|Extinct as tribe|
|Regions with significant populations|
|United States (Georgia, northern Florida, and South Carolina)|
|Yamasee language (extinct)|
|traditional tribal religion|
|Related ethnic groups|
|La Tama, Guale, Seminole, Hitchiti, and other Muskogean tribes|
In 1570, Spanish explorers established missions in Yamasee territory. 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.
In 1687, Spaniards attempted to send Yamasees to the West Indes as slaves, so the tribe revolted against the Spanish missions and their Native allies, and the tribe moved into the British colony of the Province of South Carolina (present day South Carolina). They established several villages, Pocotaligo, Tolemato, and Topiqui, in Beaufort County, South Carolina. A 1715 census conducted by John Barnwell counted 1,220 Yamasee living in ten villages in near Port Royal, South Carolina.
For years, the Yamasee and the Carolinian colonists conducted slave raids upon Spanish-allied Indians and attacked St. Augustine, Florida. In 1715, the Yamasee joined an intertribal war against the British, triggering the Yamasee War, which lasted until at least 1717. Many tribes allied themselves with the Yamasee. 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.
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.
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.
unclassified; perhaps Guale
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.
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."
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 .
A document in a British Colonial Archive indicates that the Yamasee originally spoke Cherokee, an Iroquoian language, but had learned another language.
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.
- John Barnwell, colonist
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