The Atakapa people, also spelled Attakapa, Attakapas, Attacapa, called themselves the Ishak, pronounced “ee-SHAK,” which meant “The People.”
A hunting and gathering tribe, they lived along the Gulf of Mexico, and the river valleys, lakeshores, and coasts from Galveston Bay, Texas to Vermilion Bay, Louisiana. In the summer, families moved to the coast, where the women cultivated maize. By 1719, they had obtained horses and hunted bison from horseback. After 1762, when Louisiana was transferred to Spain, little was written about them and epidemics of the late 18th century reduced their numbers considerably.
Survivors joined the Caddo, Koasati, and other surrounding tribes, although some culturally distinct Atakapan people survived into the 20th century. Today, many of their descendants have fought for recognition of the Atakapa-Ishak tribe, though because their share a mixed linage of African-American and Indian ancestry this has been difficult.