The Yazoo were a tribe of the Native American Tunica people historically located on the lower course of Yazoo River in Mississippi, an area known as the Mississippi Delta. They were closely related to other Tunica-language peoples, especially the Tunica, Koroa, and possibly the Tioux.
|Extinct as a tribe|
|Regions with significant populations|
|United States (Mississippi)|
|Native tribal religion|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Tunica, Koroa, Tioux|
Nothing is definitely known about their language, believed to be related to Tunica, a language isolate. The tribe was documented by French explorers and missionaries. In 1699 Father Antoine Davion, of the Quebec Seminary of Foreign Missions in New France (Canada), established a mission among the Tunica. He also reached out to allied tribes, such as the Taensa.
At this time, the Yazoo, like the Chickasaw, were under the influence of the English traders from Carolina on the Atlantic coast. In 1702 they aided the Koroa in killing the French priest Nicholas Foucault and his three companions. The seminary temporarily withdrew Davion from the area.
In 1718 the French established a fort near the village of St. Pierre to command the river. In 1722 the young Jesuit priest Jean Rouel was given the Yazoo mission near the French post. He worked there until the outbreak of the Natchez revolt in 1729. The Yazoo and Koroa joined with the Natchez in attacking the French, in an attempt to drive them out of the region altogether.
On November 29, 1729, the Natchez attacked Fort Rosalie, killing more than 200 people, including the Jesuit priest Paul Du Poisson. They carried off as captives most of the French women and children, and their African slaves. On learning of the event, the Yazoo and Koroa, on December 11, 1729, waylaid and killed Rouel and his black slave. The next day they attacked the neighboring post, killing the whole garrison. The tribes buried Rouel's body. His bell and some books were afterward recovered and restored by the Quapaw. Another priest, Stephen Doutreleau, was attacked on January 1, 1730, but was able to escape.
The Natchez War was a disaster for French settlements in Louisiana; colonization was pulled back to New Orleans. It was also a disaster for the Natchez and Yazoo. The French allied with the Choctaw for retaliation; causing overwhelming defeat of the Natchez and Yazoo. They sold survivors into slavery on Caribbean plantations. Some Natchez and Yazoo refugees took shelter among the Chickasaw. The Chickasaw captured many other Yazoo men and sold them into slavery to Carolina-based traders. This ended the Yazoo as a tribe; their survivors intermarried with the Chickasaw, Africans, and other peoples.
John Grisham's story "Casino", included in the collection Ford County, turns on a shady businessman in present day Mississippi gathering several dozen people with supposed Yazoo ancestry and managing to get them Federal recognition as a Native American Tribe, entailing the lucrative possibility of opening a casino.
- Carl Waldmann: Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes. Infosbase Publishing 2009, ISBN 9781438110103, p. 327 (online copy, p. 327, at Google Books)
- Gibson, Arrell M. "The Indians of Mississippi", in McLemore, Richard Aubrey, ed. A History of Mississippi (Hattiesburg: University and College Press of Mississippi, 1973) vol 1, p. 76