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Total population
Extinct as tribe[1]
Regions with significant populations
United States United States (Georgia, northern Florida, and South Carolina[2])
Yamasee language (extinct)[3]
traditional tribal religion
Related ethnic groups
La Tama, Guale,[4] Seminole, Hitchiti,[2] and other Muskogean tribes

The Yamasee were a multiethnic confederation of Native Americans[4] who lived in the coastal region of present-day northern coastal Georgia near the Savannah River and later in northeastern Florida. The Yamasee engaged in revolts[5] and wars with other native groups and Europeans while living in North America, specifically from Florida to North Carolina.[6] The Yamasee, along with the Guale, are considered by many scholars to be Muskogean from linguistic evidence, such as the Yamasee term 'Mico,' meaning chief.[6] After the Yamasee migrated to the Carolinas, they began participating in the slave-raiding culture of the English which was a large cause of the Yamasee War, which they are perhaps most well-known for.[7]



The Yamasee lived in coastal towns in southeast Georgia, Florida (La Florida), and South Carolina.[8][5] The Yamasee migrated from La Florida to South Carolina and became friendly with the British Colonists in the late 16th century. The Yamasee were joined by members of another colonial native group, the Guale, and their cultures intertwined.

European contact[edit]

Slavery in the Carolinas[edit]

The Yamasees were one of the largest slave-raiding groups in the south east during the late 1600s, and have been described as a "militaristic slaving society," after being influenced by the English and Spanish.[7] The slave raids can be partially attributed to the Yamasees aligning with western cultures to avoid assimilation.[7]

Charles Town, South Carolina[edit]

The Yamasee migrated to the British Colony, Charles Town, SC in 1686 likely in pursuit of British Trade, or to escape the Spanish.[9] In Charles Town, some Yamasee families looked toward missionaries to educate their children in reading and writing as well as converting them to Christianity.[10] It was easier for the English to convert the Yamasees, along with the Guales, because they had been around Spanish missionaries and were more open to conversion.[10]

Spanish contact[edit]

The Hernando de Soto expedition of 1540 traveled into Yamasee territory, including the village of Altamaha.[11]

In 1570, Spanish explorers established missions in Yamasee territory.[2] The Yamasee were later included in the missions of the Guale province. Starting in 1675 the Yamasee were mentioned regularly on Spanish mission census records of the missionary provinces of Guale (central Georgia coast) and Mocama (present-day southeastern Georgia and northeastern Florida). The Yamasee usually did not convert to Christianity and remained somewhat separated from the Christian Indians of Spanish Florida.[12]

Pirate attacks on the Spanish missions in 1680 forced the Yamasee to migrate again. Some moved to Florida. Others returned to the Savannah River lands, safer after the destruction of the Westo.[12]

In 1687, Spaniards attempted to send Yamasees to the West Indies as slaves, and as a result of this attempt the tribe revolted against the Spanish missions and their Native allies and moved into the British colony of the Province of South Carolina (present day South Carolina).[13] They established several villages, Pocotaligo, Tolemato, and Topiqui, in Beaufort County, South Carolina.[2] A 1715 census conducted by John Barnwell counted 1,220 Yamasee living in ten villages in near Port Royal, South Carolina.[14]

Yamasee War[edit]

The Yamasee war began due to Yamasee's being indebted to the English, as a result of unfair trading by the English.[9] This was a war between the English colonists and the Yamasees, who were allied with multiple other Native American groups, which began after the massacre of South Carolina citizens by the Yamasees on April 15, 1715.[10]

For years, the Yamasee and the Carolinian colonists conducted slave raids upon Spanish-allied Indians and attacked St. Augustine, Florida.[15][16] In 1715, the Yamasee joined an intertribal war against the British,[2] triggering the Yamasee War, which lasted until at least 1717. Many tribes allied themselves with the Yamasee.[17] British Governor Charles Craven defeated the Yamasee at Salkechuh (Saltketchers, Salkehatchie) on the Combahee River. The tribe was driven across the Savannah River back into Spanish Florida.[2]

The Yamasee then migrated south to the area around St. Augustine and Pensacola, where they allied with the Spanish against the British. In 1727, the British attacked the tribe's settlement and slaughtered most of them. Some survivors joined the Seminole tribe and some joined the Hitchiti people and disappeared from the historical record.[2]

The Yamasee Prince[edit]

In 1713, a Yamasee man (who is unnamed and generally referred to as the "prince" or "Prince George") was sent on a journey from Charleston, SC to London, GB, funded by Anglican Missionaries.[18] The prince's journey was a measure of religious diplomacy on the Yamasee's part because in the early 1700s, the colonists treated the natives poorly, at points even enslaving them.[18] If the prince was a successful convert, it was believed that the British Empire and the Yamasees would be politically intwined.[18] Around the time of the prince's travels the Yamasee's were largely unwilling to convert to Spanish culture in general and relations with the English had already begun. The prince returned to Charleston, which was then called Charles Town, in 1715 right when the Yamasee attacked the British in the Yamasee War and shortly after his father and the rest of his family were taken as slaves by the Europeans.[19]


The Yamasee language, while similar to many Muskogean languages, is quite similar to Creek, for they share many words.[20] Many Spanish missionaries in La Florida were dedicated to learning native languages, such as the Yamasee, so that they could convert them easier.[18] By gaining the trust of the Yamasee, it was easier for the Spanish and British to convert the Yamasee people.

Steven J. Oatis and other historians describe the Yamasee as a multi-ethnic amalgamation of several remnant Indian groups, including the Guale, La Tama, Apalachee, Coweta, and Cussita Creek, among others. Historian Chester B. DePratter describes the Yamasee towns of early South Carolina as consisting of Lower Towns, consisting mainly of Hitchiti-speaking Indians, and Upper Towns, consisting mainly of Guale Indians.[21][22]


Extinct18th century
unclassified; perhaps Guale
Language codes
ISO 639-3None (mis)
Tribal territory of Yamasee during the seventeenth century
Tribal territory of Yamasee during the seventeenth century

The name "Yamasee" perhaps comes from Muskogee yvmvsē, meaning "tame, quiet"; or perhaps from Catawban yį musí:, literally "people-ancient".[23]

Little record remains of the Yamasee language. It is partially preserved in works by missionary Domingo Báez. Diego Peña was told in 1716-1717 that the Tuskegee also spoke Yamasee.[24]

Hann (1992) claims that Yamasee is related to the Muskogean languages. This was based upon a colonial report that a Yamasee spy within a Hitchiti town could understand Hitichiti and was not detected as a Yamasee. Francis Le Jau stated in 1711 that the Yamasee understood the Creek. He also noted that many Indians throughout the region used Creek and Shawnee as lingua francas. In 1716-1717, Diego Peña obtained information that showed that Yamasee and Hitchiti-Mikasuki were considered separate languages.[25]

Inconclusive evidence suggesting the Yamasee language was similar to Guale rests on three pieces of information:

  • a copy of a 1681 Florida missions census states that the people of Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria de la Tama speak "la lengua de Guale, y Yamassa" [the Guale and Yamasee language];
  • a summary of two 1688 letters, sent by the Florida governor, mentions prisoners of the "ydioma Yguala y Yamas, de la Prova de Guale" [the Yguala and Yamas language of the province of Guale]; and
  • the Guale called the Cusabo Chiluque, which is probably related to the Muscogee word čiló·kki "Red Moiety."[25]

The Spanish documents are not originals and may have been edited at a later date. The name Chiluque is probably a loanword. It seems also to have been absorbed into the Timucua language. Thus, the connection of Yamasee with Muskogean is unsupported.[25]

A document in a British Colonial Archive indicates that the Yamasee originally spoke Cherokee, an Iroquoian language, but had learned another language.[26]


The Yamasee Archeological Project was launched in 1989 to study Yamasee village sites in South Carolina. The project hoped to trace the people's origins and inventory their artifacts. The project located a dozen sites, two of which, Pocosabo and Altamaha are now on the National Register of Historic Places.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Waldman, Carl (15 July 2006). Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes. Checkmark Books. p. 323. ISBN 978-0816062744.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Yamasee Indian Tribe History." Access Genealogy. (retrieved 20 Nov 2010)
  3. ^ Campbell, Lyle (21 September 2000). American Indian Languages. Oxford University Press. p. 149. ISBN 978-0195140507.
  4. ^ a b c Green et al 13
  5. ^ a b Howard, James H. (August 1960). "The Yamasee: A Supposedly Extinct Southeastern Tribe Rediscovered". American Anthropologist. 62 (4): 681–683. doi:10.1525/aa.1960.62.4.02a00120. ISSN 0002-7294.
  6. ^ a b Sturtevant, William C. (April 1994). "The Misconnection of Guale and Yamasee with Muskogean". International Journal of American Linguistics. 60 (2): 139–148. doi:10.1086/466226. ISSN 0020-7071. S2CID 143736985.
  7. ^ a b c Bossy, Denise I., editor, writer of introduction. The Yamasee Indians from Florida to South Carolina. ISBN 978-1-4962-1227-6. OCLC 1053888273.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  8. ^ Bossy, Denise I. (2014). "Spiritual Diplomacy, the Yamasees, and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel: Reinterpreting Prince George's Eighteenth-Century Voyage to England". Early American Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal. 12 (2): 366–401. doi:10.1353/eam.2014.0010. ISSN 1559-0895. S2CID 144549578.
  9. ^ a b Encyclopedia of Native American history. Mancall, Peter C. New York, NY: Facts On File. 2011. ISBN 978-1-4381-3567-0. OCLC 753701389.CS1 maint: others (link)
  10. ^ a b c The Yamasee Indians from Florida to South Carolina. Bossy, Denise I. Lincoln [Nebraska]. ISBN 978-1-4962-1227-6. OCLC 1053888273.CS1 maint: others (link)
  11. ^ Green et al 14-15
  12. ^ a b Gallay, Alan (2003). The Indian Slave Trade: The Rise of the English Empire in the American South, 1670-1717. Yale University Press. pp. 73–74. ISBN 978-0-300-10193-5. Retrieved 14 July 2012.
  13. ^ Freeman, Michael (2018). Native American History of Savannah. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4396-6449-0. Retrieved 12 April 2020.
  14. ^ Gene et al 14
  15. ^ Gallay, Alan (2003). The Indian Slave Trade: The Rise of the English Empire in the American South, 1670-1717. Yale University Press. pp. 127–134. ISBN 978-0-300-10193-5. Retrieved 14 July 2012.
  16. ^ Oatis, Steven J. (2004). A Colonial Complex: South Carolina's Frontiers In The Era Of The Yamasee War, 1680-1730. University of Nebraska Press. p. 47. ISBN 978-0-8032-3575-5. Retrieved 14 July 2012.
  17. ^ Ramsey, William L. (2008). The Yamasee War: A Study of Culture, Economy, and Conflict in the Colonial South. University of Nebraska Press. pp. 101–103. ISBN 978-0-8032-3972-2. Retrieved 14 July 2012.
  18. ^ a b c d BOSSY, DENISE I. (2014). "Spiritual Diplomacy, the Yamasees, and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel: Reinterpreting Prince George's Eighteenth-Century Voyage to England". Early American Studies. 12 (2): 366–401. ISSN 1543-4273. JSTOR 24474885.
  19. ^ Klingberg, Frank J. (1962). "The Mystery of the Lost Yamassee Prince". The South Carolina Historical Magazine. 63 (1): 18–32. ISSN 0038-3082. JSTOR 27566384.
  20. ^ Broadwell, George A. (1991). "The Muskogean Connection of the Guale and Yamasee". International Journal of American Linguistics. 57 (2): 267–270. doi:10.1086/ijal.57.2.3519769. ISSN 0020-7071. JSTOR 3519769. S2CID 148411757.
  21. ^ Dr. Chester B. DePratter, "The Foundation, Occupation, and Abandonment of Yamasee Indian Towns in the South Carolina Lowcountry, 1684-1715", National Register Submission, National Park Service
  22. ^ Oatis, Steven J. (2004). A Colonial Complex: South Carolina's Frontiers in the Era of the Yamasee War, 1680-1730. University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 0-8032-3575-5.
  23. ^ Bright, William (2004). Native American placenames of the United States. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 578. ISBN 978-0-8061-3598-4. Retrieved 11 April 2011.
  24. ^ Hudson 1990
  25. ^ a b c Goddard 2005
  26. ^ Anderson & Lewis 1983 p. 269


  • Anderson, William L. and James L. Lewis (1983) A guide to Cherokee documents in foreign archives. p. 269.
  • Goddard, Ives. (2005). The indigenous languages of the Southeast. Anthropological Linguistics, 47 (1), 1-60.
  • Green, William, Chester B. DePratter, and Bobby Southerlin. "The Yamasee in South Carolina: Native American Adaptation and Interaction along the Carolina Frontier." Another's Country: Archaeological and Historical Perspectives on Cultural Interactions in the Southern Colonies. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 2001. ISBN 978-0-8173-1129-2.
  • Hudson, Charles M., Jr. (1990). The Juan Pardo expeditions: Explorations of the Carolinas and Tennessee, 1566-1568. Washington, D.C. Smithsonian Institution Press.

Further reading[edit]

  • Anderson, William L. and James L. Lewis (1983) A guide to Cherokee documents in foreign archives.
  • Bossy, Denise I., ed. (2018). The Yamasee Indians: From Florida to South Carolina. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
  • Boyd, Mark F. (1949). Diego Peña's expedition to Apalachee and Apalachicolo in 1716. The Florida Historical Quarterly, 16 (1), 2-32.
  • Boyd, Mark F. (1952). Documents describing the second and third expeditions of lieutenant Diego Peña to Apalachee and Apalachicolo in 1717 and 1718. The Florida Historical Quarterly, 32 (2), 109-139.
  • Hann, John H. (1991). Missions to the Calusa. Gainesville: University of Florida Press.
  • Hann, John H. (1992). Political leadership among the natives of Spanish Florida. The Florida Historical Quarterly, 71 (2), 188-208.
  • Hann, John H. (1994). Leadership nomenclature among Spanish Florida natives and its linguistics and associational implications. In P. B. Kwachka (Ed.), Perspectives on the Southeast: Linguistics, archaeology, and ethnohistory (pp. 94–105). Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press.
  • Hann, John H. (1996). The seventeenth-century forebears of the Lower Creeks and Seminoles. Southeastern Archaeology, 15, 66-80.
  • Hudson, Charles M., Jr. (1997). Knights of Spain, warriors of the sun: Hernando de Soto and the South's ancient chiefdoms. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press.
  • Sturtevant, William C. (1994). The Misconnection of Guale and Yamasee with Muskogean. International Journal of American Linguistics, 60 (2), 139-48.
  • Waddell, Gene. (1980). Indians of the South Carolina lowcountry, 1562-1751. Spartansburg, SC: The Reprint Company.
  • Worth, John E. (1995). The struggle of the Georgia coast: An eighteenth-century Spanish retrospective on Guale and Mocama. Anthropological papers of the American Museum of Natural History (No. 75). New York.
  • Worth, John E. (1998). The Timucuan chiefdoms of Spanish Florida (Vols. 1 & 2). Gainesville: University of Press of Florida.
  • Worth, John E. (2000). The Lower Creeks: Origins and early history. In B. G. McEwan (Ed.), Indians of the Greater Southeast: Historical archaeology and ethnohistory (pp. 265–298). Gainesville: University Press of Florida.
  • Worth, John E. (2004). Yamasee. In R. D. Fogelson (Ed.), Handbook of North American Indians: Southeast (Vol. 14, pp. 245–253). Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution.

External links[edit]