An Attakapas, by Alexandre De Batz, 1735
|Regions with significant populations|
|English, French, Spanish, historically Atakapa|
| Christianity, historically traditional|
|Related ethnic groups|
|isolate language group, intermarried with Caddo and Koasati|
The Atakapa // are an indigenous people of the Southeastern Woodlands, who spoke the Atakapa language and historically lived along the Gulf of Mexico. Europeans adopted this name from the competing Choctaw people, whom they first encountered. The Atakapan people, made up of several bands, called themselves the Ishak, pronounced "ee-SHAK", which translates as "The People." Within the tribe, the Ishak identified as "The Sunrise People" or "The Sunset People", two moieties. Although the people were decimated by infectious disease after European contact and declined as a tribe, survivors joined other tribes. Their descendants still live in southern Louisiana and Texas. People identifying as Atakapa-Ishak had a gathering in 2006.
Atakapa is an extinct language isolate native to southwestern Louisiana and nearby coastal eastern Texas. It was spoken by the Atakapa people. The language became extinct in the early 20th century.
The Gulf of Mexico is an ocean basin and a marginal sea of the Atlantic Ocean, largely surrounded by the North American continent. It is bounded on the northeast, north and northwest by the Gulf Coast of the United States, on the southwest and south by Mexico, and on the southeast by Cuba. The U.S. states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida border the Gulf on the north, which are often referred to as the "Third Coast", in comparison with the U.S. Atlantic and Pacific coasts.
Their name was also spelled Attakapa, Attakapas, or Attacapa. It was the name by which the Choctaw people referred to them, meaning "man eater", for their practice of ritual cannibalism. Europeans encountered the Choctaw first during their exploration, and adopted their name for this people to the west.The peoples lived in river valleys, along lake shores, and coasts from Galveston Bay, Texas to Vermilion Bay, Louisiana.
Vermilion Bay is a bay in southern Louisiana in the United States.
Louisiana is a state in the Deep South region of the South Central United States. It is the 31st most extensive and the 25th most populous of the 50 United States. Louisiana is bordered by the state of Texas to the west, Arkansas to the north, Mississippi to the east, and the Gulf of Mexico to the south. A large part of its eastern boundary is demarcated by the Mississippi River. Louisiana is the only U.S. state with political subdivisions termed parishes, which are equivalent to counties. The state's capital is Baton Rouge, and its largest city is New Orleans.
After 1762, when Louisiana was transferred to Spain following French defeat in the Seven Years' War, little was written about the Atakapa as a tribe. Due to a high rate of deaths from infectious disease epidemics of the late 18th century, they ceased to function as a tribe. Survivors generally joined the Caddo, Koasati, and other surrounding tribes, although they kept some traditions. Some culturally distinct Atakapan people survived into the 20th century.
The Seven Years' War was a global conflict fought between 1756 and 1763. It involved every European great power of the time and spanned five continents, affecting Europe, the Americas, West Africa, India, and the Philippines. The conflict split Europe into two coalitions, led by the Kingdom of Great Britain on one side and the Kingdom of France, the Russian Empire, the Kingdom of Spain, and the Swedish Empire on the other. Meanwhile, in India, some regional polities within the increasingly fragmented Mughal Empire, with the support of the French, tried to crush a British attempt to conquer Bengal. The war's extent has led some historians to describe it as "World War Zero", similar in scale to other world wars.
The Caddo Nation is a confederacy of several Southeastern Native American tribes. Their ancestors historically inhabited much of what is now East Texas, Louisiana, and portions of southern Arkansas and Oklahoma. They were descendants of the Caddoan Mississippian culture that constructed huge earthwork mounds at several sites in this territory. In the early 19th century, Caddo people were forced to a reservation in Texas; they were removed to Indian Territory in 1859.
Atakapa-speaking peoples are called Atakapan, while Atakapa refers to a specific tribe.Atakapa-speaking peoples were divided into bands which were represented by totems, such as snake, alligator ...
A totem is a spirit being, sacred object, or symbol that serves as an emblem of a group of people, such as a family, clan, lineage, or tribe.
Eastern Atakapa groups living in present-day Acadiana parishes in southern Louisiana, divided in two major regional bands:
Acadiana, is the official name given to the French Louisiana region that was historically home to the state's Francophone population, the Acadians and Cajuns. Many are of Acadian descent and are now identified as Cajun. Of the 64 parishes that make up the U.S. state of Louisiana, 22 named parishes and other parishes of similar cultural environment make up this intrastate region.
Iberia Parish is a parish located in the U.S. state of Louisiana. As of the 2010 census, the population was 73,240. The parish seat is New Iberia.
Vermilion Parish is a parish located in the U.S. state of Louisiana. As of the 2010 census, the population was 57,999. The parish seat is Abbeville. The parish was created in 1844.
An inlet is an indentation of a shoreline, usually long and narrow, such as a small bay or arm, that often leads to an enclosed body of salt water, such as a sound, bay, lagoon, or marsh.
Atakapa oral history says that they originated from the sea. An ancestral prophet laid out the rules of conduct.
The first European contact with the Atakapa may have been in 1528 by survivors of the Spanish Pánfilo de Narváez expedition. They made two barges, which were blown ashore on the Gulf Coast. One group of survivors met the Karankawa, while the other probably landed on Galveston Island. The latter recorded meeting a group who called themselves the Han, who may have been the Akokisa.
In 1703, Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, the French governor of La Louisiane , sent three men to explore the Gulf Coast west of the Mississippi River. The seventh nation they encountered were the Atakapa, who captured, killed and cannibalized one member of their party.In 1714 this tribe was one of 14 who came to Jean-Michel de Lepinay, who was acting French governor of Louisiana between 1717 and 1718, while he was fortifying Dauphin Island, Alabama.
The Choctaw told the French settlers about the "People of the West," who represented subdivisions or tribes. The French referred to them as les sauvages. The Choctaw used the name Atakapa, meaning "people eater" (hattak 'person', apa 'to eat'), for them.It referred to their practice of ritual cannibalism related to warfare.
A French explorer, Francois Simars de Bellisle, lived among the Atakapa from 1719 to 1721.He described Atakapa cannibalistic feasts which he observed firsthand. The practice of cannibalism likely had a religious, ritualistic basis. French Jesuit missionaries urged the Atakapa to end this practice.
The French historian Antoine-Simon Le Page du Pratz lived in Louisiana from 1718 to 1734. He wrote:
Along the west coast, not far from the sea, inhabit the nation called Atacapas [ sic ], that is, Man-Eaters, being so called by the other nations on account of their detestable custom of eating their enemies, or such as they believe to be their enemies. In the vast country there are no other cannibals to be met with besides the Atacapas; and since the French have gone among them, they have raised in them so great a horror of that abominable practice of devouring creatures of their own species, that they have promised to leave it off: and, accordingly, for a long time past we have heard of no such barbarity among them.— Antoine-Simon Le Page du Pratz
Louis LeClerc Milfort, a Frenchman who spent 20 years living with and traveling among the Muscogee Creek, came upon the Atakapa in 1781 during his travels. He wrote:
The forest we were then in was thick enough so that none of my men could be seen. I formed them into three detachments, and arranged them in such a way as to surround these savages, and to leave them no way of retreat except by the pond. I then made them all move forward, and I sent ahead a subordinate chief to ascertain what nation these savages belonged to, and what would be their intentions toward us. We were soon assured that they were Atakapas, who, as soon as they saw us, far from seeking to defend themselves, made us signs of peace and friendship. There were one hundred and eighty  of them of both sexes, busy, as we suspected, smoke-drying meat. As soon as my three detachments had emerged from the forest, I saw one of these savages coming straight toward me: at first sight, I recognized that he did not belong to the Atakapas nation; he addressed me politely and in an easy manner, unusual among these savages. He offered food and drink for my warriors which I accepted, while expressing to him my gratitude. Meat was served to my entire detachment; and during the time of about six hours that I remained with this man, I learned that he was a European; that he had been a Jesuit; and that having gone into Mexico, these people had chosen him as their chief. He spoke French rather well. He told me that his name was Joseph; but I did not learn from what part of Europe he came.
He informed me that the name Atakapas, which means eaters of men, had been given to this nation by the Spaniards because every time they caught one of them, they would roast him alive, but that they did not eat them; that they acted in this way toward this nation to avenge their ancestors for the torture that they made them endure when they had come to take possession of Mexico; that if some Englishmen or Frenchmen happened to be lost in this bay region, the Atakapas welcomed them with kindness, would give them hospitality; and if they did not wish to remain with them they had them taken to the Akancas, from where they could easily go to New Orleans.
He told me: "You see here about one-half of the Atakapas Nation; the other half is farther on. We are in the habit of dividing ourselves into two or three groups in order to follow the buffalo, which in the spring go back into the west, and in autumn come down into these parts; there are herds of these buffalo, which go sometimes as far as the Missouri; we kill them with arrows; our young hunters are very skilful at this hunting. You understand, moreover, that these animals are in very great numbers, and as tame as if they were raised on a farm; consequently, we are very careful never to frighten them. When they stay on a prairie or in a forest, we camp near them in order to accustom them to seeing us, and we follow all their wanderings so that they cannot get away from us. We use their meat for food and their skins for clothing. I have been living with these people for about eleven years; I am happy and satisfied here, and have not the least desire to return to Europe. I have six children whom I love a great deal, and with whom I want to end my days."
When my warriors were rested and refreshed, I took leave of Joseph and of the Atakapas, while assuring them of my desire to be able to make some returns for their friendly welcome, and I resumed my Journey.— Louis LeClerc Milfort
In 1760, the French Gabriel Fuselier de la Claire, coming to the Attakapas Territory, bought all the land between Vermilion River and Bayou Teche from the Eastern Atakapa Chief Kinemo. Shortly after that a rival Indian tribe, the Appalousa (Opelousas), coming from the area between the Atchalafaya and Sabine Rivers, exterminated the Eastern Atakapa. They had occupied the area between Atchalafaya River and Bayou Nezpique (Attakapas Territory).
William Byrd Powell (1799–1867), a medical doctor and physiologist, regarded the Atakapan as cannibals. He noted that they traditionally flattened their skulls frontally and not occipitally, a practice opposite to that of neighboring tribes, such as the Natchez Nation.
The Atakapa traded with the Chitimacha tribe.In the early 18th century, some Atakapa married into the Houma tribe of Louisiana. Members of the Tunica-Biloxi tribe joined the Atakapa tribe in the late 18th century.
The Atapakan ate shellfish and fish. The women gathered bird eggs, the American lotus ( Nelumbo lutea ) for its roots and seeds, as well as other wild plants. The men hunted deer, bear, and bison, which provided meat, fat, and hides. The women cultivated varieties of maize. They processed the meats, bones and skins to prepare food for storage, as well as to make clothing, tent covers, tools, sewing materials, arrow cases, bridles and rigging for horses, and other necessary items for their survival.
The men made their tools for hunting and fishing: bows and arrows, fish spears with bone-tipped points, and flint-tipped spears. They used poisons to catch fish, caught flounder by torchlight, and speared alligators in the eye. The people put alligator oil on exposed skin to repel mosquitoes. The Bidai snared game and trapped animals in cane pens. By 1719, the Atakapan had obtained horses and were hunting bison from horseback. They used dugout canoes to navigate the bayous and close to shore, but did not venture far into the ocean.
In the summer, families moved to the coast. In winters, they moved inland and lived in villages of houses made of pole and thatch. The Bidai lived in bearskin tents. The homes of chiefs and medicine men were erected on earthwork mounds made by several previous cultures including the Mississippian.
It is believed that most Western Atakapa tribes or subdivisions were decimated by the 1850s, mainly from infectious disease and poverty. Armojean Reon, of Lake Charles, Louisiana, who lived at the start of the 20th century, was noted as a fluent Atakapa speaker.
Descendants exist and have begun to organize to be recognized as a tribe. Numerous descendants today share a mixed lineage of Atakapa-Ishak and other ethnic ancestry, but they have maintained a sense of community and culture.
The names of present-day towns in the region can be traced to the Ishak; they are derived both from their language and from French transliteration of the names of their prominent leaders and names of places. The town of Mermentau is a corrupted form of the local chief Nementou. Plaquemine, as in Bayou Plaquemine Brûlée and Plaquemines Parish, is derived from the Atakapa word pikamin, meaning "persimmon". Bayou Nezpiqué was named for an Atakapan who had a tattooed nose. Bayou Queue de Tortue was believed to have been named for Chief Celestine La Tortue of the Atakapas nation.The name Calcasieu is a French transliteration of an Atakapa name: katkosh, for "eagle", and yok, "to cry".
On October 28, 2006, the Atakapa-Ishak Nation met for the first time in more than 100 years as "one nation." A total of 450 people represented Louisiana and Texas. Rachel Mouton, the mistress of ceremony and newly appointed Director of Publications and Communications, introduced Billy LaChapelle, who opened the afternoon with a traditional prayer in English and in Atakapa.
The city of Lafayette, Louisiana is planning a series of trails, funded by the Federal Highway Administration, to be called the "Atakapa-Ishak Trail". It will consist of a bike trail connecting downtown areas along the bayous Vermilion and Teche, which are now accessible only by foot or boat.
The Atakapa language is a language isolate, once spoken along the Louisiana and East Texas coast and believed extinct since the mid-20th century.John R. Swanton in 1919 proposed a Tunican language family that would include Atakapa, Tunica, and Chitimacha. Mary Haas later expanded this into the Gulf language family with the addition of the Muskogean languages. As of 2001, linguists generally do not consider these proposed families as proven.
St. Mary Parish is a parish located in the U.S. state of Louisiana. As of the 2010 census, the population was 54,650. The parish seat is Franklin. The parish was created in 1811.
St. Landry Parish is a parish located in the U.S. state of Louisiana. As of the 2010 census, the population was 83,384. The parish seat is Opelousas. The parish was created in 1807.
Mermentau is a village in Acadia Parish, Louisiana, United States. The population was 661 at the 2010 census. It is part of the Crowley Micropolitan Statistical Area.
Carencro is a small city in Lafayette Parish, Louisiana, United States. It is a suburb of the nearby city of Lafayette. The population was 7,526 at the 2010 census, up from 6,120 in 2000. Its name is derived from the Cajun French word for buzzard: the spot where the community was settled was one where large flocks of buzzards roosted in the bald cypress trees. The name means "carrion crow."
Port Barre is a town in St. Landry Parish, Louisiana, United States. The town began in 1760 as an Indian trading post at the place where Bayou Teche flows out of Bayou Courtableau. The population was 2,055 at the 2010 census, down from 2,287 in 2000. It is part of the Opelousas–Eunice Micropolitan Statistical Area and home to the Port Barre High School Red Devils. Port Barre derives over 51% of its income from speeding tickets.
St. Martinville is a city in, and the parish seat of, St. Martin Parish, Louisiana, United States. It lies on Bayou Teche, sixteen miles south of Breaux Bridge, eighteen miles southeast of Lafayette, and nine miles north of New Iberia. The population was 6,114 at the 2010 census, down from 6,989 in 2000. It is part of the Lafayette Metropolitan Statistical Area.
The Bayou Teche is a 125-mile-long (201 km) waterway of great cultural significance in south central Louisiana in the United States. Bayou Teche was the Mississippi River's main course when it developed a delta about 2,800 to 4,500 years ago. Through a natural process known as deltaic switching, the river's deposits of silt and sediment cause the Mississippi to change its course every thousand years or so.
Indigenous peoples of the Southeastern Woodlands, Southeastern cultures, or Southeast Indians are an ethnographic classification for Native Americans who have traditionally inhabited the Southeastern United States and the northeastern border of Mexico, that share common cultural traits. This classification is a part of the Eastern Woodlands. The concept of a southeastern cultural region was developed by anthropologists, beginning with Otis Mason and Frank Boas in 1887. The boundaries of the region are defined more by shared cultural traits than by geographic distinctions. Because the cultures gradually instead of abruptly shift into Plains, Prairie, or Northeastern Woodlands cultures, scholars do not always agree on the exact limits of the Southeastern Woodland culture region. Shawnee, Powhatan, Waco, Tawakoni, Tonkawa, Karankawa, Quapaw, and Mosopelea are usually seen as marginally southeastern and their traditional lands represent the borders of the cultural region.
The Akokisa were the indigenous tribe that lived on Galveston Bay and the lower Trinity and San Jacinto rivers in Texas, primarily in the present-day Greater Houston area. They are regarded as a band of the Atakapa Indians, closely related to the Atakapa of Lake Charles, Louisiana.
The Taensa were a Native American people whose settlements at the time of European contact in the late 17th century were located in present-day Tensas Parish, Louisiana. The meaning of the name, which has the further spelling variants of Taenso, Tinsas, Tenza or Tinza, Tahensa or Takensa, and Tenisaw, is unknown. It is believed to be an autonym. The Taensa should not be confused with the Avoyel, known by the French as the petits Taensas, who were mentioned in writings by explorer Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville in 1699. The Taensa are more closely related to the Natchez people and both are considered descendants of the late prehistoric Plaquemine culture.
The Vermilion River is a 70.0-mile-long (112.7 km) bayou in southern Louisiana in the United States. It is formed on the common boundary of Lafayette and St. Martin parishes by a confluence of small bayous flowing from St. Landry Parish, and flows generally southward through Lafayette and Vermilion parishes, past the cities of Lafayette and Abbeville. At the port of Intracoastal City, the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway crosses the river before the latter flows into Vermilion Bay, an inlet of the Gulf of Mexico. The river originates at Bayou Fusilier, which is fed by Bayou Teche; winds its way through Lafayette Parish; and drains into the Vermilion Bay below Vermilion Parish.
Bayou Queue de Tortue is a waterway in the Mermentau River basin of southern Louisiana in the United States. The bayou is 55 miles (89 km) long and is partly navigable.
Lafayette, Louisiana, and the surrounding area is a mix of American Indian, African American, English, French and Spanish culture. The area is situated in the region known as Southwest Louisiana. The Vermilion River runs through the city. Today, the city and parish are at the heart of Acadiana.
The Ouachita are a Native American tribe who lived in northeastern Louisiana along the Ouachita River. Their name has also been spelled as Washita by English speakers. Many landscape features and places have been named for them since colonization of the region by Europeans and Americans.
Attakapas Parish was a former parish (county) in southern Louisiana and was one of twelve parishes in the Territory of Orleans, newly defined by the United States federal government following the Louisiana Purchase. At its core was the Poste des Attakapas trading post, now St. Martinville.
The Bidai were a tribe of Atakapa Indians from eastern Texas.
Atchafalaya National Heritage Area is a federally designated National Heritage Area encompassing parts of fourteen parishes along the Atchafalaya River in the U.S. State of Louisiana. The heritage area extends the length of the Atchafalaya Basin from the area of Ferriday in the north to the river's mouth beyond Morgan City. The National Heritage Area is divided into four regions: Upper, Between 2 Rivers, Bayou Teche Corridor and the Coastal Zone. The designation provides a framework for the promotion and interpretation of the area's cultural and historic character, and the preservation of the natural and built environment. The heritage area designation recognizes the area's unique environment and culture, and its contributions to music, English and French language, literature, and cuisine.
The Chato were an indigenous people of the Southeastern Woodlands, that formerly lived on the coast in Mississippi and Alabama and around Mobile Bay. They were related to the Choctaws and Chickasaws. One source indicates that "The Chato were part of the Apalachee Indian tribe, as were the Escambe." However, the more general opinion is that the Chato tribe was of unknown ethnic affinity, although they were allied with the Choctaw.
The Atchafalaya Basin Mounds is an archaeological site originally occupied by peoples of the Coastal Coles Creek and Plaquemine cultures beginning around 980 CE, and by their presumed historic period descendants, the Chitimacha, during the 18th century. It is located in St. Mary Parish, Louisiana on the northern bank of Bayou Teche at its confluence with the Lower Atchafalaya River. It consists of several earthen platform mounds and a shell midden situated around a central plaza. The site was visited by Clarence Bloomfield Moore in 1913.