Yuchi Indian Histories before the Removal Era

By Inman, Natalie | The Journal of Southern History, May 2014 | Go to article overview

Yuchi Indian Histories before the Removal Era


Inman, Natalie, The Journal of Southern History


Yuchi Indian Histories Before the Removal Era. Edited by Jason Baird Jackson. (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 2012. Pp. xxxiv, 246. $30.00, ISBN 978-0-8032-4041-4.)

In Yuchi Indian Histories Before the Removal Era, Jason Baird Jackson has brought together an impressive collection of essays to fill the historiographical void on Yuchi history. Rather than depicting Yuchis as a subset of Creek Indians as past historians and anthropologists have done, Jackson and the other authors in this book argue that Yuchi cultural distinctiveness and political autonomy, both in the past and in the present, warrant recognition of Yuchis as a separate people. This interdisciplinary collection, born out of a 2004 panel on Yuchi history at the American Society for Ethnohistory, presents theories on Yuchi history and culture from ethnologists, linguists, archaeologists, anthropologists, and historians. Seemingly spinning gold from straw, the authors use close reading, careful analysis, and comparative perspectives to draw compelling evidence from the sparse historical and archaeological record that the Yuchis in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries were culturally distinct from their neighbors, resistant of political domination by other groups, and diplomatically connected within the Southeast. Jackson argues that this investigation into "the almost completely unexamined case of the Yuchi people provides a productive vantage point on ... broader questions" of diversity in the culture and political interactions in the colonial Southeast, especially among native peoples (p. xv).

Organized chronologically, the chapters in this collection span from "deep time" in the linguistic past around 4,000 B.C.E. to efforts to remove the Yuchi Indians from Florida along with the Seminoles during the Second Seminole War (1835-1842). Building on each other's work, these scholars present a synthesis of the research currently available on Yuchi Indians by teasing out brief references in historical documents and linking them to the archaeological record to provide a basis for further inquiry. By bringing together these ideas, this collection is intended to inspire "what might become a robust Yuchi national historiography," including monographs on Yuchi history and culture (p. xvi).

As an interdisciplinary study, this book fuses together several approaches to the Yuchis. While the authors refer to one another and show awareness of how their ideas intersect, many of the chapters retain disciplinary specificity and jargon that might not be easily accessible to readers who are not specialists in that field. Other essays make a concerted effort to define terms for lay audiences.

Mary S. Linn describes Yuchi as "a language isolate" seemingly unconnected to all other languages in the Southeast and beyond (p. 1). Describing the current state of efforts to detennine Yuchi's genetic relationships with other languages, Linn argues that "innovative research" might eventually reveal Yuchi's linguistic and deep historical roots (p. 24). Anthropologist John E. Worth notes how the first historical reference to Yuchis in Juan Pardo's 1567 expedition through the Southeast, when paired with later eighteenth-century sources, opens up possibilities for understanding Yuchi town locations and political standing among their neighbors before the eighteenth century. …

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