Opelousa Tribe

Opelousa Indians (probably ‘black above’, i. e. ‘black hair’ or ‘black skull’). A small tribe formerly living in south Louisiana. It is probable that they were identical with the Onquilouzas of La Harps, spoken of in 1699 as allied with the Washa and Chaouacha, wandering near the seacoasts, and numbering with those two tribes 200 men. This would indicate a more southerly position than that in which they are afterward found, and Du Pratz, whose information applies to the years between 1718 and 1730, locates the Oqué-Loussas, evidently the same people, westward and above Pointe Coupée, rather too far to the north. He says that they inhabited the shores of two little lakes which appeared black from the quantity of leaves which covered their bottoms, and received their name, which means ‘Black-water people’ in Mobilian, from this circumstance. If these were the same as the Opelousas of all later writers it is difficult to understand how the change in name came about, but it is not likely that two tribes with such similar designations occupied the same region, especially as both are never mentioned by one author. When settlers began to push westward from the Mississippi, the district occupied by this tribe came to be called after them, and the name is still retained by the parish seat of St Landry. Of their later history little information can be gathered, but it would seem from the frequency with which this name is coupled with that of the Attacapa that they were closely related to that people. This is also the opinion of those Chitimacha and Attacapa who remember having heard the tribe spoken of, and is partially confirmed by Sibley, who states that they understood Attacapa although having a language of their own. It is most probable that their proper language, referred to by Sibley, was nothing more than an Attacapa dialect, though it is now impossible to tell how closely the two resembled each other.

In 1777 Attacapa and Opelousa are referred to at the mouth of the Sabine river 1 , but the latter are usually located in the south part of St Landry Parish, Sibley stating that in 1806 their village was “about 15 miles from the Appelousa church.” At that time they numbered about 40 men, but they have since disappeared completely, owing to the invasion of the whites and the Muskhogean Indians from east of the Mississippi.Citations:

  1. Boltonin, Tex. Hist. Assn. Quar., ix, 11718, 1905[]


Hodge, Frederick Webb, Compiler. The Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Bureau of American Ethnology, Government Printing Office. 1906.

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