Alabama (also known as Alibamu) is a Native American language, spoken by the Alabama-Coushatta tribe of Texas.〔Hardy 2005:75〕 It was once spoken by the Alabama-Quassarte Tribal Town of Oklahoma, but there are no more Alabama speakers in Oklahoma. It is a Muskogean language, and is believed to have been related to the Muklasa and Tuskegee languages, which are no longer extant. Alabama is closely related to Koasati and Apalachee, and more distantly to other Muskogean languages like Hitchiti, Chickasaw and Choctaw.
The Alabama first encountered Europeans when Hernando de Soto arrived in 1540. (See here for other de Soto contactees) In the 18th century, the French arrived on the Gulf Coast and built a fort at what became Mobile, Alabama.
The ''Alibamu'' and ''Koasati'' tribes were part of the Creek Confederacy. They had less contact with British settlers than other Creek tribes did. They were the first to leave when British settlers swarmed into the area by the middle of the 18th century, after the land was ceded by the French following the British victory in the Seven Years' War (known in the colonies as the French and Indian War). Under pressure as well by Native American enemies, the Alabama and Coushatta tribes wanted to avoid the powerful Choctaw in present-day Mississippi. They moved into territories of future states, first into Louisiana and then into Texas.
Alabama and Coushatta towns were divided into "red" and "white" towns. The "white" towns were responsible for keeping the peace and for providing refuge, while the "red" towns were responsible for conducting military campaigns. Though they had "red" and "white" towns, the Alabama-Coushattas thought of themselves as a peace-loving people.〔Hook, Jonathan. ''The Alabama-Coushatta Indians.'' Texas A&M University Press, 1997.〕
In 1795, the Coushatta arrived in the Big Thicket area of East Texas. In 1805, nearly 1,000 Alabama came to Tyler County's Peach Tree Village in East Texas. The two tribes developed a strong friendship as they roamed and hunted their new land together. In the early 19th century, the Texas Congress granted each tribe two strips of land along the Trinity River. Their land was soon taken over by European-American settlers, leaving them homeless.
Sam Houston, the governor of Texas, recommended that the state purchase for the Alabamas. Although money was appropriated to buy for the Coushattas, the land was never bought. Either through marriage or special permission, many Coushatta went to live on the land given to the Alabama.
Other Coushatta had stayed in an area in southern Louisiana near the Red River. Many of their descendants are enrolled members of the federally recognized Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana.
By 1820, there were three main Alabama towns and three large Coushatta towns in east Texas, in the region known as the Big Thicket. In 1854, the Alabama were given 1,280 acres (5 km2) in Polk County. The following year, 640 acres (2.6 km2), also in Polk County, were given to the Coushattas. The Coushatta claim was disputed by white settlers in 1859. When the Coushatta lost the land claim, the Alabama invited them to live on their land claim.
The federal government approved a large grant in 1928 to purchase additional land near the reservation; it was granted to the "Alabama and Coushatta tribes." Since that time, the reservation has officially been known as “Alabama-Coushatta".
Origin myths focus on the interconnectedness of the tribes. One myth states that the two tribes sprouted from either side of a cypress tree. Another legend was recorded in 1857 from ''Se-ko-pe-chi'', one of the oldest Creeks in Indian Territory. He said that the tribes “sprang out of the ground between the Cohawba and Alabama Rivers.” The symbol of the Alabama-Coushatta tribe comes from pre-contact Mississippian culture: two intertwined woodpeckers, now symbolic of the connection between the two tribes.
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