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The Yattassee Village along the Red River

This 1823 map depicts the relocation of the Yattassee village (Barry Ruderman).

When the French claimed and settled the lands of the Caddos in the 18th century, they didn't rename or remove (or destroy) the villages that were already there. Instead, the villages became Native/French settlements, and European map-makers identified the village by the tribe's name. I thought I'd provide some information about Yattassee, which was a fairly large community of some importance north of Natchitoches. The Yattassees (also spelled Yatasi) were probably related to the Adaes people and had their own language. They also spoke Caddo, and intermarried with other Caddoan tribes as well as with the French and African people who arrived during the colonial period (1680s to 1803).

A 1721 map places the Yattassee village (spelled Yatachez) on the eastern side of the Red River. But in the ensuing decades, the village moved west, as descriptions and another map make clear.

The first English mention of the village comes from Dr. John Sibley, Indian Agent at Natchitoches, who described it in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, dated 1805: "the Yattassees, live on Bayou Pierre, branch of Red river 50. mi. above Natchitoches. their village surrounded by a settlemt of French families, under the Spanish govmt, where there is a Spanish guard of a noncommd officer & 8. souldiers. the rights to land of these French families were granted to them by the French govmt of Louisiana. the French had formerly a station & factory there, & another on Sabine river near 100. miles N.W. of the Bayou Pierre settlement. the original language of the Yattassees was not the Caddo but they have adopted that. 40. men. 25. women. Agricultural." [original transcription]

In his testimony to the House of Representatives of the 9th Congress in 1807, Sibley explained that the Yattassees "live on Bayou River (or Stony Creek), which falls into Red River, western division, about fifty miles above Natchitoches. Their village is in a large prairie, about half-way between the Caddoques and Natchitoches, surrounded by a settlement of French families. The Spanish Government at present exercise jurisdiction over this settlement, where they keep a guard of a non-commissioned officer and eight soldiers."

One hundred years after the first map depicted the Yattassee village, an 1823 American map of the state of Louisiana places the Yattassee village (spelled Yatasse) on the Sabine River between the U.S. state of Louisiana and Mexican Texas in an area full of boundary disputes. This area was called the Neutral Strip.

The relocation of the Yattassee village stemmed at first from small pox. Upon the American period, the Caddoan peoples were confronted with land grabs, disguised as cession treaties, by the United States. They then left Louisiana without a comparable land allotment for the original lands they gave up. Settling around the Sabine River, they found themselves at first in Mexico, where Native people were able to obtain land grants; or in the United States, where Native people did not qualify for land grants; and then in Texas, where Native people not only had no access to land and whose Mexican land grants were nullified, but they were literally burned out of their own homes.

Edited to add: by the late 18th century, the native villages were occupied by Spanish/French descendants. The Yatassee village at the Sabine was, I think, occupied by Pierre Dolet and was most likely the seat of his vacherie, or cattle ranch.

The Caddoans, including descendants of the Yattassees, now live as a nation in Oklahoma.

A map from 1721 depicts the Yattassee village on the eastern shore of the Red River. In this map, the village is spelled Yatachez (LOC).

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