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Houma Indians

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Houma Tribe: Literally “red,” but evidently an abbreviation of saktcihomma, “red crawfish.”

Houma Connections. They spoke a Muskhogean language very close to Choctaw, and it is practically certain from the fact that their emblem was the red crawfish that they had separated from the Chakchiuma.

Houma Location. The earliest known location of the Houma was on the east side of the Mississippi River some miles inland and close to the Mississippi-Louisiana boundary line, perhaps near the present Pinckney, Miss. (See also Louisiana)

Houma Villages. At one time the people of this tribe were distributed between a Little Houma village 2 leagues below the head of Bayou La Fourche and a Great Houma village half a league inland from it. This was after they had moved from their earlier home.

Houma History. La Salle heard of the Houma in 1682, but be did not visit them. Tonti made an alliance with them 4 years later, and in 1699 their village was the highest on the Mississippi reached by Iberville before returning to his ships. In 1700 Iberville visited them again and left a missionary among them to build a church, which was an accomplished fact when Gravier reached the tribe in November of the same year. A few years later the Tunica, who had been impelled to leave their old town, were hospitably received by this tribe, but in 1706 they rose upon their hosts, destroyed part of them, and drove the rest down the Mississippi. These reestablished themselves on Bayou St. John near New Orleans, but not long afterward they reascended the river to the present Ascension Parish and remained there for a considerable period. In 1776 they sold a part at least of their lands to two French Creoles but seem to have remained in the neighborhood until some years after the purchase of Louisiana by the United States. By 1805 some had gone to live with the Atakapa near Lake Charles. Most of the remainder appear to have drifted slowly across to the coast districts of Terrebonne and La Fourche Parishes, where their descendants, with Creole and some Negro admixture, still live.

Houma Population. Mooney (1928) estimates a Houma population in 1650 of 1,000. In 1699 Iberville gives 140 cabins and about 350 warriors, while the Journal of the second vessel in this expedition gives a population of 600-700. In 1718, after the tribe had suffered from both pestilence and massacre, La Harpe estimates 60 cabins and 200 warriors. In 1739 a French officer who passed their town rates the number of their warriors at 90-100 and the whole population at 270300. In 1758 there is an estimate of 60 warriors and in 1784 one of 25 while, in 1803, the total Houma population is placed at 60. In 1907 the native estimate of mixed-blood population calling itself Houma was 800-900, but the census of 1910 returned only 125 Indians from Terrebonne. To these there should probably be added some from La Fourche but not a number sufficient to account for the discrepancy. In 1920, 639 were returned and in 1930, 936 from Terrebonne besides 11 from La Fourche. Speck estimates double the number.

Connection in which they have become noted. Houma, the capital of Terrebonne Parish, preserves the name.


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