of the Natchez Indians
DESCRIPTION OF THE NATCHEZ INDIANS
This remarkable tribe, the most civilized
of all the original inhabitants of the States, dwelt in the vicinity of
the present city of Natchez. In refinement and intelligence,
they were equal, if not superior, to any other tribe north of Mexico.
In courage and stratagem they were inferior to none.
Their form was noble and commanding; their statue was seldom
under 6 feet, and their persons were straight and athletic. Their
countenance indicated more intelligence than is commonly found in savages.
The head was compressed from the os frontis to the occipat, so that the
forehead appeared high and retreating, while the occiput was compressed
almost as a line with the neck and shoulders. This peculiarity, as
well as their straight, erect form, is ascribed to the pressure of bandages
Their religion, in some respects, resembled
that of the fire-worshipers of Persia. Fire was the emblem of their
divinity; the sun was their god; their chiefs were called "suns,"
and their king was called the "Great Sun." In their principal temple
a perpetual fire was kept burning by the ministering priest, who likewise
offered sacrifices of the first fruits of the chase. In extreme cases,
they offered sacrifices of infant children, to appease the wrath of the
deity. When Iberville was there, one of the temples was struck by
lightning and wet on fire. The keeper of the flame solicited the
squaws to throw their little ones into the fire to appease the angry divinity,
and four infants were thus sacrificed before the French could prevail on
them to desist from the horrid rites.
After the Frenchman Iberville reached the Natchez
tribe, the Great Sun, or king of the confederacy, having heard of the approach
of the French commandant, determined to pay him a visit in person.
As he advanced to the quarters of Iberville, he was borne upon the shoulders
of some of his men, and attended by a great retinues of his people.
He bade Iberville a hearty welcome, and showed him the most marked attention
and kindness during his stay. A treaty of friendship was concluded,
with permission to build a fort and to establish a trading-post among them;
which was, however, deferred for many years.
A few stragglers soon after took up their abode among the Natchez;
But no regular settlement was made until 1716, when Bienville, Governor
of Louisiana, erected Fort Rosalie, which stood near the eastern limit
of the present city of Natchez.
Grand, or Great Sun, the chief of the Natchez, was at first the friend
of the whites, until the overbearing disposition of one man brought destruction
on the whole colony. The residence of the Great Sun was a beautiful
village called the White Apple. This village spread over a
space of nearly three miles in extent, and stood about 12 miles south of
the fort, near the mouth of Second Creek, and three miles east of the Mississippi.
M. de Chopart, the commandant, was guilty of great injustice toward the
Indians, and went so far as to command the Great Sun to leave the village
of his ancestors, as he wanted the ground for his own purposes.
The Great Sun, finding Chopart deaf to all his entreaties, formed
a plot to rid his country of the tyrant who oppressed them. Previous
to the tragedy, the Sieur de Mace, ensign of the garrison, received advice
of the intention of the Natchez, through a young Indian girl who loved
him. She told him, crying, that her nation intended to massacre the
French. Amazed at this story, he questioned his mistress. Her
simple answers, and her tender tears, left him no room to doubt of the
plot. He informed Chopart of it, who forthwith put him under arrest
for giving a false alarm.
The following is from Monette's History of the Valley of the Mississippi:
"At length the fatal day arrived. It was November 29th, 1729.
Early in the morning Great Sun repaired, with a few chosen warriors, to
Fort Rosalie, and all were well armed with knives and other concealed weapons.
"The company had recently set up a large supply of powder and lead,
and provisions for the use of the post. The Indians had recourse
to stratagem to procure a supply of ammunition, pretending that they were
preparing for a great hunting excursion. Before they set out, they
wished to purchase a supply of ammunition, and they had brought corn and
poultry to barter for powder and lead. Having placed the garrison
off their guard, a number of Indians were permitted to enter the fort,
and others were distributed about the company's warehouse. Upon a
certain signal from the Great Sun, the Indians immediately drew their concealed
weapons, and commenced the carnage by one simultaneous and furious massacre
of the garrison, and all who were in and near the warehouse.
"Other parities, distributed through the contiguous settlements,
carried on the bloody work in every house as son as the smoke was seen
to rise from the houses near the fort.
"The massacre commenced at 9 o'clock in the morning, and before noon
the whole of the male population of the French colony on St. Catharine
(consisting of about 700 souls) were sleeping the sleep of death.
The slaves were spared for the service of the victors, and the females
and children were reserved as prisoners of war. Chopart fell among
the first victims; and, as the chiefs disdained to stain their hands
with his despised blood, he was dispatched by the hand of a common Indian.
Two mechanics, a tailor, and a carpenter were spared, because they might
be useful to the Indians.
"While the massacre was progressing, the Great Sun seated himself
in the spacious warehouse of the company, and, with apparent unconcern
and complacency, sat and smoked his pipe while his warriors were depositing
the heads of the French garrison in a pyramid at his feet. The head
of Chopart was placed in the center, surmounting those of his officers
and soldiers. So soon as the warriors informed the Great Sun that
the last Frenchman had ceased to live, he commanded the pillage to commence.
The negro slaves were employed in bringing out the plunder for distribution.
The powder and military stores were reserved for public use in future emergencies.
"While the ardent spirits remained, the day and the night alike presented
one continued scene of savage triumph and drunken revelry. With horrid
yells they spent their orgies in dancing over the mangled bodies of their
enemies, which lay strewed in every quarter where they had fallen in the
general carnage. Here, unburied, they remained a prey for dogs and
hungry vultures. Every vestige of the homes and dwellings in all
the settlements were reduced to ashes.
"Two soldiers only, who happened to be absent in the woods at the
time of the massacre, escaped to bear the melancholy tidings to New Orleans.
As they approached the fort and hear the deafening yells of the savages,
and saw the columns of smoke and flame ascending from the buildings, they
well judged the fate of their countrymen. They concealed themselves
until they could procure a boat or canoe to descend the river to New Orleans,
where they arrived a few days afterward, and told the sad story of the
colony on the St. Catharine.
"The same fate was shared by the colony on the Yazoo, near Fort.
St. Peter, and by those on the Washita, at Sicily Island, and near the
present town of Monroe. Dismay and terror were spread over every
settlement in the province. New Orleans was filled with mourning
and sadness for the fate of friends and countrymen.
"The whole number of victims slain in this massacre amounted to more
than 200 men, besides a few women and some negroes, who attempted to defend
their masters. Ninety-two women and 155 children were taken prisoners.
Among the victims were Father Poisson, the Jesuit missionary; Laloire,
the principal agent of the company; M. Kollys and Son, who had purchased
M. Hubert's interest, and had just arrived to take possession."
AFTERMATH AND EXTINCTION
When the news of this terrible disaster reached New Orleans, the
French commenced a war of extermination against the Natchez. The
tribe eventually were driven across the Mississippi, and finally scattered
and extirpated. The Great Sun and his principal war chiefs, falling
into the hands of the French, were shipped to St. Domingo and sold as slaves.
Some of the poor prisoners were treated with excessive cruelty; four
of the men and two of the women were publicly burned to death at New Orleans.
Some Tonica Indians, who had brought down a Natchez woman, whom they had
discovered in the woods, were allowed to execute her in the same manner.
The unfortunate woman was led forth to a platform consumed by the flames!
She supported her tortures with stoical fortitude, not shedding a tear.
"On the contrary," says Gayarre, "she upbraided her torturers with their
want of skill, flinging at them every opprobrious epithet she could think
The scattered remnants of the tribe sought an asylum among the Chickasaws
and other tribes who were hostile to the French. Since that time,
the individuality of the Natchez tribe has been swallowed up in the nations
with whom they were incorporated. yet no tribe has left no proud
a memorial of their courage, their independent spirit, and their contempt
of death in defense of their rights and liberties. The City of Natchez
is their monument, standing upon the field of their glory.
Some of the remaining individuals of the Natchez tribe were in the
town of Natchez as late as the year 1782, more than half a century after
the Natchez massacre. Such is the brief history of the Natchez Indians,
who are now considered extinct.
Bibliography - Making Of America, by James
Dabney McCabe; Hubbard Brothers, Philadelphia, PA, 1876.