Chitimacha Tribe: Perhaps derived from the name of Grand River in the native tongue, which was Sheti, though Gatschet (1883) interprets it through the Choctaw language as meaning “those who have pots.”
Chitimacha Connections. The Chitimacha have given their name to a group of languages under the Tunican linguistic stock, including also the Chawasha and Washa.
Chitimacha Location. On Grand River, Grand Lake, and the lower course of Bayou La Teche.
The earliest French writers couple with this tribe the name of a tribe or supposed tribe called Yakna-Chitto, “Big Earth,” but it is not known whether they were a part of the Chitimacha or an entirely independent people. In later times the Chitimacha were drawn into two unnamed subdivisions, one near the upper end of Bayou La Fourche and the other on Grand Lake. Following are the known villages:
- Ama’tpan na’mu, two villages:
- 3 miles east of Charenton on Bayou Teche.
- On the east side of Grand Lake opposite Charenton.
- Grosse Tête na’mu, 2 miles from the village at Plaquemine.
- Hi’pinimsh na’mu, at the Fausse Pointe in the western part of Grand Lake, near Bayou Gosselin.
- Ka’me naksh teat na’mu, at Bayou du Plomb, near Bayou Chêne, 18 miles north of Charenton.
- Ku’shuh na’mu, on Lake Mingaluak, near Bayou Chene.
- Na’mu ka’tsi, the Bayou Chene village, St. Martin’s Parish.
- Ne’kun tsi’snis, opposite Ile aux Oiseaux, in the Lac de la Fausse Pointe.
- Ne Pinu’nsh, on Bayou Teche, 2 miles west of Charenton.
- Oku’nkiskin, probably at some sharp bend on Bayou La Teche judging from their name.
- Shatshnish, at Jeanerette.
- She’ti na’mu, on Grand River west of Plaquemine.
- Sho’ktangi ha’ne hetci’nsh, on the south side of Caine à Volée Inlet, Grand Lake
- Tca’ti kuti’ngi na’mu, at the junction of Bayou Teche with the Atchafalaya Bayou.
- Teat kasi’tunshki, on the site of Charenton.
- Tsa’htsinshup na’mu, the Plaquemine village, on Bayou des Plaquemines near Grand River.
- Waitinimsh, at Irish Bend near Franklin.
There are said to have been others at the shell bank on the shore of Grand Lake, close to Charenton, and at a place called “Bitlarouges.”
Iberville made an alliance with the Chitimacha in 1699, shortly after his arrival in the present Louisiana. In August 1706, the Taensa captured some Chitimacha by treachery and enslaved them, and later the same year a Chitimacha war partly killed St. Cosme, missionary to the Natchez, and three other Frenchmen encamped with him. War followed between the Chitimacha on one hand and the French and their Indian allies on the other, which dragged along until 1718. The Chitimacha suffered severely during these 12 years and this war was responsible for the fact that in the early days of the Louisiana colony the greater part of the Indian slaves were Chitimacha. By the terms of the peace concluded in 1718, the Chitimacha agreed to settle at a designated spot upon the Mississippi, not far from the present Plaquemine. This, they or rather the eastern portion of them, did in 1719. In 1739 they seem to have been farther down, near the head of Bayou La Fourche. In 1784 one village is reported on Bayou La Fourche and two on the Teche. By 1881 the only survivors were near Charenton, where they occupied a small part of what had once been a considerable reservation. In that year and the year following Dr. A. S. Gatschet of the Bureau of American Ethnology collected from them a considerable body of linguistic material and some ethnological information. (See Gatschet, 1883.) Descendants of the tribe, mostly mixed-bloods, occupy the same section at the present time, but the Plaquemine band has disappeared.
Chitimacha Population. Mooney (1928) estimated that in 1650 the Chitimacha numbered 3,000 souls. The present writer allowed 750 warriors to the tribe in 1698, based on Beaurain’s estimate of 700-800 in 1699, which would mean about 2,625 souls. In 1758 the Mississippi band counted only about 80 warriors and in 1784 Hutchins gives 27. The size of the western band is nowhere indicated separately but the census of 1910 gives 69 for the entire tribe, 19 of whom were then at school in Pennsylvania. In 1930, 51 were returned.
Connection in which they have become noted. The Chitimacha were the most powerful tribe of the northern Gulf coast west of Florida in United States territory. They also attained prominence in early Louisiana history on account of their long war with the French and the number of Chitimacha slaves in colonial families arising from that fact. The survivors are noteworthy as the best basket makers in the whole Gulf region.