Pakana Indians of Polk Co., Texas
We now come to peoples incorporated in the Muskhogean confederation which were probably distinct bodies and yet not certainly possessed of a peculiar dialect like the Hitchiti, Alabama, and other tribes of foreign origin already considered. The Pakana are given by Adair as one of those people which the Muskogee had “artfully” induced to incorporate with them, and he is confirmed as to the main fact by Stiggins, whose account of them is as follows:
The Puccunnas at this day are only known by tradition to have been a distinct people and their ancient town or habitation is called Puccun Tal ahassee which is Puccun old town. This ancient town is in the present Coosa County of this State [Alabama]. The Au-bih-kas have a tradition that they were a distinct people and that they in old times were very numerous, but do not say whether they were immigrants or not, or at what time they became one of the national body. But they say as they belonged to the national body one and inseparable there was no distinction made so that by continual intermarriage with the other tribes they at length became absorbed and assimilated with their neighbors without distinction and no other knowledge is left regarding them but the name of their ancient habitation. Whether in conversation they had a separate tongue of their own or not tradition is silent.1
Not much can be added to this. There is a tradition among the modern Creeks that the Pakana separated from the Abihka, but it is evidently due to the proximity of the two peoples in ancient times and the number of intermarriages which took place between them. Again, an old Hilibi man told me that this town was founded by a Wiogufki Indian named Bakna, who held the first busk in his own yard, and whose name became attached to the new town. But Pakana was in existence long before Wiogufki. Wakokai, the mother town of Wiogufki, and the Pakana town were, however, located near each other, and to the close relations thence arising we may attribute the tradition. It is confusing to find the name Pakan tallahassee [Påkån talahasi] (“Pakana old town”) used for these people in the very earliest mention of them, the De Crenay map of 1733.2 Since we hear shortly afterwards of a Pakana tribe-distinct from the Pakan tallahassee, which first settled near Fort Toulouse and later migrated to Louisiana — a suggestion is raised whether the Pakan tallahassee may not have been Muskogee or other Indians who had occupied a site abandoned by the Pakana proper. We have something similar in the case of the Tukabahchee talla-hassee, who were really an outsettlement of Okfuskee Indians.3 While such an interpretation is possible I think the real fact was that a single tribe split in two after Fort Toulouse was established, one part locating near it as a convenient market. At that time the original body may have received the name “old town Pakana” to distinguish them from the emigrants. It is indeed strange that on the De Crenay map we find ”old town Pakana” (Pakanatalaché), but no Pakana.2 Still, this is not conclusive, for Fort Toulouse had probably been in existence 18 years when the map was prepared and the Pakana in its neighborhood may well have been overlooked. Both bodies appear in the lists of 1750, 1760,4 and 1761, in which last year William Struthers and J. Morgan were the officially recognized traders.5 In 1797 the trader was “John Proctor, a half-breed.”6 The division known as Pakan tallahassee appears also in the list of 17387 and those of Bartram, Swan, and Hawkins, and on the census rolls of 1832.8 In 1768, or shortly before, it was burned by the Choctaw.9 Hawkins derives the name “from E-puc-cun-nau, a may apple, and tal-lau-has-see, old town.” The first word signifies properly “a peach” — Katabuya is May apple — but it is doubtful whether its original meaning was related to either. The name Pakana may have a long antecedent history and a totally different origin. Hawkins adds:
It is in the fork of a creek which gives name to the town; the creek joins on the left side of Coosau, forty miles below Coo-sau town.10
After the removal they settled in the southern part of the Creek Nation near Hanna, Oklahoma, and have maintained their square ground in the same place ever since.
The Pakana who settled near Fort Toulouse probably never rejoined their kindred. From a letter written by M. d’Abbadie, governor of Louisiana, April 10, 1764, we know that they emigrated to Red River at the same time as the Taensa and Apalachee.11 He calls them “Pakanas des Alibamons,” either from the name of the French post or from the fact that they were supposed to be related to the Alabama Indians. The former supposition is, I believe, correct, since in the census of 1760 we find them classed as ” Alybamons,” not merely with the Koasati and Tuskegee, but also with the Okchai, some Coosa Indians, and some Indians called ”Thomapas”; while, on the other hand, the Muklasa, Tawasa, and part of the Coosa are put among the ”Talapouches,”13 Indians on Tallapoosa River. Evidently the classification is geographical, not linguistic. Later these Pakana settled upon Calcasieu River in southwestern Louisiana, as shown in the following account given by Sibley:
Pacanas, are a small tribe of about thirty men, who live on the Quelqueshoe [Calcasieu] River, which falls into the bay between Attakapa and Sabine, which heads in a prairie, called Cooko prairie, about forty miles southwest of Natchitoches. These people are likewise emigrants from West Florida, about forty years ago. Their village is about fifty miles southeast of the Conchattas; are said to be increasing a little in number; quiet, peaceable, and friendly people. Their own language differs from any other, but speak Mobilian.14
Still later some or all of these Pakana united with the Alabama living in Texas, where they are still remembered. The last survivor was an old woman who died many years ago. Her language was said to be distinct from Alabama, which would naturally be the case if it was Muskogee.
PAKANA MUSKOGEE INDIANS. In 1834 the Pakana Muskogee Indians, a branch of the Muskogee or Creek Indian group, entered Texas and established a village near the site of present Onalaska in western Polk County. The Pakana Muskogees had lived near the Alabama and Coushatta Indians in the vicinity of Fort Toulouse, a few miles north of Montgomery, Alabama, and moved to Louisiana shortly after 1763. Dr. John Sibley, Indian agent for the United States, reported in 1805 that approximately 150 Pakana Muskogees were living on Calcasieu Bayou, forty miles southwest of Natchitoches, Louisiana. An early chief of the Pakana Muskogees, John Blount, received a silver medal for his services as a guide for Gen. Andrew Jackson during the Seminole War in Florida. After the death of John Blount while enroute to Texas in 1834, this medal was passed to subsequent chiefs of the tribe: David Ellett, Bill Blount, John Blount (grandson of the earlier chief with the same name), and Alex Davis. In 1834 the Pakana Muskogees moved to a site on Penwau Slough two miles east of its junction with the Trinity River in the area of present Polk County. This location was on a high hill, generally believed to be the peninsula that extends into Lake Livingston and is known as Indian Hill. John Burgess, a Frenchman who purchased 640 acres of land along Kickapoo Creek, married a member of the Pakana Muskogees and later invited the other tribal members to move to the Burgess Survey. This property was inherited by Burgess’s wife and subsequently by other members of the tribe and became the permanent home of the Pakana Muskogees in Polk County. In 1859 Texas Governor Hardin R. Runnels appointed James Barclay to serve as agent for the Muskogees, as well as for the Alabamas and Coushattas who lived in Polk County. Responsibility for the Muskogees was included also in the duties of agents appointed for the Polk County Indians in 1861–65, 1867, 1868, and 1872. On November 12, 1866, the Texas legislature passed an act granting the Polk County Muskogees 320 acres of land. Unfortunately for the Muskogees, this land was never purchased, and they continued to live on the John Burgess Survey. The population of this Pakana Muskogee community declined slowly almost from the date of the tribe’s first appearance in Polk County: fifty were counted in 1859; forty-two were reported in 1882. Illness and absorption by the nearby Alabamas and Coushattas probably were the main reasons for the Muskogee’s decreasing population. In 1899, persuaded by Creek Indians from Oklahoma, John Blount and many of the Polk County Muskogees went to the Creek Nation in Oklahoma to live. Only a few-less than ten-Pakana Muskogees remained in their settlement on the John Burgess Survey.
Ralph Henry Marsh, The History of Polk County, Texas, Indians (M.A. thesis, Sul Ross State Teachers College, 1941). John R. Swanton, Early History of the Creek Indians and Their Neighbors, Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 73 (Washington: GPO, 1922). John R. Swanton, The Indians of the Southeastern United States (Washington: GPO, 1946). John R. Swanton, The Indian Tribes of North America (Gross Pointe, Michigan: Scholarly Press, 1968). Dorman H. Winfrey and James M. Day, eds., Texas Indian Papers (4 vols., Austin: Texas State Library, 1959–61; rpt., 5 vols., Austin: Pemberton Press, 1966).
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.
Howard N. Martin, “PAKANA MUSKOGEE INDIANS,” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/bmp97), accessed July 31, 2015. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
- Stiggins, MS., p. 5.
- Plate 5; also Hamilton, Col. Mobile, p. 190.
- See p. 247.
- MSS., Ayer Lib.; Miss. Col. Arch., I, p. 95.
- Ga. Col. Docs., VIII, p. 523.
- Hawkins in Ga. Hist. Soc. Colls., IX, p. 169.
- MS., Ayer Lib.
- Bartram, Travels, p. 461; Schoolcraft, Ind. Tribes, IV, p. 578; V, p. 262; Ga. Hist. Soc. Colls., III, p. 25; Senate Doc. 512, 23d Cong., 2d sess., IV, pp 285-286.
- Eng. Trans., MS., Lib. Cong.
- Ga. Hist. Soc. Colls.,III, p.41.
- Amer. Antiq., XIII, pp. 252-253.
- Miss. Prov. Arch, I, p. 94.
- Sibley in Annals of Congress, 9th Cong., 3d sess., 1086 (l806-07).
Notes About Book:
Source: Swanton, John R., Early History of the Creek Indians and Their Neighbors. Pub. Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 73. Washington, 1922.
Notes about Online Publication: This manuscript has been ocr’d and heavily edited. Many of the Native American words have been reproduced as clearly as online publication will allow us, but not all are exactly the way they were in the original work. The structure of this manuscript has been changed to allow better online presentation.