Coushatta Indian Baskets & Basketry
The earliest documentary records indicate that the Coushatta Tribe originated and resided in the present state of Alabama, near the Tennessee River, during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The Coushatta, then known as the Koasati, belonged to the southern section of the Muskhogean linguistic group and were members of the Creek Confederacy, a loose association of the Muskogee family of tribes.
The Koasati were an agricultural group with their own towns, officials, and distinctive culture. According to DeSoto's sixteenth-century journals, the Koasati were regional traders who also served as guides and liaisons between white explorers and other Indian tribes in the area.
The friendly relations initially forged between whites and neighboring tribes came to a rather tumultuous end in the late 1700s as white settlers began invading Indian territory. With their towns and crops destroyed, the Koasati were forced to leave their home in Tennessee River Country. This uprooting initiated dissonance and conflict among traditionally friendly tribes. The now fragmented Coushatta found new homes in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, and Louisiana.
The first group to enter Louisiana settled along Red River and consisted of approximately 80 to 100 individuals. In 1861, more than 250 Coushatta Indians inhabited the area along the Calcasieu River near Kinder. They relocated in 1884 to Allen Parish, where they reside today. Currently boasting a population of 400 and 685 acres of reservation land in trust, members of the Coushatta community in Allen Parish have retained their identity and pride in their heritage.
The entire community speaks the Coushatta language, maintains their individual homesteads, and continues the craft of basket making that is synonymous with the Coushatta.tribe. The Coushatta Indian Tribe of Louisiana obtained federal recognition in June 1973, a year after the Louisiana legislature officially acknowledged them as a tribe. In garnering national recognition, the Coushatta were able to establish their own tribal government and obtain federal programs to assist the Coushatta people in developing their community.
by Alana A. Carmon
Loris and Darlene use the long leaf needles from the long leaf pine tree (Pinus Palustris). They used to go out and gather the needles themselves, but because they have become so difficult and time-consuming to find, they purchase them from other members of their tribe who collect them. Darlene and Loris make beautiful, graceful lidded baskets and basket vases using these needles and raffia. Sometimes the baskets are decorated with small pinecones from the short leaf pine, or with raffia flowers.
The Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana is known for its coiled pine needle baskets. Darlene and Loris make baskets in styles that they learned from other tribal members. In the past, the Coushatta have also been known for basketry made from split oak and from river cane. Darlene and Loris, whose baskets are sought after by collectors from around the country, are carrying on their tradition, and are doing a beautiful job of it. .