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Yuchi Material Culture

Wood Working. The Yuchi men spend part of their time, when not engaged directly in procuring food, in manufacturing various useful articles out of wood. One form of knife, yanlibo’, ‘knife bent,’ used in whittling such objects, consists of a piece of iron curved at one after the fashion of a farrier’s knife (Fig. 15). The handle part of the metal is bound around with cloth or skin to soften it for the grasp. The wood worker draws the knife towards himself in carving. Thus are made ladles, spoons, and other objects that come in handy about the house. Larger objects of wood are shaped not only by whittling with knives, but by burning. For instance dugout canoes, tcu si’, were made of cypress trunks hollowed out in the center by means of fire. As the wood became charred it was scraped away so that the fire could attack a fresh surface, and so on until the necessary part was removed. It sometimes falls to the lot of women to help in the manufacture of certain wooden objects. One such case is to be seen in the hollowing out of the cavity of the corn mortar. After the man has sectioned a hickory log of the proper length and diameter, about 30 by 14 inches, he turns the matter over to several women of his household. They start a fire on top of the log, which is stood up on end. The fire is intended to burn away the heart of the log, so, to control its advance and to keep it going, two women blow upon it through...

Yuchi Fishing

Quite naturally fishing plays an important part in the life of the Yuchi who have almost always lived near streams furnishing fish in abundance. Catfish, cu dj?á, garfish, pike, cu cpá, bass, cu wadá, and many other kinds are eagerly sought for by families and sometimes by whole communities at a time, to vary their diet. We find widely distributed among the people of the Southeast a characteristic method of getting fish by utilizing certain vegetable poisons which are thrown into the water. Among the Yuchi the practice is as follows. During the months of July and August many families gather at the banks of some convenient creek for the purpose of securing quantities of fish and, to a certain extent, of intermingling socially for a short time. A large stock of roots of devil’s shoestring (Tephrosia virginiana) is laid up and tied in bundles beforehand. The event usually occurs at a place where rifts cause shallow-water below and above a well-stocked pool. Stakes are driven close together at the rifts to act as barriers to the passage and escape of the fish. Then the bundles of roots (Fig. 6) are thrown in and the people enter the water to stir it up. This has the effect of causing the fish, when the poison has had time to act, to rise to the surface, bellies up, seemingly dead. They are then gathered by both men and women and carried away in baskets to be dried for future use, or consumed in a feast which ends the event. The catch is equally divided among those present. Upon which an occasion,...

Yuchi Hunting

Hunting was pursued by the men either singly or in bands. While the attendance upon the crops kept them at home much of the time, there were seasons of comparative idleness during which parties set off on the hunt. The flesh of nearly all the mammals and birds of their habitat was eaten by the Yuchi with the exception of such as were sacred for ceremonial purposes or were protected by some taboo. The chief game animals hunted by them for their flesh were the deer, weeyan’, bison, wedingá, bear, sagee’, raccoon, djatyAn’, opossimi, WAtsagowAn’, rabbit, cádjwané, squirrel, cayá; while those whose skins were chiefly sought after were the panther, weiceAn’, wildcat, poci’, fox, cadeané, wolf, dalá, otter, culané, beaver, cag n’, and skunk, yuseAn’. The flesh of these was also eaten at times. Wild turkeys, wctcea’, quail, spans i’, partridge, ducks, geese and other birds were continually hunted for food. The game animals were believed to be very cunning and wise in knowing how to avoid being captured. So in order to blind their senses, and to over-come their guardian spirits, the magic power of certain song burdens was employed by hunters. Shamans held these formulas in their possession and could be induced to accompany the hunting party to the field to aid in the bewitching of the quarry. Shamans might also teach the formula to some one for the same purpose, upon the payment of some price or upon being promised a share in the spoils. One of these songs used for charming the deer is. The syllables gi do are sometimes given three times, sometimes four,...

Yuchi Farming

Although the Yuchi of today are cultivators of the soil, as they were in former times, the manner and method of agriculture has undergone many radical changes since the first contact with Europeans. The modification of this branch of their culture has been so thorough that we can only construct, from survivals and tradition, an idea of its former state. The villages were surrounded by fertile spaces, cleared of timber and other vegetation by burning in dry springtime. These spaces were converted into garden patches where vegetables were sown and tended as they grew up, by a daily but irregularly-timed cultivation. It is not now remembered whether particular parts of the arable ground were the personal property of the individuals or clans. Hawkins states, however, that both men and women labored together; the Yuchi differing in this respect from the Creeks. The old people and children found daily employment in acting as guardians over the growing crops, in driving away crows, blackbirds and other troublesome creatures. In general, the land of the tribe belonged to whosoever occupied or utilized it. The boundaries of fields, plantations and real estate holdings, where encroachment was likely to occur, were marked by upright comer stones with distinguishing signs on them to indicate the claim. A man would simply adopt some optional design or figure as his brand and make this his property mark. Trees were also blazed to mark off property limits. In blazing, a piece of bark about as large as the hand was sliced off about five feet from the ground, leaving the white wood exposed. Sometimes the space was marked...

Yuchi Pipe Making

A large number of tobacco pipes of clay, sacu’yud?c’, ‘earth pipes’ (Fig. 11), were formerly made and used by the Yuchi. The variety in form shown by these pipes indicates that at an earlier time work in clay must have been a rather important activity with them. It seems that pipe making was, and is yet to a limited extent, practiced by the men. Clay is prepared in the manner described before for pots, and made into lengths about an inch in diameter. With a knife, cylinders of various lengths are cut out which are to be bent and hollowed into desired forms for the pipes. This shaping is done with the knife, the sides being shaved down round or square and the angles squared to suit the artisan’s taste. The narrower end is twisted at right angles to the bowl to form the stem-holder. The knife is then used to gouge out and hollow the bowl. A small pointed stick (Fig. 10, a) is twisted into the stem end to make a hole for the stem, and when it has nearly reached the bowl cavity a small sharp twig is used to connect the two openings. After the exterior has been finished off -with the knife the pipe is complete except for a cane or hollow twig stem. A piece of flint (Fig. 10, 5) is often used to rub the pipe with and give it a polish, but generally none is thought necessary. The making of effigy forms in pipes is mostly done by pressing and shaping with the fingers. The pipes are seldom baked, as this...

Yuchi Pottery

The sedentary life of the Yuchi has given ample opportunity for the development of the art of making pottery. The coiled process is in vogue, but it may be remarked that the modern pots of these Indians are of a rather crude and unfinished form, which is probably traceable to deterioration in later years. The process of manufacture of ordinary pots for domestic use is as follows. A fine consistent clay is selected and washed in a flat vessel to separate all grit and stones from it. Then lumps are rolled between the palms and elongated in the form of sticks. A flat piece, the size of the bottom of the desired pot, is made and the lengths or sticks of rolled clay are coiled around on this base and so built up until the proper height and form is obtained. Whatever decorations are to be added are now either produced by incision with a sharp stick or by impression with a stick or shell. The whole surface is afterwards scraped with a fresh-water mussel shell, ctangané (Fig. 7), until the outside of the pot is smooth, and then, with the back of the shell, the scraped surface is rubbed to varying degrees of polish, or the hand may be used to give a dull lustre to the surface. The surface is moistened after the clay is dry and then rubbed until it assumes a fairly permanent polish. The pot is next allowed to dry for a few days out of the sunshine. Then it is baked near a fire. When several pots are being baked they are arranged...

Yuchi Basket Making

Another handicraft in the seemingly well-rounded industrial life of the Yuchi is basket making. The women possess the knowledge of at least two processes of basket weaving; the checker work and the twilled. The baskets in general are of two sorts. One is a large rough kind made of hickory or oak splints not unlike the ordinary split baskets made by the Algonkian tribes, with handles for carrying. The other kind, in the manufacture of which cane rinds are chiefly employed, is distinctly characteristic of the Southeastern and Gulf area. A collection of Yuchi baskets resembles those of the Choctaw or Chitimacha in general appearance and technique, although the Yuchi forms obtainable today do not show as much diversity as the others. In their present location, unfortunately, the Yuchi are handicapped by the lack of basket stuffs, while the other tribes still occupy territory where cane is abundant. This may perhaps be the reason why we find the Yuchi comparatively deficient in variety of basket forms and weaves, when other tribes of the southern or Gulf area, as the Chitimacha, Attakapa and Choctaw, are considered. The regular basket material is cane {Arundinaria). For baskets of the common household storage type, intended as well for general domestic utility, the cane rind is the part used, as the outside is fine and smooth. Splints from the inner portion of the cane stalk are employed in the construction of basket sieves and other coarser types. The forms and outlines of common utility baskets, däst’, shown in PI. IV, Figs. 1, 2, seem to resemble the common pottery forms in having the opening...

Yuchi Tribe Clothing

For a people living in quite a warm climate the Yuchi, as far back as they have any definite knowledge, seem to have gone about rather profusely clothed, but the descriptions obtained refer only to a time when the white traders’ materials had replaced almost entirely the native products. A bright colored calico shirt was worn by the men next to the skin. Over this was a sleeved jacket reaching, on young men, a little below the waist, on old men and chiefs, below the knees. The shirt hung free before and behind, but was bound around the waist by a belt or woolen sash. The older men who wore the long coat-like garment had another sash with tassels dangling at the sides outside of this. These two garments, it should be remembered, were nearly always of calico or cotton goods, while it sometimes happened that the long coat was of deerskin. Loin coverings were of two kinds; either a simple apron was suspended from a girdle next the skin before and behind, or a long narrow strip of stroud passed between the legs and was tucked underneath the girdle in front and in back, where the ends were allowed to fall as flaps. Leggings of stroud or deerskin reaching from ankle to hip were supported by thongs to the belt and bound to the leg by tasseled and beaded garter bands below the knee. Deerskin moccasins covered the feet. Turbans of cloth, often held in place by a metal head band in which feathers were set for ornament, covered the head. The man’s outfit was then complete when...

Yuchi Indians Food

In the preparation of food several kinds of wooden utensils are employed. The largest and perhaps the most important piece of household furniture of this sort was the mortar, dilá, and pestle, dicä lá. The mortar (PI. III, Fig. 10, a) which is simply a log several feet high with the bark removed having a cavity about eight inches deep, seems, moreover, to be an important domes-tic fetish. We find that it is connected in some way with the growing up and the future prospects of the children of the family. It occupies a permanent position in the door yard, or the space in front of the house. Only one mortar is owned by the family and there is a strong feeling, even today, against moving it about and particularly against selling it. We shall see later that the navel string of a female child is laid away underneath the mortar in the belief that the presiding spirit will guide the growing girl in the path of domestic efficiency. The pestle that goes with this utensil is also of wood (PI. Ill, Fig. 10, b). Its length is usually about six feet. The lower end that goes into the cavity of the mortar and does the crushing is rounded off. The top of the pestle is left broad, to act as a weight and give force to its descent. Several forms of carving are to be observed in these clubbed pestle tops which are presumably ornamental, as shown in the cuts (Fig. 22). Spoons, yáda ctiué, showing some variation in size and relative proportions, are found commonly in domestic...

Yuchi Indians Homes

As the native methods of house building have nearly all passed out of use some time ago, we have to depend upon descriptions from memory supplemented by observations made in the ceremonial camp where temporary shelters are made which preserve old methods of construction. The dwelling house of the present-day Yuchi is like that of the ordinary white settler: a structure of squared or round notched logs, with a peak roof of home-made shingles and a door on one side. Windows may be present or not, according to the whim of the owner. The same is true of the fireplace, which may be an inside open grate at one end of the building, or a hearth in the middle of the room with smoke hole directly above. These houses show all possible grades of comfort and elaboration in their construction. Directly in front of the door it is customary to have a shade arbor raised where cooking is done. Here spare time is spent in comfortably lounging about while light occupations are carried on by various members of the family. Such a house is called tsole’, and may be, in its main idea, a survival of one form of original house. Bartram and other travelers who saw the southeastern Indians at an early date describe notched log houses among the Cherokee, so there is some possibility of the native origin of the simple square log house of the modern Yuchi and their neighbors the Creeks. Fortunately, however, we find in the work of Bartram’ a fairly good, though short, description of the houses of the Yuchi as he saw...
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