The Koroa are one of many “small tribes” of the southeastern United States that are mentioned briefly in historic accounts and then fade from the records during the colonial period. There is evidence that some Koroa may have resided in present-day Arkansas in the late seventeenth century, but the ancestral homeland, cultural roots, and historic fate of the Koroa remain issues of disagreement among today’s scholars.
In the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, numerous missionaries, explorers, and colonists traveling through the Lower Mississippi River Valley made reference to Koroa (or people whose names sounded similar, like Coloa, Kourea, Currous, Akoroa) residing in a number of locations in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. There is not enough information to locate these communities or to determine if all the reporters were talking about the same people.
The Koroa language is known only from fragments but may be similar to Tunica—both possess the “r” sound, which is not found in many Southeastern Indian languages—and it is possible that the Koroa were culturally similar to the Tunica as well. From time to time, they resided in settled villages. In 1682, the expedition of René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle reported seeing five Koroa villages east of the Mississippi River and south of the Natchez villages, near present-day Natchez, Mississippi. Koroa settlements were also reported west of the Mississippi River, evidently in modern-day northeast Louisiana, about the same time. Some of these Koroa were traveling on trading missions and may have resided elsewhere. French priests noted the arrival of Koroa traders paddling boatloads of salt at the main Taensas village in eastern Louisiana in 1700. By this time, the Koroa no longer resided in Arkansas.
Evidence for Koroa settlements in modern-day Arkansas is slight. Records from the Marquette and Joliet Expedition of 1682 report that a group called “Akoroa” resided up the Arkansas River at some still unknown location. The explorers did not visit the village, and identification of the settlement as Koroa rests solely on the similarity in the two words. Since the Koroa were familiar with the waterways of the Ouachita and Boeuf rivers and Bayou Macon in eastern Louisiana a generation later, it is possible that Koroa settlements existed throughout the lower reaches of these river basins.
Few mentions of Koroa culture and lifestyle exist in the historic literature. Scattered references indicate that they were farmers, residing in well-organized villages with dome-shaped houses made of “reeds.” Social organization and religious beliefs are likely to have been similar to other people residing in the Lower Mississippi River Valley at the time. It is also possible that the Koroa made or used mounds as foundations for important buildings and settings for important events. Details of religious beliefs and social customs are essentially unavailable.
In 1729, the Koroa living east of the Mississippi River Valley joined their Natchez and Yazoo neighbors in uprisings against French colonial settlements, and two years later against the Tunica. The retaliatory campaigns waged by the French and their Indian allies decimated the Natchez and dispersed their allies, including the Koroa. The last reference to Koroa mentions a few surviving warriors residing among the Chickasaw in northeast Mississippi.
For additional information:
Goddard, Ives, Patricia Galloway, Marvin D. Jeter, Gregory A. Waselkov, and John E. Worth. “Small Tribes of the Western Southeast.” In Handbook of North American Indians. Vol. 14: Southeast, edited by Raymond D. Fogelson. Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2004.
Kidder, Tristam R. “The Koroa Indians of the Lower Mississippi Valley.” Mississippi Archaeology 23.2 (1988): 1–42.
Sabo, George, III. Historic Indians of Arkansas. Arkansas Archeological Survey Popular Series 3. Fayetteville: Arkansas Archeological Survey, 2001.
Ann M. Early
Arkansas Archeological Survey
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