Tuskaloosa bigraphy, stories - Native American paramount chief

Tuskaloosa : biography

- 1540

Tuskaloosa (aka Tuskalusa, Tastaluca, Tuskaluza) (died 1540) was a paramount chief of a Mississippian chiefdom in what is now the U.S. state of Alabama. His people were possibly ancestors to the several southern Native American confederacies (the Choctaw and Creek peoples) who later emerged in the region. The modern city of Tuscaloosa, Alabama is named for him.

Tuskaloosa is notable for leading the Battle of Mabila at his fortified village against the Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto. After being taken hostage by the Spanish as they passed through his territory, Tuskaloosa organized a surprise attack on his captors at Mabila, but was ultimately defeated.

Contemporary records describe the paramount chief as being very tall and well built, with some of the chroniclers saying Tuaskaloosa stood a foot and a half taller than the Spaniards. His name, derived from the western Muskogean language elements taska and losa, means "Black Warrior".

Province of Tuskaloosa

de Soto expedition route through Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Alabama. Based on the Charles M. Hudson map of 1997]] Tuskaloosa's province consisted of a series of villages, mostly along the Coosa and Alabama Rivers. Each village had its own chief who was a vassal to Tuskaloosa, the paramount chief. After traveling through the Coosa Province, the De Soto expedition came to the village of Talisi on September 18, 1540, near the modern town of Childersburg, Alabama. The chief of Talisi and his vassals had fled the town before them, but de Soto sent messages to the chief, who returned on September 25.Hudson (1997), Knights of Spain, pp. 226–229

Once Chief Talisi had showed his obedience by supplying the Spaniards with requested deerskins, food, bearers and women, de Soto released the paramount chief of Coosa, whom they had held hostage while traveling through his territory. Chief Coosa was angry that he was taken so far from his home village, and because de Soto still held his sister. She was probably the mother of his successor as chief, according to their system of matrilineal descent. De Soto evidently thought that Talisi was subject to Coosa, although the village was closer to Tuskaloosa. As such the chief may have had dual allegiances to both chiefdoms and balanced between them.

While they were in Talisi, the Spanish were visited by an envoy from Chief Tuskaloosa, led by his son and some of his head men. The envoy intended to assess the capacity of the Spanish expedition to prepare a trap for them. The Spanish rested at Talisi for several weeks, then departed on October 5. During the next several days, they reached about one village of the Tuskaloosa province per day. These included Casiste, situated on a stream; and Caxa, another village on a stream, possibly Hatchett Creek, the boundary between the Coosa and the Tuskaloosa. The next day they camped on the Coosa River, across from the village of Humati, near the mouth of Shoal Creek. On October 8 they came to a newly built settlement named Uxapita, possibly near modern Wetumpka, Alabama. On October 9, de Soto crossed the Tallapoosa River, and by the end of the day, his party was within a few miles of Tuskalusa's village, Atahachi.

De Soto sent a messenger to tell the chief he and his army had arrived, and the chief responded that they could go to the court whenever de Soto liked. The next day de Soto sent Luis de Moscoso to tell the chief that they were on their way. The paramount village was a large, recently built, fortified community with a platform mound and plaza. Upon entering the village, de Soto was taken to meet the chief under a portico on top of the mound. Moor wearing an almaizal]] right St. John Order ([[Maltese cross). View: Knights Hospitaller]]

Moscoso and his men mounted their horses and galloped around the plaza, playing juego de cañas, a dangerous sport involving jousting with lances. The men occasionally feinted toward Tuskaloosa, hoping to frighten him, a technique of manipulation de Soto had used against the Inca Atahualpa at Cajamarca. The chief sat as though unconcerned. Afterward the Spaniards were served food, and the residents of Atahachi danced in the plaza. The Spaniards were reminded of rural dances in their own country. When de Soto demanded porters and women from the chief, the chief said that he was accustomed to being served, and not vice versa. De Soto had Tuskaloosa taken hostage. The expedition began making plans to leave the next day, and Tuskaloosa relented, providing bearers for the Spaniards. He told de Soto that they would have to go to his town of Mabila (or Mauvila) to receive the women. De Soto gave the chief a pair of boots and a red cloak to reward him for his cooperation.

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