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Koasati/Coushatta Indian Fact Sheet

Native American Facts For Kids was written for young people learning about the Coushattas for school or home-schooling reports. We encourage students and teachers to visit our Koasati language and culture 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 Koasati pictures and links we believe are suitable for all ages.




    Koasati Tribe

How do you pronounce the word "Koasati"? What does it mean?
Koasati is pronounced koh-uh-sah-tee. It comes from the people's own tribal name, Kowassati, which means "white cane people." Coushatta (pronounced koo-shah-tuh) is another English version of the same name. Koasati is a more accurate spelling, but Coushatta is more commonly used today.

Where do the Coushattas live?
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.

How is the Coushatta Indian nation organized?
In Texas, the Alabama and Coushatta tribes share a single reservation. Reservations are lands that belong to the tribes and are legally under their control. In the past, each Koasati band was ruled by a chief called a miko, and the Alabamas and Koasatis had separate leadership. Today, the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe is governed by a joint council, with elected council members that come from both tribes. There is also a second Koasati tribe in Louisiana which has independent leadership from the Texas tribe.

What language do the Coushattas speak?
Most Coushatta people speak English today, but some people, especially in Louisiana, also speak their native Koasati language. If you'd like to know some Koasati words, Cik'n (pronounced chee-kah-noh) is a friendly greeting and al:la m (pronounced ah-lee-lah monh) means 'thank you.' You can also read this picture glossary of Koasati Indian words.

What was Coushatta culture like in the past? What is it like now?
Here is a link to the home page of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas, where you can learn about the Coushatta Indians past and present.

How do Coushatta 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 Coushatta 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 beaded dolls, toys and games to play with. Lacrosse was a popular sport among teenage boys as it was among adult men. Coushatta mothers, like many Native Americans, traditionally carried their babies in cradleboards on their backs. Here is a website with Native American cradle pictures.

What were men and women's jobs in the Coushatta tribe?
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.

What were Coushatta homes like in the past?
The Coushatta Indians lived in settled villages of houses and small farm plots. Coushatta houses had plaster and rivercane walls with thatched roofs. Here are some pictures of Indian houses like the ones Coushatta Indians used. 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. Today, Coushatta people live in modern houses and apartment buildings, just like you.

What was Coushatta clothing like? Did they wear feather headdresses and face paint?
Coushatta men wore breechclouts, sometimes with leggings to protect their legs. Coushatta women wore wraparound skirts. Shirts were not necessary in Coushatta culture, but men and women both wore poncho-style blouses in cool weather. The Coushattas also wore moccasins on their feet. In colonial times, the Coushattas adapted European costume such as waistcoats and full skirts. Here is a webpage with pictures of traditional Coushatta dress, and here are some photographs and links about Indian clothes in general.

Coushatta Indians didn't wear Native American war bonnets 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. Here is a website with pictures of American Indian hair. 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.

What was Coushatta transportation like in the days before cars? Did they paddle canoes?
Yes--the Coushatta Indians made dugout canoes from hollowed-out logs. Here is a website about different types of Native boats. 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. Today, of course, Coushatta people also use cars... and non-native people also use canoes.

What was Coushatta food like in the days before supermarkets?
The Coushattas were farming people. Coushatta women did most of the farming, harvesting crops of corn, beans, squash, and sunflowers. Coushatta men did most of the hunting, shooting deer, wild turkeys, and small game and fishing in the rivers and along the coast. Coushatta dishes included cornbread, soups, and stews cooked on stone hearths. Here is a website with more information about Native American cuisine.

What were Coushatta weapons and tools like in the past?
Coushatta hunters primarily used bows and arrows or blowguns; fishermen generally used fishing spears. In war, Coushatta men would fire their bows or fight with heavy war clubs. Here is a website with pictures and information about Native Indian weapons.

What are Coushatta arts and crafts like?
The Coushattas were known for their rivercane baskets, pottery, and native woodcarvings. After Europeans introduced them to metalworking, Coushatta Indian men became known for their beautiful silver jewelry.

What other Native Americans did the Coushatta tribe interact with?
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.

What kinds of stories do the Coushattas tell?
There are lots of traditional Koasati legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the Koasati Indian culture. Here is a story about the origin of fire. Here's a website where you can read more about Coushatta mythology.

What about Coushatta religion?
Religions are too complicated and culturally sensitive to describe appropriately in only a few simple sentences, and we strongly want to avoid misleading anybody. You can visit this site to learn more about Koasati rituals or this site about Native American religion in general.

Can you recommend the best books for me to read?
You may enjoy The Winding Trail, which is a history book about the Alabama-Coushatta tribe written for kids. Older kids could read The Alabama-Coushatta Indians, an excellent book by a Native American author about Coushatta history and culture. If you like mythology, you could try this book of Myths and Folktales of the Alabama-Coushatta Indians. Alabama Native Americans is a kids' book that provides a pretty good overview of the Alabama tribes in general. 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 Coushatta Indian people and their language!

Learn More About The Koasatis

Coushatta Tribe
An overview of the Coushatta Indians, their language and history.

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

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

Koasati Words
Coushatta Indian vocabulary lists.



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