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Total population
Extinct as a tribe
Regions with significant populations
Tennessee and Virginia
linguistic affiliation uncertain
Indigenous religion
Related ethnic groups
Shawnee and/or Yuchi

The Chisca were a tribe of Native Americans living in present-day eastern Tennessee and southwestern Virginia in the 16th century. After merging with the larger Shawnee, they became extinct as a tribe during the 18th century.

Known history[edit]

Two major Spanish expeditions of the 16th century that explored the interior of what is now the southeastern United States recorded encountering the Chiscas. Both the Hernando de Soto expedition in 1542 and the Juan Pardo expedition in 1568 recorded that they came upon the Chisca in their travels. According to de Sotos's account, he sent out a small exploration party near the Nolichucky River in the vicinity of the upper Tennessee River, where they were attacked and defeated by Chisca warriors.[1] As a result, de Soto limited his explorations in Chisca territory.

Captain Juan Pardo first entered the interior in 1567. On his second venture through the mountains beyond the Mississippian culture chiefdom of Joara, where his forces had built Fort San Juan and spent the winter, Pardo's exploration party also met armed resistance from the Chisca. (Pardo called them Chisca; his chronicler called them Uchi.) His men destroyed their settlement at Maniatique, thought to be where present-day Saltville, Virginia developed.[2]

Putting others in charge of the garrisons and a total of five other forts, Pardo left in 1568 for Santa Elena, in present-day South Carolina, where the Spanish had a colony. Later that year, all but one of his soldiers were killed and the six Spanish forts destroyed by resisting Native Americans. After that, the Spanish abandoned their colonizing efforts in the interior of the Southeast. They kept colonies in La Florida such as St. Augustine. The name Chisca seldom appeared in Spanish colonial records after the 16th century.

In 1683 the French explorer La Salle found what his expedition recorded as a Cisca village between the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers (in Yuchi territory, now northern Tennessee). La Salle persuaded those villagers and the Shawnee north of the Cumberland to relocate to Fort St. Louis in what is now western Illinois, to live under French protection.

Around this time, these Chisca seem to have joined with the Shawnee under the name Chaskepe. They followed the Shawnee's later migrations (1692–1754) through Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and finally into Ohio. La Salle reported that the Chisca had originally lived in the Appalachians east of where he found them, until their town was burnt down by colonists from Florida. (He mistakenly called those colonists English; they were Spanish).[3] The Chisca appeared to have become extinct as a tribe by the 18th century; their descendants intermarried and assimilated into other tribes.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hudson, Knights of Spain, Warriors of the Sun, (1997), p. 203
  2. ^ Robin Beck, "From Joara to Chiaha: Spanish Exploration of the Appalachian Summit Area, 1540–1568" Archived February 13, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, Southeastern Archaeology 16(2) Winter 1997, for a full scholarly discussion of the location of Maniatique.
  3. ^ Charles Augustus Hanna, The Wilderness Trail, Vol II, 1911, pp. 93–95.


  • Beck, Robin, "From Joara to Chiaha: Spanish Exploration of the Appalachian Summit Area, 1540–1568", Southeastern Archaeology, 16(2) Winter 1997
  • Hudson, Charles, The Southeastern Indians, Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Press, 1976.
  • Hudson, Charles, Knights of Spain, Warriors of the Sun, Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1997.
  • Swanton, John R. The Indian Tribes of North America, Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1952.
  • Worth, John E. (2004). "Chisca". In Raymond D. Fogelson (ed.). Handbook of North American Indians, Vol. 14: Southeast. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution. pp. 176–77 [unified volume Bibliography, 772–999].

External links[edit]