Trans. Roy. Soc. Of Canada


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[According to Du Pratz] the Natchez nation is composed of nobility and people. The people are called in their language Miche-Miche-Quipy, which signifies puant (stinkard), a name, however, which offends them, and which no one dares to pronounce before them, for it would put them in very bad humor. The stinkards have a language entirely different from that of the nobility, to whom they are submissive to the last degree. That of the nobility is soft, solemn, and very rich. The substantive nouns are declined, as in Latin, without articles. The nobility is divided into suns, nobles, and honored men. The suns are so named because they are descended from a man and woman who made them believe that they came out of the sun, as I have said more at length in speaking of their religion.

The man and woman who gave laws to the Natchez had children, and ordained that their race should always be distinguished from the mass of the nation, and that none of their descendants should be put to death for any cause whatsoever, but should complete his days calmly as nature permitted him. The need of preserving their blood pure and safe made them establish another usage of which examples are seen only in a nation of Scythians, of which Herodotus speaks. As their children, being brothers and sisters, were unable to intermarry without committing a crime, and as it was necessary in order to have descendants that they marry stinkard men and stinkard women, they wished in order to guard against the disastrous results of the infidelity of the women that the nobility should be transmitted only through women. Their male and female children were equally called suns and respected as such, but with this difference, that the males enjoyed this privilege only during their lives and personally. Their children bore only the name of nobles, and the male children of nobles were only honored men. These honored men, however, might by their warlike exploits be able to reascend to the rank of nobles, but their children again became honored men, and the children of these honored men, as well as those of the others, were lost in the people and placed in the rank of stinkards. Thus the son of a female sun (or sun woman) is a sun, like his mother, but his son is only a noble, his grandson an honored man, and his great-grandson a stinkard. Hence it happens, on account of their long lives—for these people often see the fourth generation—that it is a very common thing for a sun to see his posterity lost among the common people.

The women are free from this unpleasantness. The nobility is maintained from mother to daughter, and they are suns in perpetuity without suffering any alteration in dignity. However, they are never able to attain the sovereignty any more than the children of the male suns, but the eldest son of the female sun nearest related to the mother of the reigning sun is the one who mounts the throne when it becomes vacant. The reigning sun bears the title of Great Sun.

As the posterity of the two first suns has become much multiplied, one perceives readily that many of these suns are no longer related and might ally themselves together, which would preserve their blood for the most part without any mixture, but another law established at the same time opposes an invincible obstacle, namely, that which does not permit any sun to die a violent death. It is . . . that it was ordered that when a male or female sun should come to die his wife or her husband should be put to death on the day of the funeral, in order to go and keep him company in the country of spirits. That could not be carried out if the wife and husband were both suns, and this blind and barbarous custom is so punctually observed that the suns are under the pleasing necessity of making mesalliances.

[According to Dumant] the submissiveness of the savages to their chief, who commands them with the most despotic power, is extreme. They obey him in everything he may command them. When he speaks to them they howl nine times by way of applause and to show him their satisfaction, and if he demands the life of any one of them he comes himself to present his head. But at the death of this chief his children, boys or girls, never inherit his power and never succeed to the command. His descendants reenter the rank of stinkards, and it is for the boys to perform actions of valor which may raise them to the dignity of honored men. It appertains only to the female sun, whom they call also the white woman, to perpetuate the stem from which spring their chiefs. She has more power so long as she lives than the chief himself, who may be her son or her brother, and never her husband, whom she is able to choose if she wishes from among the stinkards and who is rather her slave than her master. The males who spring from this woman are the chiefs of the nation, and the girls become like herself, female suns or white women. . . .

When these savages are asked the reason for the establishment of this law they reply that, as in accordance with their usage at the death of the great chief or Great Sun, his wives must also die with him, as well as his male and female servants, without which he would be without wives and without followers in the other world, it happens from that that the female suns never desire to be married to the great chief, who for this reason is always obliged to marry stinkard women. "But if it should happen," say they, "that this stinkard woman should by chance yield herself to a stinkard man and the child that arose from this intercourse came to command us, it would follow that we would be governed by a stinkard, which would not be in order. On the other hand," they added, "whether the female sun has children by her husband or by any other person whatever, it matters little to us. They are always suns on the side of their mother, a fact which is most certain, since the womb cannot lie."

With regard to the honored men, it is seen by what I have just said that birth gives this rank to all the grandchildren of the great chief. But besides birth there are other means by which a stinkard may raise himself to this degree of nobility in the nation. One of the most usual is to render himself famous by some action of valor and bravery. The scalp of an enemy, for example, which a warrior may have carried away, or even the tail of a mare or of a horse will suffice to enable him to obtain this title, and to give him, as well as his wife, the right to disfigure the body by carrying on their skins strange figures, which, as I have said, form their principal adornment.

Here is still another means by which a stinkard, provided he is married, may attain to the rank of the honored. If this stinkard, at the death of the great chief of the nation, has a child at the breast, or at any rate of very tender years, he repairs with his wife and his child to the cabin where this chief is laid out. As soon as they have arrived there the father and mother wring the neck of their infant, which they throw at the feet of the body, as a victim which they immolate to the manes of their chief. After this barbarous sacrifice they roll between their hands some twists of Spanish beard, which they put under their feet, as if they would signify by that that they are not worthy to walk on the earth, and in this condition they both remain standing before the corpse of the great chief without changing their positions or taking nourishment all day. During that time the cabin is visited by all kinds of persons who come, some from curiosity, others to see one time more the one who had governed them and to desire him a good passage. Finally, when the sun has set, the man and the woman come out of the cabin and receive the compliments of all the warriors and honored men, to the number of whom they have been added by this strange and cruel ceremony.1

Nevertheless [says Swanton] the sun also had a council to advise him, and sometimes his authority was considerably curtailed by it, as well as by the more prominent and energetic village chiefs, a fact which comes out clearly in the course of the last Natchez war. De la Vente seems to have the Natchez in mind when he speaks of a council composed of the principal warriors in which the more ancient always occupied the highest places. "They are listened to like oracles," he writes, "and the young people make it a point of honor to follow their opinions to the point of veneration." It appears that the great sun and the great war chief could also be controlled by them—a very important fact.1

1Swanton, J.R.n/an/an/an/a, "Indian Tribes of the Lower Mississippi Valley," Bur. Amer. Ethnol., Bull., 105–106, 104–105.

1Ibid., 107.


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Chicago: "Trans. Roy. Soc. Of Canada," Trans. Roy. Soc. Of Canada in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. Thomas, William I. (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937), Original Sources, accessed June 25, 2024,

MLA: . "Trans. Roy. Soc. Of Canada." Trans. Roy. Soc. Of Canada, in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, edited by Thomas, William I., New York, McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937, Original Sources. 25 Jun. 2024.

Harvard: , 'Trans. Roy. Soc. Of Canada' in Trans. Roy. Soc. Of Canada. cited in 1937, Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. , McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., New York. Original Sources, retrieved 25 June 2024, from