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Chahta Tribes Of The Gulf Coast

Posted By Dennis Partridge On In Native American | No Comments

Editor’s Note: Cha’hta is a derivative for Choctaw, so the following information is referencing the Choctaw Tribes of the Gulf Coast.

In the southern part of the Cha’hta territory several tribes, represented to be of Cha’hta lineage, appear as distinct from the main body, and are always mentioned separately. The French colonists, in whose annals they figure extensively, call them Mobilians, Tohomes, Pascogoulas, Biloxis, Mougoulachas, Bayogoulas and Humas (Oumas). They have all disappeared in our epoch, with the exception of the Biloxi, of whom scattered remnants live in the forests of Louisiana, south of the Red river.

The Mobilians seem to be the descendants of the inhabitants of Mauvila, a walled town, at some distance from the seat of the Tuscalusa chief, and dependent on him. These Indians are well known for their stubborn resistance offered in 1540 to the invading troops of Hernando de Soto.

Subsequently they must have removed several hundred miles south of Tuscalusa river, perhaps on account of inter tribal broils with the Alibamu; for in the year 1708 we find them settled on Mobile Bay, where the French had allowed them, the Naniaba and Tohome, to erect lodges around their fort. Cf. Alibamu. On a place of worship visited by this tribe (1702), Margry IV, 513.

The Tohome, Thomes, Tomez Indians, settled north of Mobile City, stood in the service of the French colony, and adopted the Roman Catholic faith. Besides the Naniaba1 and Mobilian Indians, the French had settled in their vicinity a pagan Cha’hta tribe from the northwest and an adventitious band of Apalaches, who had fled the Spanish domination in Florida. We are informed that the language and barbarous customs of the Tohomes differed considerably from those of the neighboring Indians. Their name is the Cha’hta adjective tohóbi, contr. tobi white.

In 1702 they were at war with the Chicasa. Their cabins stood eight leagues from the French settlement at Mobile, on Mobile river, and the number of their men is given as three hundred. They spoke a dialect of the Bayogoula. Cf. Margry IV, 427. 429. 504. 512-14. 531. The Mobilians and the Tohomes combined counted three hundred and fifty families: Margry IV, 594. 602.

The Touachas settled by the French upon Mobile bay in 1705, were a part of the Tawasa, an Alibamu tribe mentioned above.2

The Pascogoula, incorrectly termed Pascoboula Indians, were a small tribe settled upon Pascogoula River, three days travel southwest of Fort Mobile. Six different nations were said to inhabit the banks of the river, probably all of Cha’hta lineage; among them are mentioned the Pascogoulas, Chozettas, Bilocchi, Moctoby, all insignificant in numbers. The name signifies “bread-people,” and is composed of the Cha’hta páska bread, ókla people, the Nahuatl tribal name of the Tlascaltecs being of the same signification: tlaxcalli tortilla, from ixca to bake. Cf. Margry IV, 154-157. 193. 195. 425-427. 451 – 454. 602.

A portion of these Indians may have been identical with the Chicasawhay Indians, and with the inhabitants of Yauana.

The Biloxi Indians became first known to the whites by the erection of a French settlement, in 1699, on a bay called after this tribe, which is styled B’lúksi by the Cha’hta, and has some reference to the catch of turtles (lúktchi turtle).

“We thought it most convenient to found a settlement in the Bilocchy Bay; it is distant only three leagues from the Pascoboula River, upon which are built the three villages of the Bilocchy, Pascoboula and Moctoby.” Margry IV, 195; cf. 311. 451. We also find the statement that the Bayogoulas call the Annocchy: Bilocchy (pronounced: Bilokshi), Margry IV, 172. Pénicaut refers to their place of settlement on Biloxi bay in 1704 in Margry V, 442. On their language cf. Margry IV, 184; quoted under Chicasa, q. v.

Later on they crossed the Mississippi to its western side, and are mentioned as wanderers on Bayou Crocodile and its environs (1806), which they frequent even now, and on the Lake of Avoyelles.

The Mugulashas (pron.: Moogoolashas) were neighbors of the French colonists at Biloxi bay, and a people of the same name lived in the village occupied by the Bayogoulas. Mougoulachas is the French orthography of the name. Their name is identical with Imuklásha or the “opposite phratry” in the Cha’hta nation, from which Muklásha, a Creek town, also received its name. In consequence of this generic meaning of the term this appellation is met with in several portions of the Cha’hta country.

Previous to March 1700, there had been a conflict between them and the Bayogoulas, in which the latter had killed all of the Mugulashas who were within their reach, and called in families of the Colapissas and Tioux to occupy their deserted fields and lodges. Cf. Margry IV, 429., Boguechito Indians, Bayogoula and Acolapissa.

The Acolapissa Indians appear under various names in the country northwest to northeast of New Orleans. They are also called Colapissa, Quinipissa, Quiripissa, Querepisa, forms which all flow from Cha’hta ókla-písa “those who look out for people,” guardians, spies, sentinels, watching men. This term refers to their position upon the in- and out-flow of Lake Pontchartrain and other coast lagoons, combined with their watchfulness for hostile parties passing these places. It is therefore a generic term and not a specific tribal name; hence it was applied to several tribes simultaneously, and they were reported to have seven towns, Tangibao among them, which were distant eight days travel by land E. N. E. from their settlement on Mississippi river. Cf. Margry IV, 120. 167. 168. Their village on Mississippi River was seen by L. d’Iberville, 1699-1700, twenty-five leagues from its mouth (IV, 101). Their language is spoken of, ibid. IV, 412. At the time of Tonti’s visit, 1685, they lived twenty leagues further down the Mississippi than in 1699-1700. They suffered terribly from epidemics, and joined the Mugulashas, q.v., whose chief became the chief of both tribes; Margry IV, 453. 602. On “Colapissas” residing on Talcatcha or Pearl River, see Pani, p. 44. The Bayogoulas informed d’Iberville in 1699, that the “Quinipissas” lived fifty leagues east of them, and thirty or forty leagues distant from the sea, in six villages: Margry IV, 119. 120. Are they the Sixtown Indians?

The Bayogoula Indians inhabited a village on the Mississippi River, western shore (Margry IV, 119. 155), conjointly with the Mugulashas, sixty-four leagues distant from the sea, thirty-five leagues from the Humas, and eight days canoe travel from Biloxi Bay.

Commander Lemoyne d’Iberville graphically describes (Margry IV, 170-172) the village of the Bayogoula with its two temples and 107 cabins. The number of the males was rather large (200 to 250) compared to the paucity of women inhabiting it. A fire was burning in the centre of the temples, and near the door were figures of animals, the “choucoüacha” or opossum being one of them. This word shukuasha is the diminutive of Cha’hta: shukata opossum, and contains the diminutive terminal -ushi. Shishikushi or “tambours faits de calebasses” gourd-drums, is another Indian term occurring in his description,3 probably borrowed from an Algonkin language of the north. A curious instance of sign language displayed by one of the Bayogoula chiefs will be found in Margry IV, 154. 155.

The full form of the tribal name is Bayuk-ókla or river-tribe, creek- or bayou-people; the Cha’hta word for a smaller river, or river forming part of a delta is báyuk, contr. bōk, and occurs in Boguechito, Bok’húmma, etc.

The Húma, Ouma, Houma or Omma tribe lived, in the earlier periods of French colonization, seven leagues above the junction of Red River, on the eastern bank of Mississippi River. L. d’Iberville describes their settlement, 1699, as placed on a hill-ridge, 2½ leagues inland, and containing 140 cabins, with about 350 heads of families. Their village is described in Margry IV, 177. 179. 265-271. 452, located by degrees of latitude: 32° 15′, of longitude: 281° 25′. The limit between the lands occupied by the Huma and the Bayogoula was marked by a high pole painted red, in Cha’hta Istr-ouma (?), which stood on the high shores of Mississippi River at Baton Rouge, La.4 Their hostilities with the Tangipahoa are referred to by the French annalists, and ended in the destroying the Tangipahoa town by the Huma; Margry IV, 168. 169. Cf. Taensa. A tribe mentioned in 1682 in connection with the Huma is that of the Chigilousa; Margry 1. 563-

Their language is distinctly stated to have differed from that of the Taensa, IV, 412. 448, and the tribal name, a Cha’hta term for red, probably refers to red leggings, as Opelúsa is said to refer to black leggings or moccasins.

They once claimed the ground on which New Orleans stands, and after the Revolution lived on Bayou Lafourche.5 A coast parish, with Houma as parish seat, is now called after them.

The country south of the Upper Creek settlements, lying between Lower Alabama and Lower Chatahuchi river, must have been sparsely settled in colonial times, for there is but one Indian tribe, the Pensacola (paⁿsha-ókla or “hair-people”) mentioned there. This name is of Cha’hta origin, and there is a tradition that the old homes, or a part of them, of the Cha’hta nation lay in these tracts. On Escambia river there are Cha’hta at the present time, who keep up the custom of family vendetta or blood revenge, and that river is also mentioned as a constant battlefield between the Creeks and Cha’hta tribes by W. Bartram.6 When the Cha’hta concluded treaties with the United States Government involving cessions of land, they claimed ownership of the lands in question, even of some lands lying on the east side of Chatahuchi river, where they had probably been hunting from an early period. A list of the way-stations and fords on the post-road between Lower Tallapoosa river and the Bay of Mobile is appended to Hawkins’ Sketch, p. 85, and was probably written after 1813; cf. p. 83. This post-road was quite probably an old Indian war-trail traveled over by Creek warriors to meet the Cha’hta.”

The Conshac tribe, the topographic and ethnographic position of which is difficult to trace, has been located in these thinly-inhabited portions of the Gulf coast. La Harpe, whose annals are printed in B. F. French, Histor. Coll. of Louisiana, Vol. Ill, states (p. 44) that “two villages of Conshaques, who had always been faithful to the French and resided near Mobile Fort, had been driven out of their country because they would not receive the English among them (about 1720).” The Conshacs and Alibamu were at war with the Tohome before 1702; cf. Margry IV, 512. 518. L. d’Iberville, in 1702, gives their number at 2000 families, probably including the Alibamu, stating that both tribes have their first settlements 35 to 40 leagues to the northeast, on an eastern affluent of Mobile River, joining it five leagues above the fort. From these first villages to the E. N. E. there are other Conshac villages, known to the Spaniards as Apalachicolys, with many English settled among them, and 60 to 65 leagues distant from Mobile.7 Du Pratz, who speaks of them from hearsay only, places them north of the Alibamu, and states that they spoke a language almost the same as the Chicasa (Hist. p. 208). “A small party of Coussac Indians is settled on Chacta-hatcha or Pea River, running into St. Rose’s bay, 25 leagues above its mouth.”8 On the head waters of Ikanfina River, H. Tanner s map (1827) has a locality called: Pokanaweethly Cootsa O. F.

The origin of these different acceptations can only be accounted for by the generic meaning of the appellation Conshac. It is the Cha’hta word kánshak: (1) a species of cane, of extremely hard texture, and ( 2) knife made from it. These knives were used throughout the Gulf territories, and thus d’Iberville and du Pratz call by this name the Creek Indians or Maskoki proper, while to others the Conchaques are the Cusha, Kusha, a Cha’hta tribe near Mobile Bay, which is called by Rev. Byington in his manuscript dictionary Konshas, Konshaws. That the Creeks once manufactured knives of this kind is stated in our Kasi’hta migration legend.

Footnotes

  1. “Fish-eaters,” from Cha’hta náni, nánni fish, ápa to eat. On Turner’s map (1827), Nanihaba Island lies at the junction of Alabama with Tombigbee River, and Nanihaba Bluff lies west of the junction. 

  2. Margry V, 457. 

  3. Margry IV, 175: “des tambours chychycouchy, qui sont des calebasses.” 

  4. Thomas Hutchins, French America, Phila., 1784, p. 40. 

  5. Pénicaut in Margry V, 395. 

  6. Travels, p. 436: “the bloody field of Schambe”; cf. 400. 414. 

  7. Margry IV, 594. 595. 602. 

  8. Thorn. Hutchins, French America, p. 83 (1784). B. Romans, Florida, p. 90. 


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