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Biloxi Tribe

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Biloxi Indians. A name of uncertain meaning, apparently from the Choctaw language. They call themselves Taneks haya, ‘first people.’ A small Siouan tribe formerly living in south Mississippi, now nearly or quite extinct. The Biloxi were supposed to belong to the Muskhogean stock until Gatschet visited the survivors of the tribe in Louisiana in 1886 and found that many of the words bore strong resemblance to those in Siouan languages, a determination fully substantiated in 1892 by J. Owen Dorsey. To what particular group of the Siouan family the tribe is to be assigned has not been determined; but it is probable that the closest affinity is with Dorsey’s Dhegiha group, so called. The first direct notice of the Biloxi is that by Iberville, who found them in 1699 about Biloxi bay, on the gulf coast of Mississippi, in connection with two, other shall tribes, the Paskagula and Moctobi, the three together numbering only about 20 cabins1 . The Biloxi removed to the west shore of Mobile bay in 1702. In 1761 Jefferys spoke of them as having been north east of Cat island, and of their subsequent removal to the north west of Pearl river Hutchins, in 1784, mentions a Biloxi village on the west side of the Mississippi, a little below the Paskagula, containing 30 warriors. According to Sibley (1805) a part of the Biloxi came with some French, from near Pensacola, about 1763, and settled first in Avoyelles Parish, Louisiana, on Red River, whence they “moved higher up to Rapide Bayou, and from thence to the mouth of Rigula de Bondieu, a division of Red river, about 40 miles below Natchitoch, where they now live, and are reduced to about 30 in number.” Berguin-Duvallon (1806) mentions them as in two villages, one on Red river, 19 leagues from the Mississippi, the other on a lake called Avoyelles. He also refers to some as being wanderers on Crocodile Bayou. Schoolcraft said they numbered 55 in 1825. In 18282 there were 20 families of the tribe on the east bank of Neches river, Tex. Porter, in 18293 , gave the number as 65 living with the Caddo, Paskagula, and other small tribes on Red river, near the Texas frontier, and in 1846 Butler and Lewis found a Biloxi camp on Littler river, a tributary of the Brazos in Texas, about two days’ journey from the latter stream. After this little was heard of them until 1886. According to Gatschet there were in that year a few Biloxi among the Choctaw and Caddo, but he visited only those in Avoyelles parish, Louisiana. In 1892 Dorsey found about a dozen of the tribe near Lecompte, Rapides Parish, Louisiana, but none remained at Avoyelles. From the terms they used and information obtained Dorsey concluded that prior to the coming of the whites the men wore the breechcloth, a belt, leggings, moccasins, and garters, and wrapped around the body a skin robe. Feather headdresses and necklaces of bone, and of the bills of a long-legged redbird (flamingo?) were worn, as also were noserings and earrings. The dwellings of the people resembled those found among the northern tribes of the same family, one kind similar to the low tent of the Osage and Winnebago, the other like the high tent of the Dakota, Omaha, and others. It is said they formerly made pottery. They made wooden bowls, horn and bone implements, and baskets. Tattooing was practice to a limited extent. Descent was through the female line, and there was an elaborate system of kinship. The charge of cannibalism was made against theme by one or two other tribes; this, however, is probably incorrect.

Dorsey recorded the following clan names:

  • Itaanyadi
  • Ontianyadi
  • Nakhotodhanyadi

Footnotes

  1. Margry, Dec., iv, 195, 1880 

  2. Bul. Soc. Mex. Geog., 1870 

  3. Schoolcraft, Ind. Tribes, 111, 596 


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