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Shetimasha Indian Tribe

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These natives once dwelt in numerous settlements clustering around Bayou Lafourche, Grand River (or Bayou Atchafalaya), and chiefly around Grand Lake or Lake of the Shetimasha. All that is left of them about fifty-five Indians, of a parentage strongly mixed with white blood, reside at Charenton, St. Mary’s Parish, on the southwestern side of the lake, though a few are scattered through the forests on Grand River. They call themselves Pántch pinunkansh, “men altogether red.” The name Shetimasha, by which they are generally known, is of Cha’hta origin, and means “they possess (imásha) cooking vessels (tchúti).” Their central place of worship was three miles north of Charenton, on a small inlet of Grand Lake. They worshiped there, by dances and exhaustive fasting, their principal deity, Kút-Nähänsh, the “midday sun.”

They were not warlike, and never figured prominently in colonial history. When a portion of the tribe, settled on Bayou Lafourche, had murdered Mr. Saint-Cosme, a Naktche missionary descending the Mississippi river in 1703, they were attacked by the colonists and their Indian allies. The war ended with a speedy submission of the savages. They called the Naktche Indians their brothers, and their myths related that their “Great Spirit” created them in the country of that people, and gave them laws, women and tobacco. The Cha’hta tribes, who attempted to deprive them of their native land, made continual forays upon them during the eighteenth century.

These Indians were strict monogamists. The chieftaincy was a life-long office among them. The chiefs lived in lodges larger than those of the common people, and their tobacco pipes were larger than those of the warriors. The foreheads of the children were subjected to the flattening process.1

The Shetimasha language is extremely polysynthetic as far as derivation by suffixes is concerned, and there are also a number of prefixes. For the pronouns thou and ye a common and a reverential form are in use. The faculty for forming compound words is considerable, and the numerals show the decimal form of computation.

  1. Gatschet, Albert S., The Shetimasha Indians of St. Mary’s Parish, Southern Louisiana. Society of Washington, 1883, Vol. II, pp. 148- 158.

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