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Little known history of the Natchez Indians

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Most North Americans will recognize the word, “Natchez.” They will probably associate it with antebellum plantations, the Mississippi River and maybe even a Native American tribe. What else do you know about the Natchez Indians? Try taking this history quiz and see how you do.

1. This Natchez creation is one of the largest earthen structures built by the indigenous peoples of the Americas. It was still occupied in the early 1700s. What is its name?

a. Monks Mound

b. Great Natchez Mound

c. Ruby-eyed Serpent Mound

d. Emerald Mound

e. Great Yazoo Mound

2. The Natchez built their temples and chief’s houses out of wood planks.

a. True

b. False

3. The Natchez practiced human sacrifice.

a. True

b. False

4. Where were most of the Natchez living in 1732?

a. Natchez, Mississippi

b. Pine Log in mountains of Georgia

c. Natchez, Texas and Natapooches, Louisiana

d. Pine Log in the mountains of North Carolina

e. Both b and d

5. Sequoyah created much of his famous Cherokee syllabary, while living in a Natchez village?

a. True

b. False

6. The famous Native American leaders, Major Ridge, John Ridge, Uwatie, Stan Watie and Elias Boudinot were of Natchez ethnicity.

a. True

b. False

7. The only government recognized Natchez tribe is located in which state?

a. South Carolina

b. Louisiana

c. Texas

d. Mississippi

e. Oklahoma

Answers to the Quiz

1. The Great Emerald Mound, a few miles east of Natchez, Mississippi, is the second largest structure ever built by the indigenous peoples north of Mexico. It was occupied between 1200 AD and 1730 AD. The mound covers eight acres, measuring 770 feet by 435 feet at the base. It is 35 feet high on one side and 65 feet high on the other side. The earthen monument is one of the two large five-sided mounds that were built outside the territory of the Creek Indians of Georgia.

2. True – The Natchez first erected a timber post and pole frame then tied split cypress boards to the frame with rope. The Apalachicola Creeks in Alabama and Georgia also built these types of structures.

3. True – When a Great Sun (king) or town chief died, his wife, servants and some kin were strangled in a formal ceremony then buried with the man.

4. (d) Pine Log in Bartow County, Georgia and Pine Log in Cherokee County, North Carolina. After the Natchez were catastrophically defeated by the French in 1730, the survivors fled eastward to the southern Appalachian Mountains. The Creeks and Cherokees divided the survivors into two groups and placed them on the frontier between their two warring tribes.

During the 1820s, Protestant missionaries from New England entered the Cherokee Nation. By that time both Natchez communities were inside the territory of the Cherokees. The missionaries didn’t realize that the Cherokees had once spoken several languages and had also taken in Natchez refugees. They thought that the Cherokee word for Natchez People, Ani-Natzi, meant “Pine Log.” Mapmakers, from then on labeled both villages, Pine Log. Early white settlers kept the names for their communities.

5. True – Sequoyah was a belligerent in the Chickamauga-Cherokee War. When the Chickamaugas were catastrophically defeated in the Battle of Etowah Cliffs (1793) in what is now Rome, GA, Sequoyah fled to Pine Log, GA along with his friends Charles Hicks, David Hicks, James Vann, Major Ridge and Uwatie. All these men became famous leaders of the Cherokee Nation in the 1800s. Sequoyah lived in Pine Log until the turn of the century. While there, he made silverware and pewterware for wealthy Cherokees and began developing his syllabary.

6. True – The Ridge and Uwatie families were North Carolina Natchez, who were by that time considered full citizens of the Cherokee Nation. The Natchez became members of the Cherokee Bird Clan. Ridge and Uwatie fled to Pine Log, GA after the Chickamauga War because Major Ridge’s sister had moved to her Natchez relatives there to get away from the horrific guerilla warfare to the north.

7. (a) South Carolina – Although some Natchez, living among the Creeks and Cherokees in Oklahoma, still attempt to maintain their separate identity, the only separate (state-recognized) Natchez tribe is in South Carolina. It is known as the Natchez-Cusso Tribe of South Carolina. During the mid-1700s a large party of Natchez in the Southern Appalachians, who did not want to be caught up in the 40 year long Creek-Cherokee War, relocated to South Carolina to live with the Cusaw Creeks, who were involved in this war. Their descendants have maintained Natchez traditions and are recognized by the State of South Carolina. When, in 1785 the United States gave northwest Georgia to the Cherokees as a hunting ground, another large contingent of traditionalist Natchez relocated to Alabama to live among the Creeks. Their cultural traditions were much closer to that of the Creeks. By then, the pre-dominant Cherokee language had become similar to the dialects spoken today by Cherokees.

Readers wishing to ask Richard Thornton questions concerning architecture, urban planning or Native American history may contact him at NativeQuestion@aol.com.

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