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Indigenous Materials in Special Collections

Caddo

History of the Caddo in Louisiana

Louisiana is the ancestral home of many Caddoan groups. The term “Caddo” is often used to refer to tribes within the same language group, though Caddoan languages are vastly different from one another. The Adai, Doustioni, Natchitoches, Ouachita, and Yatasi Caddo Tribes occupied parts of northern and central Louisiana, while other Caddoan groups lived in what are Arkansas and Texas today. By the late 18th century, pressure from European settlers and raids from the Osage in the north drew many Caddoan-speaking tribes together, and ostracized the Louisiana Caddoans from their kinsmen residing in eastern Texas. By 1834, Europeans regarded the Caddoan tribes as a single group: the Caddo. This is reflected in many of the records we have of Louisiana Caddo groups, which may use the term “Caddo” to encompass all Caddoan-speaking tribes in this region. Today, the Adai Caddo Indian Nation and the Natchitoches Tribe of Louisiana are the only Caddo tribes recognized by the state of Louisiana, and the many Caddoan languages have been consolidated into one. 

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Suggested Subject Headings

Caddo Indians.

Caddoan Indians.

Indians of North America -- Louisiana.

Indians of North America -- Southern States.

 

 

Chitimacha

History of the Chitimacha Tribe in Louisiana

The Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana once occupied the entire Atchafalaya Basin, a large inland estuary located in south central Louisiana spanning 260,000 acres. Today, the Chitimacha Tribe is the only Louisiana tribe to retain a portion of its ancestral land, maintaining 963 acres of land in St. Mary's Parish. 445 acres of this land is protected by a trust created by Sarah McIlhenny in 1916, which marked the origin of the Tribe's reservation in Charenton, Louisiana. The Tribe is known for its basketry, which uses naturally dyed river cane, can be either single or double-woven, and can use combinations of fifty different design elements. This art has been passed down through generations of Chitimacha, and is a prized skill among community members today. Like most southeastern tribes, the Chitimacha people grew maize and potatoes, and hunted the wild game native to the basin: deer, alligator, and various fish and shellfish. Their complex class system included at least four clans (wolf, bear, dog, and lion) and was based on matrilineal descent, much like the Natchez Tribe to the northeast. Like the Caddo, the Chitimacha language is an isolate, and its dialects have been consolidated into one. While there are no remaining native speakers, the Tribe is working to preserve its language through programs developed in partnership with Rosetta Stone. 

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Chitimacha Indians.

Chitimacha language.

Indians of North America -- Louisiana.

Indians of North America -- Southern States.

 

 

Choctaw

History of the Choctaw in Louisiana

According to tradition, the Choctaw people originated from Nanih Waiya, the "leaning hill," "stooping hill," or "place of creation,” located in present day Winston County, Mississippi, near the reservation of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. In Louisiana, the Choctaw maintain communities in Jena and Clifton. The Choctaw Tribe plays an important role in the history of the Southeast, where they thrived as a strong agricultural community and maintained trade with neighboring Indigenous groups. They subsisted on domesticated and wild game, as well as corn, beans, potatoes, and pumpkins. In addition to food, the Choctaws traded in river cane baskets and medicinal plants. After European colonization, the Choctaws were active players in the market economy and regularly traded at settler plantations and markets. They maintained a democratic society and a standard of living that appealed to European settlers, who considered the Choctaw one of the “Five Civilized Tribes.” By the 1830s, the Choctaw lands east of the Mississippi had been ceded through a series of treaties, and many Choctaws were removed from their ancestral home. Those who remained came together to form the Choctaw communities in Louisiana and Mississippi. The Choctaw language belongs to the Muskogean language group, and is closely related to the Chickasaw language. As of 2015, there are nearly 10,000 native speakers across the United States. 

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Choctaw Indians.

Indians of North America -- Louisiana.

Indians of North America -- Mississippi.

Indians of North America -- Southern States.

 

 

Coushatta

History of the Coushatta Tribe in Louisiana

The Coushatta people settled in Louisiana during the late 18th century, led by Chief Stilapihkachatta. The Tribe relocated several times across the state in an effort to remain neutral in the conflict between colonizing nations, finally settling near Elton, Louisiana in the 1880s. This is where the Tribe’s reservation is located today. The Coushatta Tribe, like the Chitimacha Tribe, was organized into clans that included panther, deer, bear, turkey, bobcat, beaver, and daddy longlegs. These clans are inherited through the mother’s ancestral line, and this matrilineal tradition is still evident in the practices of the Tribe today. The Coushatta Tribe speaks Koasati, which belongs to the Apalachee-Alabama-Koasati branch of the Muskogean languages. The Tribe has developed programs, dictionaries, and an app to ensure that its language continues to be spoken by tribal members for generations to come. The Coushatta people are revered for their basketry, which uses long-leaf pine needles. Traditionally, Coushatta men and women used a variety of materials to make baskets, such as white oak, sedge grass, and river cane. 

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Koasati Indians.

Koasati language.

Indians of North America -- Louisiana.

Indians of North America -- Southern States.

Suggested Search Terms

Coushatta Tribe

Coushatta Indians

 

 

Houma

History of the Houma Tribe in Louisiana

The Houma people have a long and rich history in Louisiana. Recorded by French explorers as early as the 1680s, the Tribe has maintained a strong connection to its ancestral lands east of the Mississippi River. Historically, the Houma subsisted on local game such as fish, alligator, and shellfish. Their emblem, the red crawfish, reflects their relationship with the land and water, as well as their enduring resiliency. Though it is the largest Native American nation in Louisiana, comprising some 17,000 members, the United Houma Nation has not yet been recognized by the federal government. Today, its members reside in communities throughout six parishes across over 4,500 square miles in southeastern Louisiana. Due to their location along the coast and among estuaries, the Houma people face challenges related to rapid coastal erosion, including the loss of their homeland. Though few records remain, tribal members have engaged in efforts to revive their native language, which is a Muskogean dialect closely related to Choctaw. Today, in addition to English, many Houmas speak Cajun French.

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Suggested Subject Headings

Houma Indians.

Indians of North America -- Louisiana.

Indians of North America -- Southern States.

 

 

Natchez

History of the Natchez Tribe in Louisiana

The Natchez Tribe played an important role in the history of Louisiana’s colonization and the market economy that emerged between the Indigenous peoples of Louisiana and European settlers. The Tribe operated as a chiefdom with distinct castes of nobility and commoners. Like the Chitimacha and Coushatta, the Natchez community maintained a matrilineal system of inheritance. Historians have puzzled over its complex traditions of kinship and descent for many years, a system that has resulted in the extensively studied “Natchez paradox.” After the Natchez Revolt of 1729, many members of the Tribe were either captured, killed, or removed from their ancestral home in present-day Natchez, Mississippi to join neighboring tribes, including the Chickasaw, Cherokee, and Creek Tribes. The Natchez language is an isolate, and has no remaining native speakers. Today, descendants of the Natchez reside primarily in Oklahoma and South Carolina. 

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Natchez Indians.

Natchez (Miss.) -- History.

Indians of North America -- Louisiana.

Indians of North America -- Mississippi.

Indians of North America -- Southern States.

 

 

Tunica-Biloxi

History of the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe in Louisiana

The Tunica-Biloxi Tribe is made up of the descendants of the Tunica, Biloxi, Ofo, and Avoyel peoples. These four communities maintained a strong alliance during the 18th century, and consolidated to form the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe during the 19th century as a result of pressure from non-Indigenous communities. Archaeologists believe Europeans may have made contact with descendants of the Tunica-Biloxi people as early as the 1540s, when Hernando De Soto explored the Mississippi River. In the late 17th century, the community aligned itself with the French in opposition to the English, becoming the southernmost Native American community to do so. During the Natchez Wars of the 18th century, the French used The Grand Tunica Village as its headquarters, as it was positioned at a midpoint between the French and Natchez settlements. The Tribe later formed an alliance with the Spanish when they ceased control of Louisiana, and fought alongside Bernardo de Galvez in 1779. Galvez offered the Tunica, Biloxi, and Ofo peoples land in Avoyelles Parish, where the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe maintains a reservation today. The Tunica-Biloxi people traditionally subsisted on wild game and fish, as well as crops such as corn and pecans. Women were renowned for their river cane basketry. Today, the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe comprises descendants of the four original tribes (Tunica, Biloxi, Ofo, and Avoyel), as well as members of Choctaw descent. These tribes are associated with Natchezan, Souian, and Muskogean dialects. The Tunica language, however, is considered an isolate. The last fluent speaker of the Tunica language passed away 60 years ago, and the Tunica-Biloxi Language & Culture Revitalization Program is working to revive the language through preservation and instruction programs. 

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Suggested Subject Headings

Biloxi Indians.

Tunica Indians.

Tunica-Biloxi Tribe.

Tunica language.

 

 

Other Tribes

State and Federally Recognized Tribes of Louisiana

The United States recognizes four Native American tribes in Louisiana: the Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana, the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana, the Jena Band of Choctaw Indians, and the Tunica-Biloxi Indian Tribe of Louisiana. The State of Louisiana recognizes eleven tribes: the Adai Caddo Indians of Louisiana, the Bayou Lafourche Band of BCCM, the Choctaw-Apache Tribe of Ebarb, the Clifton Choctaw Tribe of Louisiana, the Four Winds Cherokee Tribe, the GrandCaillou/Dulac Band of BCCM, the Isle de Jean Charles Band of BCCM, the Louisiana Band of Choctaw, the Natchitoches Tribe of Louisiana, the Point au Chien Tribe, and the United Houma Nation. While some groups are more represented than others, Special Collections houses hundreds of materials related to the Indigenous peoples and cultures of Louisiana and the Lower Mississippi Valley, as well as of regions across North America. Additionally, researchers should expand their searches to encompass some of the surrounding states in order to yield more results. 

Highlighted Materials

Suggested Subject Headings

Atakapa Indians.

Atakapa language.

Cherokee Indians.

Chickasaw Indians.

Folklore -- Louisiana.

Indians agents Louisiana.

Indians of North America -- Arkansas.

Indians of North America -- Louisiana.

Indians of North America -- Mississippi.

Indians of North America -- Southern States.

Indians of North America -- Texas.

Legends -- Louisiana.

Mississippian Culture.

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