
They have historically held the concept of each community retaining a large measure of autonomy, existing separately and possessing different outlooks and goals. With such tradition it is not surprising that two distinctly separate tribal governments currently exist. The Houma Tribe Inc., domiciled in Golden Meadow in Lafourche Parish serves Lafourche, St. Bernard, St. Tammy, Orleans, Plaquemine, Jefferson and Terrebonne Parishes while the Houma Alliance Inc., is domiciled in Dulac, in Terrebonne Parish.
The Houma Alliance, Inc. was a founding member of the Inter-Tribal Council.
In 1699 this tribe was living on the Pearl River about 11 miles from its mouth. It is said to occupy 6 villages and the Tangipahoa occupied one which had formerly constituted a 7th.
In 1702 or 1705 they moved to Bayou Castine on the North shore of Lake Pontchartrain, six months later the Natchitoches, whose crops had been ruined, were settled beside them by the commanders of the Mississippi fort.
In 1718 they moved to the Mississippi River and settled 35 miles above New Orleans on the east bank. In that year a Frenchman described their village and said the chief’s house was 36 feet in diameter. Six feet more than that of the Natchez Great Sun.
A little higher up the river they had a small village, then abandoned. In their old town was a temple which they rebuilt after they moved to the Mississippi River.
This tribe, the Bayogoula and Houma who had settled nearby were gradually becoming amalgamated. The Bayogoula and the Acotapissa seem to have combined first and then united with the Houma.
When the colony of Louisiana was founded in 1699, this tribe was living on the west bank of the Mississippi River about 5 miles below Plaquemine at a place which still bears their name. The Mugulasha tribe was then living with them.
The Bayogoula were at war with the Houma. When the Mugulasha became too friendly with the Houmas, the Bayogoula attacked their fellow villagers, destroyed a considerable number and drove the rest away. They then invited the Acotapissa and Tiou to take their places. In 1706 the Taensa, who had abandoned their towns on Lake St. Joseph, settled in the Bayogoula as they had attacked the Mugulasha. The survivors were given a place to settle near the French fort on the Mississippi River. By 1725 they had moved above New Orleans. In 1739 they were living between the Acotapissa and the Houma and had partially become fused with them. Their subsequent history is given with the Houma.
This tribe was living at a site a few miles above the present site of New Orleans on the opposite side of the river when LaSalle first encountered them in 1682. In 1699 they shared a village with the Bayogoula north of their former settlement. Between 1682 and 1699 the Mugulasha and the Quinipissa joined together. The chief of the Quinipissa in 1682, when the French first entered the territory, also served as the chief of the Mugulasha in 1699. In May, 1700 they were 18attacked by their fellow villagers, the Bayogoula, and were almost completely destroyed. Survivors probably united with the Bayogoula or Houma.
In 1541 the Spaniards described them as a tribe “of more than ninety villagers not subject to anyone, with a very warlike people and much dreaded”, occupying a fertile land.
In 1682 they appear as allies of the Houma in the destruction of a Tangipahoa village on the east bank of the Mississippi River. They were a wandering people living west of the river on two little lakes to the west of and above Point Coupee.
By the 18th century they were a small tribe living west of the lower course of the Mississippi River. They evidently joined the Houma tribe and ceased to exist as a distinct group.
This tribe was found by LaSalle in 1682 a few miles above the present site of New Orleans, but on the opposite side of the river. The people received him with flights of arrows, and on his return used peacemaking overtures as a mask for a treacherous but futile attack upon his force. Four years later, Tonti made peace with this tribe. In 1699 Iberville hunted for them in vain, but later learned that they were identical with the Mugulasha, then living with the Bayogoula about 20 leagues above their former settlement. According to Sauvolle, however, the Quinipissa were not identical with the Mugulasha, but had united with them. In any case, there can be no doubt that the chief of the Quinipissa in 1682 and 1686 was the same man as the chief of the Mugulasha in 1699.
In May, 1700, shortly after Iberville had visited them for the second time, the Mugulasha were attacked and almost completely destroyed by their fellow townsmen, the Bayogoula. The destruction was not as complete probably as the French writers would have us believe, but we do not hear of either Mugulasha or Quinipissa afterward, and the remnant must have united with the Bayogoula or Houma, the latter having been their allies.
A tribe probably related to the Acotapissa and perhaps originally a part of them, whose home at the end of the 17th century was on an affluent of Lake Pontchartrain which still bears their name. Some may at one time have moved to the Mississippi, Sioucie. LaSalle in 1682, found, on the east side of the river, 2 leagues below the Quinipissa settlement, a town recently destroyed and partly burned by enemies, which some said was named “Tangibao”, though others called it “Maheonala” or “Mahehoualaima”. The remnants of this tribe probably united or reunited with the Acotapissa and eventually merged with the Houmas.
The name Caddo is applied collectively to an important group of approximately 25 tribes forming 3 or more confederated groups of Kadohadacho covering the present states of Arkansas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma.
Their culture was considerably different from those of other Louisiana tribes. They allied themselves with the plains cultures and unlike the other tribes of the state, who were afraid of horses, the Caddo readily accepted and utilized them for hunting buffalo and other game.
The Caddo was very large and powerful before the arrival of the Europeans. They had highly developed social and ceremonial organizations with surrounding tribes. They were excellent farmers and noted for their outstanding pottery. Their importance in history however quickly diminished with the arrival of the white man.
Their name comes from their own word Kadohadacho which was later shortened to Caddo by the white man. They seem to have always lived on the Red River where they planted corn, pumpkins, and various vegetables. They did not tolerate idleness and those who did not work were punished. They worked their fields in good weather and attended their handiwork, made bows and arrows, clothing, and tools during cold rainy weather. The women kept busy making mats out of reed and leaves and by making pots and bowls from clay.
When it was time to till the fields all the men assembled and worked first one field and then another until every field of all the households were ready for planting. The planting was never done by the men; only the women. To supplement their crops the men hunted and fished.
Each tribe had a chief called a Caddi, who ruled within the section of country occupied by his tribe. The larger tribes also had sub-chiefs, the number depending on the size of the tribe.
They lived in a communal arrangement. Eight to ten families lived in a single conical shaped grass house or one made of thatch supported by a pole frame. Mat couches lined the walls and served for seating during the day and for beds at night. A fire burned in the center of house night and day. (883)
Their houses were arranged around an open town square which was used for social and ceremonial functions. The members of each house were responsible for farming the fields adjacent to their house.
For their role as ambassadors of peace under the rule of the French, Spanish and American governments, the Caddo were promised they would never be disturbed from their land. However, the purchase of the Louisiana Territory resulted in increased immigration into Caddo country. Even with military assistance it soon became impossible for the United States government to restrain the white settlers from inhabiting the Caddo lands. Finally the Indian agent was authorized to purchase the Caddo land and the Indians moved westward to Texas.
As a result of an extermination policy by the Texans who did not want the Caddo either, those who weren’t killed were driven from Texas east of the Red River where in retaliation, the Caddo sent small bands into Texas to plunder and harass the whites. With their hunting grounds so depleted stealing became almost a necessity. By the early 19th century their importance as a distinct tribe was over and survivors merged with other tribes.
A Caddo tribe which lived near the present site of Robeline, Louisiana when first encountered by Europeans in the 1500’s. As a result of wars between France and Spain the Adai suffered severely. One portion of their villages was under French control and the other part under Spanish. An ancient trail between their villages became the noted “contraband trail” along which traders and travelers journeyed between the French and Spanish provinces. War between France and Spain almost exterminated the Adai. (891)
Even though their vocabulary differed widely from the rest of the Caddo dialects, it is probable that they combined with the Kadohadacho. By the close of the 19th century all of the Adai had disappeared.
A small tribe living near Natchitoches, Louisiana. They also appeared in European accounts under the names of Souchitiony, Dubchinsis, and Oulchionis.
In 1702 a crop failure caused the Indian agent St. Denis to move their neighbors, the Natchitoches tribes, from the Red River to an area beside the Acolapissa on Lake Ponchartrain. The Doustioni however, chose to remain in their country and reverted for a time to hunting rather than move to the Lake Ponchartrain area.
In 1714 when St. Denis brought the Natchitoches back and started an establishment among them the Doustioni accepted an invitation to settle close by the post. In 1719 they were known to be living on an island in the Red River not far away. Since nothing more was written about them, they probably lost their identity in the Natchitoches tribe.
Nasoni (Nissohone or Nisione)—
This tribe appears in 1542 as a “province” entered by the Spaniards during an attempt by DeSoto’s expedition to reach Mexico by land. It was southwest of the present city of Shreveport. They were poor and had very little corn. In 1687 there were 2 Nasoni towns, an upper town and a lower one. The latter was 27 miles north of Nacogdoches, Texas and Upper Nasoni was near Red River just south of the river.
Tribal wars with the Osage Indians and disease left their villages destroyed and abandoned. By the close of the 18th century they had disappeared, or merged with the Kadohadacho.
A Caddo tribe on Red River between Natchitoches and Shreveport mentioned by writers between 1690-1719. It was probably part of the Yatasi.
Their villages were destroyed and abandoned due to tribal wars and disease and by the close of the 18th century they also had disappeared.
When first discovered in 1690 by the French, the main tribe bearing this name, pronounced by the Indians themselves Nashitosh, was living near the city which is called after them. They were primarily farmers. In 1702 when their crops were ruined they requested and were granted permission from the French to relocate. St. Denis located them on the north side of Lake Ponchartrain near the Acolapissa. Twelve years later he took them back to their country and established a French post close to their village. As long as he remained commandant of this post, his influence over the Natchitoches and other tribes which came to live nearby was unbounded. Even after his retirement relations between the settlers and Indians continued harmonious and the Indians remained in their old villages until the first of the 19th century, when they joined the rest of the Caddo tribes and accompanied them successively to Texas and Oklahoma.
There was a second Natchitoches, the “upper” town, allied with the Kadohadacho. It was heard of only in earliest times and probably united with the Kadohadacho earlier than the other group.
An obscure tribe of Caddo whose village was on the Red River in 1687. They were allied with other Caddo tribes, the Kadohadatcho, Natchitoches and the Nasoni. In 1812 another village near their earlier location was noted. They eventually united with their allies and disappeared as a distinct tribe by the early 19th century.
A Caddo tribe visited by the Spaniards in 1542 but 22not mentioned by later writers.
A small Caddo tribe which has given its name to Ouachita River, Louisiana. Their village was located near the present site of Columbia on the Ouachita. By 1690 a part of them had left the village and settled near the Natchitoches Indians. In 1730 the Louisiana Governor wrote they had been destroyed by the Taenso, but the greater part probably withdrew to the Natchitoches or other Caddo tribes farther west. (204)
A Caddo tribe living on the Red River northwest of Natchitoches. When the post of Natchitoches was established they were so hard pressed by the Chickasaw tribe that part of them sought refuge nearby, while others fled to the Kadohadatcho. Later they re-occupied their own country. Later left Louisiana for Texas with the other Caddo tribes.
Died out quickly within the 20 year period between 1690 and 1710.
Tradition and early records indicate this tribe lived in the northwestern Mississippi and neighboring parts of Arkansas. By 1682 they had concentrated on Yazoo River a few miles above its mouth, though parties were scattered throughout northeastern Louisiana to boil salt which they traded. They had a village on the Ouachita as late as 1687. In 1706, fearing attacks by the Chickasaw and other Indians allied to the English, the Tunica abandoned their villages and moved to the Houma town site opposite the mouth of the Red River. They were well received by the Houma, but shortly afterward rose against their hosts killing more than half and driving the rest away.
Sometime between 1784 and 1803 they again abandoned their villages and moved up the Red River to the Marksville Prairie, where settled on a strip of land formerly owned by the Avoyels. This land was recognized as the Indian Reserve and their mixed-blood descendants have continued to occupy land. A part of them went farther west and joined the Atakapa and another part moved to the Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma where they established themselves along the Red River.
Their main village was near the rapids of the Red River, a short distance above the present city of Alexandria. Another village was located near the city of Marksville.
Their name which signifies “Stone People” or rather “Flint People”, 23indicates they were active in the manufacture or trade of arrow points, and raw flint materials. It was not until 1700 that Iberville met some members from this tribe when they acted as middlemen in providing a market for horses and cattle plundered from the Spaniards.
In 1767 they were still occupying a village near the “rapids” of the Red River. Although they spoke a Natchezen language the tribe merged with the Tunicas south of Marksville by 1805, except for 2 or 3 women who made their homes with French families on the Ouachita. It was not until 1932 that the last known person of Avoyel blood passed away.
A Siouan tribe located on the Pascagoula River and Biloxi Bay in 1690’s probably formerly residents Ohio Valley.
In early 1700-1703 they settled on Pearl River at site formerly occupied by Acotapissa then drifted back to Pascagoula River near the Pascagoula tribe.
They lived near the same tribe in that general region until 1763 when both tribes moved across the Mississippi, the Biloxi settling first near the mouth of the Red River. They must have soon moved to the neighborhood of Marksville. They established 2 villages; one on a half section adjoining the Tunica. Soon afterward they sold or abandoned this site and moved to Bayou Rapides and then to the mouth of the Rigolet de Bon Dieu, crossed to the south side to Bayou Boeuf in 1794-96 below a band of Choctaws.
Soon after 1800 they sold their lands to William Miller and Colonel Tulton. Although the sale was confirmed by United States government May 5, 1805, the Biloxi remained in the immediate neighborhood and gradually died out or fused with the Tunica at Marksville and Choctaw where they still reside. A large group moved to Texas.
In 1886 a few Biloxi were discovered living on Indian Creek 5-6 miles west of Lecompte, Louisiana by Bureau of American Ethnology.
A small Tunican tribe which had given up its independent existence before the arrival of the French in Louisiana. They moved to what is now Mississippi and became a part of the Natchez Nation. Even though they inter-married, language etiquette was used to set them apart from the original Natchez Indians who were regarded as the noble class.
INTER-TRIBAL COUNCIL OF LOUISIANA
The Inter-Tribal Council of Louisiana, Inc., is a non-profit organization which was formed as an effort in Indian self-determination, i.e., Indians governing Indian programs. It is presently composed of four of the states’ tribes: Jena Band of Choctaws, Jena; Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana, Inc., Elton; Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana, Inc., Charenton; and the Houma Alliance, Inc., Dulac. It was incorporated in May, 1975, and began administering an Employment and Training Program funded under the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act, 1973 (CETA), Section 302 by the Department of Labor that same year.
The Inter-Tribal Council:
—provides leadership, and services on behalf of its member tribes;
—determines needs of tribal members to better provide services;
—establishes supportive or gap-filling services to its member tribes;
—provides technical assistance and input to federal, state, local and private providers of social services, in planning for services and needs of American Indians in the state.
Since the Inter-Tribal Council, Inc. began serving the needs of Louisiana Indians in May, 1975, approximately 15 Louisiana Indians have earned high school diplomas through programs administered by the agency. An estimated 10 additional diplomas will be earned this school year.
Approximately 600 Indians have successfully completed job related training in such fields as carpentry, clerical, auto mechanics, cosmetology, drafting, and electricians with approximately 550 currently employed. This represents a significant increase in Indian participation in the skilled job market since 1975.
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