The meaning of the name Natchez is unknown (the z should not be pronounced). Also called:
Ani'-Na'tsl, Cherokee name.
The Natchez were the largest of three tribes speaking closely related dialects, the other two being Taensa and Avoyel, and this group was remotely related to the great Muskhogean family.
The historic seat of the Natchez Indians was along St. Catherines Creek, and a little east of the present city of Natchez, MS. Part of the Natchez Indians sought refuge with and Cherokee after their tribe had been broken up by the French and most of them appear to have lived along Hiwassee River in present-day North Carolina. They accompanied those Cherokee who moved to Oklahoma and settled on the western margin of the Cherokee Reservation, where a few of them retained their language long enough to have it recorded.
A band of Indians of this tribe lived for several years at a place called Four Hole Springs in South Carolina but left in 1744 fearing the vengeance of the Catawba because of seven of that tribe whom they had killed.
Iberville gives the following list of Natchez villages:
This list was obtained through the medium of the Mobilian trade language and part of the names are undoubtedly translated into it. Thus we find the Mobilian and Choctaw word for people, okla, "ougoula," or "oucoula," in five of these. The term Tougoulas probably designates the town of the Tiou, an adopted tribe, and one of the others is perhaps a designation for the adopted tribe of Grigra.
Later writers usually speak of but five settlements, including that of the Grigra. One of these, the town of the "walnuts," is evidently the Ousagoucoulas of Iberville's informants, meaning, in reality, the town of the Hickories. The Great Village was probably the town called Naches or Natchez, and Pochougoula, the Flour Village, but the others mentioned, Jenzenaque or Jensenac and the White Apple or Apple Village cannot be identified. A White-earth village is mentioned by one writer, probably intended for the White Apple village. The Natchez among the Cherokee lived for a time at a town called Guhlaniyi.
Undoubtedly tribes of the Natchez group were encountered by Hernando De Soto and his companions in 1541-43, and it is highly probable that the chief Quigaltanqui, who figures so prominently in the pursuit of the Spaniards when they took to the Mississippi, was leader of the tribe in question or of one of its divisions.
The name Natchez appears first, however, in the narratives of La Salle's descent of the Mississippi in 1682.
Relations between the French and Natchez were at first hostile, but peace was soon made and in 1699 a missionary visited the latter with a view to permanent residence. The next year Iberville, who had stopped short of the Natchez in his earlier ascent of the Mississippi, opened negotiations with the Natchez chief. A missionary was left among them at this time and the mission was maintained until 1706.
In 1713, a trading post was established. The next year four Canadians, on their way north, were killed by some Natchez Indians and this resulted in a war which Bienville promptly ended. Immediately afterward a stockaded fort was built on a lofty bluff by the Mississippi and named Fort Rosalie. Several concessions were granted in the neighborhood and settlers flowed in until this was one of the most flourishing parts of the new colony.
Between 1722 and 1724, there were slight disturbances in the good relations which had prevailed between the settlers and Indians, but they were soon smoothed over and harmony prevailed until a new commandant named Chépart, who seems to have been utterly unfit for his position, was sent to take command of Fort Rosalie. In consequence of his mismanagement a conspiracy was formed against the French and on November 28, 1729, the Indians rose and destroyed both post and settlement, about 200 whites being slain.
Next year the French and their Choctaw allies attacked the
forts into which the Natchez had retired and liberated most of
their captives but accomplished little else, and one night their
enemies escaped across the Mississippi, where they established
themselves in other forts in the marshy regions of northeastern
Louisiana. There they were again attacked and about 400 were
induced to surrender, but the greater
Later they divided into two bands, one of which settled among the Upper Creeks while the other went to live with the Cherokee. Afterward each followed the fate of their hosts and moved west of the Mississippi with them. Those who had lived with the Creeks established themselves not far from Eufaula, OK, where the last who was able to speak the old tongue died about 1890. The Cherokee Natchez preserved their language longer, and a few are able to converse in it at the present day (1925).
Mooney's (1928) estimate of Natchez population in 1650 is 4,500; another estimate, as of 1698, 3,500.
In 1731, after the losses suffered by them during their war with the French, Perrier estimated that they had 300 warriors.
In 1735, 180 warriors were reported among the Chickasaw alone.
During the latter half of the eighteenth century estimates of the warriors in the Creek band of Natchez vary from 20 to 150, and in 1836 Gallatin conjectures that its numbers over all were 300, which is probably above the fact.
There are no figures whatever for the Cherokee band of Natchez.
The Natchez have become famous in a number of ways:
(1) because they were the largest and strongest tribe on the
lower Mississippi when Louisiana was settled by the French,