None of all the allophylic tribes referred to in this First Part stood in closer connection with the Creeks or Maskoki proper than the Yuchi or Uchee Indians. They constituted a portion of their confederacy from the middle of the eighteenth century, and this gives us the opportunity to discuss their peculiarities more in detail than those of the other “outsiders.” They have preserved their own language and customs; no mention is made of them in the migration legend, and the Creeks have always considered them as a peculiar people.
General Pleasant Porter has kindly favored me with a few ethnologic points, gained by himself from Yuchi Indians, who inhabit the largest town in the Creek Nation, Indian Terr., with a population of about 500. “In bodily size they are smaller than the Creeks, but lithe and of wiry musculature, the muscles often protruding from the body. Their descent is in the male line, and they were once polygamous. It is a disputed fact whether they ever observed the custom of flattening their childrens heads, like some of their neighbors. They call themselves children of the Sun, and sun worship seems to have been more pronounced here than with other tribes of the Gulf States. The monthly efflux of the Sun, whom they considered as of the female sex, fell to the earth, as they say, and from this the Yuchi people took its origin. They increase in number at the present time, and a part of them are still pagans. Popularly expressed, their language sounds like the warble of the prairie chickens. It is stated that their conjurers songs give a clue to all their antiquities and symbolic customs. They exclude the use of salt from all drugs which serve them as medicine. While engaged in making medicine they sing the above songs for a time; then comes the oral portion of their ritual, which is followed by other songs.”
Not much is known of their language, but it might be easily obtained from the natives familiar with English. From what we know of it, it shows no radical affinity with any known American tongue, and its phonetics have often been noticed for their strangeness. They are said to speak with an abundance of arrested sounds or voice-checks, from which they start again with a jerk of the voice. The accent often rests on the ultima (Powells mscr. vocabulary), and Ware ascribes to them, though wrongly, the Hottentot cluck.
The numerals follow the decimal, not the quinary system as they do in the Maskoki languages. The lack of a dual form in the intransitive verb also distinguishes Yuchi from the latter.
The earliest habitat of the Yuchi, as far as traceable, was on both sides of the Savannah River, and Yuchi towns existed there down to the middle of the eighteenth century.
When Commander H. de Soto reached these parts with his army, the “queen” (señora, caçica) of the country met him at the town Cofetaçque on a barge, a circumstance which testifies to the existence of a considerable water-course there. Cofetaçque, written also Cofitachiqui (Biedma), Cofachiqui (Garcilaso de la Vega), Cutifachiqui (consonants inverted, Elvas) was seven days march from Chalaque (Cheroki) ” province,” and distant from the sea about thirty leagues, as stated by the natives of the place. There were many ruined towns in the vicinity, we are told by the Fidalgo de Elvas. One league from there, in the direction up stream, was Talomeco town, the “temple” of which is described as a wonderful and curious structure by Garcilaso. Many modern historians have located these towns on the middle course of Savannah river, and Charles C. Jones (Hernando de Soto, 1880; pp. 27. 29) believes, with other investigators, that Cofetaçque stood at Silver Bluff, on the left bank of the Savannah river, about twenty-five miles by water below Augusta. The domains of that “queen,” or, as we would express it, the towns and lands of that confederacy, extended from there up to the Cheroki Mountains.
The name Cofita-chiqui seems to prove by itself that these towns were inhabited by Yuchi Indians; for it contains kowita, the Yuchi term for Indian, and apparently “Indian of our own tribe.” This term appears in all the vocabularies: kawíta, man, male; kohwita, ko-ita, plural kohinoh, man; kota, man, contracted from kowta, kowita; also in compounds: kowŭt-ten-chōō, chief; kohítta makinnung, chief of a people. The terms for the parts of the human body all begin with ko-. The second part of the name, -chiqui, is a term foreign to Yuchi, but found in all the dialects of Maskoki in the function of house, dwelling, (tchúku, tchóko, and in the eastern or Apalachian dialects, tchíki) and has to be rendered here in the collective sense of houses, town. Local names to be compared with Cofitachiqui are: Cofachi, further south, and Acapachiqui, a tract of land near Apalache.
The signification of the name Yutchi, plural Yutchihá, by which this people calls itself, is unknown. All the surrounding Indian tribes call them Yuchi, with the exception of the Lenápi or Delawares, who style them Tahogaléwi.
But there are two sides to this question. We find the local name Kawíta, evidently the above term, twice on middle Chatahuchi River, and also in Cofetalaya, settlements of the Chahta Indians in Tala and Green Counties, Mississippi. Did any Yuchi ever live in these localities in earlier epochs? Garcilaso de Vega, Florida III, c. 10, states that Juan Ortiz, who had been in the Floridian peninsula before, acted as interpreter at Cofitachiqui. This raises the query; did the natives of this “capital” speak Creek or Yuchi? Who will attempt to give an irrefutable answer to this query?
The existence of a “queen” or caçica, that is, of a chiefs widow invested with the authority of a chief, seems to show that Cofetaçque town or confederacy did not belong to the Maskoki connection, for we find no similar instance in Creek towns. Among the Yuchi, succession is in the male line, but the Hitchiti possess a legendary tradition, according to which the first chief that ever stood at the head of their community was a woman.
To determine the extent of the lands inhabited or claimed by the Yuchi in de Soto s time, is next to impossible. At a later period they lived on the eastern side of the Savannah River, and on its western side as far as Ogeechee river, and upon tracts above and below Augusta, Georgia. These tracts were claimed by them as late as 1736. John Filson, in his “Discovery etc. of Kentucky” vol. II, 84-87 (1793), gives a list of thirty Indian tribes, and a statement on Yuchi towns, which he must have obtained from a much older source: ” Uchees occupy four different places of residence, at the head of St. John s, the fork of St. Marys, the head of Cannouchee and the head of St. Tillis. These rivers rise on the borders of Georgia and run separately into the ocean.” To Cannouchee answers a place Canosi, mentioned in Juan de la Vanderas narrative (1569); the name, however, is Creek and not Yuchi. Hawkins states that formerly Yuchi were settled in small villages at Ponpon, Saltketchers and Silver Bluff, S. C., and on the Ogeechee River, Ga. In 1739 a Yuchi town existed on the Savannah River, twenty-five miles above Ebenezer, which is in Effingham County, Georgia, near Savannah City (Jones, Tomochichi, see later).
From notices contained in the first volume of Urlspergers “Ausführliche Nachricht,” pp. 845. 850-851, we gather the facts that this Yuchi town was five miles above the Apalachicola Fort, which stood in the “Pallachucla savanna,” and that its inhabitants celebrated an annual busk, which was at times visited by the colonists. Governor Oglethorpe concluded an alliance with this town, and when he exchanged presents to confirm the agreement made, he obtained skins from these Indians. Rev. Boltzius, the minister of the Salzburger emigrants, settled in the vicinity, depicts their character in dark colors; he states ” they are much inclined to Robbing and Stealing,” but was evidently influenced by the Yamassi and Yamacraw in their vicinity, who hated them as a race foreign to themselves. Of these he says, “these Creeks are Honest, Serviceable and Disinterested.”
The reason why the Yuchi people gradually left their old seats and passed over to Chatahuchi and Flint rivers is stated as follows by Benj. Hawkins, United States Agent among the Creeks in his instructive “Sketch of the Creek Country” (1799).
In 1729, “Captain Ellick,” an old chief of Kasihta, married three Yuchi women and brought them to Kasihta. This was greatly disliked by his townspeople, and he was prevailed upon to move across Chatahuchi River, opposite to where Yuchi town was in Hawkins time; he settled there with his three brothers, two of whom had intermarried with Yuchis. After this, the chief collected all the Yuchi people, gave them lands on the site of Yuchi town, and there they settled.
Hawkins eulogizes the people by stating that they are more civil, orderly and industrious than their neighbors (the Lower Creeks), the men more attached to their wives, and these more chaste. He estimates the number of their warriors (“gun-men”), including those of the three branch villages, at about two hundred and fifty. These branch towns were Intatchkálgi, “beaver-dam people”; Padshiläika, “pigeon roost”; and Tokogálgi, “tad-pole people”, on Flint River and its side creeks; while a few Yuchi had gone to the Upper Creeks and settled there at Sawanógi. Yuchi, the main town, lay on the western bank of Chatahuchi River, on a tributary called Yuchi creek, ten and one-half miles below Kawíta Talahássi, and two miles above Osutchi. Another water course, called “Uchee river,” runs from the west into Oklokoni River, or “Yellow Water,” in the southwestern corner of the State of Georgia. Morse, in his list of Seminole settlements (1822), mentions a Yuchi town near Mikasuki, Florida.
The main Yuchi town on Chatahuchi River was built in a vast plain rising from the river. W. Bartram, who saw it in 1775, depicts it as the largest, most compact, and best situated Indian town he ever saw; the habitations were large and neatly built, the walls of the houses consisted of a wooden frame, lathed and plastered inside and outside with a reddish clay, and roofed with cypress bark or shingles. He estimated the number of the inhabitants at one thousand or fifteen hundred. They were usually at variance with the Maskoki confederacy, and “did not mix” with its people, but were wise enough to unite with them against a common enemy (Travels, pp. 386. 387).
The early reports may often have unconsciously included the Yuchi among the Apalachi and Apalatchúkla. Among the chiefs who accompanied Tomochichi, miko of the Yamacraw Indians, to England in 1733, was Umphichi or Umpeachy, “a Uchee chief from Palachocolas.”
William Bartram, who traveled through these parts from 1773 to 1778, and published his “Travels” many years later, calls them “Uche or Savannuca,” which is the Creek Sawanógi, or “dwellers upon Savannah river.” This name Savannuca, and many equally sounding names, have caused much confusion concerning a supposed immigration of the Shawano or Shawnee Indians (of the Algonkin race) into Georgia, among historians not posted in Indian languages. Sawanógi is derived from Savannah River, which is named after the prairies extending on both sides, these being called in Spanish sabana. Sabana, and savane in the Canadian French, designate a grassy plain, level country, prairie, also in Span, pasture extending over a plain; from Latin sabana napkin. It still occurs in some local names of Canada and of Spanish America. But this term has nothing at all in common with the Algonkin word sháwano south, from which are derived the tribal names: Shawano or Shawnee, once on Ohio and Cumberland Rivers and their tributaries; Chowan in Southern Virginia; Siwoneys in Connecticut; Sawannoe in New Jersey (about 1616); Chaouanons, the southern division of the Illinois or Maskoutens.
These tribes, and many others characterized as southerners by the same or similar Algonkin names, had no connection among themselves, besides the affinity in their dialects, which for the Chowans is not even certain. The tradition that Sháwano existed in Upper Georgia, around Tugĕlo, and on the head waters of the large Georgia rivers, requires therefore further examination. Milfort, in his Memoire (pp. 9. 10) states that lands were obtained from “les Savanogués, sauvages qui habitent cette partie (de Tougoulou),” for the plantation of vineyards, about 1775. The name of the Suwanee River, Florida, and that of Suwanee Creek and town, northeast of Atlanta, Georgia, seem to contain the Creek term sawáni echo. By all means, these names cannot serve to prove the presence of the Shawano tribe in these eastern parts, but a settlement of Sháwano, also called Sawanógi, existed on Tallapoosa River, where they seem to have been mixed with Yuchi.
A. Gallatin, “Synopsis of the Indian Tribes,” p. 95, mentions a tradition, according to which “the ancient seats of the Yuchi were east of the Coosa, and probably of the Chatahuchi river, and that they consider themselves as the most ancient inhabitants of the country.” Of which country? If the whole country is meant, which was at the dawn of history held by Maskoki tribes, the name of the Yazoo River may be adduced as an argument for the truth of this tradition, for yasu, yashu is the Yuchi term for leaf and any leaf-bearing tree, even pines (from ya, wood, tree], and Kawíta has been mentioned above. From a thorough comparative study of the Yuchi language, the Maskoki dialects and the local nomenclature of the country, we can alone expect any reliable information upon the extent and the area of territory anciently held by the Yuchi; but at present it is safest to locate their “priscan home” upon both sides of Lower Savannah river.
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- The present Satilla river; falsely written St. Ilia, Santilla, St. Tillie.↵
- Extract from Rev. Bs Journal; London, 1734, 12 mo, p. 37.↵
- Collections of the Georgia Historical Society, vol. Ill, part first, pp. 61-63 (Savannah, 1848).↵
- See below: List of Creek Settlements.↵
- Cf. Gallatin, Synopsis, p. 95.↵
- Chas. C. Jones, Tomochichi, pp. 58. 83.↵
- Published Philadelphia, 1791.↵
- Cf. List of Creek Towns, and Pénicaut, in B. French, Hist. Coll. La., new series, p. 126; Force, Some Notices on Indians of Ohio, p. 22.↵