Yuchi

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For the language spoken by the Yuchi, see Yuchi language. For other uses, see Yuchi (disambiguation).
Yuchi
Coyaha
Yuchibigturtledance.png
Yuchi people dancing the Big Turtle Dance, 1909
Total population
approximately 1,500 (2001)[1]
Regions with significant populations
United States United States
Historically: Tennessee, then Alabama and Georgia
Today: Oklahoma
Languages
English, Yuchi (language isolate)
Religion
Christianity (Methodist), Stomp Dance,
Native American Church[1]
Related ethnic groups
Muscogee Creek[1]

The Yuchi, also spelled Euchee and Uchee, are people of a Native American tribe who traditionally lived in the eastern Tennessee River valley in Tennessee in the 16th century. During the 17th century, they moved south to Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.[1][2] After suffering many fatalities due to epidemic disease and warfare in the 18th century, several surviving Yuchi were removed to Indian Territory in the 1830s, together with their allies the Muscogee Creek.[1] (Some who remained in the South were classified as "free persons of color"; others were enslaved.) Some remnant groups migrated to Florida, where they became part of the recently formed Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Today the Yuchi live primarily in the northeastern Oklahoma area, where many are enrolled as citizens in the federally recognized Muscogee Creek Nation. Some Yuchi are enrolled as members of other federally recognized tribes, such as the Absentee Shawnee Tribe and the Cherokee Nation.

Name[edit]

Yuchi is commonly interpreted to mean "over there sit/live" or "situated yonder." Their autonym, or name for themselves, is Coyaha or Tsoyaha, meaning "Children of the Sun." The Shawnee call them Tahokale, and the Cherokee call them Aniyutsi.[3]

History[edit]

Yuchi Town, painting by Martin Pate (1990) of 18th-century village, based on archaeological data. It is within the area of present-day Ft. Benning, Georgia.

The origin of the Yuchi has long been a mystery. The Yuchi language does not closely resemble any other Native American language. In 1541, the tribe was documented by the Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto as a powerful tribe living in what is now central Tennessee.[2] They were recorded at that time as Uchi, and also associated with the Chisca tribe. European colonial records from the 17th century note the Yuchi.

Both historical and archaeological evidence exists documenting several Yuchi towns of the 18th century. Among these was Chestowee in southeastern Tennessee. In 1714, instigated by two fur traders from South Carolina, the Cherokee attacked and destroyed Chestowee. The Cherokee were prepared to carry their attacks further to Yuchi settlements on the Savannah River, but the colonial government of South Carolina did not condone the attacks. The Cherokee held back. The Cherokee destruction of Chestowee marked their emergence as a major power in the Southeast.[4]

Original territory of the Yuchi Tribe

Yuchi towns were also documented in Georgia and South Carolina, as the tribe had migrated there to escape pressure from the Cherokee. "Mount Pleasant" was noted as being on the Savannah River in present-day Effingham County, Georgia, from about 1722 to about 1750. It was first a Yuchi town. To take advantage of trade, the British established a trading post and small military garrison there, which they called Mount Pleasant.[5]

Yuchi war dance, illustration by Philip Georg Friedrich von Reck, Georgia, c. 1736

"Euchee Town" (also called Uche Town), a large settlement on the Chattahoochee River, was documented from the middle to late 18th century. It was located near Euchee (or Uche) Creek about ten miles downriver from the Muscogee Creek settlement of Coweta Old Town. The naturalist William Bartram visited Euchee Town in 1778, and in his letters called it the largest and most compact Indian town he had ever encountered, with large, well-built houses.[5][6] Benjamin Hawkins also visited the town and described the Yuchi as "more orderly and industrious" than the other tribes of the Creek Confederacy. However, the Yuchi began to move on, some into Florida, and during the Creek War of 1813–1814 many joined the Red Sticks party. Euchee Town decayed and the tribe became one of the poorest of the Creek communities, at the same time gaining a bad reputation.[6] The archaeological site of the town, designated a National Historic Landmark, is within the boundaries of present-day Fort Benning, Georgia.

Colonists noted Patsiliga on the Flint River in the late 18th century. There were also other possible Yuchi towns on the Oconee River near Uchee Creek in Wilkinson County, Georgia, and on Brier Creek in Burke County, Georgia or Screven County, Georgia. A Yuchi town was sited at present-day Silver Bluff in Aiken County, South Carolina from 1746 to 1751.[5]

During the 18th century, the Yuchi consistently allied with the British, with whom they traded deer hides and Indian slaves. The population of the Yuchi plummeted in the 18th century due to Eurasian infectious diseases, to which they had no immunity, and to war with the Cherokee, who were moving into their territory and were much more powerful. After the American Revolution, Yuchi people maintained close relations with the Creek Confederacy. Some Yuchi migrated south to Florida along with the Creek, where they became part of the newly formed Seminole people.[7]

In the 1830s, the US government removed the Yuchi, along with the Muscogee Creek, from Alabama and Georgia to Indian Territory (present day Oklahoma). The Yuchi settled in the north and northwestern parts of the Creek Nation. Three tribal towns which the Yuchi established in the 19th century continue today: Duck Creek, Polecat, and Sand Creek.[1][7]

Second Seminole War[edit]

Some Yuchi escaped forced removal by going to Florida, where they joined with the Seminole. Uchee Billy was a well known chief during the Second Seminole War. He was captured in 1837 with his brother Jack by General Hernandez, who also captured Osceola. They were all imprisoned in Fort Marion in St. Augustine, Florida.[8]

Current status[edit]

A Yuchi flute

Currently, most Yuchi are of multi-tribal descent. Many are citizens of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. Some are citizens of other tribes, such as the Shawnee or Sauk and Fox Nation.

Nonetheless, they continue to assert a Yuchi cultural identity, continuing the practice of important ceremonies such as the Green Corn Ceremony of mid-summer, and others. Members belong to the Native American Church and a Methodist congregation.[1]

In the last decades of the 20th century, the surviving Yuchi have reorganized and tried to gain federal recognition as a tribe. As most descendants are enrolled in other federally recognized tribes already, they have not been successful. The unrecognized Euchee (Yuchi) Tribe of Indians is headquartered in Sapulpa, Oklahoma and their tribal chairman is Andrew Skeeter.[9]

Yuchi language[edit]

The Yuchi language is a linguistic isolate, not known to be related to any other language.[1] In 2000 the estimated number of fluent Yuchi speakers was 15, but this number dwindled to 7 by 2006.[10] According to a 2011 documentary on the Yuchi language, the number of first-language speakers has declined to five.[11]

Young people of the Yuchi have learned the language in recent years and are continuing to do so.[12] Yuchi language classes are being taught in Sapulpa, Oklahoma, in an effort led by Richard Grounds and the Euchee Language Project.[13]

The Yuchi people and language are featured in a chapter in Mark Abley's Spoken Here: Travels Among Threatened Languages, a book on endangered languages.

Notable Yuchi[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Jackson, Jason Baird. "Yuchi (Euchee)." Oklahoma Historical Society's Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. Retrieved 13 July 2010.
  2. ^ a b Jackson 416
  3. ^ Jackson 427-8
  4. ^ Gallay, Alan (2002). The Indian Slave Trade: The Rise of the English Empire in the American South 1670-1717. Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-10193-7. 
  5. ^ a b c Daniel T. Elliott and Rita Folse Elliott, "Mount Pleasant. An Eighteenth-Century Yuchi Native American Town, British Trader Outpost, and Military Garrison in Georgia", Watkinsville, GA: LAMAR Institute Publications, 1990
  6. ^ a b John T. Ellisor, The Second Creek War, p. 31
  7. ^ a b Jackson 415
  8. ^ Army and Navy Chronicle, Volumes 4-5, edited by Benjamin Homans, pp. 203-4
  9. ^ "Oklahoma's Tribal Nations." Oklahoma Indian Affairs Commission. 2010 (retrieved 10 April 2010)
  10. ^ Anderton, Alice, PhD. "Status of Indian Languages in Oklahoma", Intertribal Wordpath Society, Ahalenia.com, 2006-2009 (retrieved 7 Feb 2009)
  11. ^ Harjo, Sterlin and Matt Leach "We Are Still Here", This Land Press, 8 July 2011 (retrieved 8 July 2011)
  12. ^ Associated Press, "Scientists Race Around World to Save Dying Languages", via Fox News, 2007-09-18. Accessed 2007-09-19.
  13. ^ Anderton, Alice, PhD. "Board of Directors", Intertribal Wordpath Society, Ahalenia.com, 2006-2009 (retrieved 7 Feb 2009)

References[edit]

  • Jackson, Jason Baird. "Yuchi." Handbook of North American Indians: Southeast. Eds. William C. Sturtevant and Raymond D. Fogelson. Volume 14. Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution, 2004. ISBN 0-16-072300-0.

Further reading[edit]

  • Mark Abley, Spoken Here: Travels Among Threatened Languages, Houghton Mifflin, 2003.
  • Jason Jackson, Yuchi Ceremonial Life: Performance, Meaning, and Tradition in a Contemporary American Indian Community, University of Nebraska Press, 2003.
  • Jason Baird Jackson (ed.), Yuchi Indian Histories Before the Removal Era. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2012.
  • Frank Speck, Ethnology of the Yuchi Indians (reprint), University of Nebraska Press, 2004.
  • Daniel Elliott, Ye Pleasant Mount: 1989&1990 Excavations. The LAMAR Institute, University of Georgia, 1991.

External links[edit]