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Posted By Dennis Partridge On In Alabama,Florida,Georgia,Native American,South Carolina | No Comments
Next to the Muskogee themselves the most conspicuous Upper Creek tribe were the Alabama, or Albamo. As shown by their language and indicated by some of their traditions they were connected more nearly with the Choctaw and Chickasaw than with the Creeks. Stiggins declares that the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Hitchiti, and Koasati languages were mutually intelligible, and this was true at least of Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Koasati.
According to the older traditions the Alabama had come from the west, or perhaps, rather from the southwest, to their historic seats, but these traditions do not carry them to a great distance. Adair, referring to the seven distinct dialects reported as spoken near Fort Toulouse, said that the people claimed to have come from South America.
The following account of their origin was obtained originally from Se-ko-pe-chi (” Perseverance”), who is described as “one of the oldest Creeks, … in their new location west of the Mississippi,” about the year 1847, and was published by Schoolcraft:
The origin of the Alabama Indians as handed down by oral tradition, is that they sprang out of the ground, between the Cahawba and Alabama Rivers…. The earliest migration recollected, as handed down by oral tradition, is that they emigrated from the Cahawba and Alabama Rivers to the junction of the Tuscaloosa [Tombigbee ?] and Coosa [Alabama ?] Rivers. Their numbers at that period were not known. The extent of the territory occupied at that time was indefinite. At the point formed by the junction of the Tuscaloosa and Coosa Rivers the tribe sojourned for the space of two years, after which their location was at the junction of the Coosa and Alabama Rivers, on the west side of what was subsequently the site of Fort Jackson. It is supposed that at this time they numbered fifty effective men. They claimed the country from Fort Jackson to New Orleans for their hunting-grounds….
They are of the opinion that the Great Spirit brought them from the ground, and that they are of right possessors of this soil.
From Ward Coachman, an old Alabama Indian in Oklahoma, Dr. Gatschet obtained the following:
Old Alabama men used to say that the Alabama came out of the ground near the Alabama River a little up stream from its junction with the Tombigbee, close to Holsifa (Choctaw Bluff). After they had come out an owl hooted. They were scared and most of them went back into the ground. That is why the Alabama are few in number. The Alabama towns are Tawasa, Pawokti, Oktcaiyutci, Atauga, Hatcafa‛ski (River Point, at the junction of the Coosa and Tallapoosa), and Wetumka.
From one of the oldest women among the Alabama living in Texas I obtained a long origin myth in which the tribe is represented as having come across the Atlantic, but this is evidently mixed up with the story of the discovery of America by the white people and is of little value in restoring the old tradition. The relationship recognized between the Alabama and Koasati is illustrated by the following story, said to have been told by an old Indian now dead:
The Alabama and Koasati came out of the earth on opposite sides of the root of a certain tree and settled there in two bodies. Consequently these differed somewhat in speech, though they always kept near each other. At first they came out of the earth only during the night time, going down again when day came. Presently a white man came to the place, saw the tracks, and wanted to find the people. He went there several times, but could discover none of them above ground. By and by he decided upon a ruse, so he left a barrel of whisky near the place where he saw the footsteps. When the Indians came out again to play they saw the barrel, and were curious about it, but at first no one would touch it. Finally, however, one man tasted of its contents, and presently he began to feel good and to sing and dance about. Then the others drank also and became so drunk that the white man was able to catch them. Afterward the Indians remained on the surface of the earth.
Finally, mention may be made of Milfort’s extravagant Creek migration legend in which the Creek Indians proper are represented as having pursued the Alabama from the western prairies near Red River across the Missouri, Mississippi, and Ohio in succession until they reached their later home in central Alabama.
After De Soto and his companions had left the Chickasaw, by whom they had been severely handled, they reached a small village called Limamu by Ranjel and Alimamu by Elvas. This was on April 26, 1541. Biedma says nothing of the village, but states that they set out toward the northwest for a province called Alibamo.
On Thursday they came to a plain where was a stockaded fort defended by many Indians. According to Biedma the Indians had built this stockade across the trail the Spaniards were to take merely to try their strength, though having nothing whatever to defend. It is evident that no women or children were there, but it is most likely that the place was a stockaded town from which the non-combatants had been removed in anticipation of the arrival of the Spaniards. Elvas gives quite a lively picture of this fort and the Indians within. He says:
Many were armed, walking upon it, with their bodies, legs, and arms painted and ochred, red, black, white, yellow, and vermilion in stripes, so that they appeared to have on stockings and doublet. Some wore feathers and others horns on the head; the face blackened, and the eyes encircled with vermilion, to heighten their fierce aspect. So soon as they saw the Christians draw nigh they beat drums, and, with loud yells, in great fury came forth to meet them.
After a sharp engagement the Spaniards drove these Indians from their position with considerable loss, but were prevented from following up their success by an unfordable river behind the stockade, across which the greater part of the Indians escaped. Garcilasso, who, as usual, passes this entire affair under a magnifying glass, calls the fort “Fort Alibamo,” but it so happens that not one of the three standard authorities applies this term to it. Two of them, as we have seen, give the name to a small village in which they had camped two days earlier. Nevertheless Biedma’s reference to a “Province of Alibamo” seems to indicate that the Spaniards were actually in a region occupied by Alabama Indians, although we do not know whether the entire tribe was present or only one section of it. It has been supposed by some that the Ulibahali mentioned before the great Mobile encounter were the later Alabama or constituted an Alabama town, but while it is true that the name bears some resemblance to that of a possible Alabama town, the Alabama word for village being ola, it is quite certain that we must seek in it the name of a true Muskogee town.
After 1541 the Alabama disappear entirely from sight until the French settlement of Louisiana, when we find them located in their well-known later historic seats on the upper course of the river which bears their name. The first notice of them occurs in March, 1702, after the foundation of the first Mobile fort had been begun, where they appear together with the Conchaque – by which is evidently meant the Muskogee – as enemies of the Mobile tribes whom they had caused to abandon many of their former settlements. Pénicaut says that Iberville sent messengers from Mobile to the Choctaw and Alabama, and that their chiefs came to him to sing the calumet of peace along with the chiefs of the Mobile; but he is perhaps in error in placing the visit of the chiefs before Iberville’s return, as Iberville himself says nothing regarding it, while La Harpe states that eight honored chiefs of the Alabama came to the Mobile fort May 12, fifteen days after Iberville’s departure. These eight chiefs; La Harpe informs us, “came to ask M. de Bienville whether they should continue the war against the Chicachas, the Tomès, and the Mobiliens. He counseled them to make peace, gave them some presents, and so determined them to carry out what they had promised.” In the report which he drew up after his return to France from this expedition Iberville speaks of these Indians as follows:
The Conchaques and Alibamona have their first villages thirty-five or forty leagues northeast, a quarter east from the Tohomés, on the banks of a river which falls into the Mobile five leagues above the fort, toward the east. These two villages may consist of four hundred families; the greater part have guns, are friends of the English and will be shortly ours.
In May, 1703, the English induced the Alabama to declare against the French, and the latter, deceived by the promise that they would find plenty of corn among them, sent into their country a man named Labrie with four Canadians. When within two days journey of the Alabama village 12 Indians came to meet them bringing a peace calumet. That night, however, they killed all of the French-men but one named Charles, who escaped, although with a broken arm, and carried the news to Mobile. According to Pénicaut, Bienville immediately undertook to avenge this injury, but was deserted by his Mobile and other allies who were secretly in sympathy with his enemies. This obliged him to return without having accomplished anything. Such an expedition may have been undertaken, but from other information relative to the relations between the Mobile tribes and the Alabama an understanding between the two seems rather improbable. According to La Harpe it was not until December 22, 1703, that Bienville set out to punish the injury that had been received. This Pénicaut represents as immediately following the abortive attempt just related. La Harpe says:
He left [Fort Louis de la Mobile] with forty soldiers and Canadians in seven pirogues. January 3, 1704, he discovered the fire of a party of the enemy. A little afterward, having discovered ten pirogues, he took counsel of MM. de Tonty and de Saint-Denis, who were of the opinion, contrary to his own, that they should wait until night in order to attack them. These Alibamons were camped on a height difficult of access. The night was very dark, and they took a trail filled with brambles and vines, almost impracticable. The enemy posted in this place to the number of twelve, hearing the noise, fired a volley from their guns through the bushes; they killed two Frenchmen and wounded another; but they soon took to flight in order to join their party, which was hunting in the neighborhood of this place. M. de Bienville had their canoee loaded with meat and corn upeet. He then returned to the fort on the 11th of the same month.
Pénicaut’s account of the affair is as follows:
After we had returned [from the previous abortive expedition which he describes] M. de Bienville had prepared some days afterward ten canoes, and as soon as they were ready he had us embark to the number of fifty Frenchmen with our officers, of which he was first in rank, and we left secretly at night in order to conceal our move-ment from the savages. At the end of some days of travel, when we were within ten leagues of the village of the Alibamons, very near the place where the four Frenchmen had been killed, we saw a fire. There waa on the river within two gunshots from this fire fourteen canoes of these Alibamons, who were hunting, accompanied by their families. We went down again a quarter of a league because it was too light; we remained half a league from the savages the rest of the day, in a place where our canoes were concealed behind a height of land. We sent six men up on this height in order to reconnoiter the place where their cabins were, which we discovered easily from there. It was necessary to ascend the river to a point above in order to land opposite. When we perceived that their fire was almost out, and they were believed to be asleep, M. de Bienville had us advance. After having passed a little height, We went down into a wood, where there was a very bad trail. When we were near the cabins where the savages were asleep, one of our Frenchmen stepped on a dry cane, which made a noise in breaking. One of the savages who was not yet asleep began to cry out in their language, “Who goes there?” which obliged us to keep silence. The savage, after some time, hearing no more noise, lay down. We then advanced, but the savages, hearing us march, rising uttered the death cry and fired a volley, which killed one of our people. Immediately their old people, their women, and their children fled. Only those bearing arms retired last, letting go at us many volleys. On our side we did not know whether we had killed a single one, because we did not know in the night where we were shooting. The savages having retired, we remained in their cabins until daybreak; we burned them before leaving them in order to return to the river, where we found their canoes, which we took, along with the merchandises which were in them, to our fort of Mobile.
La Harpe notes that on March 14, 1704, following, 20 Chickasaw brought to Mobile 6 Alabama scalps and received guns, powder, and ball in exchange. November 18, 20 Choctaw brought in 3 more scalps of the same people. January 21, 1706, many Choctaw chiefs came bringing 9 more Alabama scalps. February 21, M. de Boisbrillant led a party of 60 Canadians and 12 Indians against the Alabama. He surprised a hunting party of Alabama and, according to Pénicaut, killed all of the men and carried away all of the women and children. La Harpe says that he brought back 2 scalps and 1 slave. The same year it was learned that the Alabama and Chickasaw together, incited by an English trader, had been instrumental in forcing the Tunica to abandon their former homes on the lower Yazoo.
According to Pénicaut, M. de Chateaugué led an expedition against the Alabama about this time, encountered a war party of that nation on its way to attack the Choctaw, and killed 15 of them. He places this among the events of the year 1703, but it must have been either in 1705 or 1706. The Alabama probably took part in the English expedition against the Apalachee in 1703, already related, and in those against the Apalachicola in 1706 and 1707. In November, 1707, they and the Creeks together invested Pensacola, led by 13 Englishmen, but they were obliged to withdraw. Under date of 1708 Pénicaut mentions an expedition under M. de Chateaugué, consisting of 60 Frenchmen and 60 Mobile Indians, against Alabama hunting in the neighborhood, in which they killed 30, wounded 7, and carried 9 away prisoners. The same year he relates an adventure on the part of two Frenchmen who were captured by Indians of this tribe, but being left with only two guards were able to kill them and escape to Mobile. The Alabama and their allies marched against the Mobile “with 4,000 men,” but only succeeded in burning some cabins.32 In 1709 Pénicaut speaks of an encounter between 15 Choctaw and 50 Alabama, to the advantage of the former – who tell the story. In March, 1712, La Harpe notes that Bienville “placated the Alibamons, Alibikas, and other nations of Carolina, and reconciled them with those who were allied to us; the peace was general among the savages.”
In 1714 English influence was so strong that it even extended over most of the Choctaw, but the next year the Yamasee war broke out and proved to be a general anti-English movement among southern Indians. Bienville seized this opportunity to renew his alliance with the Alabama and other tribes, and it was at about the same period that he established a post in the midst of the Alabama, which was known officially as Fort Toulouse, but colloquially as the Alabama Fort. Later the Tawasa came from Mobile Bay and settled near their relatives. Pénicaut mentions the Alabama among those tribes which came to “sing the caliunet” before M. de l’Epinay in 1717, but from the time of the founding of Fort Toulouse until the end of French domination we hear very little about these people from the French. Peace continued to subsist between them, and the greater part of the tribe was evidently devoted to the French interest. In the early Carolina documents there are few references to them, the general name Tallapoosa being used for them and their Creek neighbors on Tallapoosa River. It is curious that the name Alabama does not occur in the list of Creek towns in the census of 1761, but part of them may be included in the following: “Welonkees including red Ground, 70 hunters,” the name of the principal Alabama town being “Red Ground” in Hawkins’s time. Another part of them are, however, represented by the “Little Oakchoys, assigned to Wm. Trewin.” The enumeration of 1750 seems to give Red Ground in the distorted form “Canachequi.” In 1777 Bartram visited a town which he calls “Alabama” situated at the junction of the Coosa and Tallapoosa Rivers, but this seems really to have been Tuskegee. Hawkins enumerates four settlements which he believed to be the ancient Alabama, but in fact only the first of these appears to have consisted of true Alabama, the others being probably made up of later additions, which have already been considered. Following is his description of these four places:
1st. E-cun-chāte; from E-cun-nā, earth, and chāte, red. A small village on the left bank of Alabama, which has its fields on the right side, in the cane swamp; they are a poor people, without stock, are idle and indolent, and seldon make bread enough, but have fine melons in great abundance in their season. The land back from the settlement is of thin quality, oak, hickory, pine and ponds. Back of this, hills, or waving. Here the soil is of good quality for cultivation; that of thin quality extends nearly a mile.
2d. Too-wos-sau, is three miles below E-cun-chā-te, on the same side of the river; a small village on a high bluff, the land is good about, and back of the village; they have some lots fenced with cane, and some with rails, for potatoes and ground nuts; the corn is cultivated on the right side of the river, on rich cane swamps; these people have a few hogs, but no other stock.
3d. Pau-woc-te; a small village two miles below Too-was-sau, on a high bluff, the same side of the river; the land is level and rich for five miles back; but none of it is cultivated around their houses; their fields are on the right bank of the river, on rich cane swamp; they have a few hogs and horses, but no cattle; they had, formerly, the largest and best breed of hogs in the nation, but have lost them by carelessness or inattention.
4th. At-tau-gee; a small village four miles below Pau-woc-te, spread out for two miles on the right bank of the river; they have fields on both sides, but their chief dependence is on the left side; the land on the left side is rich; on the right side the pine forest extends down to At-tau-gee Creek; below this creek the land is rich.
These people have very little intercourse with white people; although they are hospitable, and offer freely any thing they have, to those who visit them. They have this singular custom, as soon as a white person has eaten of any dish and left it, the remains are thrown away, and every thing used by the guest immediately washed.
They have some hogs, horses, and cattle, in a very fine range, perhaps the best on the river; the land to the east as far as Ko-e-ne-cuh, and except the plains (Hi-yuc-pul-gee), is well watered, with much canebrake, a very desirable country. On the west or right side, the good land extends about five miles, and on all the creeks below At-tau-gee, it is good; some of the trees are large poplar, red oak, and hickory, walnut on the margins of the creeks, and pea-vine in the valleys
These four villages have, in all, about eighty gunmen; they do not conform to the customs of the Creeks, and the Creek law for the punishment of adultery is not known to them.
At an earlier period the Alabama had a town still farther down-stream which appears in many maps under the name Nitahauritz, interpreted by Mr. H. S. Halbert to mean “Bear Fort.”
Hawkins mentions the fact that already a body of Koasati had gone beyond the Mississippi. He does not say the same of the Alabama, yet we know that that tribe had also begun to split up. In describing the Koasati an account of one of these migrations will be given. From the papers of the British Indian agent, John Stuart, we learn that as early as 1778 bands of and Tawasa had moved into northern Florida, and after the Creek-American war their numbers were swollen very considerably. They did not, however, long maintain a distinct existence. The movement toward the west was of much more importance. It appears that the long association of these Indians with the French, due to the presence of a French post among them, had bred an attachment to that nation among the Alabama equally with the tribes about Mobile Bay, and part of them also decided to move across into Louisiana after the peace of 1763. A further inducement was the almost virgin hunting ground to be found in parts of that colony. That the first emigration occurred about the date indicated (1763) is proved by Sibley, writing in 1806, who has the following to say of the Alabama in the State of Louisiana in his time:
Allibamis, are likewise from West Florida, off Aliibami River, and came to Red River about the same time of the Boluxas and Appalaches. Part of them have lived on Red River, about sixteen miles above the Bayau Rapide, till last year, when most of this party, of about thirty men, went up Red River, and have settled themselves near the Caddoques, where, I am informed, they last year made a good crop of corn. The Caddoe are friendly to them, and have no objection to their settling there. They speak the Creek and Chactaw languages, and Mobilian; most of them French, and some of them English.
There is another party of them, whose village is on a small creek, in Appelousa district, about thirty miles northwest from the church of Appelousa. They consist of about forty men. They have lived at the same place ever since they came from Florida; are said to be increasing a little in numbers, for a few years past. They raise corn, have horses, hogs, and cattle, and are harmless, quiet people.
In August, 1777, William Bartram visited an Alabama village on the Mississippi 2 miles above the Manchac. He describes it as “delightfully situated on several swelling green hills, gradually ascending from the verge of the river.” A friend accompanying him purchased some native baskets and pottery from the inhabitants. In 1784 Hutchins found them in about the same place. It will be noticed that Sibley does not mention a previous sojourn of either of the parties of Alabama described by him on the Mississippi River, and we are in the dark as to whether they had separated after coming into Louisiana or before. If they came separately it would seem most likely that the Opelousas band was the one settled on the Mississippi. This at any rate was in accordance with the belief of John Scott, the late chief of the Alabama now residing in Texas and the oldest person among them. He informed the writer in 1912 that the name of the old Alabama town on the Mississippi River was Aktcabehåle. From there thev moved to “Mikiwī‛l” close to Opelousas, and from there to the Sabine River, where they formed a new town which received no special name. There was an Alabama village in Texas called Fenced-in-village a short distance west by south of a mill and former post office called Mobile, Tyler County, Texas. Next they settled in what is now Tyler County, Texas, at a town which they called Tak’o‛sha-o‛la (‘Peach-tree Town”). This was about 2 miles due north of Chester or 20 miles north of Woodville, Texas. Their next town was 3 miles from Peach-tree Town and contained a “big house” (i‛ sa tcuba) and a dance ground, but was unnamed. After a time the Alabama chief decided to move to Pat’alā‛ka (said to mean “Cane place”) where the Biloxi and Pascagoula lived, and some other Indians went with him. Part, however, returned to Louisiana, where they remained three years. At the end of that time they came back to Texas and formed a village which took its name from a white man, Jim Barclay. They moved from there to the village which they now occupy, which is called Big Sandy village from the name of a creek, although it took some time for the families scattered about in Texas to come in.
According to some white informants the Alabama settled on Red River, moved to Big Sandy village, and perhaps both parties finally united there. A few families, however, still remain in Calcasieu and St. Landry Parishes, Louisiana. The language of all of the Texas Alabama is practically uniform, but the speech of some of the Tapasola clan is said to vary a little from the normal.
The Alabama who had remained in their old country took a prominent part in the Creek war. Indeed Stiggins says that “they did more murder and other mischief in the time of their hostilities in the year 1813 than all the other tribes together.” After the treaty of Fort Jackson, in 1814, by which all of the old Alabama land was ceded to the whites, the same writer says that part of them settled above the mouth of Cubahatche in a town called Towassee, while the rest moved to a place on Coosa River above Wetumpka. He states that the town belonging to this latter division was Otciapofa, but he is evidently mistaken, because Otciapofa has been pure Creek as far back as we have any knowledge of it. Perhaps the Coosa settlement was that called Autauga in the census of 1832, or it may have contained the Okchaiutci Indians, whose history will be given presently. I have suggested elsewhere that the names of these towns seem to show the part of the tribe which remained with the Creeks to have been the Tawasa. Speaking of the Alabama Indians in his time Stiggins says that, while their chiefs were admitted to the national councils on the same terms as the others, they seldom associated with the Creeks otherwise. After their removal the Alabama settled near the Canadian, but some years later went still farther west and located about the present town of Weleetka, Okla. A small station on the St. Louis-San Francisco Railroad just south of Weleetka bears their name. While a few of these Indians retain their old language it is rapidly giving place to Creek and English. They have the distinction of being the only non-Muskogee tribe incorporated with the Creeks, exclusive of the Yuchi, which still maintains a square ground.
As already noted, one Alabama town received the name, Okchaiutci, “Little Okchai” which suggests relationship with the Okchai people, but the origin of this the Indians explain as follows: At one time the Alabama (probably only part of the tribe) had no square ground and asked the Okchai to take them into theirs. The Okchai said, “All right; you can seat yourself on the other side of my four backsticks and I will protect you.” They did so, and for some time afterwards the two tribes busked together and played on the same side in ball games. Later on, however, a dispute arose in connection with one of these games and the Alabama separated, associating themselves with the Tukabahchee and hence with the opposite fire clan. Afterwards those Alabama formed a town which they called Okchaiutci, and to this day Okchaiutci is one of the names given the Alabama Indians in set speeches at the time of the busk. According to my informant, himself an Okchai Indian, the date of this separation was as late as 1872-73, but he must be much in error since we find Okchaiutci in existence long before the removal to Oklahoma.
Okchaiutci appears first, apparently, in the census list of 1750, though the diminutive ending is not used. In 1761 the trader located there was William Trewin. It is not separately mentioned by Bar-tram nor certainly by Swan, but is probably intended by the town which he calls “Wacksoyochees.” Hawkins gives the following description:
Hook-choie-ooche, a pretty little compact town, between O-che-au-po-fau and Tus-kee-gee, on the left bank of Coosau; the houses join those of Tus-kee-gee; the land around the town is a high, poor level, with high-land ponds; the corn fields are on the left side of Tallapoosa, on rich low grounds, on a point called Sam-bul-loh, and below the mouth of the creek of that name which joins on the right side of the river.
They have a good stock of hogs, and a few cattle and horses; they formerly lived on the right bank of Coosau, just above their present site, and removed lately, on account of the war with the Chickasaws. Their stock ranges on that side of the river; they have fenced all the small fields about their houses, where they raise their peas and potatoes; their fields at Sam-bul-loh, are under a good fence; this was made by Mrs. Durant, the oldest sister of the late General McGillivray, for her own convenience.
This town does not appear in the census list of 1832, unless it is one of the two Fishpond towns there given, “Fish Pond” and “Tholl thlo coe.” After the removal to Oklahoma it is said to have maintained its separate square for a short time, and, as has been said, its name is retained as a busk designation of all the Alabama.
[]Ibid., p. 478.[]
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