Natchez Historical Overview
Nvculke Wvlt Tvluen Mvnv Pumpeyv is Este Nvcvlke Etvlwv Tohkulke (in Creek).
The Natchez (pronounced Nah’-Chee, Nauche, or W’Nahx’-Chee) Nation, is a precursor and confederator of the “original” Muscogee (Creek) Confederacy. W’Nahx’-Chee means “fast warrior(s)” in the Natchez language. Prior to the arrival of northern Europeans, and in non-Native terms “in pre-historic times”, Natchez Nation stretched from what is now North Carolina into Oklahoma; from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. Ours were some of the world’s largest cities of the time...with GREAT and far-extending trade routes; one of which is the "Natchez Trace."
The traditional government of the ancient nation is still strong and active today; is a treaty tribe of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation by virtue of its chiefs as signatories on treaties that established the modern Muscogee Nation. Natchez Nation has relations with the Natchez communities in South Carolina. It is a corporation within the Sac & Fox and Seminole Nations. The Natchez leadership has endeavored to work with various representatives and has proposed legislation to the Muscogee National Council. It has sent representatives relative to NAGPRA notifications. The previous and current Directors of the Mississippi Department of History and Archives specifically identifies the current leadership of the Natchez within publications. The BIA, through several tribal causes in other states, honors decisions of the Natchez court. And, the National Park Service gives authorization to Natchez Nation for religious use of Natchez Emerald Mound (for ceremonials’/fire). There are also many, many Natchez families within Cherokee Nation and the UKB Cherokee. Our primary office is located on Natchez tribal land within Cherokee Nation.
After initial decimation of millions of lives from European (De Soto) contact by virtue of influenza, smallpox, cholera, chicken pox, war against the French and the like, Natchez Nation lived with and remained to have great influence on their previous confederates. Natchez were embroiled in separative “removals to Indian Territory” with the Muscogee Nation, the Seminole Nation, the Chickasaw Nation, and the Cherokee Nation, some say by advance plan. Many Natchez are currently citizens or eligible for enrollment in each of these now federally recognized nations in addition to their Natchez citizenship due to legislation by tribes to enroll some Creek and other Indians where they lived during the Dawes era.
Some Natchez are multi-lingual, speaking a degree of Natchez, and primarily the Cherokee and/or Muscogee languages. Most have adopted English and the language of the tribe with which they are affiliated. The Natchez language is preserved by tribal members through limited daily use, Facebook language sessions, on audiotape and videotape, carbon cylinders at the University of Michigan and the University of Oklahoma where there is much interpretable data available at the Sam Noble Museum. A Chickasaw/Natchez author, Clifford “Gene” Snyder, has compiled and edited the major research on the Natchez people and his work is on record with the Library of Congress. Chickasaw/Natchez resistance helped force the “Louisiana Purchase” wherein the newly formed United States of America gained much of the mid-section of its current territory.
The primary groupings of Natchez (Notchie) are presently in the southern halves of the Mvskoke and Cherokee Nations in Oklahoma. Natchez families are also found among the balance of the Five Civilized Tribes. Smaller Natchez communities/settlements or sets of families may be found in and throughout the southeast, as far north as North Carolina where some are associated with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. There are recognizable Natchez Communities in South Carolina; the Edistos Natchez-Kusso, the Eastern Band Natchez and the PeeDee Tribe.
The Mvskokulke had formerly been a confederate of the Natchez. For some time, even after European contact, it was entitled the Natchez-Muscogee Confederacy. After the war for independence of the thirteen United States, it was referred to as the Muscogee-Natchez Confederacy, then later the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. In modern times the Natchez are closely associated with the Muscogee, as several of its tribal towns’ leadership will attest, some Mekkos being Natchez/Creek. Natchez is listed on the 1938 BIA listing of Muscogee confederated tribes and tribal towns. The previous form of Muscogee government, like Natchez, was Four-Mother-Nation and there was “quite a squabble” during reorganization days as to how the Mvskokulke should proceed with reference to federal recognition (see notarized statements of tribes/tribal towns available at the Natchez Main Office).
There are considerable numbers of Natchez within the Cherokee Nation and many Keetoowah Band, EBCI and CNO “Cherokee Notables” were/are of Natchez descent, including several Principal Chiefs. Natchez coals carried over the “trail where they cried” rekindled Cherokee ceremonial fires. Redbird Smith, who helped the Cherokee regain their traditional ways, was trained from the age of nine (9) by Natchez Great Sun "Creek Sam" (See Redbird Smith Story).
Redbird married a Natchez, Lucie Fields. There exists on Cherokee Nation maps an area referred to as “Notchietown,” where our principal office is located and our ancient ceremonial fires still burn. One is the principal fire (AKA: Great Sun’s Fire) and the other is that of Medicine Springs (called Nuwoti or “Medicine” by the Cherokee). Medicine Springs is the “combined fire of the ancients.” Ceremonial fire was returned to the Eastern Band Cherokee in 1951 by the Natchez through Robert K. Thomas. The Edistos Natchez-Kusso may soon also rekindle their fire.
The Natchez have a traditional form of government dating back VERY LONG before European contact. In all actuality Natchez can be considered the oldest continually functioning government on the face of the earth (see Natchezan, Mississippian, Hopewell, Adena, Spiro/Caddo…cultures). Four primary or principal clan mothers or Kwalneeshoo Tenvwete represent their own and related clans and are responsible for maintaining continuity of the nation and all of its judicial functions. Principal Clan Mothers are also referred to as “Law Keepers, Kwalneeshoo Tenvwete Hvnusu. The Natchez are the “original four-mother-nation.” The principal clan mothers are considered to be the “four mothers” of the entire people.
Tribal affairs are managed by what is referred to as the Principal or Peace Chief (Uvcenv Cunv Uvsel; The Great Sun) and the Principal War Chief (Uvcenv Cunv Esv, Vwete or Vnksev). The latter is sometimes referred to as the First Warrior or Second Chief. The two work in harmony and are selected by virtue of their traits and expertise for lifetime appointments, as are the clan mothers. Among the duties of the “Sun Chief” are maintaining internal affairs and calling together the “Council of Suns (Natchez confederated council)” or a “Great Council of the Suns”. The Great Council of Suns, was once the combined leadership of the southeast tribes; the ultimate decision making body and includes all “Suns” that have received adult names as represented by the principal clan mothers. The Great Council includes leaders of associated tribes.
Muscogee (Creek) Nation:
The Muscogee Nation is an ancient and venerated confederacy of tribes and “tribal towns” (ref. Yuchi, Natchez, Hichiti, Kasita…). It has, for eons, been made up of separate and sovereign towns, tribes and Indian nations. When non-Indians first encountered a number of these closely related tribes, they nick-named the peoples “Creek” because they lived in the close proximity of creeks and rivers.
When different cultures come into contact, there is often conflict. The contact between the United States of America and the southeastern Indian Nations has been a continuing historic tragedy. Native Americans of the tribes associated with the Muscogee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Seminole and Cherokee have been victimized by the broader society for over 500 years. For the Muscogee, a treaty was entered into by a single chief (McIntosh) in which all the Muscogee states could “preserve their integrity” by ceding their land in the southeast and relocating to “Indian Territory”. Said chief was, by virtue of the laws of the traditional people, expediently executed for treason. Though the treaty was not agreed upon by the grand council, the tribes/states/nations of the entire Muscogee (Creek) were forcibly removed from their homelands to “Indian Territory” at the great cost of nearly ten thousand (10,000) lives.
Through, and possibly as a reaction to adversities, strong traditional relationships have been maintained in the tribal groups and communities. Many of the communities, tribal towns and nations continue to maintain themselves culturally and/or governmentally and remain an integral part of the now federally recognized Muscogee (Creek) Nation; Kialegee Etvlwv, Alabamu-Quassarte Tribe[s], Thlopthlocco Tribal Town, Yuchi Tribe, Locvpokv, Natchez Nation (of the Cherokee and Creek Nations; a sovereign by virtue of treaties of 1796, 1833 & 1866, Harjo vs. Andrus case, 74-189 - U.S. District Court, Washington, D.C. and/or Harjo v Kleppe) and many others. Of the more than one hundred forty-four (144) of these independent/related towns and states, there remain at least 20 in existence today. The cultures, traditions and languages of the people remain as a testimony to their resilience and determination.
The chiefs of the Muscogee tribal towns and nations, in 1976-78, were told that they would be established as representatives of their people within the “renewed” government and were convinced to support the “new” Muscogee constitution (reportedly changed/re-written by the BIA). Some, like Natchez Nation and the Yuchi, made preparations years in advance to maintain their individual integrity and preserve the foundation; the original or “traditional” Muscogee Confederacy. Currently within the “modern” Muscogee (Creek) Nation, there are ceremonial tribal towns, federally chartered/recognized tribal towns, Indian Nations by virtue of treaty relationship, Muscogee (Creek) chartered “Indian communities”, and tribes (e.g. Yuchi). Each has its own constituents and leadership. Citizens of these “independent-states” may or may not be eligible for citizenship in the “Creek” Nation.
Muscogee (Creek) Nation was reestablished in 1979, some time after the federal recognition/charter of several of the tribal towns; Alabamu-Quassarte, Thlopthlocco and Kialegee. Most of the “original confederacy” still exists within the Mvskoke framework, but some (e.g. Yuchi) have repeatedly petitioned for federal recognition, bringing impetus to the notion that the present tribal governmental structure lacks complete representation of their interests. According to traditional ways and earlier accords, none or the tribes and nations wish to separate themselves from the “traditional” Mvskoke Confederacy. Natchez has requested a separate federal charter but will NOT break from the ancient alliance.
Much research and significant data is available in scholastic collections and is readily available on the internet. The Natchez warn that much of it was written from a non-native perspective or understanding and should be interpreted carefully, with the assistance of the Natchez government and strong oral tradition.