Tawasa Tribe and Pawokti Tribe

The first reference to the Tawasa is by Ranjel and the Fidalgo of Elvas. Tawasa is mentioned as one of the towns at which the De Soto expedition stopped and is placed between Ulibahali (Holiwa-hali) and Talisi (Tulsa). It is called by Ranjel Tuasi, by Elvas Toasi. 1 From this location it is evident that the tribe, or part of it, was at that time among the Upper Creeks, but from Lamhatty’s narrative it appears they had moved southeast before 1706 and settled some where between Apalachicola and Choctawhatchee Rivers. A Spanish letter of 1686 refers to the tribe in one place as “Tauasa,” whose chief was “a very great scoundrel,” in another as Tabara, the last evidently a misprint. 2 It is impossible to tell from this letter whether the tribe was where De Soto found it or not. In 1706 and 1707, as we know by the Lamhatty document, they were partly destroyed and partly driven away by other Indians. As Lamhatty was himself a Tawasa, and since he represents all of the ten towns to have been Tawasa as well, it will be best to give his statement in this place in the form in which it was recorded by Robert Beverley:

The foregoing year ye Tusckaroras made war on ye Towasas & destroyed 3 of theyr nations (the whole consisting of ten) haveing disposed of theyr prisoners they returned again & in ye Spring of ye year 1707 they swept away 4 nations more, the other 2 fled, not to he heard of. 3

The rest consists of an account of the personal fortunes of Lamhatty himself which do not concern us. If the dates given are correct that set by Pènicaut for the appearance of the Tawasa at Mobile, 1705, would seem to be an error. At any rate we know that the Tawasa, or a part of them, did seek refuge with the French. Pènicaut’s account of their coming is as follows:

In the beginning of this year [1705] a nation of savages, named the Toüachas, came to find M. de Bienville at Mobile in order to ask of him a place in which to establish itself; he indicated to them a piece of land a league and a half below the fort, where they remained while we were established at Mobile. These savages are good hunters, and they bring to us every day all kinds of game. They brought in addition to their movables, much corn with which to sow the lands which M. de Bienville had given them. They had left the Spaniards to come to live on the French soil, because they were every day exposed to the incursions of the Alibamons, and they were not supported by the Spaniards. 4

In 1710, according to the same authority, the year in which the position of the post of Mobile was changed, the Indians were relocated also, or at least some of them, and he says:

The Taouachas were also placed on the river [Mobile], adjoining the Apalaches and one league above them. They had also left the Spaniards on account of wars with the Alibamons; they are not Christians like the Apalaches, the only Christian nation which has come from the neighborhood of the Spaniards. 5

Whether due to persistent tradition regarding the early home of this tribe or to the fact that some individuals belonging to it did remain in their old country, we find a Tawasa town laid down among the Lower Creeks on several maps, as, for instance, the Purcell map (pl. 7).

It is strange that, as in the case of the Chatot, La Harpe is silent regarding the time when these people came to Mobile or the circumstances attending their coming, but there are notes in his work which attest that they were certainly there. Thus he says that “in the month of March [1707] the Parcagoules [Pascagoula] declared war on the Touacha Nation. M. de Bienville reconciled them.” 6 The 16th of the following November he notes that “some Touachas came to the fort with four scalps and a young slave of the Albika [Abihka] Nation” 7 Neither La Harpe nor Pènicaut, however, drops a hint about the time or manner of their leaving Mobile. Hamilton has the following to say of them in addition to what Pènicaut tells us:

The only mention of them noticed in the church registers is where, in 1716, Huvé baptized Marguerite, daughter of a savage, slave of Commissary Duclos, and a free Taouache woman. The godmother was Marguerite Le Sueur. What became of them we do not certainly know, but it would seem probable that as early as 1713 they had made some change of residence. The creek Toucha, emptying into Bayou Sara some distance east of Cleveland’s Station on the M. & B. R. R., or, according to some, into Mobile River at Twelve Mile Island, would seem even yet to perpetuate this location, which corresponds nearly with Delisle’s map, and one of 1744. As Touacha, it occurs a number of times in Spanish documents. 8

Hamilton’s belief that the tribe had made some change of residence as early as 1713 is evidently founded on Pènicaut’s statement that the Taensa were brought to Mobile that year and given “the plantation [habitation] where the Chaouachas [Tawasa] had formerly been located, within two leagues of our fort” 9 However, we know that this event must have taken place in the year 1715. 10

The removal of the Tawasa I believe to have been due to the establishment of Fort Toulouse, or the Alabama Fort as it is also called, at the junction of the Coosa and Tallapoosa. Pènicaut sets this down among the events of the year 1713, 11 but some of the other happenings recorded by him for the same year, such as the removal of the Taensa noted above and the outbreak of the Yamasee war, belong properly to 1715. I can not avoid the conclusion that the establishment of this post took place in the year 1715, Bienville having taken advantage of the Yamasee uprising to strengthen himself in that quarter. At any rate it must have been between 1713 and 1715, and it is an important point that just at this time the Tawasa disappear. The mention of a Tawasa in the baptismal records of 1716 need not trouble us, 8 for the woman there referred to, although free, had married a slave and probably remained behind when her people migrated to their new settlement. Their name occurs again in the French census of 1760, when two bodies are given, one settled with the Fus-hatchee Indians on the Tallapoosa, 4 leagues from Fort Toulouse, the other forming an independent body 7 leagues from that post. 12 When next we hear of them it is from Hawkins in 1799, and they are on Alabama River below the old French post, and are reckoned as one of the four towns of the Alabama Indians. 13

The fact of this removal from Mobile Bay to the upper Alabama is confirmed from the Indian side by Stiggins in giving what he supposes to be the history of all of the Alabama Indians. He says:

The first settlement we find in tracing the Alabamas (a branch of the Creek or Ispocoga tribe) is at the confluence of the Alabama River and Tensaw Lake, near the town of Stockton, in Baldwin County. Their settlements extended up the lake and river as far as Fort Mimbs; their town sites and other settlements they called Towassee, and at this time they call that extent of country Towassee Talahassee, which is Towassee Old Town. The white settlers of the place call it the Tensaw settlement. The Indians say traditionally that at the time of their residence there that they were a very rude, barbarous set of people and in a frightful state of ignorance; their missile weapons for both war and subsistence were bows and arrows made of cane and pointed with flint or bone sharpened to a point. With the same weapons they repelled their foe in time of war; in the wintertime they got their subsistence in the forest, and they made use of them to kill their fish in the shallow parts of the lakes in the summer season. They say very jocosely they consider that at this time were they to meet one of their ancestors armed in ancient manner, and dressed in full habiliment with buck-skin of his own manufacture that it would inspire them with dread to behold his savage appearance. They very often make mention of their forefathers of that age calling it the time when their ancestors made an inhuman appearance, by which we may judge that the then state of their forefathers has been handed down to them as a very rude and frightful state almost beyond conception. They do not pretend to any traditional account, when or for what they emigrated to this distance. They have a tradition that many of the inhabitants of ancient Towassee for some reason unknown to them were carried off on shipboard by the French or some other white people many years since. It must have been in consequence of said interruption when the Towassee settlement was depopulated and carried off on shipboard that the remaining part of the tribe removed up the river and made the settlements and towns Autauga and Towassee in the bend of the river below the city of Montgomery, where they resided to the close of their hostile movements in the year of eighteen hundred and thirteen. 14

From this it appears that Autauga, the Alabama town farthest downstream, was settled by the same people. 15 From the records available we learn nothing regarding the supposed deportation of part of the tribe, but it is quite likely that some members embarked on sailing vessels, or Stiggins may have confused the Natchez story with this. I have already given my own explanation of the Tawasa removal to the upper Alabama. 16 There is nothing to indicate any break in the amicable relations existing between this tribe and the French.

We may infer that their ancient occupancy of this region, as evidenced by the De Soto narratives, had something to do in determining them to return to it when Fort Toulouse was founded. And it is also probable that their language was not very distantly related to Alabama. At any rate, from this time on they followed the fortunes of the Alabama tribe. Not long after the time to which Hawkins’s description applies the Alabama divided, part moving into Louisiana to be near the French, part remaining with the English and subsequently accompanying the rest of the Creeks into what is now Oklahoma. Some of the Tawasa evidently went to Louisiana, because the name is still remembered by the descendants of that portion of the tribe and the father of one of my most intelligent informants among them was a Tawasa. The majority, however, would seem to have remained with the Creeks, since Tawasa and Autauga are the only names of Alabama towns which appear on the census roll of 1832. 17

The Pawokti Tribe

In Hawkins’s time Pawokti was the name of one of the four Alabama towns. From the resemblance between the name of the tribe and and Poúhka, one of those given on the Lamhatty map, 18 and from the fact that two other Alabama towns, Tawasa and Autauga, are known to have come from the same region, it may be suspected that the two were identical and that the Pawokti and Tawasa had had similar histories.

Hawkins’s description of the town occupied by this tribe as it existed in 1799 is given with his account of the other Alabama towns on page 197. 19Citations:

  1. Bourne, Narr. of De Soto, I, p. 85; II, p. 114. On plates 2 accompanying, Tawasa (1) and Tulsa (1) should be transposed.[]
  2. Serrano y Sans, Doc. Hist., p. 196; also Lowery, MSS.[]
  3. Amer. Anthrop., n. s. vol. x, p. 668.[]
  4. Pènicaut in Margry, v, p. 457.[]
  5. Pènicaut in Margry, v, p. 486.[]
  6. La Harpe, Jour. Hist., p. 101.[]
  7. La Harpe, Jour. Hist., p. 103.[]
  8. Hamilton, Col. Mobile, pp. 112-113.[][]
  9. Margry, Déc., v, p. 509.[]
  10. La Harpe, Jour. Hist., pp. 118-119.[]
  11. Margry, Déc., v, p. 511.[]
  12. Miss. Prov. Arch., i, pp. 94-95.[]
  13. Hawkins’s description of the Tawasa town as it existed in 1799 is given, along with descriptions of the other Alabama towns, on pp. 197-198.[]
  14. Stiggins, MS.[]
  15. Hawkins’s description of Autauga in 1799 is on p. 197.[]
  16. See Pènicaut.[]
  17. Sen. Doc. 512, 23d Cong., 1st. sess., pp. 258-259; Schoolcraft, Ind. Tribes, iv, p. 578.[]
  18. Amer. Anthrop., n. s. vol. x, p. 571.[]
  19. Ga. Hist. See. Colls., III, p. 36.[]

Swanton, John Reed. Early History of the Creek Indians and Their Neighbors. US Government Printing Office. 1902.

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