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Euchee (Yuchi) Indians

Euchee (Yuchi) Indians are not well documented in history. What is known is that the Euchee were among the Mound-building People making them among the oldest recognizable residents of the Southeast. The European Explorer DeSoto "discovered" them in Tennessee. He noted that they were a large powerful tribe. Unfortunately, disease and epidemics ravaged the tribe after the Spanish men visited the East Tennessee area.

At some point after that, the tribe split in half over politics. Some stayed in Tennessee. The remainder scattered throughout the Southeast and became part of a confederacy commonly known as the Creek Indians. Their domain extended from the Atlantic Ocean westward to the area around the Alabama and Tombigbee Rivers. It included most of Alabama, Georgia, and all of Florida.

During the 1700's some of the Euchee moved into the area around Bruce Creek and Choctawhatchee Bay. This is part of what we now know as Northwest Florida.  The area near Defuniak Springs became known as the Euchee Valley.

The Euchee believed they descended from the Sun, a hold over from the mound building Sun worship.  Though assimilated by the Creek Indians, they remained distinct and had their own language. As of a few years ago, though, only a half dozen speakers of the Uchean language remained alive. The name Euchee (Yuchi) means "Faraway" because they would say, "we are Tsoyaha yuchi" ("Children of the Sun from faraway"). It is unusual for a tribe to be known by what they called themselves. Most tribes are known by names others called them.

The Indians knew a lot about conservation and some (though not all) settlers were eager to learn their ways. The Euchee taught them how to use control burns, but not too much, so there would be many wild berries and fruit to feed the animals. The farmers learned to grow their crops in a way that would hold and conserve water. Hunting had its importance, too. When hunting deer, the tradition was to hunt during certain times of the year, and not take the nursing doe with the young ones. The Euchee people believed that they had to take care of the environment and never be wasteful. Unfortunately, not all settlers adopted the Indian philosophy of conservation.

The Euchee built their homes half subterranean (below ground) with palisaded walls around the village. They buried their dead laid out flat, often within wooden or stone lined pits. This helps distinguish their sites from others in archaeological digs.

In later years the Euchee Indians left Northwest Florida in canoes and were said to have joined the Seminoles in South Florida. In fact, "Yuchi Billy" was a Seminole chief at one time. Information about the foods and customs of the Euchee has been gathered through study of the Seminoles.

Seminole Indian foods included sofk (a drink made of grits or roasted corn), Taal-holelke (Boiled Swamp Cabbage), and fry bread. Seminoles made flour for cooking from the roots of the wild coontie (Zamia) plant. They did not necessarily adhere to the "three meals per day" schedule, eating only when hungry. Throughout the course of the day a pot of hot soup or sofkee would be kept on the fire.

The basic technique for making fire by friction involves spinning a drill against the bottom of a hole in a hearth board. Friction from rubbing the sticks together produces heat and (if the correct woods are used) fine powdery sawdust, or char.

The hand spun fire drill, the oldest method, accomplishes this through hand pressure against the drill while bearing down with the weight of the body while continuing to spin the drill as fast as possible. Under ideal conditions, with practice, a strong, fairly heavy, well conditioned person can get an ember in a few seconds of hard work. Smaller or less experienced people can make fire through cooperative efforts and persistence. Mechanical advantages can be achieved through the use of a cap piece which is used to push down on the drill. To keep the drill spinning with one hand, a bowstring is wrapped around the drill and moved back and forth, spinning the drill. Another variant involves using toggles (and normally a second person) to spin the drill. These methods probably evolved where conditions made fire making difficult.

An old technique, not known to the Indians, involved the use of fire flint and steel (iron particles are crushed, and torn away, causing enough heat to ignite them) to create friction that resulted in sparks. All iron/steel strikers were by far the most common. Striker steels were also sewn into the bottom edge of pouches, which held the tinder and flint. It was used by many Euopean explorers to include the Vikings. It was not common for the Indians until the white settlers arrived. The steel was a popular trade item for trappers and explorers in exchange for other items. Both the pioneers and American Indians used flint and steel. This method is probably best known today.

(Firekit)

In the Creek War of 1814, a Yuchi named Timpoochee Barnard fought along side Andrew Jackson at the battle of Callabee Creek. Timpoochee led a bloody charge against the overwhelming Creek forces saving the forces of Captain John Broadnix. Though wounded severely twice, he continued to fight until the Creeks were repelled. Andrew Jackson later praised Timpoochee Barnard to his son, "a braver man than your father never lived." Later, Andrew Jackson would force all Indians, friends and foes, on a death march to exile along the "Trail of Tears". Some, noteably those of mixed heritage, were able to "pass as white" and remain on their land. However, this required hiding all evidence of their Indian heritage.

 

Questions:

Could you have survived?

Would you know how to cooperate with other groups even if there were huge differences in your beliefs and customs?

Would you know how to build fires without the current convenience of matches?

Would you know how to cook without modern utensils?

Would you know how to conserve resources so that there was always plenty for your group?

Would you hide your heritage to keep what you had or retain it and march to potential death?

How would your experience have been different without the other groups?

 

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