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Natchez Pitek, Emily


Historically, the Natchez occupied the area around what is now the Old St. Catherine’s Creek and the city of Natchez, Mississippi. The Natchez have had contact with Christian Europeans beginning with Spanish conquistadors as early as the sixteenth century, followed by the arrival of the French in the late seventeenth century (Lorenz, 2020). This entry focuses on the Natchez around the time of 1718, before significant cultural change and the end of autonomous authority. Natchez religious beliefs center around a supreme high god or spirit known as Coyocop-chill who is described as a creator deity and is associated with the Sun. Other spirits and supernatural beings are present and ultimately ruled by Coyocop-chil. Natchez beliefs state that a man and woman, as earthly manifestations of the supreme high god, came to the Natchez and brought with them fire from the sun as well as customs and rules of governance and descent (Lorenz, 2020). The descendants of these godly individuals comprise the royal class, and the hereditary position of paramount chief is passed through this lineage. The paramount chief, or Great Sun, is both the political and religious leader. The supreme spirit is said to reside in the Great Sun. A temple contains the sacred fire brought from the sun; the Great Sun and temple guardians are tasked with ensuring the fire burns eternally. Because religion is bound with the functioning of Natchez society at large, this entry considers the religion to be coterminous with Natchez society.

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Attribution 4.0 International