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Chitimacha Indian Fact Sheet

Native American Facts For Kids was written for young people learning about the Chitimachas for school or home-schooling reports. We encourage students and teachers to visit our Chitimacha Indian pages for more in-depth information about the tribe, but here are our answers to the questions we are most often asked by children, with Chitimacha pictures and links we believe are suitable for all ages.

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    Chitimacha Tribe

How do you pronounce "Chitimacha"? What does it mean?
In English, Chitimacha is pronounced "chih-tih-mah-chuh." In French, it was pronounced "shee-tee-mah-shah." Nobody knows for sure where this name came from. It may have been an English or French corruption of the a Choctaw word for "cooking pots" or a Chitimacha word referring to Grand River. The Chitimachas called themselves Pántch Pinunkansh which meant "thoroughly red people."

Where do the Chitimacha Indians live?
The Chitimachas are original people of Louisiana, particurly the southern coast. Most Chitimacha people still live there today.

How is the Chitimacha Indian nation organized?
The Chitimachas have their own reservation, which is land that belongs to them and is under their control. The Chitimacha tribe has its own government, laws, police, and other services, like a small country. However, the Chitimachas are also US citizens and must obey American law.

In the past, each Chitimacha village was led by a hereditary chief. Today, the Chitimachas are governed by a tribal council elected by the people.

What language do the Chitimachas speak?
Most Chitimacha people speak English today. Some Chitimachas, especially older people, speak a Cajun French dialect. In the past, Chitimacha Indians spoke their own Chitimacha language. The Chitimacha Indian language has not been spoken by the community since the early 1900's, but today some Chitimacha people are working to learn their ancestral language again. If you'd like to know an easy Chitimacha word, "waxtuygi" (pronounced similar to wash-too-gee) is a friendly greeting. You can read a Chitimacha picture glossary here.

What was Chitimacha culture like in the past? What is it like now?
Here is a link to the Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana, where you can learn about the Chitimacha people past and present.

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How do Chitimacha Indian children live, and what did they do in the past?
They do the same things all children do--play with each other, go to school and help around the house. Many Chitimacha children like to go hunting and fishing with their fathers. In the past, Indian kids had more chores and less time to play, just like colonial children. But they did have dolls, toys and games to play with. Chunkey and stickball were popular sports among teenage boys as they were among adult men. Chitimacha mothers, like many Native Americans, traditionally carried their babies in cradleboards on their backs. Here are some pictures of Native American baby boards. now.

What were men and women's roles in the Chitimacha tribe?
Chitimacha Indian men were hunters and sometimes went to war to protect their families. Chitimacha 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. Most Chitimacha chiefs and religious leaders were men, but there were some women who held those positions too.

What were Chitimacha homes like in the past?
The Chitimacha people lived in villages of single-family houses arranged around a town square. Chitimacha houses were made of wood and plaster walls with thatched roofs. Here is a website about Indian building types. Some Chitimacha villages had palisades (reinforced walls) around them, to guard against attack. Today, the Chitimachas live in modern houses and apartment buildings, just like you.

What was Chitimacha clothing like? Did they wear feather headdresses and face paint?
Chitimacha men wore breechcloths and leather leggings. Chitimacha women wore wraparound skirts made of deerskin or woven fiber. Shirts were not necessary in Chitimacha culture, but men and women both wore mantles in cooler weather. The Chitimachas also wore mocasins on their feet. Here are some more photographs and links about Indian clothes in general.

The Chitimachas didn't wear Indian war bonnets like the Sioux. Some Chitimacha warriors wore porcupine roaches and shaved their heads in the Mohawk hairstyle. Other Chitimacha men wore their hair long, like the women. The Chitimachas didn't usually paint their faces, but they did decorate their bodies with tattoo art. Both men and women wore tattoos in the Chitimacha tribe.

Today, some Chitimacha 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.

What was Chitimacha transportation like in the days before cars? Did the Chitimachas paddle canoes?
Yes--the Chitimacha Indians made long dugout canoes from hollowed-out cypress logs. Here is an article with pictures of Indian boat styles. Over land, the Chitimachas used dogs as pack animals. (There were no horses in North America until colonists brought them over from Europe.) Today, of course, Chitimacha people also use cars... and non-native people also use canoes.

What was Chitimacha food like in the days before supermarkets?
The Chitimacha Indians were farming people. Chitimacha women harvested crops of corn, beans, sweet potatoes, and squash. Chitimacha men hunted and fished for deer, wild turkeys, alligators, and all kinds of seafood. Here is a website with more information about American Indians food.

What were Chitimacha weapons and tools like in the past?
Chitimacha hunters used bows and arrows or blowguns. Fishermen used nets, traps, or hooks made of bone. In war, Chitimacha men fired their bows or fought with war clubs. Here is a website with pictures and more information about the Indian war club.

What are Chitimacha arts and crafts like?
The Chitimachas were known for their American Indian pottery and baskets made from rivercane.

What other Native Americans did the Chitimacha tribe interact with?
The Chitimachas traded regularly with the other tribes of the southeast, especially the Atakapa and Houma tribes. The Chitimachas weren't known for fighting with other Indian tribes much, but they did sometimes skirmish with the Natchez bands.

What kinds of stories do the Chitimachas tell?
There are many traditional Chitimacha legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the Chitimacha Indian culture. Here is a legend about the formation of the Bayou Teche. Here's a website where you can read more about Chitimacha legends.

What about Chitimacha religion?
Spirituality and religion were important parts of Chitimacha life, and some people continue to practice traditional beliefs today. It is respectful to avoid imitating religious rituals for school projects since some Native American people care about them deeply. You can read and learn about them, however. You can visit this site to learn more about Chitimacha sun worship or this site about Indian belief in general.

Can you recommend a good book for me to read?
You may enjoy Louisiana Indian Tales, a collection of traditional myths from several Louisiana tribes including the Chitimachas. Or Martin's Quest is a kids' novel you might like about a boy who learns about his Chitimacha and Cajun heritage. If you're looking for more information about Chitimacha culture and history, one good source is The Chitimacha People. You can also browse through our reading list of the best Indian books in general. Disclaimer: we are an Amazon affiliate and our website earns a commission if you buy a book through one of these links. Most of them can also be found in a public library, though!

How do I cite your website in my bibliography?
You will need to ask your teacher for the format he or she wants you to use. The authors' names are Laura Redish and Orrin Lewis and the title of our site is Native Languages of the Americas. We are a nonprofit educational organization working to preserve and protect Native American languages and culture. You can learn more about our organization here. Our website was first created in 1998 and last updated in 2020.

Thanks for your interest in the Chitimacha Indian people and their language!

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Learn More About The Chitimachas

Chitimacha Indian Tribe
An overview of the Chitimacha people, their language and history.

Chitamacha Language Resources
Chitimacha Indian language samples, articles, and indexed links.

Chitimacha Culture and History Directory
Related links about the Chitimacha tribe past and present.

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