The Alabama-Coushatta Reservation is about fifty miles from where I live. Since my father went to school there, I thought I would share some of their history.
The Alabama-Coushatta reservation lies nestled deep in the Big Thicket of East Texas. It is the oldest reservation in Texas and is the home of the Alabama-Coushatta tribe. Both tribes are members of the Upper Creek Confederacy of Indians and are of the Muskogean Nation. They were originally separate tribes. Their languages are similar to the Muskogean dialect. Both of these tribes migrated together from Alabama and Mississippi and they were already closely related before they arrived in Texas.
In 1541, Hernando de Soto was the first to document both of the tribes. De Soto was searching for new territory for Spain farther west from the east coast where he originally claimed land for Spain and he encountered the Alabama tribe in the Mobile, Alabama area. When De Soto left that area, he traveled further north, encountering other tribes prior to finding the Coushatta tribe which were located on the Tennessee River at that time. But these encounters always went sour. A member of the Spanish expedition would steal some item of value and the tribe would retaliate.
Nothing more about the two tribes were recorded until the 1700’s. French settlers re-discovered the Alabama Indians in 1714 near where the Coosa and Tallapoosa Rivers converged. The Coushatta Indians were the immediate neighbors of the French. This is where the French decided to build a fort for settlers and for trading with the local natives. Ft. Tolouse was erected on the outskirts of the villages and these Indians were often employed as the middlemen for trading goods since they were famous as peacemaking and negotiating since the Coushatta served and protected the settlers as needed.
When the French and Indian wars ended, the French were defeated and had to relinquish all claims to the United States and Ft. Tolouse was abandoned. The settlers moved to Mobile Bay where ships awaited them.Some members of the Alabamas decided to move as well in order to avoid confrontation with the English. Some members of the Coushatta tribe followed suit. The tribal members who followed the French traveled as far south as they could until they entered Choctaw territory. The French and the Choctaw were friends but the members of the Alabamas and Coushatta avoided contact with the Choctaw tribe in order to avoid conflict.
The French gave some families of the Coushatta tribe safe passage into Spanish Louisiana. Some of these families were not able to go on this trip though and tried to venture through northern Alabama and Mississippi but were forced back after encountering Choctaw warriors.
In 1805, the Alabamas came to settle in Tyler County’s Peach Tree Village. The Coushatta tribe was already in East Texas having settled in the Big Thicket area after 1795. The two tribes became even closer, hunting and roaming together. Their homes were made of East Texas timber and palmettos were used for roofs.
During the 1800’s, Texas Congress granted each tribe two leagues of land along the Trinity River but white settlers soon drove them off the land leaving them homeless. It was then that Sam Houston had the state purchase 1,280 acres for the Alabamas and about 640 acres for the Coushattas. But through survey mistakes or inter marriages, the two tribes merged. The Alabama-Coushattas lived in peace without assistance for 74 years. Since the land they lived on was unsuitable for farming or raising cattle, they were allowed to hunt for food on the land. Many of the Coushattas had moved to Kinder, Louisiana where they still live. When hunting became restricted during certain seasons, many of the Alabama-Coushatta became ill and died.