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Tunica Indian Fact Sheet

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

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    Tunica Tribe

How do you pronounce "Tunica"? What does it mean?
Tunica is pronounced "too-nih-kah." It comes from a word in their own language that means "the people."

Where do the Tunicas live?
The Tunicas are original residents of Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas. Today, most Tunica people live in Louisiana.

How is the Tunica Indian nation organized?
Today, the Tunica tribe lives together with the Biloxi tribe. The two tribes share a single reservation, which is land that belongs to the tribe and is under their control. The Tunica-Biloxi tribe has its own government, laws, police, and other services, like a small country. However, the Tunicas are also US citizens and must obey American law.

In the past, the Tunicas were led by hereditary chiefs. Today, they are governed by a tribal council whose members are elected by the Tunica and Biloxi people.

What language do the Tunicas speak?
Most Tunica people speak English today. Other Tunicas, especially older people, speak French. In the past, Tunica Indians spoke their own Tunica language. The Tunica language has not been spoken since the early 1900's, but some Tunica people are trying to learn their ancestral language again. You can read a Tunica picture glossary here.

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

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How do Tunica 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 Tunica 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. Stickball was a popular sport among teenage boys as it was among adult men. Tunica mothers, like many Native Americans, traditionally carried their babies in baby boards on their backs--a custom which many American parents have adopted now.

What were men and women's roles in the Tunica tribe?
Tunica men were hunters and sometimes went to war to protect their families. Tunica women made pottery and did most of the child care and cooking. Both genders took part in farming, storytelling, music, and traditional medicine. In the past, Tunica chiefs were always men, but today, both men and women participate in Tunica tribal government.

What were Tunica homes like in the past?
The Tunica people lived in villages of thatched houses. One Tunica family lived in each house. Some Tunica villages had palisades (reinforced walls) around them, to guard against attack. Today, the Tunicas live in modern houses and apartment buildings, just like you.

What was Tunica clothing like? Did they wear feather headdresses and face paint?
Tunica men wore breechclouts and leather leggings. Here is a website with pictures of Native American breechclouts. Tunica women wore wraparound skirts made of deerskin or woven fiber. Shirts were not necessary in the Tunica culture, but men and women both wore mantles in cooler weather. Like most Native Americans, the Tunicas wore moccasins on their feet. Here is a website with Indian moccasin pictures, and here are some photographs and links about Southeast Native American clothing in general.

The Tunicas didn't wear a warrior headdress like the Sioux. Most of the time they went bare-headed, but Tunica warriors sometimes did wear a porcupine roach. Both men and women usually wore their hair long. The Tunicas didn't usually paint their faces, but they did decorate their bodies with traditional Indian tattoos. Both men and women wore tattoos in the Tunica tribe.

Today, some Tunica 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 Tunica transportation like in the days before cars? Did they paddle canoes?
Yes--the Tunica Indians carved dugout canoes from hollowed-out cypress logs. Here is a website with pictures of different types of Indian boats. Over land, the Tunicas used dogs as pack animals. (There were no horses in North America until colonists brought them over from Europe.) Today, of course, Tunica people also use cars... and non-native people also use canoes.

What was Tunica food like in the days before supermarkets?
The Tunicas were farming people. Unlike some southeastern tribes, Tunica men and women planted and harvested crops together. Their main crops were corn, beans, and pumpkins. Tunica men also hunted deer, wild turkey, and buffalo, and women collected fruits, nuts, and mushrooms to use in their cooking. They also mined salt to flavor their food with. Tunica recipes included cornbread, hominy, soups, and persimmon bread. Here is a website with more information about Native Americans farming.

What were Tunica weapons and tools like in the past?
Tunica hunters primarily used bows and arrows. In war, Tunica men fired their bows or fought with war clubs and knives. Here are pictures and information about the Native American knife and other traditional weapons.

What are Tunica arts and crafts like?
The Tunicas were known for their Indian pottery, baskets, and woodcarvings. They also made textiles from mulberry bark, which they used to weave clothing and blankets.

What other Native Americans did the Tunica tribe interact with?
The Tunicas traded with other tribes of the southeast, particularly the Quapaw. These tribes especially liked to buy the salt which the Tunicas mined. Sometimes the Tunica tribe fought with the neighboring Chickasaw, Alabama and Houma tribes. After the Biloxi tribe migrated to Louisiana in the late 1800's, they became close allies of the Tunicas and the two tribes joined together in the 1920's.

What kinds of stories do the Tunicas tell?
There are many traditional Tunica legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the Tunica Indian culture. Here is a myth about the sun's promise to the Tunica tribe.

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 Tunica tribe. A good book for kids on Tunica culture in general is the Tunica-Biloxi. You can also browse through our recommendations of Native American fiction. 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 Tunica Indian people and their language!

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Learn More About The Tunicas

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

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

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

Tunica Words
Tunica Indian vocabulary lists.

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