The Natchez and Fort Rosalie
The Natchez were an important Indian nation of the lower Mississippi Valley. Originally numbering some six thousand people in sixty villages, they were efficient farmers with a sophisticated religion and social order. To expand its influence in the region, the colony of Louisiana established a trading post, Fort Rosalie, in their country in 1713. By the end of the 1720ís, however, they were less interested in Natchez trade than in Natchez land. In 1729, the French demanded that the Natchez turn over some of their farmfields to their settlers. The Indians, having suffered more than a decade of insults and sharp practice at the hands of French traders and soldiers, responded by storming Fort Rosalie and killing its inhabitants. This disaster had far-reaching consequences. Governor Bienville sent out troops to annihilate the Natchez, and nearly succeeded in 1731 when a French force killed almost a thousand Indians. The survivors fled northeast to their neighbors, the Chickasaw nation in Tennessee. The governor demanded the Chickasaw turn them over, but the Chickasaw refused and what had begun as a short genocidal campaign now expanded into a much larger war which would rage for more than a decade and which the French would ultimately lose.
LETTER FROM FATHER LE PETIT, MISSIONARY, To FATHER D'AVAUGOUR, PROCURATOR
OF THE MISSIONS IN NORTH AMERICA (1730)
My REVEREND FATHER:
At New Orleans.
The 12th of July, 1730
The peace of Our Lord.
You cannot be ignorant of the sad event which has desolated that part of the French Colony established at Natchez, on the right bank of the Mississippi river, at the distance of a hundred and twenty leagues from its mouth. Two of our Missionaries who were engaged in the conversion of the Savages, have been included in the almost general massacre which this barbarous Nation made of the French, at a time too when they had not the least reason to suspect their perfidy. A loss so great as this infant mission has sustained, will continue for a long time to excite our deepest regrets.
This Nation of Savages inhabits one of the most beautiful and fertile countries in the world, and is the only one on this continent which appears to have any regular worship. Their Religion in certain points is very similar to that of the ancient Romans. They have a temple filled with Idols, which are different figures of men and of animals, and for which they have a most profound veneration. Their Temple in shape resembles an earthen oven, a hundred feet in circumference. They enter it by a little door about four feet high, and not more than three in breadth. No window is to be seen there. The arched roof of the edifice is covered with three rows of mats, placed one upon the other, to prevent the rain from injuring the masonry. Above on the outside are three figures of eagles made of wood, and painted red, yellow, and white. Before the door is a kind of shed with folding doors, where the Guardian of the Temple is lodged; all around it runs a circle of palisades, on which are seen exposed skulls of all the heads which their Warriors had brought back from the battles in which they had been engaged with the enemies of their Nation.
In the interior of the Temple are some shelves arranged at a certain distance from each other, on which are placed cane baskets of an oval shape, and in these are enclosed the bones of their ancient Chiefs, while by their side are those of their victims who had caused themselves to be strangled, to follow their masters into the other world. Another separate shelf supports many flat baskets very gorgeously painted, in which they preserve their Idols. These are figures of men and women made of. stone or baked clay, the heads and the tails of extraordinary serpents, some stuffed owls, some pieces of crystal, and some jaw-bones of large fish. In the year 1699, they had there a bottle and the foot of a glass, which they regarded as very precious.
In this Temple they take care to keep up a perpetual fire and they are very particular to prevent its ever blazing; they do not use anything for it but dry wood of the walnut or oak. The old men are obliged to carry, each one in his turn, a large log of wood into the enclosure of the palisade. The number of the Guardians of the Temple is fixed, and they serve by the quarter. He who is on duty is placed like a sentinel under the shed, from whence he examines whether the fire is not in danger of going out. He feeds it with two or three large logs, which do not burn except at the extremity, and which they never place one on the other, for fear of their getting into a blaze.
Of the women, the sisters of the great Chief alone have liberty to enter within the temple. The entrance is forbidden to all others, as well as to the common people, even when they carry something there to feast to the memory of their relatives, whose bones repose in the Temple. They give the dishes to the Guardian, who carries them to the side of the basket in which are the bones of the dead; this ceremony lasts only during one moon. The dishes are afterward placed on the palisades which surround the Temple, and are abandoned to the fallow-deer.
The Sun is the principal object of veneration to these people; as they cannot conceive of anything which can be above this heavenly body, nothing else appears to them more worthy of their homage. It is for the Same reason that the Chief of this Nation, who knows nothing on earth more dignified than himself, takes the title of brother of the Sun, and the credulity of the people maintains him in the despotic authority which he claims. To enable them better to converse together, they raise a mound of artificial soil, on which they build his cabin, which is of the same construction as the Temple. The door fronts the East, and every morning the great Chief honors by his presence the rising of his elder brother, and salutes him with many howlings as soon as he appears above the horizon. Then he gives orders that they shall light his calumet; he makes him an offering of the first three puffs which he draws; afterwards raising his hand above his head, and turning from the East to the West, he shows him the direction which he must take in his course.
There are in his cabin a number of beds on the left hand at entering but on the right is only the bed of the great Chief, ornamented with different painted figures. This bed consists of nothing but a mattress of canes and reeds, very hard, with a square log of wood, which serves for a pillow. In the middle of the cabin is seen a small stone, and no one should approach the bed until he has made a circuit of this stone. Those who enter salute by a howl, and advance even to the bottom of the cabin, without looking at the right side, where the Chief is. Then they give a new salute by raising their arms above the head, and howling three times. If it be any one whom the Chief holds in consideration, he answers by a slight sigh and makes a sign to him to be seated. He thanks him for his politeness by a new howl. At every question which the Chief puts to him, he howls once before he answers, and when he takes his leave, he prolongs a single howl until he is out of his presence.
When the great Chief dies, they demolish his cabin, and then raise a new mound, on which they build the cabin of him who is to replace him in this dignity, for he never lodges in that of his predecessor. The old men prescribe the Laws for the rest of the people, and one of their principles is to have a sovereign respect for the great Chief, as being the brother of the Sun and the master of the Temple. They believe in the immortality of the soul, and when they leave this world they go, they say, to live in another, there to be recompensed or punished. The rewards to which they look forward, consist principally in feasting, and their chastisement in the privation of every pleasure. Thus they think that those who have been the faithful observers of their laws will be conducted into a region of pleasures, where all kinds of exquisite viands will be furnished them in abundance that their delightful and tranquil days will flow on in the midst of festivals, dances, and women; in short, they will revel in all imaginable pleasures. On the contrary, the violators of their laws will be cast upon the lands unfruitful and entirely covered with water, where they will not have any kind of corn, but will be exposed entirely naked to the sharp bites of the mosquitoes, and that all Nations will make war upon them, that they will never eat meat, and have no nourishment but the flesh of crocodiles, spoiled fish and shell-fish.
These people blindly obey the least wish of their great Chief. They look upon him as absolute master, not only of their property but also of their lives, and not one of them would dare to refuse him his head, if he should demand it for whatever labors he commands them to execute, they are forbidden to exact any wages. The French, who are often in need of hunters or of rowers for their long voyages, never apply to any one but their great Chief. He furnishes all the men they wish, and receives payment, without giving any part to those unfortunate individuals, who are not permitted even to complain. One of the principal articles of their Religion, and particularly for the servants of the great Chief, is that of honoring his funeral rites by dying with him, that they may go to serve him in the other world. In their blindness they willingly submit to this law, in the foolish belief that in the train of their Chief they will go to enjoy t he greatest happiness.
To give an idea of this bloody ceremony, it is necessary to know that as soon as an heir presumptive has been born to the great Chief, each family that has an infant at the breast is obliged to pay him homage. From all these infants they choose a certain number whom they destine for the service of the young Prince, and as soon as they are of a competent age, they furnish him with employments suited to their talents. Some pass their lives in hunting, or in fishing, to furnish supplies for the table; others are employed in agriculture, while others serve to fill up his retinue. If he happen to die, all these servants sacrifice themselves with joy to follow their dear master. They first put on all their finery, and repair to the place opposite to the Temple, where all the people are assembled. After having danced and sung a sufficiently long time, they pass around their neck a cord of buffalo hair with a running knot, and immediately the Ministers appointed for the executions of this kind, come forward to strangle them, recommending them to go to rejoin their master, and render him in the other world services even more honorable than those which had occupied them in this.
The principal servants of the great Chief having been strangled in this way, they strip the flesh off their bones, particularly those of their arms and thighs, and leave them to dry for two months, in a kind of tomb, after which they are placed in the Temple by the side of the bones of their master. As for the other servants their relatives carry them home with them, and bury them with their arms and clothes. The same ceremony is observed in like manner on the death of the brothers and sisters of the great Chief. The women are always strangled to follow the latter, except when they have infants at the breast, in which case they continue to live, for the purpose of nourishing them. And we often see many who endeavor to find nurses, or who themselves strangle their infants, so that they shall not lose the right of sacrificing themselves in the public place, according to the ordinary ceremonies, and as the law prescribes.
This Government is hereditary; it is not, however, the son of the reigning Chief who succeeds his father, but the son of his sister, or the first Princess of the blood. This policy is founded on the knowledge they have of the licentiousness of their women. They are not sure, they say, that the children of the Chief's wife may be of the blood Royal, whereas the son of the sister of the Chief must be, at least on the side of the mother. The Princesses of the blood never espouse any but men of obscure family, and they have but one husband, but they have the right of dismissing him whenever it pleases them, and of choosing another among those of the Nation, provided he has not made any other alliance among t hem. If the husband has been guilty of infidelity, the Princess may have his head cut off in an instant; but she is not herself subject to the same law, for she may have as many Lovers as she pleases, without the husband having any power to complain. In the presence of his wife he acts with the most profound respect, never eats with her, and salutes her with howls, as is done by her servants. The only satisfaction he has is, that he is freed from the necessity of laboring, and has entire authority over those who serve the Princess.
In former times the Nation of the Natchez was very large. It counted sixty Villages and eight hundred Suns or Princes; now it is reduced to six little Villages and eleven Suns. In each of these Villages there is a Temple where the fire is always kept burning as in that of the great Chief, whom all the other Chiefs obey.
The great Chief nominates to the most important offices of the State; such are the two war-Chiefs, the two Masters of ceremony for the worship of the Temple, the two Officers who preside over the other ceremonies which are observed when foreigners come to treat of peace, another who has the inspection of the public works, four others charged with the arrangement of the festivals with which they publicly entertain the Nation, and such Strangers as come to visit them. All these Ministers, who execute the will of the great Chief are treated with the same respect and obedience as if he personally gave the orders.
Each year the people assemble to plant one vast field with Indian corn, beans, pumpkins, and melons, and then again they collect in the same way to gather the harvest. A large cabin situated on a beautiful prairie is set apart to hold the fruits of this harvest. Once in the summer, toward the end of July, the people gather by order of the great Chief, to be present at a grand feast which he gives them. This festival lasts for three days and three nights, and each one contributes what he can to furnish it; some bring game, others fish, etc. They have almost constant dances, while, the great chief and his sister are in an elevated lodge covered with boughs, from whence they can see the joy of their subjects. The Princes, the Princesses and those who by their office are of distinguished rank, are arranged very near the Chief, to whom they show their respect and submission by an infinite variety of ceremonies.
The great chief and his sister make their entrance in the place of the assembly on a litter borne by eight of the greatest men; the Chief holds in his hand a great scepter ornamented with painted plumes, and all the people dance and sing about him in testimony of the public joy. The last day of this Feast he causes all his subjects to approach, and makes them a long harangue, in which he exhorts them to fulfill all their duties to Religion; he recommends them above all things to have a great veneration for the spirits who reside in the Temple, and carefully to instruct their children. If anyone has distinguished himself by some act of zeal, he is then publicly praised. Such a case happened in the year 1702. The Temple having been struck by lightning and reduced to ashes, seven or eight women cast their infants into the midst of the flames to appease the wrath of Heaven. The great Chief called these heroines, and gave them great praises for the courage with which they had made the sacrifice of that which they held most dear; he finished his panegyric by exhorting the other women to imitate so beautiful an example in similar circumstances.
The fathers of the families do not fail to carry to the Temple the first of their fruits, their corn and the vegetables. It. is the same even with presents which are made to this Nation; they are immediately offered at the gate of the Temple, when the guardian, after having displayed and presented them to the spirits, carries them to the house of the great chief, who makes a distribution of them as he judges best, without any person testifying the least discontent.
They never plant their fields without having first presented the seed in the Temple with the accustomed ceremonies. As soon as these people approach the Temple, they raise their arms by way of respect, and utter three howls, after which, they place their hands on the earth, and raise themselves again three times with as many reiterated howls. When any one has merely to pass before the Temple, he only pauses to salute it by his downcast eyes and raised arms. If a father or mother see their son fail in performance of this ceremony, they will punish him immediately with repeated blows of a stick.
Such are the ceremonies of the Natchez Savages with regard to their Religion. Those of marriage are very simple. When a young man thinks of marrying he has only to address himself to the father of the girl, or if she have none, to her eldest brother, and they agree on a price, which he pays in skins or merchandise. When a girl has lived a licentious life they make no difficulty in receiving her, if there is the least idea that she will change her conduct when she is married. Neither do they trouble themselves as to what family she belongs, provided that she pleases them. As to the relatives of the girl, their only care is to inform themselves whether he who asks her is an able hunter, a good warrior, and an excellent workman. These qualities diminish the price which they have a right to ask on marriage.
When the parties have agreed, the future husband goes to the chase with his friends and when he has sufficient either of game or fish, to feast the two families who have contracted the alliance, they assemble at the house of the parents of the girl. They particularly serve the newly married pair, who eat from the same dish. The repast being ended, the bridegroom smokes the calumet toward the parents of his wife, and then toward his own parents, after which all the guests retire. The newly married people remain together until the next day, and then the husband conducts his wife to the residence of her father-in-law, where they live until the family has built for him a cabin of his own. While they are constructing it, he passes the whole day in the chase to furnish food, which he gives to those who are employed in this work.
The laws permit the Natchez to have as many wives as they choose, nevertheless, the common people generally have but one or two. This however is not the case with the chiefs, their number is greater, because having the right to oblige the people to cultivate their fields, without giving them any wages., the number of their wives is no expense to them.
The marriage of the Chiefs is made with less ceremony. They content themselves with sending to fetch the father of the girl whom they wish to espouse, and they declare to him that they will give her the rank of their wives. They do not fall however, as soon as the marriage is consummated, to make a present to the father and mother. Although they have many wives, they keep but one or two in their own cabins; the rest remain at houses of their parents, where they go to see them when they wish.
At certain periods of the moon these savages never live with their wives. jealousy has so little part in their hearts, that they find no difficulty in lending their wives to their friends. This indifference to the conjugal union results from the liberty they have in changing it when it seems good to them, provided that their wives have never borne children to them, for if any have been born of the marriage, nothing but death can separate them.
When this nation sends out a detachment for war, the Chief of the party erects two kinds of poles painted red from the top to the bottom, ornamented with red plumes, and arrows and tomahawks, also painted red. These poles are pointed to the side to which they are to carry the war. Those who wish to join the party, after having ornamented and daubed themselves in different colors, come to harangue the war-Chief. This harangue, who one makes after another, and which lasts nearly half an hour, consists of a thousand protestations of service, by which they assure him that they ask for nothing more than to die with him, that they are charmed to learn from so able a warrior the art of taking scalps, and that they fear neither the hunger nor the fatigues to which they are going to be exposed.
When a sufficient number of braves have presented themselves to the war-Chief he causes to be made at his house a beverage which they call the "war medicine." This is an emetic which they make from a root they boil in large kettles full of water. The warriors, sometimes to the number of 300, having seated themselves about the kettle, they serve each with two pots of it. The ceremony is to swallow them with a single effort, and then to throw them up immediately by the mouth, with efforts so violent that they can be heard at a great distance.
After this ceremony, the war-Chief appoints the day of departure, that each one may prepare provisions necessary for the campaign. During this time, the warriors repair evening and morning to the place before the Temple, where, after having danced and related in detail the brilliant actions in which their bravery was conspicuous, they chant their death songs.
When on the war-path, they march in single file; four or five men who are the best walkers lead the way, and keep in advance of the army a quarter of a league, to observe everything, and give immediate notice. They encamp every evening an hour before sunset, and lie down about a large fire, each one with his arms near him. Before they encamp, they take the precaution to send out twenty warriors to the distance of half a league around the camp, for the purpose of avoiding all surprise. They never post sentinels during the night, but as soon as they have supped, they extinguish all fires.
As the War-chiefs always carry with them their idols, or what they cal l their spirits, well secured in some skins, at night they suspend them from a small pole painted red, which they erect in a slanting position, so that it may be bent on the side of the enemy. The warriors before they go to sleep, with war-dub in hand, pass one after the other in a dance before these pretended spirits, at the same time uttering the fiercest threats toward the side on which are their enemies.
The Natchez, like all the other Nations of Louisiana, distinguish by particular names those who have killed a greater or less number of the enemy. The old war-Chiefs distribute these names according to the merit of the warriors. To deserve the title of a great man-slayer, it is necessary to have taken 10 slaves or to have carried Off 20 scalps. When a person understands their language, the name itself of a warrior enables him to learn all his exploits. Those who, for the first time, have taken a scalp or made a captive, do not sleep at their return with their wives, and do not cat any meat ; they ought not to partake of anything but fish and thickened milk. This abstinence lasts for six months. If they fail to observe it, they imagine that the soul of him whom they have killed will cause them to die through sorcery, that they will never again obtain any advantage over their enemies, and that the slightest wounds they may receive will prove fatal.
They take extreme care that the great Chief shall not in anyway expose his life when he goes to war. If, carried away by his valor, he should happen to be killed, the Chiefs of the party and the other principal warriors would be put to death on their return; but executions of this kind are almost without example, on account of the precautions they take to preserve him from this evil.
When one of these Savages dies, his relatives come to mourn his death during an entire day, they then array him in his most beautiful dresses, they paint his face and his hair, and ornament him with plumes, after which they carry him to a grave prepared for him, placing by his side his arms, a kettle and some provisions. For the space of a month, his relatives come at dawn of day and at the beginning of the night, to weep for half an hour at his grave. The
nearest relatives continue this ceremony for three months.
When any foreign Nation comes to treat of peace with the Natchez savages, they send their couriers to give notice of the day and hour when they shall make their entrance. The great Chief orders the Masters of ceremony to prepare all things for thisgrand occasion. They begin by naming those who during each day should support the strangers, for the expense never falls upon the Chief, but always on his subjects. Then they clear the roads, they sweep the cabins, they arrange the seats on a large hall which is on the mound of the great Chief by the side of his cabin. His throne,
which is on an elevation, is painted and ornamented, and the bottom is furnished with beautiful mats.
On the day that the Ambassadors are to make their entrance, all the Nation assembles. The Masters of the ceremony place the Princes, the Chiefs of the Villages, and the old Chiefs of quality near the great Chief, on particular seats. When the Ambassadors arrive, they stop and chant the song of peace. The ambassage ordinarily consists of thirty men and six women. Six of the best made, who have the finest voices, march in front. They are followed by the others who chant in like manner, regulating the cadence with the sicicouet. The six women are the last.
When the Chief has directed them to approach, they advance; those who have the calumets, chant and dance with much agility, now turning around each other, and now presenting themselves in front, but always with violent movements and extraordinary contortions. When they have entered the circle, they dance about the chair on which the chief is seated, they rub him with their calumets from his feet even to his head, and after that go back to find those who belong to their suite. Then they fill one of their calumets with tobacco, and holding the fire in one hand, they advance all together before the Chief and smoke it; they direct the first puff of smoke toward the Heavens, the second toward the Earth, and the others around the horizon, after which they without ceremony present the pipe to the Princes and to the other Chiefs.
The ceremony having been finished, the Ambassadors, as a token of alliance, rub their hands on the stomach of the Chief, and rub themselves over the whole body; they then place their calumets before the Chief on small forks, while the person among the Ambassadors who is particularly charged with the orders of his Nation, delivers a harangue which lasts for an entire hour. When he has finished, they make a sign to the strangers to be seated on the benches ranged near the great Chief, who responds to them by a discourse of equal length. Then the Master of ceremonies lights the great calumet of peace, and makes the strangers smoke, who swallow the tobacco smoke. The great Chief inquires of them whether they arrived safe, that is, whether they are well, and those who are around them go one after the other to discharge the same office of politeness. After which they conduct them to the cabin which has been prepared for them, and where they are feasted.
That same evening at Sunset, the Ambassadors, with the calumet in their hands, go with singing to find the great Chief, and having raised him on their shoulders, they transport him to the quarter in which their cabin is situated. They spread on the ground a large skin, on which they cause him to sit down. One of them places himself behind him, and putting his hands on the Chief's shoulders he agitates all his body, while the others ' seated in the circle on the ground, chant the history of their distinguished deeds. After this ceremony, which is repeated night and morning for four days, the great Chief returns to his cabin. When he pays his last visit to the Ambassadors, these place a stake at his feet, about which they seat themselves: The Warriors of the Nation having arranged themselves in all their finery dance around, striking the stake, and in turn recounting their great exploits, then follows the giving of presents to the Ambassadors, which consist of kettles, hatchets, guns, powder, balls, etc.
The day following this last ceremony, it is permitted to the Ambassadors to walk through the whole Village, which before they were not able to do. Then every evening they give them spectacles, that is to say, the men and women in their most beautiful dresses assemble at the public place, and dance until night is far advanced. When they are ready to return home, the Masters of the ceremonies furnish them with the provisions necessary for the journey.
After having thus given you a slight idea of the character and customs of the Natchez Savages, I proceed, my Reverend Father, as I have promised you, to enter on a detail of their perfidy and treason. It was on the second of December of the year 1729, that we learned that they had surprised the French, and had massacred almost all of them. This sad news was first brought to us by one of the planters, who had escaped their fury. It was confirmed to us on the following day by other French fugitives and finally, some French women whom they had made slaves, and were forced afterward to restore, brought us all particulars.
At the first rumour of an event so sad, the alarm and consternation was general in New Orleans. Although the massacre had taken place more than a hundred leagues from here, you would have supposed that it had happened under our own eyes. Each one was mourning the loss of a relative, a friend, or some property; all were alarmed for their own lives, for there was reason to fear that the conspiracy of the Savages had been general.
This unlocked for massacre began on Monday, the 28th of October, about 9 o'clock in the morning. Some cause of dissatisfaction which the Natchez thought they had with Monsieur the Commandant,' and the arrival of a number of richly laden boats for the garrison and the colonists, determined them to hasten their enterprise, and to strike their blow sooner than they had agreed with the other confederate Tribes. And it was thus that they carried their plan into execution. First they divided themselves, and sent into the Fort, into the Village, and into the two grants, as many Savages as there were French in each of these places; then they feigned that they were going out for a grand hunt,
and undertook to trade with the French for guns, powder and ball, offering to pay them as much, even more than was customary and in truth, as there was no reason to suspect their fidelity, they made at that time an exchange of their poultry and corn, for some arms and ammunition which they used advantageously against us. It is true that some expressed their distrust, but this was thought to have so little foundation, that they were treated as cowards who were frightened of their own shadows. They had been on their guard against the Tchactas, but as for the Natchez, they had never distrusted them, and they were so persuaded of their good faith that it increased their hardihood. Having thus posted themselves in different houses, provided with the arms obtained from us, they attacked at the same time each his man, and in less than two hours they massacred more than two hundred of the French. The best known are Monsieur de Chepar, Commandant of the post, Monsieur du Codere, Commandant among the Yazous, Monsieur des Ursins, Messieurs de Kolly, father and son, Messieurs de Longrays, des Noyers, Bailly, etc.
Father du Poisson had just performed the funeral rites of his associate, Brother Crucy, who had died very suddenly of Sunstroke. He arrived among the Natchez on the 26th of November, that is, two days before the massacre. The next day which was the first Sunday of Advent, he said Mass in the parish and preached in the absence of the Cure. He was to have returned in the afternoon to his mission among the Akensas, but he was detained by some sick persons, to whom it was necessary to administer the Sacraments. On Monday he was about to say Mass, and to carry the holy Viaticum to one of those sick persons whom he had confessed the evening before, when the massacre began; a gigantic Chief six feet in height, seized him, and having thrown him to the ground, cut off his head with blows of a hatchet. The Father in falling only uttered these words, "Ah, my God, ah, my God!" Monsieur du Codere drew his sword to defend him, when he was himself killed by a musket-ball from another Savage, whom he did not perceive.
These barbarians spared but two of the French, a Tailor and a Carpenter, who were able to serve their wants. They did not treat badly either the Negro Slaves, or the Savages who were willing to give themselves up; but they ripped up the belly of every pregnant woman, and killed almost all those who were nursing their children, because they were disturbed by their cries and tears. They did not kill the other women, but made them slaves, and treated them with every indignity during the two or three months that they were their masters. The least miserable were those who knew how to sew, because they kept them busy making shirts, dresses, etc. The others were employed in cutting and carrying wood for cooking, and in pounding the corn of which they make their sagamite. But two things, above all, aggravated the grief and hardness of their slavery it was, in the first place, to have for masters those same persons whom they had seen dipping their cruel hands in the blood of their husbands, and, in the second place, to hear them continually saying that the French had been treated in the same manner at all the other posts, and that the country was now entirely freed from them.
During the massacre, the great Chief of the Natchez was seated quietly under the tobacco shed of the Company. His Warriors brought to his feet the head of the Commandant, about which they ranged those of the principal French of the Post, leaving their bodies a prey to the dogs, the buzzards, and other carnivorous birds.
When they were assured that not another Frenchman remained at the post, they applied themselves to plunder the houses, the magazine of the Company of the Indies, and all the boats which were still loaded by the bank of the river. They employed the Negroes to transport the merchandise, which they divided among themselves, with the exception of the munitions of war, which they placed for security in a separate cabin. While the brandy lasted, of which they found a good supply, they passed their days and nights in drinking, singing, dancing, and insulting in the most barbarous manner, the dead bodies and the memory of the French.
Some of the French escaped the fury of the Savages by taking refuge in the woods, where they suffered extremely from hunger and the effects of the weather. One of them, on arriving here, relieved us of a little disquietude we felt with regard to the post we occupy among the Yazous, which is not more than forty or fifty leagues above the Natchez by water, and only 15 or 20 by land. Not being able longer to endure the extreme cold from which he suffered, he left the woods under the cover of night, to go warm himself in the house of a Frenchman. When he was near it he heard the voices of Savages and deliberated whether he should enter. He determined, however, to do so, preferring rather to perish by the hand of these barbarians, than to die of famine and cold. He was agreeably surprised when he found these Savages eager to render him a service, to heap kindnesses upon him, to commiserate him, to console him, to furnish him with provisions, clothes, and a boat to make his escape to New Orleans. These were the Yazous, who were returning from chanting the calumet at Ommas. The Chief charged him to say to Monsieur Perrier, that he had nothing to fear on the part of the Yazous, that "they would not lose their sense," that is, that they would always remain attached to the French, and that he would be constantly on the watch with his tribe to warn the French pirogues that were descending the river to be on their guard against the Natchez.
We believed for a long time that the promises of this Chief were very sincere, and feared no more Indian perfidy for our post among the Yazous. But learn, my Reverend Father, the disposition of these savages, and how little one is able to trust their words, even when accompanied by the greatest demonstrations of friendship. Scarcely had they returned to their own village, when, loaded with the presents they received from the Natchez, they followed their example and imitated their treachery. Uniting with the Corroys, they agreed together to exterminate the French. They began with Father Souel, the Missionary of both tribes, who was then living in the midst of them, in their own village. The fidelity of the Ofogoulas, who were then absent at the chase, has never been shaken, and they now compose one Village with the Tonikas.
On the 11th of December, Father Souel was returning in the evening from visiting the Chief, and while in a ravine, received many musket-balls, and fell dead on the spot. The Savages immediately rushed to his cabin to plunder it. His Negro, who composed all his family and all his defense, armed himself with a wood-cutter's knife, to prevent the pillage, and even wounded one of the Savages. This zealous action cost him his life, but, happily, he had received Baptism less than a month before, and was living in a most Christian manner.
These Savages, who even to that time seemed sensible of the affection which their Missionary bore them, reproached themselves for his death as soon as they were capable of reflection; but returning again to their natural ferocity, they adopted the resolution of putting a finishing stroke to their crime by the destruction of the whole French post. "Since the black Chief is dead," said they, "it is the same as if all the French were dead-let us not spare any."
The next day, they executed their barbarous plan. They repaired early in the morning to the fort, which was not more than a league distant, and whose occupants supposed on their arrival, that the savages wished to chant the calumet to the Chevalier des Roches, who commanded the post in the absence of Monsieur de Codere. He had but seventeen men with him, who had no suspicion of any evil design on the part of the Savages, and were therefore all massacred, not one escaping their fury. They, however, granted their lives to four women and five children, whom they found there, and whom they made slaves.
One of the Yazous, having stripped the Missionary, clothed himself in his garments and shortly afterward announced to the Natchez,, that his Nation had redeemed the pledge, and that the French settled among them were all massacred. In this city there was no longer any doubt on the point, as soon as they learned what came near of being the fate of Father Doutreleau. This Missionary had availed himself of the time when the Savages were engaged in their winter occupations, to come to see us, for the purpose of regulating some matters relating to his Mission. He set out on the fir day of this year, 1730, and not expecting to arrive at the residence of Father Souel, of whose fate he was ignorant, in time to say Mass, he determined to say it at the mouth of the little river of the Yazous, where his party had cabined.
As he was preparing for this sacred office, he saw a boat full of savages landing. They demanded from what Nation the were. "Yazous, comrades of the French," they replied, making a thousand friendly demonstrations to the voyageurs who accompanied the Missionary, and presenting them with provisions. While the Father was preparing his altar, a flock of bustards passed, and the voyageurs fired at them the only two guns they had, without thinking of reloading, as the Mass had already commenced. The Savages noted this and place themselves behind the voyageurs, as if it was their
intention to hear Mass, although they were not Christians.
At the time when the Father was saying the Kyrie eleison the Savages made their discharge. The Missionary perceiving himself wounded in his right arm, and seeing one of the voyageurs killed at his feet, and the four others fled, threw himself on his knees to receive the last fatal blow, which he regarded as inevitable. In this posture he received two or three discharges. But although the Savages fired while almost touching him, yet they did not inflict on him any new wound Finding himself then, as it were, miraculously escaped from so many mortal blows, he took flight, having on still his priestly garments, and without any other defense than an entire confidence in God, whose particular protection was given him, as the event proved. He threw himself into the water, an after advancing some steps, gained the pirogue in which two of the voyageurs were making their escape. They had supposed him to be killed by some of the many balls which they had fired on him. In climbing up into the pirogue, and turning his head to see whether any one of his pursuers was following him too closely, he received in the mouth a discharge of small shot, the greater part of which were flattened against his teeth, although some of them entered his gums, and remained there for a long time. I have myself seen two of them there. Father Doutreleau, all wounded as he was, undertook the duty of steering the pirogue, while his two companions placed themselves at the paddles. Unfortunately, one of them, at setting out, had his thigh broken by a musket ball, from the effects of which he has since remained a cripple.
The Tchikachas, a brave Nation but treacherous, and little known to the French, have endeavored to seduce the Illinois Tribes from their allegiance: they have even sounded some particular persons to see whether they could not draw them over to the party of those Savages who were enemies of our Nation. The Illinois have replied to them that they were almost all "of the prayer" (that is, according to their manner of expression, that they were Christians) ; and that in other ways they are inviolably attached to the French, by the alliances which many of that nation had contracted with them, in espousing their daughters. At the first news of the war with the Natchez and the Yazous, they came hither to weep for the black Robes and the French, and to offer the services of their Nation to Monsieur Perrier, to avenge their death. I happened to be at the governor's house when they arrived, and was charmed with the harangues they made. Chikagou, whom you saw in Paris, was at the head of the Mitchigamias, and Mamantouensa at the head of the Kaskaskias.
Chikagou spoke first. He spread out in the hall a carpet deerskin, bordered with porcupine quills, on which he placed two calumets, with different savage ornaments, accompanying them with a present according to the usual custom. "There," he said in showing the two calumets, "are two messages which we bring you, the one of Religion and the other of peace or war, as you shall determine. We have listened with respect to the Governors, because they bring us the word of the King our Father, and much more to the black Robes, because they bring us the word of God himself, who is the King of Kings. We have come from a great distance to weep with you for the death of the French, and to offer our Warriors to strike those hostile Nations whom you may wish to designate. You have but to speak. When I went over to France, the King promised me his protection for the Prayer, and recommended me never to abandon it. I will always remember it. Grant then your protection to us and to our black Robes." He then gave utterance to the edifying sentiments with which he was impressed with regard to the Faith, as the Interpreter Baillarjon enabled us to half understand them in his miserable French.
Chikagou guards most carefully, in a bag made expressly for the purpose, the magnificent snuff-box which the late Madame, the Duchess d'Orleans, gave him at Versailles. Notwithstanding all the offers made to him, he has never been willing to part with it, a degree of consideration very remarkable in a Savage, whose characteristic generally is, to be in a short time disgusted with anything he has, and passionately desire what he sees, but does not own. Everything Chikagou has related to his countrymen with regard to France, has appeared to them incredible. "They have bribed you," said some to him, "to make us believe all these beautiful fictions." "We are willing to believe," said his relatives, and those by whom his sincerity was least doubted, "that you have really seen all that you tell us, but there must have been some charm which fascinated your eyes, for it is not possible that France can be such as you have painted it." When he told them that in France they were accustomed to have five cabins, one on top of the other, and that they were
as high as the tallest trees, that there were as many people in the streets of Paris, as there were blades of grass on the Prairies, or mosquitoes in the woods, and that they rode about there and even made long journeys in moving cabins of leather, they did not credit it any more than when he added that he had seen long cabins full of sick people, where skilful Surgeons performed the most wonderful cures. "Here," he would say to them in sport, "you may lose an arm or a leg, an eye, a tooth, a breast, if you are in France, and they will supply you with others, so that it will not be noticed." What most embarrassed Mamantouensa, when he saw the ships, was to know how it was possible to launch them into
the water after they had been built on land, where arms enough could be found for this purpose, and above all to raise the anchors with their enormous weights. They explained both these points to him and he admired the genius of the French who were capable of such beautiful inventions.
You can well believe, my reverend Father, that this war has retarded the French colony; nevertheless we flatter ourselves that this misfortune will be productive of benefit, by determining the Court to send the forces necessary to tranquillize the Colony and render it flourishing. Although they have nothing to fear at New Orleans, either from the smaller neighboring tribes, whom our Negroes alone could finish in a single morning, or even from the Tchactas, who would not dare to expose themselves on the Lake in any great numbers, yet a panic terror has spread itself over almost every spirit, particularly with the women. They will, however, be reassured by the arrival of the first troops from
France, whom we are now constantly expecting. As far as our Missionaries are concerned, they are very tranquil. The perils to which they see themselves exposed seem to increase their joy and animate their zeal.
Source: Edna Kenton, ed., The Jesuit Relation and Allied Documents (New York: Albert & Charles Boni, Inc., 1925) pp.406-428.