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YUCHI (EUCHEE)

The Yuchi (often also spelled Euchee) are an American Indian people of Oklahoma whose original homelands were in the present southeastern United States. At first contact with Europeans they resided in autonomous communities found in what is now eastern Tennessee, but during the colonial period they established settlements throughout the southeastern United States. In the 1700s the Yuchi became geographically and militarily associated with Creek-speaking towns settled in present Georgia and Alabama. In this context, they were forced by the United States to move west to Indian Territory in the company of their Creek neighbors. After this period of relocation in the 1830s, the Yuchi established their present settlements in the northern and northwestern portions of the Creek Nation. At the end of the twentieth century the three main towns were Duck Creek (near Hectorville), Polecat (near Sapulpa), and Sand Creek (near Bristow).

Each Yuchi settlement is led by a traditional town chief and continues to hold an annual series of ceremonies at its square-ground site. The most important of these is the midsummer green corn ceremony. Traditionally Yuchi people were subsistence farmers, but today Yuchi participate in the cash economy. Population estimates are difficult to calculate because the Yuchi are not enrolled separately within the Creek Nation, but community leaders estimate an active Yuchi population of approximately fifteen hundred people in 2001.

In addition to the traditional religious life of their three ceremonial grounds, some Yuchi also participate in the Native American Church. Two predominately Yuchi congregations are affiliated with the United Methodist Church. Beyond these three religious domains, Yuchi culture is preserved in distinctive funeral ritual, foodways, storytelling, clothing, customs, and, most prominently, in the use of the Yuchi language. Yuchi is a language isolate, unrelated to any other known language. It is a severely endangered language, but at the beginning of the twenty-first century it continued to be spoken and actively taught in community contexts.

The Yuchi have strongly asserted their identity as a distinct people separate from the Creek or any other people. They have long sought to have this identity acknowledged by the United States government and by their fellow Oklahomans.

SEE ALSO: AMERICAN INDIANS, CREEK, INDIAN TERRITORY.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Jason Baird Jackson, Yuchi Ceremonial Ground Life: Performance, Meaning, and Tradition in a Contemporary American Indian Community (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2002). Frank G. Speck, Ethnology of the Yuchi Indians (Philadelphia: University Museum, University of Pennsylvania, 1909).

Jason Baird Jackson

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