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Natchez Indian Fact Sheet

Native American Facts For Kids was written for young people learning about the Natchez for school or home-schooling reports. We encourage students and teachers to visit our Natchez language and culture pages for more in-depth information about the tribe, but here are our answers to the questions we are most often asked by children, with Natchez pictures and links we believe are suitable for all ages.




    Natchez Tribe

How do you pronounce "Natchez"? What does it mean?
Natchez is pronounced "natch-ez" in English. In French, it was pronounced "notch-ay," which is closer to the original Indian pronunciation. This was originally the name of their main village. Later, it began to be used to refer to the people as well.

Where did the Natchez Indians live?
The Natchez were original residents of Mississippi and Louisiana.

Where do the Natchez live today?
The Natchez tribe was defeated by the French in the early 1700's, and the survivors scattered. People of Natchez descent live in many different places today, but most of them live among the Chickasaw, Creek and Cherokee tribes of Oklahoma. Those three tribes absorbed many Natchez refugees. Other Natchez people were sent to the West Indies as slaves by the French, and some Afro-Caribbean people today have Natchez and other Indian ancestry.

How is the Natchez Indian nation organized?
The Natchez tribe is not federally recognized in the United States. That means Natchez people today do not have a reservation, tribal land, or official government. But Natchez descendants do have tribal communities where they continue to practice their culture.

How was the Natchez Indian nation organized in the past?
The Natchez were one of the few North American Indian tribes who were ruled by a king. The Natchez king was called the Great Sun, because the Natchez people believed he was descended from the sun. Unlike European kings, Natchez royalty was traced through the mother's bloodline, not the father's. So the son of the Great Sun would not become the next Great Sun -- his oldest sister's son would. The Natchez Great Sun was an absolute ruler, which means that he had the power to make all the decisions for the tribe himself. In reality, though, the Great Sun usually had to listen to the opinions of a council of warriors, priests, and other important Natchez men, because he needed their support.

What language did the Natchez speak?
They spoke their native Natchez language, but nobody speaks this language in their daily life anymore. When the Natchez refugees joined other tribes like the Creeks and Cherokees, they began speaking the languages used by those tribes. Some Natchez people today speak a dialect of the Creek language. If you want to see what the old Natchez language was like, there is a Natchez picture glossary here.

How did Natchez Indian children live?
They did the same things all children do--play with each other, go to school and help around the house. Many Natchez children liked to go hunting and fishing with their fathers. In the past, Indian kids had more chores and less time to play, just like colonial children. But they did have corn husk dolls, toys and games to play. Teenage boys played a spear-throwing game called chunkey. Natchez mothers, like many Native Americans, traditionally carried their babies in cradleboards on their backs. Here is a website with pictures of cradleboards and other American Indian baby carrier technology.

What were men and women's roles in the Natchez tribe?
Unlike most North American tribes, men and women did not have equal status in the Natchez tribe. Men were higher-ranking than women, held leadership positions, were in charge of the household, and even got to eat first. However, both genders took part in storytelling, artwork and music, and traditional medicine.

What were Natchez homes like in the past?
The Natchez people lived in villages of adobe houses with thatched roofs. One family lived in each house. The Natchez houses were arranged around a village square that was used for ceremonies and sports events.

What was Natchez clothing like? Did they wear feather headdresses and face paint?
Natchez men wore breechcloths and leather leggings. Natchez women wore wraparound skirts made of deerskin or woven fiber. Shirts were not necessary in Natchez culture, but both men and women wore tunics in cooler weather. The Natchez also wore moccasins on their feet. Here are some photographs and links about Indian clothing in general.

The Natchez didn't wear war bonnets like the Sioux. The Great Sun wore a fancy feathered crown, but other Natchez men usually went bare-headed. Some Natchez warriors shaved their heads except for a scalplock (one lock of hair on top of their heads.) Women usually wore their hair in one long braid or wrapped it up in a bun like the neighboring Creeks. Here is a website with pictures of American Indian hair. Natchez men and women both painted their faces for special occasions and also decorated their bodies with complex tribal tattoos.

What was Natchez transportation like in the days before cars? Did they paddle canoes?
Yes--the Natchez Indians made long dugout canoes from hollowed-out cypress logs. Here is a website about Indian canoe styles. Over land, the Natchez used dogs as pack animals. (There were no horses in North America until colonists brought them over from Europe.) The Great Sun always rode in a litter, which is a special kind of carriage carried on the shoulders of other men.

What was Natchez food like in the days before supermarkets?
The Natchez were farming people. They raised crops of corn, beans, pumpkins, and squash. Natchez men also hunted deer, wild turkeys, and buffalo and went fishing in the rivers. Natchez recipes included cornbread, hominy, and soups. Here is a website with more information about Native food plants.

What were Natchez weapons and tools like in the past?
Natchez hunters used bows and arrows or spears. Fishermen used fishing harpoons and nets. Farmers used hoes carved from hickory wood. In war, Natchez men fired their bows or fought with tomahawks and war clubs. Natchez warriors sometimes used hide shields to defend themselves. Here is a website with pictures and information about weapons Native Americans used.

What were Natchez arts and crafts like?
The Natchez were known for their Native American pottery, baskets, and woodcarvings.

What other Native Americans did the Natchez tribe interact with?
The Natchez traded regularly with the other tribes of the southeast, especially the Caddo and Chickasaw. These tribes communicated using a simplified trade language called Mobilian Jargon. Sometimes the Natchez fought with the neighboring Chitimacha and Choctaw tribes. After their defeat by the French, Natchez refugees were adopted into the Chickasaw, Creek, and Cherokee tribes.

What kinds of stories did the Natchez tell?
There are many traditional Natchez legends and fairy tales. Storytelling was very important to the Natchez Indian culture. Here is a story about the sacred fire of the Natchez.

What about Natchez religion?
Sorry, but we cannot help you with religious information. Religions are too complicated and culturally sensitive to describe appropriately in only a few simple sentences, and we strongly want to avoid misleading anybody. You can visit this site to learn more about Natchez sun worship or this site about Indian religions in general.

Can you recommend a good book for me to read?
You may like Southeastern Legends, a collection of Native American tales from many Southeastern tribes including the Natchez. Or The Natchez Indians is a good book about Natchez culture and history for kids. You can also browse through our reading list of recommended American Indian books in general.

How do I cite your website in my bibliography?
You will need to ask your teacher for the format he or she wants you to use. The authors' names are Laura Redish and Orrin Lewis and the title of our site is Native Languages of the Americas. We are a nonprofit educational organization working to preserve and protect Native American languages and culture. You can learn more about our organization here. Our website was first created in 1998 and last updated in 2013.

Thanks for your interest in the Natchez Indian people and their language!

Learn More About The Natchez

Natchez Indian Tribe
An overview of the Natchez people, their language and history.

Natchez Language Resources
Natchez language samples, articles, and indexed links.

Natchez Culture and History Directory
Related links about the Natchez people past and present.

Natchez Indian Words
Natchez Indian vocabulary lists.



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