Angola

According to contemporary French accounts, the Tunica were driven from the Yazoo in 1706 by Chickasaw raids instigated by the English. Whether or not it was that simple, there certainly was unrest in the Yazoo region and the Tunica again removed themselves from a theater which disrupted their accustomed activities. Because the Natchez, their age-old rivals, were immediately to the south, the Tunica had to move past them all the way down to the vicinity of the Red River confluence, again the next major riverine junction. This move did not seriously affect their control of the salt trade, for the Red River was an alternate route to that resource. Furthermore, it provided them with the opportunity to take control of a new resource of even greater value which was to lead to even more accumulated wealth for the Tunica.

Kettles, hoes, axes, plates, and mugs
Brass sleigh bells, a crucifix, a Liberty-type bell, a gunlock, and other pieces of flintlock rifles from Angola are representative of French trade goods accumulated by the tunica.

First, however, the conflicts of European and Indian interaction were to intrude once again:


Thus occurred one of the greatest disasters in recorded Tunica history. The event was an immediate sequel to the Natchez tragedy. The French had defeated and scattered the Natchez on the field of battle, but had not destroyed them. Apparently, the remaining Natchez harbored deep resentment against their old enemies, the Tunica, for the role they had played in the ruin of the Natchez order. A refugee group of Natchez contacted the Tunica in April 1731 with dark designs in mind. A fuller account of this sad story is given by Charlevoix, historian of New France:


Remains
Remains of the village area at Angola Farm were carefully excavated and recorded.


A Fatherland bowl
A Fatherland Incised bowl found at angola may be a pottery vessel aquired from the Natchez Indians.

Ghosts walked the land, and the land was unfriendly. After the destruction of their village, the surviving Tunica elected to move yet once again. The Tunica traditions and French records are silent about this event. Perhaps the reason was that the move itself was of such a minor nature, being only a few miles to the south, to the site we know as Trudeau. According to contemporary cartographic evidence, this move must have occurred within a few months of disaster.

Trudeau

At Trudeau, the Tunica still maintained control of the Portage of the Cross, and the important Red River confluence. Their continuing success in controlling trade and other economic pursuits at this vital crossroads is amply testified to by the so-called "Tunica Treasure." It was this extraordinary collection of European and native artifacts that stimulated renewed interest in Tunica history. The artifacts had been in a mortuary context, that is to say that they had been deposited with the dead as grave offerings. Along with approximately a hundred burials were dozens of firearms, scores of European ceramic vessels, hundreds of metal kettles, hundreds of thousands of glass beads, a vast assortment of tools, ornaments, and other miscellany, as well as a goodly representation of native artifacts. The sheer quantity and variety of European items is unparalleled at any other known contemporary native site of the mid-eighteenth century in the Southeast.

How had the Tunica come to such "riches," material wealth so vast, moreover, that they could dispose of it in such quantity? The true answers are lost forever, of course, but their proven qualities of entrepreneurship coupled with the strategic move even closer to the northern limits of the permanent French settlements at Pointe Coupee only another few miles south must provide the major solution. In addition to their continuing military role of fending off surviving bands of Natchez and other native renegades, they had assumed an even larger entrepreneurial role. What did they have of such exceptional value to the French that would occasion this accumulation of material wealth, aside from advantageous position and the already flourishing salt trade?

In a word: horses. It was the ability of the Tunica to control the horse trade that made them indispensable to the French. Curiously, this necessity to the European way of life depended upon native supply in the eighteenth century. Even though the colonists were provisioned by sea directly from Europe, horses seem to have been brought in only rarely. The reason was economic: put quite simply, horses were cheaper to procure locally through trade established among many diverse Indians groups drawing upon the vast resources of the Spanish Southwest. As noted by the historian Antoine Le Page du Pratz:, the horses were brought from New Mexico for the service of the French in Louisiana. I am ignorant of what view the Indians may have had in that commerce: but I well know, that notwithstanding the fatigues of the journey, these cattle, one with another did not come, after deducting all expenses, and even from the second hand, but to about two pistoles a head; whence I ought to presume, that they have them cheap in New Mexico. By means of this nation we have in Louisiana very beautiful horses, of the species of those of Old Spain, which, if managed or trained, people of the first rank might ride [Le Page du Pratz 1774:166].

That the Tunica were leaders in this horse trade is explicitly stated by the official historian of New France, Father Charlevoix, who visited the great chief of the Tunica, Cahura-Joligo, in December 1721:


DeBatz drawing
The DeBatz drawing (1732) depicts Bride les Boeufs, a Tunica chief during the Trudeau years. He holds a staff to which three Natchez scalps were attached. Also shown are the wife and son of the Tunica's great chief, Cahura-Joligo, who was killed the previous spring during the Natchez raid at Angola.
(Photograph courtesy of Peabody Museum, Harvard University)


By their move even closer to the French settlements 10 years later, the Tunica consolidated and strengthened their position. Their shrewdness at horsetrading ("...he understands his trade very well") and value as military auxiliaries earned them the rewards of European contact and friendship. The material wealth of the Tunica increased as they once again successfully adapted to a new situation. In the process, they became ever more changed by, and dependent upon, the European lifeway. Nevertheless, it was this adaptability of the Tunica that was their greatest asset through out the long story already told, and is undoubtedly the reason they are still with us today while most other aboriginal groups of the Mississippi Valley have long since disappeared.

A small ample of artifacts
A small sample of artifacts from Trudeau include glass bottles, a copper kettle, Native American pottery, and European ceramics. (Ceramics conserved by, and photograph provided by, the Tunica-Biloxi Indians.

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