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The Acolapissa were a small tribe of Native Americans of North America, who lived in the Southeast of what is the present-day United States. They lived along the banks of the Pearl River, between present-day Louisiana and Mississippi. They are believed to have spoken a Muskogean language, closely related to the Choctaw and Chickasaw spoken by other Southeast tribes of the Muskogean family.

Early history[edit]

The Acolapissa had at least six villages. Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville claimed that the Tangipahoa settlement was an additional Acolapissan settlement.[1] In 1699, a band of 200 Chickasaw, led by two English slave traders, attacked several Acolapissa villages, intending to take captives as slaves to be sold in Charleston, South Carolina.

Around 1702 the Acolapissa moved from Pearl River and settled on a bayou on the north side of Lake Pontchartrain. Shortly afterward, Louis Juchereau de St. Denis sent the Natchitoches tribe to live with the Acolapissa, who welcomed them and allowed them to settle close to their own village.[2] After that time, in the year 1722 they moved farther west, into the area around the future New Orleans along the Mississippi River. Pressured by French settlement in the area and suffering high mortality from new infectious diseases carried by the Europeans, the Acolapissa tribe eventually merged with the Bayogoula. By the year 1739 these remnants were absorbed into the Houma people and ceased to exist separately as tribes. Their descendants intermarried.[3][4]


Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville wrote that in the year 1699 the population of the Acolapissa consisted of 250 families and around 150 men. However the research by anthropologist James Mooney in the 20th century determined that a more accurate count was proposed by Jean-Baptiste Bénard de la Harpe, who found that the tribe population was around 1500 people.[5] In 1722, Father Pierre François Xavier de Charlevoix wrote that the Acolapissa tribe had 200 warriors.

Etymology and spelling[edit]

According to Allen Wright, the word Acolapissa (okla pisa) means "those who look out for people" in the Choctaw language, one of the Muskogean languages.[6][7] Other spelling versions of the tribe's name included: Aquelou pissas (a French transliteration),[8] Quinipissa, Cenepisa,[9] Colapissa,[10] Coulapissa,[10] Equinipicha, Kinipissa, Kolapissa,[11] and Mouisa.[12]


The Acolapissa adorned their bodies with tattoos. Given the warm and humid climate, they wore very little clothing. They built dwellings from local resources, with reed and thatch roofs.

Some sources indicate that the Acolapissa may have been the same tribe as the Quinipissa or the Tangipahoa. According to several sources related to the Houma, several tribes in the area of Lake Pontchartrain were called Mougoulacha.[13]


The Acolapissa language was one of the Muskogean languages and was closely related to the Choctaw and Chickasaw.


The tribe is classified as extinct.[14] Their descendants now live in and around Houma, Louisiana. Estimates put the current population of the Houma tribe at around 11,000 people. In 1994, the U.S. government denied their petition for federal recognition as a tribe.[15]


  1. ^ Frederick Webb Hodge (1910). Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico: N-Z. U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 685.
  2. ^ John Reed Swanton (1952). The Indian Tribes of North America. Genealogical Publishing Com. p. 196. ISBN 978-0-8063-1730-4.
  3. ^ Joseph Norman Heard (1987). Handbook of the American Frontier: The southeastern woodlands. Scarecrow Press. p. 5. ISBN 978-0-8108-1931-3.
  4. ^ Swanton, John R. The Indians of the Southeastern United States, published as Smithsonian Institution Bureau of American Ethnology bulletin 137 (Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office, 1946) p. 82
  5. ^ William M. Denevan (1 March 1992). The Native Population of the Americas in 1492. Univ of Wisconsin Press. pp. 264–. ISBN 978-0-299-13433-4.
  6. ^ Albert Gallatin (1836). A Synopsis of the Indian Tribes Within the United States East of the Rocky Mountains, and in the British and Russian Possessions in North America. Arx Publishing, LLC. p. 254. ISBN 978-1-889758-80-0.
  7. ^ Donald Ricky (1 January 2001). Encyclopedia of Georgia Indians: Indians of Georgia and the Southeast. Somerset Publishers, Inc. p. 69. ISBN 978-0-403-09745-6.
  8. ^ Le Page du Pratz (1774). The History of Louisiana: Or of the Western Parts of Virginia and Carolina: Containing a Description of the Countries that Lie on Both Sides of the River Mississippi: with an Account of the Settlements, Inhabitants, Soil, Climate, and Products. T. Becket. p. 18.
  9. ^ Pierre Margry (1876). Voyages des Français sur les grands lacs et découverte de l' Ohio et du Mississipi (1614-1684). Imprimerie D. Jouaust. pp. 564–.
  10. ^ a b Patricia Roberts Clark (23 June 2009). Tribal Names of the Americas: Spelling Variants and Alternative Forms, Cross-Referenced. McFarland. p. 53. ISBN 978-0-7864-5169-2.
  11. ^ Patricia Roberts Clark (23 June 2009). Tribal Names of the Americas: Spelling Variants and Alternative Forms, Cross-Referenced. McFarland. p. 114. ISBN 978-0-7864-5169-2.
  12. ^ frederick webb hodge (1907). american indians. pp. 949.
  13. ^ Fred B. Kniffen; Hiram F. Gregory; George A. Stokes (1 September 1994). The Historic Indian Tribes of Louisiana: From 1542 to the Present Louisiana. LSU Press. pp. 51–. ISBN 978-0-8071-1963-1.
  14. ^ Robert F. Brzuszek (7 April 2014). The Crosby Arboretum: A Sustainable Regional Landscape. LSU Press. pp. 8–. ISBN 978-0-8071-5434-2.
  15. ^ Acolapissa, DickShovel website,

Further reading[edit]

  • Bushnell, David I., Jr. Smithsonian Institution Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 48: The Choctaw of Bayou Lacomb, St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1909.
  • Swanton, John Reed. The Indian Tribes of North America. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1959.

External links[edit]