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Quigualtam or Quilgualtanqui was a powerful Native American Plaquemine culture polity encountered in 1542-1543 by the Hernando de Soto expedition. The capital of the polity and its chieftain also bore the same name; although neither the chief nor his settlements were ever visited in person by the expedition. Their encounters consisted of messages sent by runners and a three-day long canoe battle on the Mississippi River. Multiple archaeological cultures, archaeological sites, and protohistoric and early historic period Native American groups have been proposed by historians and archaeologists to identify the polity, but their identity will probably never be known with any degree of certainty.

Native Americans in the United States Indigenous peoples of the United States (except Hawaii)

Native Americans, also known as American Indians, Indigenous Americans and other terms, are the indigenous peoples of the United States, except Hawaii. There are over 500 federally recognized tribes within the US, about half of which are associated with Indian reservations. The term "American Indian" excludes Native Hawaiians and some Alaska Natives, while Native Americans are American Indians, plus Alaska Natives of all ethnicities. Native Hawaiians are not counted as Native Americans by the US Census, instead being included in the Census grouping of "Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander".

Plaquemine culture archaeological culture in the lower Mississippi River Valley, United States

The Plaquemine culture was an archaeological culture centered on the Lower Mississippi River valley. It had a deep history in the area stretching back through the earlier Coles Creek and Troyville cultures to the Marksville culture. The Natchez and related Taensa peoples were their historic period descendants. The type site for the culture is the Medora Site in Louisiana; while other examples include the Anna, Emerald, Holly Bluff, and Winterville sites in Mississippi.

Polity group of people who are collectively united by a self-reflected cohesive force

A polity is an identifiable political entity. It can be defined as any group of people who have a collective identity, who have a capacity to mobilize resources, and are organized by some form of institutionalized hierarchy. A polity can be the government of a country, or country subdivision, or any other group of people organized for governance.


De Soto journals

1542 : Messages with Quigualtam

Hudson's proposed de Soto route through Arkansas DeSoto Map Leg 3 HRoe 2008.jpg
Hudson’s proposed de Soto route through Arkansas
Artist's conception of the Parkin Site, circa 1539 Parkin Mounds Aerial HRoe 2016.jpg
Artist's conception of the Parkin Site, circa 1539
Romanticized depiction of the burial of de Soto by William A. Crafts, 1876 Burial of de Soto - engraving.jpg
Romanticized depiction of the burial of de Soto by William A. Crafts, 1876

The journals of the Spanish expedition of Hernando de Soto record their encounter with a powerful chiefdom located on the eastern bank of the Mississippi River several days journey below the polity of Guachoya (in present-day Chicot County, Arkansas). By this point the expedition had been traversing the southeast for several years and had spent the majority of the previous year in the area of the modern state of Arkansas among the Late Mississippian culture paramount chiefdoms of Quizquiz , Casqui , and Pacaha , as well as their many vassal states. Modern archaeological research has placed the capital of Casqui at the Parkin Site and equated the polity of Pacaha with the Nodena Phase. [1]

A lord chief is the English-language designation for the highest-level political leader in a regional or local polity or country administered politically with a chief-based system. This term is used occasionally in anthropological and archaeological theory to refer to the rulers of multiple chiefdoms or the rulers of exceptionally powerful chiefdoms that have subordinated others. Paramount chiefs were identified by English-speakers as existing in Native American confederacies and regional chiefdoms, such as the Powhatan Confederacy and Piscataway Native Americans encountered by English colonists in the Chesapeake Bay area of North America.

Chicot County, Arkansas County in the United States

Chicot County is a county located in the U.S. state of Arkansas. As of the 2010 census, the population was 11,800. The county seat is Lake Village. Chicot County is Arkansas's 10th county, formed on October 25, 1823, and named after Point Chicot on the Mississippi River. It is part of the Arkansas Delta, lowlands along the river that have been historically important as an area for large-scale cotton cultivation.

Arkansas State of the United States of America

Arkansas is a state in the southern region of the United States, home to over 3 million people as of 2018. Its name is of Siouan derivation from the language of the Osage denoting their related kin, the Quapaw Indians. The state's diverse geography ranges from the mountainous regions of the Ozark and the Ouachita Mountains, which make up the U.S. Interior Highlands, to the densely forested land in the south known as the Arkansas Timberlands, to the eastern lowlands along the Mississippi River and the Arkansas Delta.

Not finding the precious metals and gems the Europeans desired, the expedition left eastern Arkansas and headed west across central Arkansas and into the Ozark Mountains in their search for riches. Finding nothing they considered of value and contending with considerable native resistance; de Soto and his men returned to the Mississippi River, where they found the maize-rich polities of Guachoya and Anilco (thought by some archaeologists and historians to be the Menard-Hodges Site in modern-day Arkansas County, Arkansas). After encountering resistance from Anilco and entreaties of alliance from their traditional enemies, the Guachoya; de Soto made his headquarters at Guachoya.

The Tula were a Native American group that lived in what is now western Arkansas. The Tula are known to history only from the chronicles of Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto's exploits in the interior of North America.

Maize Cereal grain

Maize, also known as corn, is a cereal grain first domesticated by indigenous peoples in southern Mexico about 10,000 years ago. The leafy stalk of the plant produces pollen inflorescences and separate ovuliferous inflorescences called ears that yield kernels or seeds, which are fruits.

Menard-Hodges Site

The Menard-Hodges Site (3AR4), is an archaeological site in Arkansas County, Arkansas. It includes two large platform mounds as well as several house mounds. It is the type site for the Menard phase, a protohistoric Mississippian culture group.

De Soto interrogated the chief about the societies living downstream, hoping to find a rich "province" to conquer, where he could set up the colony he had delayed founding in his search for more portable valuables. By this time de Soto had begun employing a ruse with the native populations; seeking to convince them that he was an immortal deity, "son of the sun". After learning of Quigualtum, de Soto sent a message demanding his obeisance and to bring him examples of the most valuable thing in his land; presumably the gold or other riches valued by Europeans. Before a reply could return, de Soto fell seriously ill and took to his bed. [2]

Quigualtum sent back a message that astonished and infuriated de Soto:

Angered by the chief's arrogant response but by then too weak to get up from his bed, de Soto could not mount an armed response. Afterward followed a period with Anilco and other local towns conspiring with Quigualtum to mount a combined attack against the Spaniards. In order to strike fear into Quigualtum and the others, and to punish Anilco, from his deathbed he ordered his men to massacre all of the men of Anilco. His men obeyed and did not stop with killing the men; they were said to have massacred women and children as well. DeSoto died of his illness a few days later in May 1542, in what is believed to be the vicinity of modern-day McArthur, Arkansas. His body was weighted down with sand and under cover of darkness consigned to a watery grave in the Mississippi River. In order to keep the ruse up and forestall possible attacks, his men informed the local peoples that de Soto had ascended into the sky but would return. His remaining men, now commanded by his aide de camp Moscoso, decided to attempt an overland journey to Mexico in order to avoid sailing downriver. They made it as far as Texas, meeting Late Caddoan Mississippian peoples along the way, before running into territory too dry for maize farming and too thinly populated to sustain themselves by stealing food from the locals. The expedition had to backtrack to Guachoya. [2] [4]

McArthur, Arkansas Unincorporated community in Arkansas, United States

McArthur is an unincorporated community in Clayton Township, Desha County, Arkansas. It is located on Arkansas Highway 1 northeast of McGehee.

Luis de Moscoso Alvarado was a Spanish explorer and conquistador. Luis de Moscoso Alvarado assumed command of Hernando De Soto's expedition upon the latter's death.

New Spain viceroyalty of the Spanish Empire (1535-1821)

The Viceroyalty of New Spain was an integral territorial entity of the Spanish Empire, established by Habsburg Spain during the Spanish colonization of the Americas. It covered a huge area that included territories in North America, South America, Asia and Oceania. It originated in 1521 after the fall of Mexico-Tenochtitlan, the main event of the Spanish conquest, which did not properly end until much later, as its territory continued to grow to the north. It was officially created on 8 March 1535 as a viceroyalty, the first of four viceroyalties Spain created in the Americas. Its first viceroy was Antonio de Mendoza y Pacheco, and the capital of the viceroyalty was Mexico City, established on the ancient Mexico-Tenochtitlan.

1543 : Mississippi River battle

Small prehistoric canoe on display at the Winterville onsite museum Winterville dugout canoe HRoe 2018.jpg
Small prehistoric canoe on display at the Winterville onsite museum

They spent the winter of 1542-1543 building a small fleet of seven "bergantines", or pinnaces, to attempt the river route to the Gulf of Mexico and on to Mexico. Once the spring floods had abated, they headed down the Mississippi River on July 2, 1543. After sailing for several days, the expedition came upon a great fleet of over one hundred war canoes. Made from enormous hollowed-out cypress logs, the larger canoes were big enough to seat 60 to 70 passengers. They had ranks of seated paddlers, 20-30 per side, with a standing warrior armed with bow and arrows stationed between each one. Some of the larger canoes were also color coded, with the canoes, oars, and the clothing and weaponry of the crew all painted the same color. Although many of the canoes were not this large, their crews still moved with precision, speed, and skill. Seated in several of the great canoes were the fleet commanders, chiefs with awnings to shade and protect them from the sun, one of them possibly Quigualtam himself. [5]

Pinnace (ships boat) watercraft

As a ship's boat, the pinnace is a light boat, propelled by oars or sails, carried aboard merchant and war vessels in the Age of Sail to serve as a tender. The pinnace was usually rowed but could be rigged with a sail for use in favorable winds. A pinnace would ferry passengers and mail, communicate between vessels, scout to sound anchorages, convey water and provisions, or carry armed sailors for boarding expeditions. The Spanish favored them as lightweight smuggling vessels while the Dutch used them as raiders. In modern parlance, "pinnace" has come to mean an auxiliary vessel that does not fit under the "launch" or "lifeboat" definitions.

Gulf of Mexico An Atlantic Ocean basin extending into southern North America

The Gulf of Mexico is an ocean basin and a marginal sea of the Atlantic Ocean, largely surrounded by the North American continent. It is bounded on the northeast, north and northwest by the Gulf Coast of the United States, on the southwest and south by Mexico, and on the southeast by Cuba. The U.S. states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida border the Gulf on the north, which are often referred to as the "Third Coast", in comparison with the U.S. Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

Under the pretense of negotiating, the canoes attacked the Spanish. Over the course of the running battle, eleven Spaniards were killed and many more wounded as the expedition fled downstream. The war canoe crews chanted war songs, whose rhythm and speed set the speed of the paddling of their craft. The songs glorified their prowess in battle and extolled their courage. The songs also lambasted the Spaniards as cowards and thieves who would soon perish; that on land their corpses had been food for dogs and birds and that on the river they would feed the fish. The songs frequently mentioned the name of their great chief Quigualtam and ,at the end of each song, the singers would give a great shout of triumph. The Spaniards no longer had long-range offensive weapons. The gunpowder for their arquebuses had run out long before and the guns melted down to make nails for the boats; the limited number of crossbows had mostly stopped working as well. The Spaniards placed their armor and cane matting around the boats gunwales to protect from the arrows. The Native Americans began arcing their arrows into the air so they came straight down and injured more of the Spaniards. The fleet chased them for several days, rarely letting up on their attack on the Spaniards. [5]

On the third day, the Spanish reached the edge of their attackers' territory. The war fleet turned around and headed back upriver, continuing to chant and shout the name of their leader. Within a day the expedition encountered another fleet of canoes belonging to a powerful but unnamed chiefdom. These warriors also gave chase downriver for several days until the foreigners had left their territory. After one more encounter with a small native group near the coast, the expedition finally made it to the Gulf on July 16, 1543, a few weeks after they had left Guachoya. [5]

Proposed identifications

Holly Bluff Site Holly Bluff Aerial HRoe 2016.jpg
Holly Bluff Site
Winterville Site, near Greenville, Mississippi Winterville Aerial View HRoe 2016.jpg
Winterville Site, near Greenville, Mississippi

Various scholars have proposed and debated the identities of these two chiefdoms and the exact locations of their polities. Historian Charles M. Hudson has suggested that Quigualtam was centered on the area surrounding the Holly Bluff or Winterville Sites in the lower Yazoo Basin. Archeologists believe that these two large Plaquemine culture sites had been abandoned by this time; the capital of the polity had probably shifted to another of the numerous sites within its territory. [2] [1]

Other scholars have proposed the Glass Site and Emerald Mound as native territories. The Glass Site is on the flood plain between the Mississippi River and the Natchez Bluffs, approximately 9.5 kilometres (5.9 mi) south of modern Vicksburg. It was on the northern edge of the Emerald Phase (1500 – 1680) of the protohistoric Natchez chiefdom. During this period, its capital was located at the massive Emerald Mound near modern-day Stanton, Mississippi. [6] These two sites were the only major ceremonial centers on this stretch of the Mississippi River occupied during the protohistoric period from 1500 to 1650 CE. [2] [6] Since the Spaniards never made it ashore to leave archaeological evidence of contact with these two groups, their exact identity will probably never be determined with certainty.

No further recorded European contact with the indigenous people in this area occurred for almost 140 years, until the first French explorers reached the area in the 1680s. By the historic period, power had shifted within the Natchez polity from Emerald Mound to the Grand Village of the Natchez, and the Glass Site had also been abandoned. [7] [8] [9] [10]

In the meantime native peoples of the region suffered from epidemics of infectious disease. They contracted these from members of the de Soto expedition, among whom the diseases were endemic, and indirectly from other Native Americans who had contact with European traders on the Gulf coast. The Spaniards' technique of using local rivalries to their advantage had upset the delicate political balance between native groups, who had existed in a state of low-level endemic warfare between polities for generations. [11] In addition, a series of disastrous multi-year droughts spanned the latter half of the 16th century.

Many societies in the region began to collapse. Remnant populations of Mississippian peoples began migrating across and down the Mississippi, sometimes settling in areas recently deserted by Plaquemine peoples, and at other times displacing or merging with the Plaquemine populations on the lower river. The Plaquemine culture contracted southward and abandoned the northern Natchez Bluffs altogether. The Lower Yazoo basin region, once occupied by the Winterville and Holly Bluff polity, became the territory of the historic period Yazoo, Tunica and Koroa tribes. They had migrated from further upriver, thought by archaeologists to be the descendants of Quizquiz and other polities encountered by de Soto in the Memphis area, who were escaping the destruction of their societies left in de Soto's wake. The Tioux and Grigra divisions of the Natchez were recent additions, also Tunica speakers from up the river who had been adopted into the Natchez tribe. [12] [7] [8] [9] [10] [13]

See also

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  1. 1 2 Young, Gloria A.; Hoffman, Michael P. (1993). Expedition of Hernando de Soto West of the Mississippi, 1541-1543: Symposia. University of Arkansas Press.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Hudson, Charles M. (1997). Knights of Spain, Warriors of the Sun. University of Georgia Press. pp. 341–351.
  3. Gentleman of Elvas (1557). The Expedition of HERNANDO DE SOTO in southeastern North America, 1539-1543 (PDF). National Humanities Center. p. 12.
  4. Smith, Marvin T. (1994). "The Hernando de Soto Expedition". In Charles, Hudson; Chaves, Tesser Carmen. The Forgotten Centuries-Indians and Europeans in the American South 1521 to 1704. University of Georgia Press.
  5. 1 2 3 Hudson, Charles M. (1997). Knights of Spain, Warriors of the Sun. University of Georgia Press. pp. 380–392.
  6. 1 2 Downs, Lauren Elizabeth (2012). The Glass Site (22Wr502): An investigation of Plaquemine culture architecture, occupation, and interaction in the northern portion of the Natchez Bluffs region, Mississippi (PDF) (Doctoral thesis). The University of Alabama, ProQuest Dissertations Publishing. Retrieved 2018-01-27.
  7. 1 2 James F Barnett, Director Mississippi Department of History and Archives. The Natchez Indians. pp. 12–14.
  8. 1 2 Jeter, Marvin D. (2007). "Outer limits of Plaquemine culture". In Rees, Mark A.; Livingood, Patrick C. Plaquemine Archaeology. University of Alabama Press. pp. 192–194.
  9. 1 2 Jeter, Marvin D.; Rose, Jerome C. G.; Williams, Ishmael , Jr.,; Harmon, Anna M. (1989), Archeology and Bioarcheology of the Lower Mississippi Valley and Trans-Mississippi South in Arkansas and Louisiana (PDF), Arkansas Archeological Survey, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, p. 184
  10. 1 2 Morris, Christoper (2012). The Big Muddy: An Environmental History of the Mississippi and Its Peoples from Hernando de Soto to Hurricane Katrina. Oxford University Press.
  11. Young, Gloria A.; Hoffman, Michael P. (1993). Expedition of Hernando de Soto West of the Mississippi, 1541-1543: Symposia. University of Arkansas Press. p. 208.
  12. Brain, Jeffrey P. (1990). The Tunica-Biloxi. Chelsea House Publishers. ISBN   978-1-55546-731-9.
  13. "ON THE TUNICA TRAIL-Quizquiz" . Retrieved 2018-01-30.