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Choris, Yamasee, Yuchi, Cherokee, Seminole, California

Jomon Mask

Louis Choris (1795-1828) was a famous German-Russian painter and explorer. He was one of the first sketch artists for expedition research. Louis Choris, who was a Russian of German stock, was born in Yekaterinoslav, now Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine on March 22, 1795.

 

He visited the Pacific and the west coast of North America in 1816 on board the Ruric, being attached in the capacity of artist to the Romanzoff expedition under the command of Lieutenant Otto von Kotzebue, sent out for the purpose of exploring a northwest passage.

 

Choris is said to have "painted nature as he found it. The essence of his art is truth; a fresh, vigorous view of life, and an originality in portrayal." The accompanying illustrations may therefore be looked upon as faithfully representing the subjects treated by the artist.

 

After the voyage of the Ruric, Choris went to Paris where he issued a portfolio of his drawings in lithographic reproduction and studied in the ateliers of Gerard and Regnault. Choris worked extensively in pastels. He documented the Ohlone people in the missions of San Francisco, California in 1816.

 

 

 

The Yamasee Indians were part of the Muskhogean language group. Their traditional homelands lay in present-day northern Florida and southern Georgia. The advent of the Spanish in the late 16th century forced the Yamasee to migrate north into what would become South Carolina. Relations between the tribe and English settlers in that region were generally positive during the latter half of the 17th century.

 

Jomon Mask

Not surprisingly, problems between the races developed. The continuing influx of white settlers put pressure on Indian agricultural and hunting lands. The relationship was further complicated in that the tribe had become dependent on English firearms and other manufactured items, and had incurred a large debt, typically payable in deerskins. White fur traders acted on their displeasure by enslaving a number of Yamasee women and children to cover portions of the outstanding debt.

 

In the spring of 1715, the Yamasee formed a confederation with other tribes and struck at the white settlements in South Carolina. Several hundred settlers were killed, homes burned and livestock slaughtered. The frontier regions were emptied; some fled to the relative safety of North Carolina and others pushed on to even more secure Virginia. Charleston also received large numbers of frightened settlers. At the height of the fighting, it appeared that the tribal confederation's overwhelming numerical superiority would end in the white settlements' complete destruction in the region.

 

This would have been a virtual certainty if the confederacy had successfully drawn the Cherokee into their cause. Instead, the Cherokee gave in to the lure of English weapons and other goods, and chose to aid the Carolinians. In a further stroke of good fortune, the besieged settlers also managed to gain support from Virginia ~ez_mdash~ an event not assured in this age of intense colonial rivalries. The tide turned against the Yamasee, who were slowly pushed south through Georgia back into their ancestral lands in northern Florida. There, the tribe was virtually annihilated by protracted warfare with the Creeks, but some members were absorbed by the Seminole.

 

The Yamasee War took a heavy toll in South Carolina. Such terror had been instilled in the minds of the frontiersmen that it would take nearly 10 years for resettlement to occur in many areas. The warfare also brought a sharp change to the region's economy. Originally, farming had been the settlers' primary occupation, but the livestock supply had been so drastically depleted that many farms disappeared. In their absence, enterprising South Carolinians turned to the forests as a source of naval stores (tar, pitch and turpentine) and soon developed a lucrative trade with England. Later, the economy would develop rice and indigo as its primary products.

 

The Tsoyaha (Yuchi) are not well represented in the history books. This is for several reasons. First, while the Yuchi were a large and powerful tribe according to reports of the De Soto expedition, evidence indicates that disease epidemics ravaged the Yuchi after the Spanish men visited the East Tennessee area. The Yuchi were known to have widely scattered villages that ranged from Florida to Illinois, and from the Carolina coast to the Mississippi River. Legend has it that the tribe split in half over politics, and the fate of remaining half is not known. This actually seems to have happened several times over the past as portions of the tribe were absorbed into the Shawnee, Lenape, Cherokee and Creek peoples, as well as into the dominant culture. We do know that for at least 6 or 8 centuries much of what is now Tennessee was occupied by a tribe with cultural characteristics that like the Mouse Creek site had significant elements of the Yuchean cultural footprint.

 

Indian, Creek, Nation, Yuchi

 

 

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The Yuchi villages were very often intermingled with those of the neighbouring tribes.

 

It was widely theorized that the Yuchi in their widely scattered villages throughout the Southeastern United States, represented the original inhabitants prior to the influx of the Muskhogean, Iroquoian, and Algonkian Peoples.

 

The Yuchi themselves avow that only the Algonkian (Lenape) were already here when they came -- and call them the "Old Ones" still.

 

It is certain that the Yuchi were among the Mound-building People, and therefore among the oldest recognizable permanent residents of the Southeast United States.

 

They held a pivotal role in this rather sophisticated society as priests, leaders and traders in what was a very metropolitan culture.

 

After suffering many fatalities due to epidemic disease and warfare in the 18th century, several surviving Yuchi were removed to Indian Territory in the 1830s, together with their allies the Muscogee Creek.

 

(Some who remained in the South were classified as "free persons of color"; others were enslaved.)

 

Some remnant groups migrated to Florida, where they became part of the recently formed Seminole Tribe of Florida.

 

Today the Yuchi live primarily in the northeastern Oklahoma area, where many are enrolled as citizens in the federally recognized Muscogee Creek Nation.

 

Some Yuchi are enrolled as members of other federally recognized tribes, such as the Absentee Shawnee Tribe and the Cherokee Nation.