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Pensacola Indians

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Pensacola Tribe. Meaning “hair people,” probably from their own tongue, which in that case was very close to Choctaw.

Pensacola Connections. The name itself, and other bits of circumstantial evidence, indicate that the Pensacola belonged to the Muskhogean stock and, as above noted, probably spoke a dialect close to Choctaw.

Pensacola Location. In the neighborhood of Pensacola Bay. (See also Mississippi.)

Pensacola History. In 1528 the survivors of the Narvaez expedition had an encounter with Indians near Pensacola Bay who probably belonged to this tribe. It is also probable that their territory constituted the province of Achuse or Ochus which Maldonado, the commander of De Soto’s fleet, visited in 1539 and whence he brought a remarkably fine “blanket of sable fur.” In 1559 a Spanish colony under Tristan de Luna landed in a port called “the Bay of Ichuse,” (or “Ychuse”) undoubtedly in the same province, but the enterprise was soon given up and the colonists returned to Mexico. The Pensacola tribe seems to be mentioned first by name in Spanish letters dated 1677. In 1686 we learn they were at war with the Mobile Indians. Twelve years afterward, when the Spanish post of Pensacola was established, it is claimed that the tribe had been exterminated by other peoples, but this is an error. It had merely moved farther inland and probably toward the west. They are noted from time to time, and in 1725-6 Bienville (1932, vol. 3, p. 535) particularly describes the location of their village near that of the Biloxi of Pearl River. The last mention of them seems to be in an estimate of Indian population dated December 1, 1764, in which their name appears along with those of six other small tribes. They may have been incorporated finally into the Choctaw or have accompanied one of the smaller Mobile tribes into Louisiana near the date last mentioned.

Pensacola Population. In 1725 (or 1726) Bienville (1932, vol. 3, p. 535) says that in the Pensacola village and that of the Biloxi together, there were not more than 40 men. The enumeration mentioned above, made in 1764, gives the total population of this tribe and the Biloxi, Chatot, Capinans, Washa, Chawasha, and Pascagoula collectively as 251 men.

Connection in which they have become noted. Through the adoption of their name first for that of Pensacola Bay and secondly for the port which grew up upon it, the Pensacola have attained a fame entirely disproportionate to the aboriginal importance of the tribe. There are places of the name in Yancey County, N. C., and Mayes County, Okla.


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