NATIVE AMERICAN in NATCHEZ, MISSISSIPPI
HISTORIC NATCHEZ ON THE MISSISSIPPI
CONVENTION AND VISITOR BUREAU
P.O. Box 1485
Natchez, Mississippi 39121
The Natchez People:
The Natchez Indians were among the last Indian groups to inhabit the area now known as southwestern Mississippi. Their direct ancestors, known to archaeologists as the "Plaquemine" culture, can be traced back to about 1200 A.D. The Natchez language was related to several other native languages in the Southeast and links the Plaquemine people to still earlier cultures in the Lower Mississippi River Valley.
The Natchez people lived on scattered family farms, growing corn, beans and squash. They also hunted, fished and gathered wild plant foods. The tribe was led by a hereditary chief and was divided into classes of nobility and commoners. Clans and matrilineal kinship affiliations further subdivided the tribe.
Mound building was an expression of the complex tribal religion with the mounds serving as bases for important buildings. The Plaquemine people constructed several ceremonial mound centers in the Natchez area, including sites known today as the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians and Emerald Mound.
By the early 1700's the French had established a small colony at Natchez and English traders were making contact with the tribe. Tribal allegiance was soon split between the French and English. Growing tensions between these factions, combined with the Indians' dissatisfaction with the French colonial administrators led to the Indian rebellion against the French in 1729. In the brief war that followed, the Natchez were driven out of their homeland. Refugees soon joined other tribes, including the Chickasaws, Creeks and Cherokees. A century later, when the U.S. government moved these tribes to reservation lands in Oklahoma, the Natchez descendants moved with them.
The Natchez Trace began centuries ago as a footpath, used by the Indians for movements between the southern and central areas of the North American continent. Parties of Chickasaw, Choctaw, Natchez and other southern tribes certainly followed this route on their way to Middle Tennessee, Kentucky and the territory of the present North Central States. Many Indian war parties passed over the Trace to attack feeble white settlements in Tennessee, and over it in return hurried armed bands of settlers to attack and destroy their Indian adversaries south of the Tennessee River.
As the number of white settlers increased and their land and water traffic grew, Natchez in the Mississippi Territory became more and more important. The settlers floated their products downriver to Natchez and beyond, but many of them eschewed the long and laborious upstream journey by river, choosing to return by land over the old Chickasaw Trace.
Beginning in 1801, the U.S. government began utilizing the old Trace. In the War of 1812 General Andrew Jackson used this road to good advantage going to and from the battle of New Orleans.
With the advent of the steamboat era, river traffic grew and the Trace fell into dis-use. In the mid-20th century, the Daughters of the American Revolution researched the site of the original route and marked it with granite boulders. The historic significance of the Natchez Trace led to the creation of the Natchez Trace Parkway, which cuts diagonally across Mississippi, crosses the Tennessee River near Muscle Shoals in Alabama and then runs directly to Nashville, for a total of about 450 miles.
Grand Village of the Natchez Indians:
At 400 Jefferson Davis Boulevard in Natchez, this historic park encompasses some of the land occupied by the Natchez Indians between 1682 and 1729. The Village offers ceremonial mounds, reconstructed dwellings, and a nature trail. There is a visitor center, a refreshment center, an audio-visual room and a bookstore/gift shop. Admission is free. Open Monday through Saturday from 9am-5pm and on Sunday from 1:30-5pm. Call (601) 446-6502. Email email@example.com.
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