American Indian languages
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Native American Facts For Kids was written for young people learning about the Alabamas for school or home-schooling reports.
We encourage students and teachers to visit our Alabama 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
Alabama pictures and links we believe are suitable for all ages.
How do you pronounce the word "Alabama"? What does it mean?
Alabama is pronounced "al-uh-BAM-uh," the same as the state (which was named after the tribe.) No one knows exactly where this name
came from. It could be an English form of the word albina, which means "campsite" in their own language and may have
been the name of an Alabama town. Or it could be an English form of the Choctaw words alba amo, which means "clearing
Where do the Alabamas live?
The Alabamas are original residents of the state of Alabama, which was named for them. However, the tribe was forced to move further west
in the 18th century, and today most Alabamas live in Texas (sharing a reservation with the
Coushattas) and in Oklahoma (sharing a
reservation with the Creeks.)
Other Alabama people joined the Seminoles
and were absorbed into that powerful Florida tribe, and some live in Louisiana with the Coushattas there. The total
population of Alabama Indians is about 2000. Here is one map showing the
original location of the Alabama and Coushatta tribes in Alabama, and
showing how Alabama Indian communities were dispersed throughout the South after colonization.
How is the Alabama Indian nation organized?
In Texas, the Alabama and Coushatta tribes share a single reservation. Indian reservations are lands that
belong to Native American tribes and are legally under their control.
In the past, each Alabama band was ruled by a chief called a miko, and the Alabama and
Coushatta tribes had separate leadership. Today, the Alabama-Coushatta Indians are governed by a joint tribal council, with elected councilmembers
that come from both tribes. In Oklahoma, the Alabamas are legally considered part of the Creek Nation, but they maintain
their own traditional government independently of the Creeks.
What language do the Alabamas speak?
Most Alabama people speak English today, but some people, especially elders, also speak their native Alibamu or
If you'd like to know a few easy Alabama words,
"chíkmaa" (pronounced chick-mah) is a friendly greeting, and "alila mo" (pronounced ah-lee-lah moh) is a phrase meaning 'thank you.'
You can also read an Alabama picture glossary here.
Today Alabama is an endangered language because most children aren't learning it anymore.
However, some Alabama people are working to keep their language alive.
What was Alabama culture like in the past? What is it like now?
Here is a link to the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas,
where you can learn about the Alabama people and their way of life.
How do Alabama Indian children live, and what did they do in the past?
They do the same things any children do--play with each other, go to school and help around the house.
Many Alabama 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 early colonial children. But they did have beaded dolls,
toys and games to play with. Lacrosse
was also a popular sport among teenage boys as it was among adult men. Like many Native Americans, Alabama mothers traditionally carried their babies in
on their backs--a custom which many American parents have
What were men and women's roles in the Alabama tribe?
Alabama men were hunters and sometimes fought wars to defend their territory. Alabama 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 an Alabama
Indian woman can participate in government also.
What were Alabama homes like in the past?
The Alabama people lived in
square-shaped villages of houses and small farm plots. Alabama houses had plaster and rivercane walls with thatched roofs. These dwellings were about as
strong and warm as a log cabin.
Here are some pictures of Native American houses like
the ones Alabama Indians used. The Alabamas also built a larger circular lodge for town meetings, and most villages had a lacrosse field with
benches for spectators. An Alabama village was usually surrounded with palisades (reinforced walls) to guard against attack.
No one uses these old-fashioned houses for shelter anymore. Alabamas today live in modern houses and apartment buildings, just like you.
What was Alabama clothing like? Did they wear feather headdresses and face paint?
Alabama men wore a breechclout,
sometimes with leggings to protect their legs, and women wore wraparound skirts made of woven fiber.
The Alabamas also wore moccasins
on their feet. Shirts were not necessary in Alabama culture, but men and women both wore poncho-style capes in cool weather.
In colonial times, the Alabamas adapted European costume such as waistcoats and full skirts. Here is a webpage with pictures of
traditional Alabama dress, and here are some photographs
and links about Indian clothes in general.
The Alabamas didn't wear long headdresses like the
Sioux. Alabama 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!) Alabama women usually wore their long hair tied up into a bun.
Both genders painted their faces for special occasions. They used different patterns for war paint, religious ceremonies, and festive decoration.
Some Alabamas also wore tribal tattoos.
Today, some Alabama 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 Alabama transportation like in the days before cars? Did the Alabamas paddle canoes?
Yes--the Alabama Indians made dugout canoes from hollowed-out logs.
Most of the time, though, Alabama
people usually just walked. There were no horses in North America until colonists brought them over from Europe, so the
Alabamas used dogs to help them carry their belongings over land.
Today, of course, Alabama people also use cars... and non-native people also use canoes.
What was Alabama Indian food like in the days before supermarkets?
The Alabama Indians were farming people. Alabama women did most of the farming, harvesting crops of corn, beans, squash, and sunflowers.
Alabama men did most of the hunting, shooting deer, wild turkeys, and small game and fishing in the rivers.
Alabama dishes included cornbread, soups, and stews cooked on rock hearths. Here is a website with more information
about American Indian food.
What were Alabama weapons and tools like in the past?
Alabama hunters primarily used bows and arrows. Fishermen generally used fish spears.
In war, Alabama men fired their bows or fought with heavy war clubs.
Here is a website with pictures and more information about Native American weapons.
What are Alabama arts and crafts like?
The Alabama Indians were famous for their
Native American pottery, and
After Europeans introduced them to metalworking, Alabama Indian men
became known for their beautiful silver jewelry and other ornaments.
What is Alabama music like?
The most important Alabama instruments are the
drum and the
flute. Traditional Alabama flutes were made of rivercane,
though today most flutes are carved from wood. Alabama drums are usually very large and are played by a group of men together
at a pow wow or other community event.
Here is a video of tribal musicians singing and drumming as
dancers in traditional dress enter the Alabama-Coushatta powwow in Texas.
What other Native Americans did the Alabama tribe interact with?
The Alabamas traded regularly with other Southeast Native Americans such as the Chickasaw, Creek, and Cherokee.
These tribes communicated using a simplified trade language
called Mobilian Jargon. The most important Alabama neighbors were the
Coushatta Indians. The Alabamas and the Coushattas were close allies, and
many of them still live together today. Other Alabama Indians banded together with the
Seminoles or the
Creeks to fight against Europeans who were taking their land.
What kinds of stories do the Alabamas tell?
There are lots of traditional Alabama legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the
Alabama Indian culture. Here is a story about the origin of fire.
Here's a website where you can read more about Alabama mythology.
What about Alabama Indian religion?
Spirituality and religion were important parts of Alabama life, and some people continue to practice traditional beliefs today.
It is respectful to avoid imitating religious rituals for school projects since some Alabama people care about them deeply.
You can read and learn about them, however. You can visit this site to learn more about
Alabama Indian rituals and artifacts or this site about
Native American religion in general.
Did the Alabama Indians build the Indian mounds at Moundville?
Their ancestors built them. The city of Moundville was built around 1000 AD, by people archaeologists call "paleo-Indians" or the
"Mississippian culture." The Mississippian civilization didn't have a written language, so our information about them is limited, but
Native historians consider the Alabama, Koasati, and other Muskogean tribes of Alabama to be descended from the civilization of Moundville.
Here is a website with some
more information about the archaeology of Moundville.
Modern-day Alabama tribes hold a cultural festival at this site every year to celebrate their ancestors and their shared culture.
Can you recommend a good book 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 Alabama Indian 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 simple overview of the Alabama tribes in general.
You can also browse through our reading list of recommended American 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
Thanks for your interest in the Alabama Indian people and their language!
Learn More About The Alabamas
Alabama Indian Tribe
An overview of the Alabama people, their language and history.
Alabama Language Resources
Alabama language samples, articles, and indexed links.
Alabama History and Culture Directory
Related links about the Alabama people and their society, past and present.
Alabama Word List
Alabama Indian vocabulary lists.
Return to the Native Kids homepage
Return to our menu of Native American peoples
Learn more about the Southeastern Woodland region
Indian horse names
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