Acolapissa Indians

Acolapissa Tribe: Meaning “those who listen and see,” indicating possibly “borderers” or “scouts.” Also called:

  • Aquelou pissas, by Le Page du Pratz (1758, 2: 219).
  • Cenepisa, by La Salle (in Margry, 1875-86,1: 564).
  • Colapissas, in 1699 by Penicaut (in French, 1869, p. 38).
  • Coulapissas, in 1700 by Sauvole (in Margry 1875-86, 4: 462).
  • Equinipichas, by Sauvole (in French, 1851, 3: 225).
  • Kinipissa, by Tonti (in Margry, 1875-86; 1: 604).
  • Kolapissas, in 1700 by Gravier (in French, 1875, p. 88).

Acolapissa Connections. The Acolapissa belonged to the Muskhogean linguistic family and evidently spoke a language closely related to Choctaw and Chickasaw. They may have been more intimately connected with the Napissa who united with the Chickasaw and who were perhaps identical with the Napochi of De Luna, but their closest relatives were the Tangipahoa.

Acolapissa Location. Their earliest known location was on Pearl River about 11 miles above its mouth. (See also Mississippi.)

Acolapissa Villages. Iberville was told that they consisted of six villages and that the Tangipahoa constituted a seventh, but we treat the latter separately, and the names of the six are not given.

Acolapissa History. The Acolapissa are not mentioned among the tribes that came to Iberville in 1699 to form an alliance with him, but after his departure for France, Bienville visited them and was well received, although at first they were terrified because of a slave raid made upon them 2 days before by the English and Chickasaw. In 1702 (or 1705) on the north they moved from Pearl River and settled on a bayou on the north side of Lake Pontchartrain called “Castembayouque (now Castine Bayou). Six months later the Natchitoches Indians descended to the French fort on the Mississippi from their town on Red River to ask assistance from St. Denis, the commandant there, because of the ruin of their crops. St. Denis sent them under the charge of Pénicaut to the Acolapissa, who welcomed them and assigned a place for them to settle close to their own village. Late in 1713 or early in 1714 St. Denis, who had received a commission to proceed to Texas to examine the Spanish settlements, sent for the Natchitoches intending to reestablish them in their former seats, but upon hearing of this project the Acolapissa fell upon them and killed and captured a considerable number. In 1718, according to Pénicaut, but in any case before 1722, they moved over to the Mississippi River and settled on the east side 13 leagues from New Orleans. In 1739 they constituted practically one settlement with the Bayogoula and Houma, with whom they finally merged. Their later history is one with that of the Houma.

Acolapissa Population. Mooney (1928) estimated that in 1650 the population of the Acolapissa and the Tangipahoa together was 1,500. My own calculation as of 1698 is 1,050, based on La Harpe’s (1831) estimate of 300 Acolapissa warriors in 1699 and Iberville ‘s estimate of 250 families 3 years later. In 1722 Charlevoix states that there were 200 warriors and in 1739 there are said to have been of the Acolapissa, Houma and Bayogoula together 90 to 100 warriors of and 270 to 300 people exclusive of children.

Swanton, John R. The Indian Tribes of North America. Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 145. Washington DC: US Government Printing Office. 1953.

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