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Natchitoches Indians, Natchitoches tribe. The word “Natchitoches” is generally supposed to be derived from “nashitosh”, the native word for pawpaw but an early Spanish writer, Jose Antonio Pichardo, was told that it was from a native word “nacicit” signifying “a place where the soil is the color of red ochre,” and that it was applied originally to a small creek in their neighborhood running through red soil. The following are synonyms:
Natchitoches Connections. They belonged to the Caddo division of the Caddoan linguistic stock, their nearest relatives being the Indians of the Kadohadacho and Hasinai Confederacies.
Natchitoches Location. In northwestern Louisiana.
Moscoso, De Soto’s successor, perhaps encountered some of the tribes of this group though his route lay farther north and west. On February 17, 1690, Tonti reached the villages of these Indians coming from the Taensa on Lake St. Joseph, and went on up the river to the Kadohadacho, visiting the Yatasi on the way. In March 1700 Bienville followed the same route from the Taensa and reached the Natchitoches Indians in April, stopping at the Ouachita town en route. He went up Red River as far as the Yatasi and then returned to Biloxi. In 1702 the Natchitoches tribe, having lost their crops, descended the Red River and the Mississippi to the French fort near the mouth of the latter, then commanded by Louis Juchereau de St. Denis, who received them kindly and sent them to live with the Acolapissa Indians on Lake Pontchartrain. A few years later St. Denis visited the Natchitoches country himself. In 1707 four Indians of this tribe took part in an expedition against the Chitimacha to avenge the death of the missionary St. Cosme. In 1713-14 St. Denis sent for the Natchitoches Indians in order to take them back to their old country, where he had planned to establish a post. On learning of the intentions of their neighbors, the Acolapissa Indians fell upon them, killed 17 and captured 50 women and girls, but the latter were apparently recovered soon afterward and all were returned to their old town, where the post was established according to plan in 1714. From this time until his death St. Denis’ career was intimately bound up with this post and the Indians about it, though he was frequently engaged in expeditions into and across Texas. He was formally appointed commandant of the post July 1, 1720, and retained it until his death in June 1744. In 1731, with the assistance of his Indians and a detachment of soldiers from the Spanish post of Adai, he won a signal victory over a large body of Natchez Indians, the only clear-cut advantage which the French gained in the Natchez War. In the meantime Natchitoches had become the center of a flourishing trade with the Indians extending far to the north and west, and when St. Denis died his son, Louis de St. Denis continued to enjoy the advantages of it and to share the prestige of his father. During all of this time, however, the Natchitoches Indians seem to have been decreasing, and toward the end of the eighteenth century they parted with most of their lands to French Creoles, though their relations with the latter seem to have been uniformly cordial. Part of them remained in their old country permanently and either died out or mixed with the newcomers, while the rest joined their relatives of the Kadohadacho and Hasinai Confederations and followed their fortunes.
Natchitoches Population. In 1700 Bienville estimated that there were 400-450 warriors in the Natchitoches Confederacy, but in 1718 he reported that the number had fallen to 80, while La Harpe (1831) reported a total population of 150-200. In 1805 Sibley (1832) reported 52 warriors and for the Natchitoches tribe by itself, 32, and 20 years later a total population of 61 was returned. An estimate of 1,000 for all of these tribes before White contact would probably be ample.
Connection in which they have become noted. The city of Natchitoches, La., is named after this group of tribes and is noteworthy as the oldest permanent settlement in the State. The victory which they enabled St. Denis to win over the Natchez Indians occupies a noteworthy place in the history of the section.
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