Alabama Tribe. Perhaps connected with the native word “albina,” meaning “to camp,” or alba amo, “weed gatherer,” referring to the black drink. Also called:
- Ma’-mo an-ya -di, or Ma’-mo han-ya, by the Biloxi.
- Oke-choy-atte, given by Schoolcraft (1851-57), the name of an Alabama town, Oktcaiutci.
Alabama Connections: The Alabama language belonged to the southern division of the Muskhogean stock, and was perhaps connected with the tongues of the Muklasa and Tuskegee, which have not been preserved. It was closely related to Koasati and more remotely to Hitchiti and Choctaw.
Alabama Subdivisions: The Tawasa and Pawokti, which later formed two Alabama towns in Florida, were originally independent tribes, though the former, at least, was not properly Alabama. The same may have been true of some other Alabama towns, though we have no proof of the fact.
Besides Tawasa and Pawokti above:
- Autauga, on the north bank of Alabama River about the mouth of Autauga Creek in Autauga County.
- Kantcati, on Alabama River about 3 miles above Montgomery and on the same side.
- Nitahauritz, on the north side of Alabama River west of the confluence of the Alabama and Cahawba Rivers in Dallas County.
- Okchayutci, in Benjamin Hawkins’ time (about 1800) on the east bank of Coosa River between Tuskegee and the Muskogee town of Otciapofa. (See Hawkins, 1848, 1916.)
- Wetumpka, a branch village reported in 1761.
Alabama History: Native tradition assigns the origin of the Alabama to a point at the confluence of Alabama and Tombigbee Rivers, but we seem to hear of the tribe first historically in what is now northern Mississippi west of the Chickasaw country. This is in the narratives of De Soto’s chroniclers, which, however, do not altogether agree, since one writer speaks of a province of the name, two others bestow the designation upon a small village, and only Garcilaso (1723), the least reliable, gives the title Fort Alibamo to a stockade-west of the village above mentioned, where the Spaniards had a severe combat. While this stockade was probably held by Alabama Indians, there is no certainty that it was. The next we hear of the tribe it is in its historic seats above given. After the French had established themselves at Mobile they became embroiled in some small affrays between the Alabama and Mobile Indians, but peace was presently established and thereafter the French and Alabama remained good friends as long as French rule continued. This friendship was cemented in 1717 by the establishment of Fort Toulouse in the Alabama country and the admission among them of one, or probably two, refugee tribes, the Tawasa and Pawokti. About 1763 a movement toward the west began on the part of those Indians who had become accustomed to French rule. Some Alabama joined the Seminole in Florida. Others accompanied the Koasati to Tombigbee River but soon returned to their own country. Still another body went to Louisiana and settled on the banks of the Mississippi River, where they were probably joined from time to time by more. Later they advanced further toward the west and some are still scattered in St. Landry and Calcasieu Parishes, but the greatest single body finally reached Polk County, Texas, where they occupy a piece of land set aside for them by the State. Those who remained behind took a very prominent part in the Creek-American War and lost all their land by the treaty of Fort Jackson, 1814, being obliged to make new settlements between the Coosa and Tallapoosa rivers. They accompanied the rest of the Creeks to Oklahoma, and their descendants are to be found there today, principally about a little station bearing the name just south of Weleetka.
Alabama Population: In 1702 Iberville (in Margry, 1875-86, vol. 4, p. 514) estimated that there were 400 families of Alabama in two villages, and the English census of 1715 gives 214 men and a total population of 770 in four villages. These figures must have been exclusive of the Tawasa and Pawokti, which subsequent estimates include. About 1730-40 there is an estimate of 400 men in six towns. In 1792 the number of Alabama men is given as 60, exclusive of 60 Tawasa, but as this last included Kantcati the actual proportion of true Alabama was considerably greater. Hawkins, in 1799, estimated 80 gunmen in four Alabama towns, including Tawasa and Pawokti, but he does not include the population of Okchaiyutci. (See Hawkins, 1848.) In 1832 only two towns are entered which may be safely set down as Alabama, Tawasa and Autauga, and these had a population of 321 besides 21 slaves. The later figures given above do not include those Alabama who had moved to Louisiana. In 1805 Sibley (1832) states there were two villages in Louisiana with 70 men; in 1817 Morse (1822) gives 160 Alabama all told in Texas, but this is probably short of the truth. In 1882 the United States Indian Office reported 290 Alabama, Koasati, and Muskogee in Texas, the larger number of whom were probably Alabama. In 1900 the figure is raised to 470. In 1910 a special agent from the Indian Office reported 192 Alabama alone. The census of 1910 gave 187 in Texas and 111 in Louisiana, a total of 298. The 176 “Creek” Indians returned from Polk County, Tex., in 1930, were mainly Alabama. The number of Alabama in Oklahoma has never been separately reported.
Connection in which they have become noted: The Alabama attained early literary fame from Garcilaso de la Vega’s (1723) description of the storming of “Fort Alibamo.” Their later notoriety has rested upon the fact that their name became attached to Alabama River, and still more from its subsequent adoption by the State of Alabama. A railroad station in Oklahoma is named after them, and the term has been applied to places in Genesee County, N. Y., and in Polk County, Wis. There is an Alabama City in Etowah County, Ala., and Alabam in Madison County, Ark.