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Alibamu Tribe

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Alibamu Indians (said to be from the Choctaw alba ayauiule, I open or clear the thicket). A Muskhogean tribe of the Creek confederacy that formerly dwelt in south Alabama. It is clear that the Alibamu and Koasati were closely related, the language of the two being “practically identical. When first found by the whites the home of the tribe was on Alabama River a short distance below the junction of the Coosa and Tallapoosa. Their early history, owing to confusion in the use of the name, is uncertain, but according to tradition they had migrated from a westerly locality. In the Creek legend, as given by Gatschet, they are mentioned, under the name Atilamas, as one of 4 tribes contending for the honor of being considered the most ancient and valorous. The chroniclers of De Soto’s expedition in 1541 locate the “province” or “town” of Alibamo a short distance north west of the Chicasa, in north west or central Mississippi. According to the Gentleman of Elvas they found a strongly fortified town, named Ullibahali, on Alabama or lower Coosa River Coxe[1] says that below the Coza, or Coussa, on the same river, are the Ullibalies, or Olibahalies, according to the French the Allibamons. The identification with the Ullibahali would be complete if this statement could be accepted, but Gatschet is inclined to doubt its correctness. The history of the tribe recommences with the appearance of the French in Mobile bay in 1701-02. Bienville found “on the banks and many adjacent islands, places abandoned by the savages on account of war with the Conchaques [Conshac] and Alibamons”[2] . The French soon became involved in war with the tribe, who, joining the Cherokee, Abihka, and Catawba in 1708, descended Alabama River to attack Fort Louis and the Mobile Indians in that vicinity, but retired after burning some villages. In 1713 the French established Fort Toulouse in their country to hold them in check and to protect French traders. The site of the fort was occupied in 1812 by Fort Jackson. After the cession in 1763 by France to Great Britain the fort was abandoned, and at that time a part of the tribe removed to the banks of the Mississippi and established a village 60 m. above New Orleans. This band numbered about 120, including 30 warriors. Subsequently the tribe removed to west Louisiana, and in 1890 some were still living in Calcasieu parish, others in the Creek Nation in Indian Territory, and a party of about 200 in Polk County, Texas.

Little has been recorded in regard to the character and customs of the Alibamu, but that they were warlike in disposition is evident from their early history. One singular custom mentioned by Pénicaut seems to apply to the Alibamu as well as to the Mobile Indians. They caused their children, both boys and girls, to pass in array at a certain festival and receive a flogging of such severity as to draw blood, after which they were lectured by one or more of the elders. Hawkins states: “They did not conform to the customs of the Creeks, and the Creek law for the punishment of adultery was not known among them. They cultivated the soil to some extent and had some hogs, horses, and cattle. Though hospitable, it was their custom when a white person visited them, as soon as he had eaten, what was left was thrown away and everything which had been used [by the white person] was washed. The 4 Alibamu towns situated on Alabama River are given by Hawkins[3] as Kanchati, Tawosa, Pawokti, and Atagi. Others give Nitahauritz as one of the four.

Footnotes

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  1. French; Hist. Coll. La., II, 235, 1850
  2. Hamilton, Colon. Mobile, 41, 1897
  3. Hawkins, Sketch of Creek Country, 1799

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