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"How the Koasati Got Their Name," #196 Swapping Stories
Bertney Langley, Elton, Jefferson Davis Parish, Louisiana

Recorded September 18, 1993, by Pat Mire and Maida Owens. Bertney Langley, a Koasati Indian and the nephew of Bel Abbey, shared this story with his family in Elton.


Tonight I'll tell you all a story of how we got the name Koasati. Koasati means "lost tribe." A while back, when [we] were living around the Alabama area, our tribe decided to move. But it was decided that the whole tribe could not move together at once. So the council decided that part of the tribe would go ahead of us, and the second group would follow, after tying up loose ends. So the first group took off and left some signs for the other group to follow.

And maybe a week or so afterwards, the second group followed. And they followed the signs, I guess, halfway up to the Mississippi River. But they lost it right after that. And, to this day, we don't know what happened to the first group, but we assume they got swept up -- maybe in a trail of tears movement -- and got moved to Oklahoma. But we don't know where they at today -- to this day. But our second group, when they went to the Mississippi River, they ran into some explorers who asked them who they were. But naturally, since they didn't understand the language, they said Koasa which means, "we are lost." So, up until that time, we don't know what name we went by, but the explorers wrote the name Koasati in their journals, so from that point on, we've been known as the Koasati, which means "lost people."

This story is usually much longer when Bertney Langley tells it; he shortened this version to suit the needs of the video documentary.
For more information about this and related tales, refer to the book Swapping Stories: Folktales from Louisiana, published by University Press of Mississippi.

About the Transcriptions


National Endowment for the Arts.

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