/nach"iz/, n., pl. Natchez for 2.1. a port in SW Mississippi, on the Mississippi River. 22,015.2. a member of an extinct Muskhogean Indian tribe once living on the lower Mississippi River.
* * *city, seat (1817) of Adams county, southwestern Mississippi, U.S., on the Mississippi River (there bridged to Vidalia, Louisiana), about 70 miles (110 km) southwest of Vicksburg. Established in 1716 as Fort Rosalie by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville (Bienville, Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de), it survived a massacre (1729) by Natchez Indians for whom it was later named. It passed from France to England (1763) at the conclusion of the French and Indian War and was a haven for loyalists (loyalist) during the American Revolution. In 1779 it was captured by a Spanish expedition under Bernardo de Gálvez and remained under Spanish dominion until 1798 when the United States took possession and made it the first capital (1798–1802) of the Mississippi Territory. During the ensuing years it burgeoned as the commercial and cultural centre of a vast and rich cotton-producing area. It was the southern terminus of the Natchez Trace (an overland trail from Nashville, Tennessee; now the Natchez Trace Parkway) and an important river port. During the American Civil War it was bombarded by a Union gunboat and was occupied in July 1863.Natchez recovered from its post-Civil War decline to become one of the state's leading industrial centres. The production of wood pulp, lumber, petroleum, and natural gas form the basis of the economy; tourism (including casino gambling) and the manufacture of tires are also important. It retains many features of the antebellum South and is noted for its annual spring and fall pilgrimages, during which several antebellum homes are open to the public, and performances and historical pageants are held. An inn, built about 1798 and restored as the House on Ellicott's Hill, was the gathering place for adventurers who sailed the river or traveled the Natchez Trace. Shops and restaurants now occupy the site of Natchez Under-the-Hill, a 19th-century town of bordellos and taverns that was a haven for outlaws and boatmen. The month-long Natchez Opera Festival is held annually in May. The city is home to a branch of Copiah-Lincoln Community College and Natchez College.A few miles to the east in Washington is Historic Jefferson College (1802–63; 1866–1964), which Jefferson Davis (Davis, Jefferson) briefly attended; it was on its campus under the “Burr Oaks” that Aaron Burr (Burr, Aaron) was given one of his trials for treason (1807), and there the state's first constitutional convention was held (1817) in a Methodist church building. Natchez National Historical Park (authorized 1988) preserves three antebellum properties: Fort Rosalie, Melrose (an estate), and the William Johnson House (owned by a free African American). Homochitto National Forest, Natchez State Park, Grand Village of the Natchez Indians, and Emerald Mound (dating from 1250–1600) are nearby. Inc. 1803. Pop. (1990) 19,460; (2000) 18,464.▪ peopleNorth American Indian tribe of the Macro-Algonquian linguistic phylum (Macro-Algonquian languages) that inhabited the east side of the lower Mississippi River. When French colonizers first interacted with the Natchez in the early 18th century, the tribal population comprised about 6,000 individuals living in nine villages between the Yazoo and Pearl rivers near the site of the present-day city of Natchez, Miss.The traditional Natchez economy relied primarily on corn (maize) agriculture. They made clothes by weaving a fabric from the inner bark of the mulberry and excelled in pottery production. Like several other groups of Southeast Indians (Southeast Indian), the Natchez built substantial earthen mounds as foundations for large wattle-and-daub (wattle and daub) temple structures. Their dwellings—built in precise rows around a plaza or common ground—were also constructed of wattle and daub and had arched cane roofs.Traditional Natchez religion venerated the Sun (sun worship), which was represented by a perpetual fire kept burning in a temple. All fires in a village, including the sacred fire, were allowed to die once a year on the eve of the midsummer Green Corn ceremony, or Busk. The sacred fire was remade at dawn of the festival day, and all the village hearths were then lit anew from the sacred flames.Natchez social organization was notable for its caste system; the system drew from and supported Natchez religious beliefs and classified individuals as suns, nobles, honoured people, and commoners. Persons of the sun caste were required to marry commoners; the offspring of female suns and commoners were suns, while the children of male suns and commoners belonged to the caste of honoured people. The heads of villages also claimed descent from the Sun, and the monarch was referred to as the Great Sun. He was entitled to marry several wives and to maintain servants; upon his death his wives and some servants, along with any others who wished to join him in the afterlife, were ritually sacrificed.Relations between the French and the Natchez were friendly at first, but three French-Natchez wars—in 1716, 1723, and 1729—resulted in the French, with the aid of the Choctaw, driving the Natchez from their villages. In 1731 some 400 Natchez were captured and sold into the West Indian slave trade; the remainder took refuge with the Chickasaw and later with the Upper Creeks (Creek) and Cherokee. When the latter tribes were forced to move west into Indian Territory (Oklahoma), the Natchez went with them.Early 21st-century population estimates indicated some 500 individuals of Natchez descent.
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