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Natchez Tribe: Meaning unknown (the z should not be pronounced). Also called:
- Ani’-Na’tsl, Cherokee name.
- Sunset Indians, given by Swan (in Schoolcraft (1851-57)).
- Theloel or Thecoel, name used by the Natchez but seemingly derived from that of a town.
Natchez Connections. The Natchez were the largest of three tribes speaking closely related dialects, the other two being Taensa and Avoyel, and this group was remotely related to the great Muskhogean family.
Natchez Location. The historic seat of the Natchez Indians was along St. Catherines Creek, and a little east of the present city of Natchez. (See also Alabama, Louisiana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Tennessee.)
Iberville gives the following list of Natchez villages:
This list was obtained through the medium of the Mobilian trade language and part of the names are undoubtedly translated into it. Thus we find the Mobilian and Choctaw word for people, okla, “ougoula,” or “oucoula,” in five of these. The term Tougoulas probably designates the town of the Tiou, an adopted tribe, and one of the others is perhaps a designation for the adopted tribe of Grigra. Later writers usually speak of but five settlements, including that of the Grigra. One of these, the town of the “walnuts,” is evidently the Ousagoucoulas of Iberville’s informants, meaning, in reality, the town of the Hickories. The Great Village was probably the town called Naches or Natchez, and Pochougoula, the Flour Village, but the others mentioned, Jenzenaque or Jensenac and the White Apple or Apple Village cannot be identified. A White-earth village is mentioned by one writer, probably intended for the White Apple village. The Natchez among the Cherokee lived for a time at a town called Guhlaniyi.
Undoubtedly tribes of the Natchez group were encountered by De Soto and his companions in 1541-43, and it is highly probable that the chief Quigaltanqui, who figures so prominently in the pursuit of the Spaniards when they took to the Mississippi, was leader of the tribe in question or of one of its divisions. The name Natchez appears first, however, in the narratives of La Salle’s descent of the Mississippi in 1682. Relations between the French and Natchez were at first hostile, but peace was soon made and in 1699 a missionary visited the latter with a view to permanent residence. The next year Iberville, who had stopped short of the Natchez in his earlier ascent of the Mississippi, opened negotiations with the Natchez chief. A missionary was left among them at this time and the mission was maintained until 1706. In 1713 a trading post was established. The next year four Canadians, on their way north, were killed by some Natchez Indians and this resulted in a war which Bienville promptly ended. Immediately afterward a stockaded fort was built on a lofty bluff by the Mississippi and named Fort Rosalie. Several concessions were granted in the neighborhood and settlers flowed in until this was one of the most flourishing parts of the new colony. Between 1722 and 1724 there were slight disturbances in the good relations which had prevailed between the settlers and Indians, but they were soon smoothed over and harmony prevailed until a new commandant named Chépart, who seems to have been utterly unfit for his position, was sent to take command of Fort Rosalie. In consequence of his mismanagement a conspiracy was formed against the French and on November 28, 1729, the Indians rose and destroyed both post and settlement, about 200 whites being slain. Next year the French and their Choctaw allies attacked the forts into which the Natchez had retired and liberated most of their captives but accomplished little else, and one night their enemies escaped across the Mississippi, where they established themselves in other forts in the marshy regions of northeastern Louisiana. There they were again attacked and about 400 were induced to surrender, but the greater part escaped during a stormy night and withdrew to the Chickasaw, who had been secretly aiding them. Later they divided into two bands, one of which settled among the Upper Creeks while the other went to live with the Cherokee. Afterward each followed the fate of their hosts and moved west of the Mississippi with them. Those who had lived with the Creeks established themselves not far from Eufaula, Oklahoma, where the last who was able to speak the old tongue died about 1890. The Cherokee Natchez preserved their language longer, and a few are able to converse in it at the present day (1925).
Natchez Population. Mooney’s (1928) estimate of Natchez population in 1650 is 4,500; my own, as of 1698, 3,500. In 1731, after the losses suffered by them during their war with the French, Perrier estimated that they had 300 warriors. In 1735, 180 warriors were reported among the Chickasaw alone. During the latter half of the eighteenth century estimates of the warriors in the Creek band of Natchez vary from 20 to 150, and in 1836 Gallatin conjectures that its numbers over all were 300, which is probably above the fact. There are no figures whatever for the Cherokee band of Natchez.
Connection in which they have become noted. The Natchez have become famous in a number of ways:
- Because they were the largest and strongest tribe on the lower Mississippi when Louisiana was settled by the French.
- On account of their monarchical government and the peculiar institution of the Sun caste.
- On account of the custom of destroying relatives and companions of a dead member of the Sun caste to accompany him or her into the world of spirits.
- For the massacre of the French post at Natchez and the bitter war which succeeded it.
- From the name of the city of Natchez, Miss., adopted from them. The name is also borne by post villages in Monroe County, Ala.; and Natchitoches Parish, La.; and a post hamlet in Martin County, Ind.