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Linguistic Groups Of The Gulf States

In the history of the Creeks, and in their legends of migration, many references occur to the tribes around them, with whom they came in contact. These contacts were chiefly of a hostile character, for the normal state of barbaric tribes is to live in almost permanent mutual conflicts. What follows is an attempt to enumerate and sketch them, the sketch to be of a prevalently topographic nature. We are not thoroughly acquainted with the racial or anthropological peculiarities of the nations surrounding the Maskoki proper on all sides, but in their languages we possess an excellent help for classifying them. Language is not an absolute indicator of race, but it is more so in America than elsewhere, for the large number of linguistic families in the western hemisphere proves that the populations speaking their dialects have suffered less than in the eastern by encroachment, foreign admixture, forcible alteration or entire destruction.

Beginning at the southeast, we first meet the historic Timucua family, the tribes of which are extinct at the present time; and after describing the Indians of the Floridian Peninsula, southern extremity, we pass over to the Yuchi, on Savannah river, to the Naktche, Taensa and the other stocks once settled along and beyond the mighty Uk’hina, or “water road” of the Mississippi river.

The enumeration of the southern linguistic stocks winds up with the Atákapa; but it comprises only the families the existence of which is proved by vocabularies. Tonica and the recently discovered Taensa furnish the proof that the Gulf States may have harbored, or still harbor, allophylic tribes speaking languages unknown to us. The areas of the southern languages being usually small, they could easily escape discovery, insomuch as the attention of the explorers and colonists was directed more toward ethnography than toward aboriginal linguistics.