THE COUSHATTA PEOPLE

Koasati, pronounced "koh-uh-sah-tee" comes from the people's own tribal name, Kowassati, which means "white cane people." Coushatta (pronounced koo-shah-tuh) is an English version of the same name. Koasati is a more accurate spelling, but Coushatta is more commonly used today. The Coushattas are original residents of the American southeast, particularly Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee. When Europeans began settling in their homelands, the Coushatta tribe was pushed westward, into Louisiana and Texas. That is where most Coushatta people live today. The Koasati tribe in Louisiana has independent leadership and govern themselves which is different than the Texas Alabama and Coushatta tribe. In Texas, the Alabama and Coushatta tribes share a single reservation which is land that belongs to the tribes and are legally under their control. Today, the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe is governed by a joint council, with elected council members that come from both tribes.

Coushatta men were hunters and sometimes went to war to protect their families. Coushatta women were farmers and also did most of the child care and cooking. Both genders took part in storytelling, artwork and music, and traditional medicine. In the past, the chief was always a man, but today a Coushatta woman can participate in government also.

Coushatta Indians didn't wear long headdresses like the Sioux. Coushatta men often shaved their heads except for a single scalplock, and sometimes they would also wear a porcupine roach. (These headdresses were made of porcupine hair, not their sharp quills!) Coushatta women usually wore their long hair bundled into two clubs or tied up in a bun. Both genders painted their faces for special occasions. They used different patterns for war paint, religious ceremonies, and festive decoration. Sometimes the Coushattas also wore tribal tattoos. Today, some Coushatta people still wear moccasins or a ribbon shirt, but they wear modern clothes like jeans instead of breechcloths... and they only wear roaches in their hair on special occasions like a dance.

The Coushatta Indians lived in settled villages of houses and small farm plots. Coushatta houses had plaster and rivercane walls with thatched roofs. The Coushattas also built larger circular buildings for town meetings, and most villages had a lacrosse field with benches for spectators. A Coushatta village was usually palisaded (surrounded with reinforced walls) to guard against attack.

The Coushatta Indians also made dugout canoes from hollowed-out logs. When they were travelling, though, Coushatta people usually walked overland. There were no horses in North America until colonists brought them over from Europe, so the Coushattas used dogs to help them carry their belongings over land.

The Coushattas traded regularly with all the other Southeast Native Americans. These tribes communicated using a simplified trade language called Mobilian Jargon. The most important Coushatta neighbors were the Alabama Indians. The Alabamas and the Coushattas were close allies, and many of them still live together today.