LA Native Americans

I learned quite a bit reading this chapter. Full disclosure, I began learning about the Native American’s when I was in 5th grade (see the attached photograph). It has always been an interesting subject because people always assumed my grandfather’s reddish hue linked him to a Native American Heritage (he was Italian). The hue came from working years in the sun. As I said, I learned quite a bit regarding the six (6) tribes we read about. In this paper, the discussion will focus on the six tribes, their history, European encounters, culture, structure. Learning the tribes possibly were linked to the State before the birth of Christ was interesting. Then fast forward to the Colonists who invaded the land as if it were unchartered territory for their claim. Along with their territorial acclimation goals, they brought disease and conflict to Louisiana’s indigenous people. More than half the Native American population failed to survive. Despite this challenge, Native Americans often sided with Colonists in wars. In most cases, Native American’s did not instigate battles with Colonists or other tribes.

Usually in defense battles ensued as Native Americans resisted European advances to gain control of the land cultivated by the Native Americans. As these challenges continued, various national and international wars came about. The French and Indian War was a big one causing various tribes to side with the French, English, or Spanish. The alliances were established based on promises which failed to When King Louis XIV commissioned two French-Canadian brothers from Montreal to explore the MS River Basin, they eventually landed in Louisiana. Once they arrived, they encountered the Native Americans of Biloxi and then Mobile Bay. The brothers and their crew were kind and treated the Native Americans they met with dignity. Once the Spanish arrived, they fought the Native Americans and began stealing treasures and introducing disease to these stable and thriving communities. When the French returned, they found the once-thriving clans weak and reduced in numbers. Once again the French wanted to do business not have war with the Native Americans. The French goal was met with many struggles such as a lack of food, bad weather, unfamiliar disease. The French struggled to secure the land because they were involved in wars in Europe.

As the Europeans and Native Americans (and slaves) increased their contact, the cultures mixed and they shared and introduced new items like gumbo, navigated rivers, introduced spices, healing herbs, religion (many Native Americans became Roman Catholic), and worked together until Europeans wanted to increase their land claims in the territory. Men like Etienne de Comonae replaced de Bienville, he had no preference for Indians and constantly battled them. His disdain proved as a discredit to his leadership and he was replaced after losing 10% of the French population in a battle with the Natchez. Once the French – Indian War began in Pennsylvania, the war involved Americans, Canadians, West Indies, Europe, and included land almost to India, it was so vast it could have been considered the 1st World War. France lost everything, causing Louis XV to transfer Louisiana to his cousin in Spain.

The Native American peoples living in Louisiana consisted of six (6) groups. The Atakapa, the Caddo, the Natchez, the Muskhogean, the Tunica, and the Chitimacha. They self-identified by tribal names, linguistics, traditions, cultural patterns, and geographic areas of residence. The Atakapa lived in Southwest Louisiana, have a parish named after them, lived near River Valleys, and along the Gulf of Mexico. They were called Atakapa by the Choctaw because they practiced cannibalism (eating those they conquered after battles). The Europeans felt they were not couth. They traveled from Louisiana to Galveston Bay. When the French transferred Louisiana to the Spanish they stopped functioning as a tribe. Their totem representations include the alligator, snake, and other animals. Remain in the Acadia Parishes operating under three bands; the Ciwat (alligator), Otse (Teche or snake), and the Tokip (Black Leg or Heron). They were sometimes associated with the Chitimacha people and attacked their neighbors. European disease aided in their demise.

The Caddo Nation operated as a confederacy and a highly developed economy. They permanently lived along the Red River and its tributaries. It was quite interesting to find that the culture dates to 900 AD. They maintained their culture, building mounds along the rivers to include their sacred burial sites and serve as a platform for special events. Unfortunately, they were forced to relocate from the Northwest Louisiana-Texas border to Texas and Oklahoma. They lived in small villages and appeared to be domesticated living in wood homes decorated with rugs, pottery, and other items. They had three (3) confederacies; Hasinai, Kadohadacho, and Natchitoches. They operated as a bureaucracy with minor officials, chiefs, the Grand Caddo, and sub-leaders. They also had a Xinesi (high priest) who maintained an eternal flame which also lit the flames of smaller tribes. The Caddo tended to peacefully co-exist with other tribes and Europeans.

Having lived in Mississippi, the Tunica Groups from Northeast Louisiana were interesting to learn about. They lived east of the Caddo in modern Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas with a home base near Vicksburg, Mississippi. The Tunica were a bit nomadic with a stable economy with active trading networks including agriculture and salt. Their structure was also upset by the Europeans. By the mid-eighteenth century, along with the Ofo, they moved south to the banks of the Mississippi River near Baton Rouge, blending with the Natchez (Avoyles). The most amazing archeological discovery was the Tunica Treasure. Artifacts, work tools, jewelry, gold, and silver were found.

The Natchez lived in Northeast Louisiana and southern Mississippi. They had a large population which eventually declined (possibly due to war and disease). They primarily lived on the east bank of the Mississippi River. Hernando de Soto, who went to war with Native Americans upon his arrival to the region, considered the Natchez very noble, but his entourage introduced disease causing the population to decrease. The Natchez were highly skilled at fighting. They had ceremonies before battle where they feasted, drank, danced, and participated in battle cries. In battle, they were fierce, orderly, and operated with distinct strategies. Post-war, they celebrated by smoking, making their captives perform, and most interesting they scalped those they conquered (because the scalps were easier to carry than a whole body). Additionally, the British would pay for the scalps of the French.

Before this class, I never heard of the Muskhogean Tribe. I learned they had a cultural relationship with the Choctaw, lived south of the Natchez, comprised of multiple (seven) tribes including the Houma, the Bayougoula, the Quniapisa, and the Acolapissa. The Houma were the most significant, living along the Northshore of Louisiana along Lake Ponchatrain working in gravel deposits to create weapons and stone tools. The Bayougoula were related and lived southwest of the Houmas also along the Northshore. Primarily, they lived of clams, shrimp, alligator, and other marine life. They sometimes fought each other and shared the Houma characteristics. The Quniapisa were known for attacking Sieur de la Salle’s expedition in the 1680s. Finally, the Acolapissa were from the east living along the Pearl River and the first to meet the French who they wanted to avoid. The avoidance caused them to move and eventually move and merge with the tribes of the delta region.

Finally, the Chitimacha lived deep in the swampy region of Southeast Louisiana west of the Mississippi River. They had a large population of about 4,000 people in three (3) tribes who did not get along with each other. The three tribes were the Washa (the smallest) who eventually disappeared, the Chawasha who eventually allied with the French and constantly attacked the third tribe, the Chitimacha. Overall, the Chitimacha were highly a highly organized culture settling in Louisiana in the 18th century. They developed crafts made of wood, had copper tools, and created toys for their children. They were a class society with an elite class, lived in wooden homes, and participated in sweat practices (a healing process including a fire with water added to cleanse the body). I have participated in a sweat before and it was quite challenging. Of all the groups, their cultural achievements were more expansive than others in the lower Mississippi River Valley.

All groups operated in clans or extended family members, a council, a sachem, chief, and a shaman. They also had a totem symbol. The tribes often intermarried to connect. Each nation spoke the same language and based connections on the language and culture, not necessarily the families. Patriarchal systems were prevalent in Native American cultures as the men were hunters and warriors, while the women-maintained roles close to home such as home construction, farming, sewing, and making tools. Native American women were, however, very influential, more so than their European counterparts. They negotiated and helped develop and make tribal decisions. Interestingly, gambling was also a big deal as they bet on sporting events that they introduced to the Europeans. Native Americans traded with Europeans and introduced them to various food options and medicines. Additionally, the Europeans incorporated the agricultural and hunting techniques of the Native Americans. Even with the Native American contributions, they upset the balance of Native American relationships, forced tribes to move and relocate.

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