[Note: This is a single part of what will be, by my classification, about 240 compact tribal histories (contact to 1900). It is limited to the lower 48 states of the U.S. but also includes those First Nations from Canada and Mexico that had important roles (Huron, Micmac, Assiniboine, etc.).

This history's content and style are representative. The normal process at this point is to circulate an almost finished product among a peer group for comment and criticism. At the end of this History you will find links to those Nations referred to in the History of the Acolapissa.

Using the Internet, this can be more inclusive. Feel free to comment or suggest corrections via e-mail. Working together we can end some of the historical misinformation about Native Americans. You will find the ego at this end to be of standard size. Thanks for stopping by. I look forward to your comments... Lee Sultzman.

Acolapissa Location

Originally, both sides of the lower Pearl River which is the current eastern border of Louisiana with Mississippi. During 1702 the Acolapissa left their original location and moved a short distance west

to Bayou Costine on the north side of Lake Pontchartrain. By 1718 they relocated once again, this time to the east bank of the Mississippi just above the new French settlement at New Orleans. Pressured by the expansion of French settlement during the next few years, the Acolapissa were absorbed by the Houma and moved upstream with them to Ascension Parish (Donaldsonville, La.). The Houma remained in this area until they sold their land in 1776 and moved to Terrebonne and Lafourche Parishes southwest of New Orleans. Their descendants still live in this area and have provided the name for present-day Houma, Louisiana.


Like most of the original tribes near the mouth of the Mississippi River, the Acolapissa was not large, probably numbering in 1600 no more than 3-4,000. In 1699 Iberville credited them with 300 warriors indicating a population of approximately 1,500. However, the native populations of the region had been decimated by disease and warfare during the proceeding 150 years. Judging from the losses suffered by the Biloxi and neighboring tribes, it is fair to say that the Acolapissa had lost at least half of their original population. The decline accelerated after contact with the French. By 1702 another epidemic had dropped the Acolapissa to 1,250, and twenty years later, a French census gave them only 200 warriors (1,000 total). By 1739 the Acolapissa were so few that the French no longer bothered with a separate enumeration. The combined population of the Acolapissa, Bayougoula, and Houma for that year was given as only 500, representing a 90 percent population loss for these three tribes in a period of only forty years. Currently recognized by Louisiana, the 11,000 members of the United Houma Nation are the state's largest tribe. However, their petition for federal status was denied by the Department of the Interior in 1994.


A Choctaw word meanings "those who listen and see" which seems to indicate that the Acolapissa were considered a border tribe by their neighbors. Variations of this name were: Aqueloupissa, Cenepisa, Colapissa, Coulapissa, Equinipicha, Kinipissa, Kolapissa, and Mouisa.


Muskogean - closely related to Choctaw and Chickasaw.


Tangipahoa (variously: Tangibao, Tanguahoa, Maheouala, Mahehoualaima) meaning "corncob people." Even without the Tangipahoe, the Acolapissa had at least six villages in 1680.

The Acolapissa were similar in language and culture to the Choctaw just to the north. Villages were relatively small (2-300 people) and located in the flood plains on both sides of the Pearl River about 20 miles inland from the Gulf. Because of poor soil near the coast, agricultural tribes usually lived inland. Most of their diet was provided by agriculture: corn, beans, squash, several varieties of melon, and tobacco. Fields were relatively small because of the difficulty of clearing underbrush and keeping them free of weeds. Larger fields were not really necessary since the growing season allowed the annual harvest of two to three crops from the same field. Farming was supplemented by hunting and fishing, and in what may come as something of a surprise, buffalo were a major source of meat. In fact, there were so many buffalo in southern Mississippi during the early 1700s, that the French considered capturing some and raising them for their WOOL! However, finding someone willing to shear a live buffalo proved difficult, and this remarkable idea was dropped.

The mild climate of the lower Mississippi required little clothing. Acolapissa men limited themselves pretty much to a breechcloth, women a short skirt, and children ran nude until puberty. With so little clothing with which to adorn themselves, the Acolapissa were fond of decorating their entire bodies with tattoos. In cold weather a buffalo robe or feathered cloak was added for warmth. Housing was circular in shape and utilized the wattle-and-daub construction distinctive to the Southeast. Walls were fashioned from vertical poles interwoven with branches and reeds (similar to a basket) to which mud was applied for a stucco effect. Roofs were either palmetto, thatch, or bark. Like the towns of the earlier Mississippian mound builders, each village had two large public buildings: a circular (30' diameter) dome-roofed temple which housed sacred objects and an eternal fire kept by the village priest; and the chief's house (similar in size to the temple) but with a peaked, rather than domed, roof. Some, but not all, Acolapissa villages were fortified in 1699. Like most of the small tribes near the mouth of the Mississippi, each Acolapissa village prior to 1682 was politically independent with its own defined territory. The drawback to this arrangement were frequent wars, usually over boundaries.


In July, 1543 the Tangipahoa probably were watching as seven makeshift boats, carried the battered remnants of De Soto's army of conquistadors past them to the Gulf of Mexico. For four years, the Spanish had crisscrossed the southeast United States running roughshod over its native peoples, but by 1543 they were beaten men. De Soto had died the previous year, and after failing to reach Mexico overland across Texas, his successor, Luis de Moscoso, returned to the "Great River" (Mississippi) for a last desperate effort to escape the interior by following it to the Gulf. After building seven boats from local materials, the Spanish headed downstream in May, but their grim reputation had preceded them. Forced to fight his way past the Natchez in southwest Mississippi, Moscoso was in no mood to meet the Tangipahoa, Acolapissa, or any other tribe downstream who, under the circumstances, most likely were also hostile.

However, the Acolapissa and their neighbors did not have to meet the Spanish to be affected by them. In the years which followed, the epidemics and destruction left by De Soto (1539-43) brought about the collapse of the large Mississippian chiefdoms which had dominated the Southeast before 1539. The process did not stop when Moscoso finally reached safety in Mexico. In 1565 the Spanish built a permanent settlement at St. Augustine (Florida) and during the next 150 years established two mission systems: the first of which stretched entirely across northern Florida; with a second extending up the Atlantic coast to South Carolina. Because of the tales of suffering and deprivation relayed to them by the De Soto survivors, the Spanish, with the exceptions of De Luna (1559-61) and Pardo (1567), were content to remain near the coasts and avoided the interior.

This served their purposes well enough. Besides their obvious goal to convert the native peoples in the region, the missions also served to secure the claims of Spain against those of France and Great Britain. Trade and settlement were secondary, but native traders carried Spanish goods from the Florida and Georgia missions into the interior as far as the lower Mississippi Valley, and with them came a steady stream of the same epidemics which were killing the mission tribes almost as fast as they could be converted. The new diseases passed from tribe to tribe until they had spread across the entire Southeast, and by 1680 the native population in the area was less than half (some sources would say a quarter) of what it had been in 1500. After 150 years of this holocaust, the area was occupied by much smaller tribes which had, for the most part, retained the Mississippian concept of defined tribal territories. However, the area was too attractive to remain empty, and tribes from areas less affected - Alabama, Cherokee, Coushatta, Tukabatchee, and Yuchi - moved south to fill the voids. Unfortunately, their arrival added to tension and rivalries.

Although the responsibility was mostly theirs, the Spanish were witness to only a small part of the unfolding tragedy as they watched the Timucua and Apalachee converts at their Florida missions "drop like flies" from epidemic. Meanwhile, the interior remained mysterious as ever, since the marsh and sand bars of the Mississippi delta prevented the Spanish from entering the lower river from the Gulf. So, other than a brief glimpse of the De Soto expedition, the first European contact for most tribes along the lower Mississippi were with the French who came down the river from the Illinois country. The first were Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet in 1673. However, Spain and France were enemies at the time, and when they found Spanish trade goods in the Quapaw villages at the mouth of the Arkansas River, Marquette and Joliet immediately turned around. It was the later expedition of Robert La Salle, and Henri de Tonti that reached the mouth of Mississippi in April, 1682. Making use of the calumet, a universal sign of peace along the lower river, La Salle had been welcomed by the tribes encountered enroute, but south of the Red River, the tribes were hostile and suspicious of strangers.

Just above the present site of New Orleans, an attempt to meet with the Quinipissa provoked an attack. Firearms kept the warriors who followed the expedition downstream at bay, but on the east bank about five miles below his encounter with the Quinipissa, La Salle noted several destroyed Tangipahoa villages, the apparent result of a recent war (for reasons unknown) with the Houma to the north. The Tangipahoa who escaped had merged with the Acolapissa just to the east, but at the time that the French passed by, there were no Tangipahoa or Acolapissa in the vicinity. La Salle proceeded on to the Gulf where they claimed the entire Mississippi Valley (Louisiana), including its native peoples, for France. The return journey was similar to the experience coming downstream. The Quinipissa were still hostile, and since no Acolapissa or Tangipahoa were seen, there was no opportunity for the French to inform them that they had just become the subjects of Louis XIV.

La Salle had added a vast new region to the French Empire, but there was little immediate interest among the French in Canada in his "discovery." Their focus was on the conflict in the Great Lakes with the Iroquois and the growing tension with the British that would soon explode into the King William's War (1688-97). La Salle returned to France (where he had greater influence) to gather support for his plan for a colony at the mouth of the Mississippi. Many questioned his sanity, but he received permission from the king and, after collecting 200 colonists from the cut-throats of France, sailed for the Gulf of Mexico in 1685. The plan called for Tonti to come down the Mississippi from Illinois and meet him at the mouth, but La Salle's navigator somehow managed to completely miss the large, conspicuous delta, and the expedition landed over 400 miles to the west at Matagorda Bay on the Texas coast.

Tonti waited until April, 1686, but La Salle was nowhere to be found. Tonti eventually was forced to return to Illinois, but in the meantime he had finally managed to establish peaceful relations with the Quinipissa and left a letter for La Salle with their chief. La Salle never read it. In March, 1687 he was murdered by his own men on the plains of eastern Texas. Knowledge of this did not reach Tonti until 1689, whereupon he headed south to rescue the survivors of La Salle's colony. This time, however, he stopped at the Taensa villages (north of the Acolapissa) to make the rest of the journey to Texas overland. Despite the French and Spanish moving all about them, by 1690 the Acolapissa, because of their location 75 miles east of the Mississippi River, had yet to meet their first "no hollo" (white man). Ironically, it was the activity of British traders from Charleston, South Carolina (600 miles to east) that set in motion the forces which would finally end the isolation of the Acolapissa and their neighbors.

Charleston's main purpose when it was established in 1670 was to slow the extension of Spanish missions up the Atlantic coast from Florida towards the initial British colony at Jamestown, Virginia (1607). It was successful in this, but South Carolina was also intended to turn a profit as a commercial venture through its plantations and trade with surrounding native populations. Unfortunately, the plantations floundered during the early years because of a labor shortage, and with a sixty-year head start, Virginia traders dominated trade with the Cherokee and Siouan-speaking tribes in the Piedmont immediately to the west. Charleston traders were forced to look elsewhere for markets, and they reached west with astonishing speed. By 1685 they had a permanent trading post among the Upper Creeks in Alabama and had visited the Chickasaw villages in northeast Mississippi.

Deerskins were a major item of this trade, but because of the demand for large amounts of labor to operate the Carolina and West Indies plantations, the British traders from Charleston were more interested in acquiring Native American slaves and willing to provide firearms to tribes willing to do their dirty work for them. The Yamasee and many Creeks found this type of "business" attractive and began raiding the tribes near the Spanish missions in northern Florida. Farther west in the lower Mississippi Valley, the Chickasaw were being pressed by their more numerous Choctaw cousins, and the British offer of firearms proved irresistible. Chickasaw slave raids began during the early 1690s and ultimately carried thousands of Native Americans to the slave docks at Charleston. The Choctaw were the main target, but they were organized into a large confederacy and, even without firearms, continued to be a dangerous opponent. The Natchez were also powerful and somewhat immune to predation, and Chickasaw raiders often bypassed them to attack the small, independent tribes (such as the Acolapissa) along the Gulf Coast and lower Mississippi River.

With the exception of the Arkansas Post which Tonti built at the Quapaw villages in 1686, France had ignored the Mississippi Valley. So much so, that Jean Couture, the man Tonti left in charge at Arkansas Post, was completely without trade goods, and following the royal decree of 1696 suspending the fur trade in the western Great Lakes, there seemed little hope of a new supply. Feeling abandoned, Couture guided the Charleston trader Thomas Welch to Arkansas Post in 1698. Welch gave the Quapaw thirty guns so they could provide the "merchandise" he needed by attacking the Chakchiuma east of the river, but the Quapaw used them to drive the Chepoussa and Michigamea of the Illinois Confederation from northeast Arkansas. Welch's visit did not produce the results intended, but the sudden appearance of British traders on the lower Mississippi, in territory claimed by France, commanded the immediate attention of the colonial authorities in Quebec.

France had emerged from the King William's War (1688-97) in a dominant position in North America and was ready to reassert its claim to Louisiana. Since the royal proclamation had placed the fur trade in limbo, the first effort was by missionaries. In 1698 the bishop of Quebec proclaimed Louisiana part of his diocese and sent Fathers Francis Joliet de Montigny and Antoine Davion to establish Jesuit missions along the lower Mississippi. Meanwhile, plans were under way in France for Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville, a hero of the King William's War against Great Britain, to fulfill La Salle's dream of a French colony on the Gulf of Mexico at the mouth of the Mississippi. Spain claimed the entire Gulf Coast and, up to this point, had defended it against French attempts at settlement. However, with approach of a new war in Europe against Britain (Queen Anne's War 1701-13), the Spanish found themselves in the awkward position of being France allies and no longer able to directly oppose the establishment of a French colony on the Gulf. When they learned of the Iberville expedition in 1698, all Spain could do was to hastily build a fort at Pensacola to protect its claim.

Iberville's fleet departed France in late 1698 and arrived in January, 1699. After noting the new Spanish fort at Pensacola, he sailed west towards the entrance of the Mississippi, but the maze of waterways at the mouth proved as formidable a barrier to French navigators as Spanish, and on February 13th he decided to anchor to the east off Biloxi, Mississippi. An exploration party was dispatched overland to locate the Mississippi just to the west. Immediately, the French were aware that the area was a war zone because of recent Chickasaw slave raids. There were also obvious signs of the smallpox epidemic that had devastated the native populations the previous year. Most natives avoided contact, but Iberville finally met a Bayougoula chief who was in the area with a hunting party looking for buffalo. Once they learned that the French had no intention of enslaving them, the Bayougoula proved friendly and invited the French to accompany them to their village on the west bank of the Mississippi.

The Bayougoula also introduced the French to the Houma upstream and then escorted them back to Biloxi. Iberville also managed to make them sign a treaty with the Chitimacha during this trip west, and although he was told of the Acolapissa along the Pearl River, he did not actually meet with them. After deciding Biloxi was a suitable location for the new colony, Iberville ordered the construction of Fort Maurepas and departed for France in May leaving his brother, the Sieur de Sauvole de la Villantry in charge. Shortly afterwards the Bayougoula chief visited Fort Maurepas, and another of Iberville's brothers (Iberville's settlement of Louisiana was a family affair), Jean Baptiste Le Moyne d'Bienville, accompanied him back to the Mississippi. Near the mouth of the Pearl River, they encountered 300 Acolapissa warriors ready for battle. The Bayougoula chief kept Bienville and his men back and went forward to inquire about what was the matter. It turned out that, only two days before, the Acolapissa had been attacked by 200 Chickasaw under the leadership of British traders.

Strangely, it seems that, by a matter of 48 hours, the first white men that the Acolapissa had seen were British, not Spanish or French. After the Bayougoula chief explained that the French belonged to a different tribe of white men that wanted to protect them from the British slavers, the Acolapissa struck up a enduring friendship with the French. The French were immediately intrigued by resemblance of the Acolapissa's name to the Quinipissa who had attacked La Salle and Tonti in 1682, but the Acolapissa assured them that they were not only not the Quinipissa, but they had never heard of La Salle or Tonti. As it turned out, the answer to this puzzle was standing next to Bienville at the time in the form of the Bayougoula chief. After being hit by a devastating epidemic, the surviving Quinipissa had abandoned their village and moved in with the Bayougoula. Thinking that the French were still be angry for the attack, the Bayougoula had hidden their presence from Iberville by referring to the Quinipissa who were living among them as the Mougulasha.

The French were not the only Europeans with plans to colonize the lower Mississippi. When Iberville returned in January of 1700, he learned that the previous September Bienville had discovered a British ship that had found it's way through the delta and, after fending off attacks by the Chitimacha, had made its way upstream to a point 70 miles above the mouth. While Bienville was informing its captain that he was intruding into territory claimed by France, he was told of a British plan to colonize the lower Mississippi with French Huguenots. Iberville took no chances and ordered the construction of a fort 40 miles above the mouth to block British access to the river. Learning that the Acolapissa were finding pearls while fishing along the Pearl River (hence the name given the river), Sauvole was sent to investigate only to be disappointed when they turned out to be the fresh water variety. Father Paul du Ru also accompanied him and, upon entering the main Acolapissa village, discovered a large phallic symbol which he destroyed. Apparently ready to endure any indignity if the French would protect them from the Chickasaw, the Acolapissa took the priest's actions in stride. However, the Acolapissa chief did take the precaution of personally escorting Sauvole and Du Ru back to Biloxi. Meanwhile, Iberville organized an expedition to explore the Red River to the west and renew the contacts Tonti had made with the Caddo (Cenis) in 1690.

The plan was to follow Tonti's route overland from the Taensa villages in northeast Louisiana. Iberville sent Bienville and Louis Juchereau de St. Denis ahead to secure guides and provisions from the Taensa while he stopped enroute to visit the Bayougoula, Houma, and Natchez. The French at Biloxi were suffering from a serious dysentery which had spread to the tribes in the region with deadly results. There had also been a renewal of warfare between the Houma and Bayougoula that required Iberville to arrange a truce. By the time he reached the Taensa villages, his knees were bothering him so much that he was forced to send Bienville and St. Denis on alone. They reached Natchitoches (Caddo) and beyond before returning via the Red River that May. The return journey through swamps was so gruelling that his Taensa guides deserted him, but upon reaching the Bayougoula, Bienville learned that they had massacred the Mougulasha. Since they were still threatened by the Chickasaw, the Bayougoula invited some Acolapissa and Tioux to occupy the now-deserted lands of the Mougulasha, but the offer found "no takers."

Shortly after the beginning of the Queen Anne's War, Iberville shifted his headquarters in 1702 to Fort St. Louis on Mobile Bay, not only to be closer to his Spanish allies, but because the location provided better access to the interior via the Alabama and Tombigbee Rivers. Mobile remained the focus of French activity in the region until the establishment of New Orleans in 1718. St. Denis, who had continued to trade with the Natchitoches and other Caddo to the west, remained as commandant of the French fort and trading post on the Mississippi. Remaining close to the French for protection and trade, the Acolapissa, who had in the meantime been hit by another epidemic, left the Pearl to settle in new villages on Bayou Costine on the north side of Lake Pontchartrain. Unable to cope with the royal decree suspending the fur trade in the Great Lakes, Tonti abandoned his trading posts in Illinois and came to Mobile. Iberville immediately utilized his experience to negotiate a truce between the Chickasaw and Choctaw to allow the Chickasaw minkos (chiefs) to attend a peace conference at Mobile in the spring of 1702.

Tonti arranged the truce, but apparently some Chickasaw did not "get the word" and continued to raid the Choctaw. To assure their safety, Tonti was finally forced to personally escort the Chickasaw to Mobile. Iberville began the conference by distributing gifts but soon got down to business warning the Chickasaw that the British would eventually take their land and demanding that they terminate their trade (slaving) with them. If refused, he threatened to arm the Acolapissa, Choctaw, and other tribes in the region against them, but after the "stick" held out the "carrot" with an offer to supply them with French trade goods at lower prices than the British charged. The Chickasaw agreed, and a tense peace settled briefly over the lower Mississippi Valley. South Carolina colonists, as part of the Queen Anne War, combined with their Yamasee and Creek allies to destroy the Spanish mission system in northern Florida (1703-04) which brought hundreds of Apalachee, Tawasa, and Chatot refugees west to live under the protection of the French at Mobile.

At the same time, disease was taking its toll of the French as well as the native populations. Sauvole died in 1701, and Tonti fell victim to the yellow fever which hit Mobile in 1704. Iberville succumbed to the same dread disease after leading French troops against the British West Indies, and leadership of the French in Louisiana was passed by default to his 23 year-old brother, Bienville. Considering his age, Bienville proved to be an amazingly competent administrator, but it sometimes worked against him. In the spring of 1702 a flood along the upper Red River destroyed the crops of the Natchitoches, and in danger of starving, they came down the river to the Mississippi to seek the help of their friend and trading partner at Fort Mississippi, Louis Juchereau de St. Denis. St. Denis received them with kindness and food and then sent them to live with the Acolapissa on the north side of Lake Ponchartrain.

His assistance also carried a price. The French had brought few of their women to Louisiana, and facing another cold, lonely winter in the fall of 1702, St. Denis and his French-Canadian companions asked the Acolapissa and Natchitoches to help them raid the Chitimacha to capture some feminine companionship. Bienville was upset upon learning of this. The Chitimacha had been one of the tribes west of the Mississippi that had signed a treaty with his brother in 1699, and this "love raid" made the French appear as predatory as the British. Unfortunately, his orders for St. Denis to stop were ignored, and the relationship between the Chitimacha and French quickly deteriorated. Meanwhile, the British had not sat by quietly and allowed the French to steal their customers. Carolina traders lowered prices to meet the new competition and redoubled their visits to the Chickasaw. The minkos who had signed a peace with Iberville at Mobile in 1702 soon lost control, and after a lull of three years, the Chickasaw resumed their slave raids against the Choctaw in 1705.

Bienville honored his brother's pledge and began providing arms to the Choctaw, Acolapissa, and other French allies in the region. This allowed the Choctaw to hold their own, but the smaller tribes could not withstand the assaults and were forced to abandon their villages and move south towards the French settlements. As if Chickasaw raids did not provide enough misery, many of these displacements resulted in incredible violence and treachery between French allies. Threatened by both the Chickasaw and Yazoo, the Taensa accepted the Bayougoula invitation to move in with them on the lands formerly occupied by the Mougulasha. Perhaps they were unwilling to wait until the Bayougoula got angry one night and slaughtered them in their sleep , or they wanted all of the land for themselves. In any case, the Taensa, shortly after their arrival, attacked their hosts and killed over half of them.

The Bayougoula survivors fled south and settled downstream near the Acolapissa, but the Taensa had more mischief. Shortly afterwards, they invited some Chitimacha families to eat with them but took them prisoner to sell as slaves to the French. For the Chitimacha, this was the final straw after four years of St. Denis and men stealing their women, and in January, 1707 one of their war parties killed Father Jean Francois Buisson de St. Cosme and three other Frenchmen descending the Mississippi River. Ignoring the reasons for this, Bienville demanded the murderers be brought to Mobile and asked that the Acolapissa and other tribes in the area declare war on the Chitimacha. The man responsible was ultimately brought to Mobile and executed by tomahawk inside the fort, but it did not end there. The war continued for 12 years with the French and their allies forcing the Chitimacha deep into the natural fortress of the southern Louisiana swamps. A peace was finally signed in 1718.

The renewal of the Chickasaw raids had also forced the Tunica from their village on the Yazoo river in 1706, and they received permission from the Houma to settle near them opposite the mouth of the Red River. During the next two years, tensions between the two tribes grew until the Tunica in 1708 attacked the Houma and, driving them south, took over their lands. The Houma joined the exodus of resident tribes to the south and settled near the Acolapissa and Bayougoula just above New Orleans where all three tribes provided warriors to the French for the war against the Chitimacha. Meanwhile, the British had captured and burned the Spanish fort at Pensacola in 1707 which left Mobile as the only French or Spanish post still standing on the Gulf Coast. The following year, a combined Catawba, Cherokee, and Alibamu (Creek) war party acting in the British interest attacked the Tawasa, Chatot, Apalachee, Tohomˇ, Naniaba, and Mobile who had collected around the French at Mobile. The French fort, however, was too strong and survived the war.

During the peace following the Queen Anne's War, the French set about extending their influence west into eastern Texas which was claimed by Spain. Late in 1713, St. Denis sent word to the Natchitoches (who were still living with the Acolapissa) that he intended to establish a trading post at their old village and asking them to return with him to their former home. When the Acolapissa saw the Natchitoches preparing to leave, they attacked them killing 17 men and capturing 50 women and children for adoption into the tribe. The French were forced to negotiate with the Acolapissa to arrange (pay) for the release of the Natchitoches women and children. By 1715 the Acolapissa had relocated again and were living on the east bank of the Mississippi near the Houma and Bayougoula with whom they were now closely allied. The alliance made the Taensa so nervous that in 1715 they left the area and moved to Mobile.

Following the defeat of Chitimacha and founding of New Orleans in 1718, the alliance of the Acolapissa, Bayougoula, and Houma was the most important French native ally in southern Louisiana. Up to this point, there had been little French settlement near the river. This changed in 1712 when Louis XIV granted a charter to Antoine Crozat, but after five years of failure, Crozat returned his charter to the king who in turn handed it to John Law, a Scottish financier and the unlikely director of the Bank of France. Law had no problem finding investors, many of whom were members of the French nobility, for his so-called "Mississippi Scheme" to colonize the lower Mississippi Valley. Before its collapse in 1725 due to overspeculation, Law's Mississippi Company awarded several large land grants at the sites of present-day Vicksburg and Natchez, Mississippi. More than 1,000 new French colonists arrived soon afterwards bringing with them 500 black slaves for the heavy labor of clearing the land.

The sudden influx introduce a wave of new epidemics (malaria, yaws, and leprosy). With their villages located just above the new settlements at New Orleans, the Acolapissa, Bayougoula, and Houma during 1721 were hit by smallpox that killed at least half of them. The French census the following year no longer bothered with separate count for each tribe and listed their combined population as about 1,000. The area grew increasingly crowded as French settlement spread north along the river banks from New Orleans, so shortly after 1722, the Acolapissa, Bayougoula, and Houma moved upstream to Ascension Parish where they continued to serve as loyal allies throughout the remaining years of French rule in Louisiana. Increasing friction between the colonists and natives led to the Natchez War (1729-31) in which the Natchez rose in revolt in November, 1729 and massacred more than 250 French at Fort Rosalie and Fort Pierre just to the north.

Because the Natchez had offered freedom to any of the French slaves who joined them, the French were concerned that the uprising would not only spread to other tribes but also their black slaves. To preclude this possibility by making the native peoples in area hate blacks, Governor Etienne Boucher de la Pˇrier armed and unleashed a black slave army against the Chawasha, a small (150 people) Chitimacha sub-tribe just south of New Orleans which had no connection whatsoever with the Natchez uprising. Once this was done, Pˇrier assembled an army, including 1,500 Choctaw, Tunica, Acolapissa, Bayougoula, and Houma warriors, at Point Coupeˇ and proceeded upstream to deal with the Natchez. The Natchez were hunted down and destroyed by the French in almost genocidal fashion with the few prisoners sold to Santo Domingo as slaves. Bankrupt, the Mississippi Company returned its charter to the king in 1732, and Louisiana became a royal colony two years later with Bienville as its governor. His subsequent efforts to force the Chickasaw to surrender their Natchez refugees led to the Chickasaw Wars (1736 and 1739) which resulted in the worst defeats that the French ever received from Native Americans.

By 1739 the Acolapissa, Bayougoula, and Houma combined had fewer than 500 people, all of which were living in a single village along the Mississippi River in Ascension Parish. Although each tribe still maintained their own chief, this was more pretense than political reality. In the years afterwards, they were increasingly referred to only as the Houma. The British blockade of Canada during the King George's War (1744-48) cut the supply of French trade goods to Louisiana as well. When this happened, some of the Choctaw turned to the British traders for their needs, and by 1746 this most-loyal of the French allies had divided into pro-French and pro-British factions. Civil war followed during which pro-British Choctaw warriors attacked French settlements on the German Coast north of New Orleans during the spring of 1747. A second raid occurred that November. Still loyal to the French, the Acolapissa, Houma, and Bayougoula (together with the Biloxi and Pascagoula) provided warriors to defend the area until the pro-French faction finally triumphed and a peace was signed in 1749.

A similar blockade during the French and Indian War (1754-63) cut the supply of trade goods once again, but this time the pro-French Choctaw were firmly in control. The Choctaw remained French allies throughout the war, but there was little fighting in the area. Although the war did not officially end until 1763, the French were finished in North America following the British capture of Quebec in September, 1759. In a secret treaty at Fontainebleau in November, 1762, France ceded Louisiana to Spain to keep it from falling to the British. Spain was somewhat overwhelmed by this sudden bequest and did not actually take administrative control until 1765. In the meantime, thousands of French and their former allies had moved west of the Mississippi to escape the British. Louisiana suddenly became a crowded "melting pot," a situation that grew worse when more French settled in Louisiana when it was under Spanish rule than had when it had belonged to France.

The Acolapissa disappeared as a separate tribe during this period, and their subsequent history is identical with the Houma with whom they merged. The Houma remained in Ascension Parish until 1776 when they were overrun by settlement. They sold their land to two French Creoles that year, but small groups of them remained in the vicinity until 1840. However, by 1785 the majority had moved southwest and concentrated in La Fourche and Terrebonne Parishes (Houma, Louisiana) about 25 miles from New Orleans. Their descendents have remained in this area since but have never been federally recognized because there were no treaties signed with the United States. Although recognized by the state of Louisiana, the last petition for federal status by the 11,000 members of the United Houma Nation was denied by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1994.

First Nations referred to in this Acolapissa History:


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