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Now That's INteresting!
by Sandra S. Juneau
Have you ever wondered about something you’ve read or heard about the northshore? Are you curious about a landmark you’ve seen? Would you like to know more about a local name, a famous northshore resident or the history of a particular location or community? Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration, putting “Now that’s interesting” in the subject line. While we can’t print all of them, we hope that we’ll all learn a bit more about the place we call home.
What is the origin of “Tchefuncte?” What does it mean?
The name “Tchefuncte” is derived from the Choctaw word “Hachofakti,” meaning a type of shrub oak tree that produced a small edible nut called “chinquapin,” which is similar to a chestnut. During the early Indian days, these trees lined the banks of the river. The Tchefuncte Indian culture can be traced to small scattered settlements along the river from as far back as 600B.C.; it continued to flourish there until A.D.200.
The accepted spelling is “Tchefuncte” (pronounced Che-funk’-tuh), but there have been at least seven other spellings for this Indian name. Such different spellings as “Chefuncta,” “Chefuncto,” “Chifoncta,” “Kefonte,” “Kefuncte,” “Quefoncte” and “Tchefuncta” have all appeared on early maps of the region. “Tchefuncta” is still used today.
By the time the French explorers arrived in the 1700s, the Choctaw Indians had established the Tchefuncte River as a trading route through Lake Pontchartrain and into its tributaries. Traveling by boats made from hollowed-out cypress trunks, they carried their bounty across lakes and streams to trade their goods with other Indian groups.
The Tchefuncte River forms part of the border between St. Tammany and Tangipahoa parishes. Then, meandering through western St. Tammany, the river flows southerly and is joined by the Bogue Falaya River in Covington. Its banks border Madisonville, until, two miles below, the river flows into Lake Pontchartrain.
Today, this scenic waterway is renowned as a boater’s paradise and still offers a glimpse along its riverbanks of moss-draped cypress, willow and marsh grasses. If you take the time to listen, you can almost hear echoes of the early Tchefuncte Indians who fished the waters, hunted deer, native birds and other game and gathered wild persimmons, chinquapin nuts and berries from the lush riverbanks.