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Natchitoch Indians (Caddo form, Näshi´tosh). A tribe of the Caddo confederacy which spoke a dialect similar to that of the Yatasi but different from that of the Kadohadacho and its closely affiliated tribes. Their villages were in the neighborhood of the present city of Natchitoches, near those of another tribe called Doustioni. Whether the army of De Soto encountered them is unknown, but after La Salle’s tragic death among the Hasinai his companions traversed their country, and Douay speaks of them as a “powerful nation.” In 1690 Tonti reached them from the Mississippi and made an alliance; and in 1699 Iberville learned of them through a Taensa Indian, but did not visit them in person. Next year, however, he sent his brother Bienville across to them from the Taensa villages. From that time and throughout the many vicissitudes of the 18th century the tribe never broke faith with the French. In 1705 they came to St. Denis, commandant of the first French fort on the Mississippi, and asked to be settled in some place where they might obtain provisions, as their corn had been ruined. They were placed near the Acolapissa, and remained there until 1712 when St Denis took them back to their old country to assist them in establishing a new post as a protection against Spanish encroachments, and also in the hope of opening up commercial relations. This post, to which a garrison was added in 1714, remained an important center for trade and travel toward the south west for more than a century. St Denis sent messages to the tribes living in the vicinity, urging them to abandon their villages and come to settle near the post, assuring them that he would never forsake them. Some of the tribes yielded to his persuasions, hoping to find safety during the disturbances of the period, but the movement only accelerated the disintegration already begun. In 1731, St Denis, at the head of the Natchitoch and other Indians, besides a few Spaniards, inflicted severe defeat on a strong party of Natchez under the Flour chief, killing about 80 of them. The Natchez, after their wars against the French, had fled to Red river and were living not far from the trading post and fort. The importance of this establishment and the friendliness of the Natchitoch made the latter so conspicuous in the affairs of the time that during the first half of the 18th century Red river was known as the Natchitock, a variant of Nashitosh or Natchitoch. DuPratz states that about 1730 their village near the French post numbered 200 cabins. Owing to wars in which they were forced to take part, to the introduction of new diseases, particularly smallpox and measles, the population of the tribe rapidly declined. In his report to President Jefferson, in 1805, Sibley gives their number as only 50, and adds, “The French inhabitants have a great respect for these natives, and a number of families have a mixture of their blood in them.” Shortly afterward they ceased to exist as a distinct tribe, having been completely amalgamated with the other tribes of the Caddo confederacy, from whom they differed in no essential of custom, or of ceremonial or social organization.
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