Spread The Word...
4th Annual Yuchi Gathering

A living history celebration of our
area's earliest inhabitants

Laurel Run Park 264 Laurel Run Park
Churchill, Tennessee 37642

Looking for the Yuchi?

Details of this year's Gathering

Do you have Yuchi ancestors? Many folks in East Tennessee do. Your kin folk are looking to meet with you.

While many of the Indians were deported from the Eastern United States on death marches to Oklahoma by the scoundrel Andrew Jackson (against a Supreme Court ruling that it was unlawful,) many Indian peoples stayed behind. While the Cherokee are the most celebrated on all these counts, and the Trail of Tears is often cited as if it were only a Cherokee deportation, but many other tribes were subject to removal. There is little question of a human rights violation here, and it is still being swept under the Nation's rug. Not a few Indian people escaped removal by remaining behind on marginal lands, and joining marginal communities, hiding out in the mountains and in the swamps of the Southeast. Often they enlisted mixed-blood relations to help them.

Even John Swanton notes that many Yuchi remained living in Tennessee in the early twentieth century. The end result is that there is a substantial population of people with Indian heritage in the Eastern States who have been denied that heritage by racists State policies. Many people retain knowledge of this Indian heritage, though they may have lost much of the detailed knowledge of that heritage. Most seem to automatically assume that it is Cherokee, when in fact it may only be that their ancestors agglomerated with the Cherokee or came under their protection. The Cherokee were relatively recent inhabitants of the Southeast, and often were favored by the Colonists.

Beginning with the earliest contact with Europeans, a disease holocaust took a devastating toll on the Indian populations. Often up to ninety percent of the Indian people died in advance of any real historic reports. What history records is a ragtag remnant of the Indian Peoples that once inhabited this land. The remnant population agglomerated for survival into new tribal groups, whole tribes and villages disappearing with little trace. The "Tribes" we see today are these agglomerations, including the Cherokee, Creek and Seminole.

Oral tradition and ethnological evidence tells us that the Yuchi were once a numerous and powerful people that inhabited the central portion of the Southeast. They were one of the earliest groups to move into the Southeast, joining the Woodland Algonquin (Delaware). The Yuchi were the organizers of the great confederacy that existed in pre-Columbian times, and dominated trade, religion and politics in the Eastern States. They were the priests, traders, interpreters and leaders of what was nothing short of the first United States of this Land. The Yuchi have an ancient and unique language which reveals their key role in this moundbuilding culture. However, their wealth and reputation with metal was their down fall, as the Spanish sought them out and set up colonies among them wherein the disease holocaust devastate them, as badly as it did the coastal tribes.

The Survivors were scattered, much as the Hebrew Diaspora, some joining the Shawnee and Delaware, some joining the Creek, many deported to Oklahoma, some joining the Seminole, some joining the Cherokee, some joining the Melungeons, and some just blending into frontier society. While to some extent this is true of many tribes, the Yuchi became particularly scattered because of their practice of living among the other tribes. Today, while a few Yuchi are condescendingly acknowledged by the Creeks in Oklahoma, who absurdly claim they enslaved the Yuchi when in fact history records that the Yuchi among them were deported as full members of the Creek Confederacy and merely pronounced Creeks by a Federal governments in a hurry to dispense with these peoples. Other histories tell us that many people with Yuchi heritage are now also members of the Snowbird Cherokee, the Delaware, the Shawnee and especially the Seminole tribes. However, a large number of people of Yuchi heritage have remained scattered among the manymarginal populations across the Southeast, and particularly in Counties of East Tennessee. Some of these folks including the Melungeons have been scoffed and denigrated as "coloreds" for generations, and more reprehensibly been denied their rightful heritage by a corporate and state supported bigotry. All have had to hide their ancestry from a racist rule.

The tides of change have brought a more inclusive society that no longer enforces a racial class structure that denigrates people of Indian or African heritage. People are again beginning to value the diversity of their heritage - as they investigate their genealogies, they are discovering that it is not just Cherokee, but Koasati Creek and Yuchi heritages that they have. The proud history of the Indian peoples is no longer being written by dominant white academics from their simplistic and jingoistic perspectives. Increasingly, the proud history of the Indian people is being set in a more balanced perspective than the noble and/or bloodthirsty savage that has so dominated the non-Indian view of the Indian. While it remains, (and probably will continue to be at the heart of the "Indian Problem") - it is difficult to say just what defines Indianness. Certainly having some Indian heritage is a foundational element here. The Indian is come out of the cupboard, to confront our twenty-first century existence, andto carve a place in our current society. Indian Pride has taken hold and is driving a resurgence and a regaining of Indian heritage that was taken from us, and almost lost. Thusly, it should be noted that the Yuchi have been residents of Tennessee and surrounding states for many hundreds of years, and are proud to be among the first residents of this land and to have given the name to the State.

Yes, the name "Tennessee" is a Yuchean word for the "confluence of streams," and with the additional connotation of a "meeting-place." It is a very apropos that this name has become the State's name as for thousands of years the Appalachian Valley has been a transportation corridor and a meeting place for trade and commerce, among human populations as well as animals seeking salt and greener pastures.

With all this in mind, it should be noted that the Yuchi are gathering to reunite the Yuchean "diaspora" that has scattered us from our brethren. The Remnant Yuchi Nation of Kingsport, Tennessee announces that a Yuchi Tribal Homecoming Gathering will be held at Laurel Run Park in Church Hill, Tennessee on Saturday June 9th & Sunday June 10th. The homecoming gathering will open to the public. Among other activities, the event will reenact a Yuchi hunting and gathering camp dated to the period 1750-1850, and the Yuchi Oral History Project will be there to record family traditions. We are particularly looking for people with Yuchi heritage to join us for this event. If you are interested, or for more information, contact me at
woktela@comcast.net