Mosopelea Indians

Mosopelea Tribe: Significance uncertain, though probably from an Algonquian language. Also called:

  • Chonque, by Tonti in 1690, probably the Quapaw name.
  • Ofo, own name, perhaps an abbreviation of the Mobilian term, Ofogoula, though this last may mean simply “Ofo people.”
  • Ofogoula may also be interpreted Ofi okla, “Dog People.”
  • Ouesperie, Ossipe, Ushpee, names by which they were known to other tribes and evidently shortened forms of Mosopelea.

Mosopelea Connections. The Mosopelea spoke a Siouan dialect most closely related to Biloxi and Tutelo and secondarily to Dakota.

Mosopelea Location. When the French first heard of them, they were in southwestern Ohio, but their best-known historical location was on the lower Yazoo, close to the Yazoo and Koroa Indians. (See also Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee.)

Mosopelea Villages. Anciently they had eight villages, but none of the names of these have been preserved.

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Mosopelea History. After abandoning southwestern Ohio some time before 1673, the Mosopelea appear to have settled on the Cumberland, driven thither probably by the Iroquois, and to have given it the name it bears in Coxe’s map (1741), Ouesperie, a corruption of Mosopelea. By 1673 they had descended to the Mississippi and established themselves on its western side below the mouth of the Ohio. Later they appear to have stopped for a time among the Quapaw, but before 1686 at least part of them had sought refuge among the Taensa. Their reason for leaving the latter tribe is unknown, but Iberville found them in the historic location above given in 1699. He inserts their name twice, once in the form Ofogoula and once as “Ouispe,” probably a corruption of Mosopelea. When their neighbors, the Yazoo and Koroa, joined in the Natchez uprising, the Ofo refused to side with them and went to live with the Tunica, who were French allies. Shortly before 1739 they had settled close to Fort Rosalie, where they remained until after 1758. In 1784 their village was on the western bank of the Mississippi 8 miles above Point Coupée, but nothing more was heard of them until 1908, when I found a single survivor living among the Tunica just out of Marksville, Lousiana, and was able to establish their linguistic connections.

Mosopelea Population. In 1700 the Mosopelea are said to have occupied 10-12 cabins, but some years later Le Page du Pratz (1758) gives 60. In 1758 they are reported to have had 15 warriors and in 1784, 12.

Connection in which they have become noted. The most noteworthy circumstance connected with this tribe is its romantic history and the recovery of the knowledge of the same.

Mosopelea, Siouan,

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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