| Not many
people know it, but Louisiana had the third largest Indian population
(16,040) in the eastern U.S., according to 1980 census information. This
census information showed only North Carolina and Florida to have higher
populations. Some Louisiana Indians can still speak their native
languages as well as English, French or Spanish. Archeological findings
date as far back as 10 to 12 thousand years before the birth of Christ.
Louisiana Indians had very fertile land to live on. They had abundant resources: game, waterfowl and other birds, fish, a variety of crops, salt domes, shellfish, bitumen (asphalt), pearls, etc. The rich Louisiana soil gave them a variety of hardwoods to work with including cedar, oak, hickory, black walnut and more. Trade routes brought in materials from as far away as the Great Lakes, Rocky Mountains and Florida.
native peoples were known by names such as Atakapa, Opelousa, Coushata,
Chitimacha, Houma, Tunica, Natchez and Koroa. After European contact,
other Indians moved into Louisiana, further enriching the Indian
population and culture. This contact in later years forced many Indians
to move to the Oklahoma reservations or further south to the more harsh
coastal lands on the Gulf of Mexico.
Much of the rich land used for farming and gathering raw materials such as cane for baskets, game and fish has been reduced by Eurocentric industry, growing populations of non-Indians and the resulting waste production. These issues are of concern to ALL Louisianians, not just the Indians. My hope is that solutions to these modern-day problems will be enacted soon. Otherwise, future generations may never see the beautiful and rich Louisiana environment as it was originally made by the creator.
Today, there are four Federally recognised nations and five state recognised nations.
HOUMAS (Lafourche Parish)
FEDERALLY RECOGNIZED NATIONS :
COUSHATTA (Port Allen Parish)
CHITIMACHA (St. Mary Parish)
TUNICA-BILOXI (Avoyelles Parish)
JENA BAND OF CHOCTAW (LaSalle Parish)
STATE RECOGNIZED NATIONS:
ADAI CADDO (Natchitoches Parsh)
CHOCTAW-APACHE OF EBARB (Sabine Parish)
CLIFTON CHOCTAW (Rapides Parish)
FOUR WINDS CHEROKEE (Vernon Parish)
(4 Winds is actually a Confederation, not a Nation)
Chitimacha originally lived on Grand Lake, form Charenton to Bayou
Portage. One story states that originally four sacred trees marked their
boundaries. Two trees were located in what is now known as Cypermort
Point and Maringouin. Of the other two, one was somewhere south of New
Orleans and somewhere on the Mississippi River.
| " To
still walk this same land our ancestors walked. To again be able to care
and provide for our people and those around us. To rekindle the pride in
being Chitimacha. That is the greatest gift we can give our children.”-
Waxtuygi, caad kasiihtuqunki qapx xahyte! In the early 1700s, the Chitimacha were the most powerful tribe of the northern gulf coast west of Florida in the United States territory. We also attained prominence in early Louisiana history due to our long war with the French and the number of Chitimacha slaves in colonial families as a result of the war. We were known as the best basket makers in the entire Gulf region. John R. Swanton, Bureau of American Ethnology: Bulletin 137, Bulletin 145
Through determination and hard work, in spite of prejudice and injustice, our people have survived, thrived and prospered. Today, we number approximately 1,000. We believe that our ancestors would be proud of the success we have achieved.
Chief Frambroise wore full formal regalia, similar to this, when attending the 1718 peace ceremony that ended our twelve-year war with the French. In his speech to Governor Bienville at the Concession of M. Paris, Chief Frambroise said:
Ways of our
Ancestors - The Chitimacha lived utilizing available resources
from the land and water provided by neyq (earth), carefully taking only
what was needed for survival. Living in harmony with the land, we
cultivated maize and sweet potatoes, and also harvested wild vegetables,
game, fish, and shellfish. Our culture was distinct. We used two forms
of our language, polite and common, and had a complex clan system.
Tribal members held certain positions within the Tribe and could be
distinguished by lifestyle, dress, hairstyle, and body art.
Atakapaw call themselves ISHAK, or "The People". ATAKAPAW is Mobilian or
Choctaw for "Eaters of Human Flesh." But the Atakapaw only ate specific
parts of slain enemies in a victory ceremony after a battle. They lived
from Bayou Teche to the Sabine River and from Alexandria to the Gulf of
Mexico. The population was dispersed with lots of vacant land between
villages. Four bands made up this nation. Two eastern tribes known as
the Sunrise People, and two western tribes known as the Sunset People.
They created very high quality pottery and built large mounds. One shell
mound, which could still be seen until recently, was 600 feet long and
in the shape of an Alligator. The early Louisiana explorers rarely saw
the Atakapaw. They stayed well hidden and used smoke and fires to
distract from their presence.
The Atakapans are a hard group to find out much about. The first Europeans to come in contact with them did not bother to write down much about them. Later Europeans did the same, so almost no record from eye witness accounts is available to us today. The accounts we do have are often second hand and appear to have some racial bias mixed in to them. Almost all of the more recent written material about them is in obscure archeological reports in filing cabinets at state agencies and universities.
Here is some of what is known. Atakapan is a language and not really a tribe. There were several tribes, or maybe just bands, who lived in the same geographical area and spoke Atakapan. The Atakapan language seems to be part of the larger Tunican language family. If this is so it would link the Atakapan speakers of Texas with the Southeastern Indians to the east of Texas. The other Tunican speakers are found in south eastern Arkansas going down along the Mississippi river to Natchez Mississippi. Atakapan itself is a Choctaw word that means "man eaters".
The several tribes and bands lived in an area starting around modern Houston and going east into Louisiana. In fact, some Louisiana Atakapans are still living there. Swanton places the Atakapans as far east as the Lake Charles area of Louisiana. Some of them lived along the coast and others lived father north going up to the Caddo Indian territory. Most of the villages and campsites in Texas are near the major rivers in this area, the Trinity river and Sabine river. This area has several very different environmental zones and the zone a band lived in made a difference in how they lived. R. E. Moore
Caddo were made up of five tribes. The Adai, Doustioni, Natchitouches,
Ouachita and Yatasi. They lived on the Red River and moved, sometimes
great distances, due to frequent flooding. The Caddo proper, KADOHODACHO,
moved from Cddo Lake to Arkansas in the late 1700's. Their language was
unlike others in the east. They hunted Bison in northwest Louisiana,
traded, hunted and fished.
Caddo Indians are the principal southern representatives of the great
Caddoan linguistic family, which include the Wichita, Kichai, Pawnee,
and Arikara. Their confederacy consisted of several tribes or divisions,
claiming as their original territory the whole of lower Red River and
adjacent country in Louisiana, eastern Texas, and Southern Arkansas.
|The earliest documentary records indicate that the Coushatta Tribe originated and resided in the present state of Alabama, near the Tennessee River, during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The Coushatta, then known as the Koasati, belonged to the southern section of the Muskhogean linguistic group and were members of the Creek Confederacy, a loose association of the Muskogee family of tribes. The Koasati were an agricultural group with their own towns, officials, and distinctive culture. According to DeSoto's sixteenth-century journals, the Koasati were regional traders who also served as guides and liaisons between white explorers and other Indian tribes in the area.|
|The friendly relations initially forged between whites and neighboring tribes came to a rather tumultuous end in the late 1700s as white settlers began invading Indian territory. With their towns and crops destroyed, the Koasati were forced to leave their home in Tennessee River Country. This uprooting initiated dissonance and conflict among traditionally friendly tribes. The now fragmented Coushatta found new homes in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, and Louisiana.|
first group to enter Louisiana settled along Red River and consisted of
approximately 80 to 100 individuals. In 1861, more than 250 Coushatta
Indians inhabited the area along the Calcasieu River near Kinder. They
relocated in 1884 to Allen Parish, where they reside today. Currently
boasting a population of 400 and 685 acres of reservation land in trust,
members of the Coushatta community in Allen Parish have retained their
identity and pride in their heritage. The entire community speaks the
Coushatta language, maintains their individual homesteads, and continues
the craft of basket making that is synonymous with the Coushatta.tribe.
The Coushatta Indian Tribe of Louisiana obtained federal recognition in
June 1973, a year after the Louisiana legislature officially
acknowledged them as a tribe. In garnering national recognition, the
Coushatta were able to establish their own tribal government and obtain
federal programs to assist the Coushatta people in developing their
Alana A. Carmon
|CONTINUED on PG 3|
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