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Ellen Pack
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Page 2

The Choctaw

     In the early days Yazoo county abounded in more numerous and perhaps more varied wild animals than did any other section of the State. It was, therefore, a favorite hunting and fishing ground of the Indians before and for many years after they parted with the right of domain. While they were living in what is now Leake, Attala and other eastern counties, they would hunt and fish in Yazoo county during certain periods of the year, bringing with them their squaws and papooses, or children. In going from place to place, the men frequently rode, but the women always walked, carrying their infant children in baskets on their backs, with straps extending around their foreheads.

     Each Choctaw family had a small field on which was a peach orchard besides patches for raising corn and other vegetables. Long after they left Yazoo county these fields could still be distinguished. They were called “Indian fields.” As all of them had peach orchards on them any person passing by could gather and eat as many peaches as he desired, but he was not permitted to carry any away with him. 

    The Choctaws were strictly honest and scrupulously faithful and punctual in their engagements. They never failed to return borrowed articles on time, to the very hour. They never arrested or imprisoned a party, and criminals never failed to appear at the time specified to answer to the charges against them. If a Choctaw was found guilty of murder, he was allowed to go free under instructions to return at the time specified to the place of execution. On the day of execution he repaired to the grave dug for him, knelt by the side of it, and baring his breast to the executioners, was shot, the grave ‘filled up, and his name was no more mentioned.

     The women were as a general rule chaste, modest, retiring, industrious and devoted to husband and children. Fornication and adultery were punished with death. The women planted and cultivated the corn and other crops, gathered up the wood, made the fires and did all other menial labor. 

     The Choctaws were friendly to the white man, especially the American. They were brave and fearless, but inclined more to peace than any other tribe. They were said to be truthful and faithful. Their word was sacred, and their plighted faith inviolate. Theft was a heinous crime, and severely punished. They would not recognize the privilege to acquire right of property by domestication of any wild animals.
A horse, cow, dog, hog, or other domestic animals could be owned and the stealing of them was an offense against their law. But to kill or steal a tame deer, a tame bear or other animals of the forest that had been domesticated was not considered a crime by them.

     On the tablelands of Big Black river, in what is now Yazoo county, there were prairies of several miles in length and of one or two miles in width on which not a tree or shrub grew. Luxuriant grass and beautiful wild flowers were the only growths Oil them. There was a tradition among the Indians that once large herds of buffalo inhabited the prairie lands of Lowndes, Neshoba and other eastern counties bordering on Alabama, and that early in the eighteenth century a terrible drought prevailed in that section  drying up the Tombigbee river, and all other streams in that part of the country, which caused all the wild animals to leave. The deer, bear and all other except the buffalo returned after the drought was broken.  There was a legend among the Choctaws that certain wild animals or beasts corresponding with the description of the buffalo came to Yazoo about the time of this drought and remained some time. 

     It was the custom of the Choctaws every fall or winter in order to prevent the forest from becoming too dense to destroy the undergrowth by setting fire to and burning off the woods. This annual burning of the woods may have frightened the buffaloes away.

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Spanish and French Forts

     Back of Satartia, which is in the lower end of this county, on a high hill is a well defined fort. As the French and Spaniards once owned this country and erected fortifications only on the bank of the river it is supposed by some that this fort was built by DeSoto in the year 1541. Some historians according to Claiborne insist that DeSoto on his retreat to the Mississippi wintered on the Yazoo in that year. The Indians did not know by whom this fort was built.

     On the west bank of the Yazoo river, below Satartia, is a fort supposed to have been built by the French as it was found to exist when this country was first settled by the whites. Historians relate that the French built a fort on the Yazoo river in Warren county, which they called St. Peter and which was located on a bluff, now, and for many years, known as Snyder’s Bluff, and on the 2d day of January, 1730, this entire garrison which consisted only of about twenty men was killed by the Indians, as were also a few families who had settled under the protection of the fort. This fort at Snyder’s Bluff was not very far below the one in Yazoo county referred to above.

     There are also vestiges of another fort about sixteen or eighteen miles above Yazoo City in what is called the Fort Place. The lands where this fort was situated have been cultivated until all traces of the fortification have disappeared. This fort, it is thought, was also built by the French when that part of the country was in their possession.

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