History of the Bayou Lacomb Choctaws

Unfortunately very little is known of the history of the people of whom this paper treats.

The earliest writers, as well as the oldest maps of the region, designate the Ncolapissa as the tribe occupying the region now included within the limits of St. Tammany parish, at the time of the discovery and settlement of lower Louisiana by the French.

The Acolapissa were so closely connected with the Choctaw proper that it is not possible now to distinguish between them. They spoke the same language, probably with only slight local variations. Their manners and customs, in all probability, were similar to a great extent.

One of the earliest definite references to the region is contained in the Relation of Pénicauta 1 , a touching on a period when there was a general movement among the Southern tribes. It is stated thus:

At this same time [1705] the Colapissas, who dwelt on a little river called Talcateha, four leagues distant from the shore of Lake Pontchartrain, went to live on its banks at the place named Castembayouque.

The river “Talcatcha “is the present Pearl river, and, as will be seen, the distance of the “Colapissas” village up the river from Lake Pontchartrain is the same as that of the present Choctaw settlement. The Choctaw name of their own settlement is Hatcha, a name applied also to Pearl river. This name is clearly a contraction of the word Talcatcha recorded by Pénicaut.

Moving from Pearl river about the year 1705, the “Colapissas” went to “Castembayouque.” Here, again, is a name similar to the present Choctaw designation of a bayou a few miles west of Bayou Lacomb. On the maps this is now designated Castine bayou; but to the Choctaw it is still known as Caste bayou, caste being the Choctaw word for “flea;” the bayou, they say, is thus named on account of tile large number of fleas found near its mouth and on its banks.

On the Ross map of 1765, the site of an old town of the ‘Colapissas” is indicated near the mouth of Pearl river, evidently too far south. West of Pearl river, on the same map, is “Kefonctei R,” the present Chefuncte river (from the Choctaw word for “chinkapin”). The short stream entering Lake Pontchartrain between the two rivers is evidently intended to represent Bayou Lacomb, as the location is correct.

The next river westward on the Ross map is the “Tanzipao,” the present Tangipahoa, flowing through the parish of the same name, which bounds St. Tammany parish on the west. The name is derived from the two Choctaw words, tonche, “corn,” and pahoha, “cob” or “inside;” it was literally translated by them “corncob.”

During his extended tour through the southern part of the country Bartram traversed Lake Pontchartrain, to which he makes the following reference 2 :

Next day [circa June, 1777] early we got under way, pursuing our former course nearly Westward; keeping the North shore [of Pontchartrain] several leagues…..[we] set sail again, and came up to the mouth of the beautiful Taensapaoa, which takes that name from a nation of Indians, who formerly possessed the territories lying on its banks, which are fertile and delightful regions.

The identity of the Tangipahoa tribe has not been clearly established, although there is no question that they belonged to the same linguistic stock as the Acolapissa and the Choctaw; all were practically the same people, and they may even have constituted one of the component bands of the Acolapissa. They are said to have been destroyed about the time of the arrival of the French in lower Louisiana. 3 Until a few years ago more than one hundred Choctaw lived in the vicinity of Bayou Lacomb, Bayou Castine, and near the Chefuncte river; but by act of Congress of July 1,1902, they were persuaded to remove to the Indian Territory and receive an allotment of land. The settlement on Bayou Castine, not far east of Mandeville, may have been on the site of the village of the “Cola­pissas” on “Castembayouque,” mentioned by Pénicaut.

From this brief sketch it will be seen that ever since the discovery of that part of Louisiana by the French, the northern shore of Lake Pontchartrain has been occupied by tribes of the Muskhogean stock. At the present time it is not possible to determine whether the Indians living at Bayou Lacomb are descendants of the Acolapissa, or whether they represent a small offshoot from the main Choctaw tribe. According to the beliefs and statements of these Indians, their ancestors lived in that place for many generations. The present inhabitants know the locations of, and point out, their ancient bury­ing grounds, where, they say, the “old people” for five or six gen­erations are known to have been interred. It is not at all improb­able that the present Indians are Acolapissa rather than Choctaw; then again, they may represent both tribes. The Choctaw villages were probably never far distant from some of those belonging to the Acolapissa. and, as all spoke the same language, there must have been considerable intercourse between them.

As has been shown, one people has occupied the area under con­sideration ever since it became known to the European; consequently it is reasonable to attribute to the same tribes the prehistoric remains found in that locality, none of which, however, gives evidence of great antiquity.Citations:

  1. Margry, Découvertes, v, 459, Paris, 1883.[]
  2. William Bartram, Travels through North and South Carolina, etc., 422, London, 1792.[]
  3. Dr. J. R. Swanton, in forthcoming Bulletin 43 of the Bureau of American Ethnology, Indian Tribes of the Lower Mississippi Valley and Northern Coast of the Gulf of Mexico, gives a description of the tribes and the history, so far as known, of their movements.[]

Choctaw, History,

Bushnell, David I., Jr. The Choctaw of Bayou Lacomb, St Tammay Parish Louisiana. Washington Government Printing Office. 1909.

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