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Houma Indian Fact Sheet

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




    Houma Tribe

How do you pronounce the word "Houma"? What does it mean?
Houma is pronounced "hoo-mah." It may have come from the word homma, which means "red" in their own language, or it may have been a corrupted form of the band name Chakchiuma.

Where do the Houmas live?
The Houmas are original people of Mississippi and Louisiana. Most Houma people today live either in Louisiana or in Oklahoma with their kinfolk the Choctaws.

How is the Houma Indian nation organized?
The Houma tribe is not federally recognized by the United States. That means Houma people in the US don't have a reservation. They do have an elected tribal council, but it is unofficial as far as the US government is concerned.

What language do the Houmas speak?
Most Houma people speak French as their first language. Many also speak English. In the past, Houma Indians spoke their own Houma language, which most linguists consider to be a dialect of Choctaw. The Houma dialect has not been spoken since the early 1900's, but some Houma people are trying to learn their ancestral language again. You can read a comparison of Houma and standard Choctaw vocabulary words here.

What was Houma culture like in the past? What is it like now?
Here is a link to the United Houma Nation, where you can learn about the Houma people past and present.

How do Houma 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 Houma 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 toys and games to play with, such as palmetto dolls. Stickball and chunkey were popular sports among teenage boys as they were among adult men. Houma mothers, like many Native Americans, carried their babies in cradleboards on their backs. Here is a website with Native cradleboard pictures.

What were men and women's roles in the Houma tribe?
Houma men were hunters and fishermen, and sometimes they went to war to protect their families. Houma 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. Houma chiefs were usually men, but some Houma women have been chiefs as well.

What were Houma homes like in the past?
The Houma people lived in villages of single-family houses and small cornfields. Houma homes were made of plaster and rivercane walls, with thatched roofs. Today, Houmas live in modern houses and apartment buildings, just like you.

What was Houma clothing like? Did they wear feather headdresses and face paint?
Houma men wore breechcloths. Houma women wore wraparound skirts made of deerskin or woven fiber. Shirts were not necessary in Houma culture, but men and women both wore poncho-style capes in cool weather. The Houmas also wore moccasins on their feet. Here are some photographs and links about native costume in general.

The Houmas didn't wear feathered headdresses like the Sioux. Houma men and women both wore their hair long. The Houmas often painted their faces and bodies bright colors during battles, lacrosse games, and festivals. Some Houma men also wore tribal tattoos on their arms and legs.

Today, some Houma people still wear moccasins, 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 Houma transportation like in the days before cars? Did they paddle canoes?
Yes, the Houma Indians made dugout canoes from hollowed-out logs. Here is a website about Native American canoe styles. Over land, the Houmas used dogs as pack animals. (There were no horses in North America until colonists brought them over from Europe.) Today, of course, Houma people also use cars... and non-native people also use canoes.

What was Houma food like in the days before supermarkets?
The Houma were farming people. Houma women harvested crops of corn, beans, and squash. Houma men hunted for wild turkeys and small game and went fishing and shrimping in their canoes. The Houmas also enjoyed sassafrass tea. Here is a website with more information about Indian food.

What were Houma weapons and tools like in the past?
Houma hunters usually used blowguns. Fishermen used spears, nets, and traps. In war, Houma men fought with bows and arrows or war clubs. Here is a website with pictures and information about weapons used by Native Americans.

What are Houma arts and crafts like?
The Houmas were known for their Native American woodcarvings and palmetto baskets.

What other Native Americans did the Houma tribe interact with?
The Houmas traded regularly with all the other Southeast Native Americans. These tribes communicated using a simplified trade language called Mobilian Jargon. The most important allies of the Houma tribe were the Choctaws and Chitimachas. The Houmas weren't known for fighting with their neighbors much, but the Tunica tribe frequently attacked them in the early 1700's.

What kinds of stories do the Houmas tell?
There are lots of traditional Houma legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the Houma Indian culture. Here is a story told by both the Houmas and the Choctaws about the origin of fire.

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 Houmas. I don't know of any kids' books specifically about the Houma tribe, but a good reference book about the Choctaw tribe is Choctaw Lifeways--the Houma culture is very similar to the Choctaws. You can also browse through our reading list of recommended American Indian books in general.

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 2013.

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

Learn More About The Houmas

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

Houma Language Resources
Houma language samples, articles, and indexed links.

Houma Culture and History Directory
Related links about the Houma people past and present.

Houma Words
Houma Indian vocabulary lists.



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