Yuchi

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Yuchi
Tsoyaha
Yuchibigturtledance.png
Yuchi people dancing
the Big Turtle dance, 1909
Total population
2010: 623[1]
Regions with significant populations
United States United States
Today: Oklahoma
Historically: Tennessee, later Alabama and Georgia
Languages
English, Yuchi
Religion
Christianity (Methodist), Stomp Dance,
Native American Church[2]
Related ethnic groups
Muscogee people[2]

The Yuchi people, also spelled Euchee and Uchee, are a Native American tribe based in Oklahoma.

In the 16th century, Yuchi people lived in the eastern Tennessee River valley in Tennessee. In the late 17th century, they moved south to Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina, settling near the Muscogee Creek people.[2][3] Some also migrated to the panhandle of Florida. After suffering many fatalities from epidemic disease and warfare in the 18th century, several surviving Yuchi bands were removed to Indian Territory in the 1830s, together with their allies the Muscogee Creek.[2]

Today, the Yuchi live primarily in the northeastern Oklahoma area, where many are enrolled citizens of the federally recognized Muscogee (Creek) Nation. They maintain a distinct cultural identity, and some speak the Yuchi language, a linguistic isolate.[2]

Name[edit]

Original territory of the Yuchi tribe

The term Yuchi translated to "over there sit/live" or "situated yonder." Their autonym, or name for themselves, Tsoyaha or Coyaha, means "Children of the Sun." Their language is an isolate. The Shawnee called them Tahokale, and the Cherokee call them Aniyutsi.[4]

History[edit]

At the time of first European contact, the Yuchi people lived in what is now eastern Tennessee, as well as southwestern Virginia.[3][5] In 1541, Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto described them as a powerful tribe known as the Uchi, that were also associated with the Chisca tribe. They are reported to have originally been a Mississippian people, and some oral histories hold that the tribe originated at Cahokia.[6]

Both historical and archaeological evidence exists documenting several Yuchi towns of the 18th century. Among these was Chestowee in present-day Bradley County, Tennessee. In 1714, instigated by two English fur traders from South Carolina, the Cherokee attacked and destroyed Chestowee. The Cherokee were prepared to carry their attacks further to Yuchi settlements south on the Savannah River, but the colonial government of South Carolina did not condone this. The Cherokee destruction of Chestowee marked their emergence as a major power in the Southeast.[7][page needed]

A c. 1724 English copy of a Catawba deerhide map of the tribes between Charleston (left) and Virginia (right) following the displacements of a century of disease, enslavement, and the 1715–7 Yamasee War. The Yuchi are labelled as "Youchine."

Yuchi towns were later documented in northern Georgia and western South Carolina, where the tribe had migrated 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. To take advantage of trade, the British established a trading post and small military garrison there, which they called Mount Pleasant.[8]

"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. In his letters he ranked it as the largest and most compact Indian town he had ever encountered, with large, well-built houses.[8][9] US Indian agent Benjamin Hawkins also visited the town and described the Yuchi as "more orderly and industrious" than the other tribes of the Muscogee Creek Confederacy. The Yuchi began to move on, some into the Florida panhandle.

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

In the late 18th century, English colonists noted Patsiliga, a settlement on the Flint River. Other Yuchi settlements may have been those villages noted on the Oconee River near Uchee Creek in Wilkinson County, Georgia, and on Brier Creek in Burke or Screven counties, also in Georgia. A Yuchi town was known to exist from 1746 to 1751 at the site of present-day Silver Bluff in Aiken County, South Carolina, which developed in the later 18th century.[8]

During the 18th century, the Yuchi consistently allied with the British, with whom they traded deer hides and Indian slaves. The Yuchi population plummeted during 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. After the American Revolution, Yuchi people maintained close relations with the Muscogee Creek Confederacy, into which federally recognized members were later absorbed. Some Yuchi migrated south to Florida along with the Muscogee, where they became part of the newly formed Seminole people.[10]

During the Creek War of 1813–1814, which overlapped the War of 1812, many Yuchi joined the Red Sticks party, traditionalists opposed to the Muscogee people of the Lower Towns, who had adopted more European ways. Euchee Town decayed. The Yuchi tribe became one of the poorest of the Muscogee communities, at the same time gaining a bad reputation.[9] The archaeological site of the town, designated a National Historic Landmark, is within the boundaries of present-day Fort Benning, Georgia.

In the 1830s, the US government forcibly removed the Yuchi, along with the Muscogee, from Alabama and Georgia to Indian Territory (present day Oklahoma), west of the Mississippi River. The Yuchi settled in the north and northwestern parts of the Muscogee Nation. Three tribal towns which the Yuchi established there in the 19th century continue today: Duck Creek, Polecat, and Sand Creek.[2][10]

Second Seminole War[edit]

Prior to 1818 some Yuchi moved to near Lake Miccosukee in northern Florida, settling near Muscogee refugees. Andrew Jackson's invasion of the area during the First Seminole War resulted in the Yuchi moving to eastern Florida. They fought alongside the Seminole during the Second Seminole War under their chief Uchee Billy. He was captured in 1837 with his brother Jack by General Joseph Marion Hernandez, who also captured Osceola.[11] The two leaders were imprisoned for years in Fort Marion in St. Augustine, Florida.[12]

From 1890 to 1895, the Dawes Commission considered the Yuchi in Indian Territory to be an autonomous tribe. It registered tribal members preparatory to allotment of communal tribal lands in Indian Territory to individual households of members. Some 1200 tribal members were registered in those years. The Dawes Commission later decided to legally classify the Yuchi as part of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, in an effort to simplify the process of land allotment. But this decision interrupted the autonomy of the people and their record of historical continuity as a recognized tribe.[13]

Current status[edit]

A Yuchi flute

The Yuchi people are enrolled in federally recognized tribes, particularly the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, who host the Euchee Language Program.[14] In 1990s, the Yuchi Tribal Organization based in Sapulpa, Oklahoma, petitioned the US federal government to gain federal recognition as an independent tribe. In 2000, the Bureau of Indian Affairs denied the petition.[15]

As of 1997, the Yuchi tribe had a formal enrollment of 249 members. Other Yuchi descendants are already enrolled in other tribes, such as the Muscogee. Most Yuchi are of multi-tribal descent; some are citizens of other tribes, such as the Shawnee.[citation needed]

The Euchee Tribe of Indians, while not recognized, has their headquarters in Sapulpa, Oklahoma. Their tribal chairmen are co-chairs Felix Brown Jr. and Clinton Sago.[16]

James Anaya, United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, visited the Yuchi community. Tracie Revis (Yuchi) gave a speech defining the importance of federal recognition. He acknowledged the declaration by the UN on the Rights of Indigenous People that states "that we have the right of self-determination and by virtue of that right- we may freely determine our political status and freely pursue our economic, social and cultural development."[17]

An estimated 2,000 persons are ethnically Yuchi. They are descendants of some 1,100 persons recorded by the Indian Claims Commission in 1950, which was settling compensation claims dating from allotments.[18]

The Yuchi continue their important ceremonies, such as the Green Corn Ceremony of late summer. They maintain three ceremonial grounds in Oklahoma. Some members belong to the Native American Church and Methodist congregations.[2]

In 2008, the Yuchi tribe received a grant from President George W. Bush's administration for a Native Americans Comprehensive Community Survey and Plan. The grant was used to developed the Tribal History Project, which began in October 2010.[18]

The Human Genome Project acknowledged the importance of the Yuchi's distinct culture and language and approached the Yuchi in order to collect genetic data (DNA).[citation needed] The Yuchi tribe declined to participate in the Project due to cultural conflict and uncertainty over the uses of government ownership of tribal DNA.[19]

Yuchi language[edit]

Sisters Maxine Wildcat Barnett (left) and Josephine Wildcat Bigler; two among the elderly speakers of Yuchi, visiting their grandmother's grave in a cemetery behind Pickett Chapel in Sapulpa, Oklahoma. According to the sisters, their grandmother had insisted that Yuchi be their first language.

The Yuchi language is a linguistic isolate, not known to be related to any other language.[2] In 2000 the estimated number of fluent Yuchi speakers was 15, but this number dwindled to 7 by 2006.[20] According to a 2011 documentary on the Yuchi language, the number of first-language speakers has declined to five.[21]

Young Yuchi people have learned the language in recent years and are continuing to do so.[22] Yuchi language classes are being taught in Sapulpa, Oklahoma, in an effort led by Richard Grounds and the Euchee Language Project.[20] As of 2011, the Administration for Native Americans awarded the Yuchi tribe a grant for the years 2011 to 2014 in an effort to provide after-school programs for the youth to improve proficiency in their native language and develop a young generation of speakers.[23]

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 people[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ "2010 Census CPH-T-6. American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes in the United States and Puerto Rico: 2010". Retrieved August 2, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Jackson, Jason Baird. "Yuchi (Euchee)." Oklahoma Historical Society's Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
  3. ^ a b Jackson 416
  4. ^ Jackson 427–28
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ [2]
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ a b c Daniel T. Elliott and Rita Folse Elliott, "Mount Pleasant. An Eighteenth-Century Yuchi Indian Town, British Trader Outpost, and Military Garrison in Georgia", Watkinsville, GA: LAMAR Institute Publications, 1990
  9. ^ a b John T. Ellisor, The Second Creek War, p. 31
  10. ^ a b Jackson 415
  11. ^ Mahon, John K. (1985) [1967]. History of the Second Seminole War, 1835-1842 (Revised ed.). Gainesville: University Presses of Florida. pp. 6, 212. ISBN 0813001544. OCLC 12315671.
  12. ^ Army and Navy Chronicle, Volumes 4-5, edited by Benjamin Homans, pp. 203-4
  13. ^ "Euchee Tribe".
  14. ^ "Euchee Language Program". Muscogee (Creek) Nation. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  15. ^ "Petitioner #121: Yuchi Tribal Organization, OK". U.S. Department of the Interior Indian Affairs. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  16. ^ "Oklahoma's Tribal Nations." Archived 2010-03-28 at the Wayback Machine Oklahoma Indian Affairs Commission. 2010 (retrieved 10 April 2010)
  17. ^ "REPORT FROM THE EUCHEE (YUCHI) TRIBE OF INDIANS".
  18. ^ a b "Euchee Tribe of Indians" (PDF).
  19. ^ Grounds, Richard A. (Summer 1996). "The Yuchi Community and the Human Genome Diversity Project: Historic and Contemporary Ironies". Cultural Survival Quarterly.
  20. ^ a b Anderton, Alice, PhD. "Status of Indian Languages in Oklahoma", Intertribal Wordpath Society, Ahalenia.com, 2006-2009 (retrieved 7 Feb 2009)
  21. ^ Harjo, Sterlin and Matt Leach We Are Still Here, This Land Press, 8 July 2011 (retrieved 8 July 2011)
  22. ^ Associated Press, "Scientists Race Around World to Save Dying Languages", via Fox News, 2007-09-18. Accessed 2007-09-19.
  23. ^ "Current ANA Grants Awarded Prior to FY 2012". January 3, 2013.

Bibliography[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]