Natchez


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Natchez

(năch`ĭz), indigenous North American people who lived along St. Catherine's Creek east of the present-day city of Natchez in Mississippi. At the time of contact with the French in 1682, they numbered about 4,000 and were the most powerful chiefdom on the lower Mississippi. Typical of the Mississippian cultural area, they were sedentary, agricultural people who cultivated corn, beans, and squash and hunted deer, turkey, and buffalo. They worshiped the sun, and had an elaborate form of social ranking governed by rules of marriagemarriage,
socially sanctioned union that reproduces the family. In all societies the choice of partners is generally guided by rules of exogamy (the obligation to marry outside a group); some societies also have rules of endogamy (the obligation to marry within a group).
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 and descent. A chief ruled over two classes: commoners, who could marry within their own class, and rulers, who were further divided into "suns," "nobles," and "honored people," and were required to marry commoners. Since they were matrilineal, the children of a female ruler and a male commoner would keep the rank of the mother; children of a male ruler and a female commoner would have a lesser rank than that of the father. Upon the death of a chief, his wives, guards, and retainers were strangled to death, in the belief that they would accompany him to the afterlife.

The French established a mission among the Natchez in 1700 and a trading post in 1713, and there were initially friendly relations between the two groups. Peace was maintained for a number of years, but skirmishes in 1716, 1723, and 1729—when the Natchez massacred the encroaching French at Fort Rosalie—proved disastrous for the tribe. The French, aided by the Choctaw, retaliated for the Fort Rosalie massacre by attacking Natchez villages and scattering the inhabitants. Some crossed the Mississippi River into Louisiana, where they were again attacked (1731) by the French, who killed many Natchez and sold captives into slavery. About 700 others sought refuge with their Chickasaw allies; they later divided into two groups and settled among the Upper Creeks and among the Cherokee. They eventually moved west of the Mississippi with their hosts, and by the 19th cent. they had all but disappeared as a distinct group. However, some Natchez living in Oklahoma maintained their language into the 20th cent.


Natchez,

city (1990 pop. 19,460), seat of Adams co., SW Miss., on bluffs above the Mississippi River; settled 1716, inc. 1803. It is the trade, shipping, and processing center for a soybean, corn, cotton, livestock, and timber area. It has lumber and pulpwood mills; manufactures include steel, transportation equipment, and machinery. Natchez was founded in 1716 when Fort Rosalie was established there; in 1729 members of the Natchez tribe killed the garrison troops. The area passed to England (1763), Spain (1779), and the United States (1798). Natchez was capital of the Mississippi Territory from 1798 to 1802, and was the state capital from 1817 to 1821. The southern terminus of the Natchez TraceNatchez Trace,
road, from Natchez, Miss., to Nashville, Tenn., of great commercial and military importance from the 1780s to the 1830s. It grew from a series of Native American trails used in the 18th cent. by the French, English, and Spanish.
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, it became a great river port and the cultural center of the planter aristocracy before the Civil War, and was the site of one of the largest slave markets in the South. In the Civil War it was taken by Union forces in 1863. The city has preserved its antebellum architecture, and many historic homes are visited during the festival period in March and April. Natchez once housed a large, prosperous Jewish community and is home to the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience. Also there are the Natchez Museum of African-American History and Culture, the 1841 William Johnson House (owned by a freed slave who became a slave owner himself), the Melrose plantation, the prehistoric Grand Village of the Natchez tribe, and Jefferson College, Mississippi's first chartered educational institution and now a museum.

Natchez

 

formerly the strongest and most numerous of the Muskogean-speaking Indian tribes of southeastern North America, who lived along the lower course of the Mississippi River. The Natchez were hoe farmers and were at the stage of an early class society with a theocratic structure. In the early 18th century their lands were incorporated into the French colony of Louisiana. A rebellion of the Natchez in 1729 was brutally suppressed, and most of the Natchez were exterminated. Those who survived found refuge among the Creek and Cherokee and were assimilated by them.

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