How do you pronounce "Chitimacha"? What does it mean?
It's pronounced "chih-tih-mah-chuh." Nobody knows for sure where this name came from. It may have been an English or French corruption of the a Choctaw word for "cooking pots" or a Chitimacha word referring to Grand River. The Chitimachas called themselves Pántch Pinunkansh which meant "thoroughly red people."
Where do the Chitimacha Indians live?
The Chitimachas are original people of Louisiana, particurly the southern coast. Most Chitimacha people still live there today.
How is the Chitimacha Indian nation organized?
The Chitimachas have their own reservation, which is land that belongs to them and is under their control. The Chitimacha tribe has its own government, laws, police, and other services, like a small country. However, the Chitimachas are also US citizens and must obey American law.
In the past, each Chitimacha village was led by a hereditary chief. Today, the Chitimachas are governed by a tribal council elected by the people.
What language do the Chitimachas speak?
Most Chitimacha people speak English today. Some Chitimachas, especially older people, speak a Cajun French dialect. In the past, Chitimacha Indians spoke their own Chitimacha language. The Chitimacha Indian language has not been spoken since the early 1900's, but some Chitimacha people are trying to learn their ancestral language again. You can read a Chitimacha picture glossary here.
What was Chitimacha culture like in the past? What is it like now?
Here is a link to the Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana, where you can learn about the Chitimacha people past and present.
How do Chitimacha 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 Chitimacha 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. Chunkey and stickball were popular sports among teenage boys as they were among adult men. Chitimacha mothers, like many Native Americans, traditionally carried their babies in cradleboards on their backs--a custom which many American parents have adopted now.
What were men and women's roles in the Chitimacha tribe?Chitimacha Indian men were hunters and sometimes went to war to protect their families. Chitimacha 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. Most Chitimacha chiefs and religious leaders were men, but there were some women who held those positions too.
What were Chitimacha homes like in the past?
The Chitimacha people lived in villages of single-family houses arranged around a town square. Chitimacha houses were made of wood and plaster walls with thatched roofs. Some Chitimacha villages had palisades (reinforced walls) around them, to guard against attack. Today, the Chitimachas live in modern houses and apartment buildings, just like you.
What was Chitimacha clothing like? Did they wear feather headdresses and face paint?
Chitimacha men wore breechcloths and leather leggings. Chitimacha women wore wraparound skirts made of deerskin or woven fiber. Shirts were not necessary in Chitimacha culture, but men and women both wore mantles in cooler weather. The Chitimachas also wore moccasins on their feet. Here are some more photographs and links about Indian clothes in general.
The Chitimachas didn't wear long headdresses like the Sioux. Some Chitimacha warriors wore porcupine roaches and shaved their heads in the Mohawk style. Other Chitimacha men wore their hair long, like the women. The Chitimachas didn't usually paint their faces, but they did decorate their bodies with tribal tattoos. Both men and women wore tattoos in the Chitimacha tribe.
Today, some Chitimacha 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 Chitimacha transportation like in the days before cars? Did the Chitimachas paddle canoes?
Yes--the Chitimacha Indians made long dugout canoes from hollowed-out cypress logs. Over land, the Chitimachas used dogs as pack animals. (There were no horses in North America until colonists brought them over from Europe.) Today, of course, Chitimacha people also use cars... and non-native people also use canoes.
What was Chitimacha food like in the days before supermarkets?
The Chitimacha Indians were farming people. Chitimacha women harvested crops of corn, beans, sweet potatoes, and squash. Chitimacha men hunted and fished for deer, wild turkeys, alligators, and all kinds of seafood.
What were Chitimacha weapons and tools like in the past?
Chitimacha hunters used bows and arrows or blowguns. Fishermen used nets, traps, or hooks made of bone. In war, Chitimacha men fired their bows or fought with war clubs.
What are Chitimacha arts and crafts like?
The Chitimachas were known for their pottery and rivercane baskets.
What other Native Americans did the Chitimacha tribe interact with?The Chitimachas traded regularly with the other tribes of the southeast, especially the Atakapa and Houma tribes. The Chitimachas weren't known for fighting with other Indian tribes much, but they did sometimes skirmish with the Natchez bands.
What kinds of stories do the Chitimachas tell?
There are many traditional Chitimacha legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the Chitimacha Indian culture. Here is a legend about the formation of the Bayou Teche.
What about Chitimacha religion?
Sorry, but we cannot help you with religious information. 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 Chitimacha sun worship or this site about Indian religions in general.