African-Native American Genealogy Forum
In Response To: Greetings ()
In 1985, I interviewed Archie Sam, then reigning Sun Chief of the Cherokee Natchez, at his home in Oklahoma City. He was clearly a full blood, or very close to it. He was articulate and passionate and said he hated living so far away from his beloved home in Sequoyah County. Archie was the last Sun Chief of the Natchez, he named no heir before he died and the Cherokee Natchez today are not organized in any way. I asked Archie why he did not name an heir and he refused to answer, only sayiing, "that's enough." My additional notes are in parenthesis. The Natchez and the traditional Cherokees were among the most vocal opponents of slavery in the Cherokee Nation. During the Civil War, they were known as Pin Indians and were greatly feared among the mixed-blood slave holding Cherokees. Archie said:
The Natchez tribe, a powerful nation residing in the Southeastern corner of what is now the state of Mississippi (and the Eastern side of Louisiana), were destroyed by the French around 1711. Our villages were destroyed and over 80 percent of the Natchez people were murdered. Three bands of the Natchez survived and fled to the safety of other powerful tribes in the area. The Sun Chief Tatooed Serpent, my great, great, great grandfather, fled with his followers to the Cherokee Nation, settling north of Cleveland (Tennessee). His sister, Tatooed Arm, fled with her followers to Creek Nation, settling near the Shawnee town of Tuckabatchee. A third band settled among the Choctaw, their leadership was not known and fate I do not know (see Rise and Fall of the Choctaw Nation by Angie Debo). When the Cherokees were removed over the Trail of Tears, the Natchez came too. In fact, they formed a spiritual core in the Cherokee Nation, along with a small group of Hitchitee (Creek) Indians and traditional Cherokees, carrying the sacred ashes of the ceremonial fires with them on the Trail. In the west, these traditionals joined with Cherokees already residing in Indian Territory to form what we know today as the Keetoowah Society organized in 1859 by my grandpa Creek Sam, along with Pig Smith and some missionaries. The Cherokee Natchez, known as Notchi by the Cherokees, kept their own language and traditions (the last Natchez speaker, Nancy Taylor, passed away in 1910). After settling among the Cherokees (1711), traditional inheritance of power among the Natchez was abandonded. Before that, the position of Sun Chief was passed from the chief to his sister's oldest son. Changed conditions required a change in the law and Tatooed Serpent decreed that his own oldest son, Crane Eater, would become the Sun chief. Tatooed Serpent's only surviving sister, Tatooed Arm was living among the Creeks, so he had no other heir to assume power upon his death. Tatooed Serpent died at about the age of 96. Crane Eater was known as a volatile man and his reign as Sun Chief saw the Natchez become isolated from their Cherokee neighbors. Crane Eater made several attempts to unite the Cherokee Natchez and Creek Natchez with the Choctaw band, to raise an army and return to their homeland. This never happened. The Crane Eater died in the old Cherokee Nation east, never having seen his ancestral homeland. Crane Eater named his oldest son WhiteTobacco as his successor. WhiteTobacco oversaw the removal of the Natchez to the Indian Territory, keeping them together and protecting them and preserving the sacred ashes of the ceremonial fires. The Cherokee Natchez settled in what was to become the Delaware District of the Cherokee Nation, in an area north of what is now known as Jay, Oklahoma. But their peace was not to be. Sometime around the year 1842, Cherokees became covetous of the lands held by the Natchez and began taking over the Natchez improvements and pushing us around. They could do this because they said the Natchez were not citizens of the Cherokee Nation, they said we were intruders and should be in the Creek Nation. This went on for about four years when in 1846, the Cherokee National Council passed an act to adopt as citizens of the Cherokee Nation certain Creek Indians, which included the our people. Following the passage of the Creek citizenship act, the Natchez left the Delaware District and moved south to the less populated Sequoyah District, settling among the traditional Cherokees and Creek Indians already living there. The Natchez settlement, just northeast of Gore, Oklahoma became known as Notchietown. Whitetobacco passed away in Notchietown. His son, Creek Sam, became the Sun Chief. Creek Sam was a very knowledgeable traditional man. He had been trained in the ceremonial ways of the Natchez, Creeks and Cherokees. His father had organized the traditionals living in the Sequoyah District and that organization was assisted by the white missionary Evan Jones, who assisted in forming the Keetoowah Society under a constitution. WhiteTobacco had made a prophesy that eventually came true. He said, "A child shall be born among the Cherokee clans and that child will return to the Cherokees what they have lost." Redbird Smith was born July 19th, 1850. Creek Sam was able to determine through divination, that Redbird Smith was the child his father had prophesied. Creek Sam convinced Redbird's parents, Pig and Lizzie (Hilderbrand) Smith, to give him the child. Redbird was raised by Creek Sam in the ceremonies of the Natchez and Cherokee traditionals, learning everything he would need to become the leader of the Keetoowahs and fulfill the prophesy that he would get back what the Cherokees had lost. Creek Sam died and his son WhiteTobacco Sam became the Sun Chief of what is known as Medicine Ground near the Natchez settlement at Notchietown. When Whitetobacco died, I became the Sun Chief and when I die, there won't be any more.