The Alabama-Coushatta Indian Tribe of Texas, Incorporated, occupies a 4,593.7-acre reservation on U.S. Highway 190, seventeen miles east of Livingston in Polk County. In 2005 the names of more than 1,000 Alabama-Coushattas were recorded on the tribal roll, of whom approximately 500 lived on the reservation. Although recognized as two separate tribes, the Alabamas and Coushattas have been closely associated throughout their history. Both are of Muskhogean language stock. Both lived in adjacent areas in what is now Alabama, followed similar migration routes westward after 1763, and settled in the same area of the Big Thicket in Southeast Texas. Culturally, these two tribes have always been one people in spite of minor differences. Their languages are mutually understandable, although some differences occur in individual words. Their closest tie has been that of blood as intermarriage between the tribes has been practiced since earliest times. An early interpretation of Alabama indicated that the name meant "Here we rest." This explanation was generally accepted until T. M. Owen, director of the Alabama State Department of Archives and History, pointed out in 1921 that the name is derived from a combination of words meaning "vegetation gatherers." Coushatta is a popular form of "Koasati," which probably contains the words for "cane," "reed," or "white cane."
The first written references to the Alabamas, dated 1541, relate the contacts of the explorer Hernando De Soto with these Indians, probably in the future state of Mississippi. After De Soto, the Alabamas were lost to view until the appearance of the French in the region bordering the Gulf of Mexico. The Alabamas, who had migrated eastward during the intervening century and a half, then lived near the junction of the Coosa and Tallapoosa Rivers, the two main tributaries of the Alabama River. The Coushattas also moved to this area and established villages among those of the Alabamas. Beginning north of the site of present Montgomery, Alabama, the villages of the Alabamas and Coushattas extended southward for forty miles on both sides of the Alabama River. Both tribes were members of the Upper Creek Confederacy—the name given to a loose organization built around a group of dominant tribes called Creek or Muskogee in what is now Alabama. One of the principal objectives of the Creek Confederacy seems to have been to achieve a defensive alliance against certain enemies—including the Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians in what is now Mississippi and western Alabama and the Cherokee Indians in Tennessee.
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