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Extermination 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 during infancy.

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."


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 of."

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.

Massacre at Fort Rosalie - November 28, 1729
Grand Village of the Natchez Indians


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