Atakapa – USA
The first European contact with the Atakapa may have been in 1528 by survivors of the Spanish Pánfilo de Narváez expedition. The name Atakapa is a Choctaw name meaning “people eater” (hattak ‘person’, apa ‘to eat’), a reference to the practice of ritual cannibalism. The Gulf coast peoples practiced this on their enemies.
A French explorer, Francois Simars de Bellisle, lived among the Atakapa from 1719 to 1721. He described Atakapa cannibalistic feasts which he observed firsthand. The practice of cannibalism likely had a religious, ritualistic basis.
The French historian Antoine-Simon Le Page du Pratz, lived in Louisiana, from 1718 to 1734, a total of 16 years. He wrote:
Along the west coast, not far from the sea, inhabit the nation called Atacapas [sic], that is, Man-Eaters, being so called by the other nations on account of their detestable custom of eating their enemies, or such as they believe to be their enemies. In the vast country there are no other cannibals to be met with besides the Atacapas; and since the French have gone among them, they have raised in them so great an horror of that abominable practice of devouring creatures of their own species, that they have promised to leave it off: and, accordingly, for a long time past we have heard of no such barbarity among them. —Antoine-Simon Le Page du Pratz