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Bel Abbey was born April 10, 1916, in a Koasati settlement five miles north of Elton, Louisiana. Abbey was in the last generation to be raised in the traditional Koasati social and economic system.
He was taught in the traditional manner by his grandmother, mother, and his maternal uncles. Abbey had only three years of formal education and learned to read and write during World War II. Bel Abbey was a skilled hunter and had an astute knowledge of animal behavior.
As a young girl, Marie Adams learned songs by listening to her one-hundred-four-year-old great-grandmother, grandparents, and parents.
She says, that back then "people took such songs for granted and singing ballads was not seen as anything special, but was just part of everyday life." She recalls living in the country as a child, when almost every Saturday night there was a singing party at someone's house.
Lanterns were hung in the trees and people sat on the porch eating and drinking homemade wine and beer and singing songs of love stories and telling humorous tales.
He preserved many baskets made by his mother, a master of traditional basket weaving. Abbey grew up speaking Koasati, a language related to Creek, Alibamu, and Seminole. Later in life, he learned to speak Alibamu, Choctaw, Mobilian, and Cajun French.
His amazing linguistics and teaching skills were what attracted ethnologists and linguists to his personal. He sang in the choir and worked with the pastor on projects to benefit the community.