Watt Sam

Last updated
Watt Samm in 1908 holding a bow. From a series of photos taken by John R. Swanton, near Braggs, Oklahoma. Watt Sam 1908.jpg
Watt Samm in 1908 holding a bow. From a series of photos taken by John R. Swanton, near Braggs, Oklahoma.

Watt Sam (October 6, 1876 – July 1, 1944) [1] was a Natchez storyteller and cultural historian of Braggs, Oklahoma and one of the last two native speakers of the Natchez language. [2]

Natchez people Native American people who originally lived near the present-day city of Natchez, Mississippi

The Natchez are a Native American people who originally lived in the Natchez Bluffs area in the Lower Mississippi Valley, near the present-day city of Natchez, Mississippi in the United States. They spoke a language with no known close relatives, although it may be very distantly related to the Muskogean languages of the Creek Confederacy.

Braggs, Oklahoma Town in Oklahoma, United States

Braggs is a town in Muskogee County, Oklahoma, United States. The population was 259 at the 2010 census, a 14.0 percent decline from 301 at the 2000 census. The town is best known as the site of Camp Gruber, a World War II military cantonment that was the home base of the 42nd Infantry Division and the 88th Infantry Division.

Natchez language language, now extinct

Natchez was the ancestral language of the Natchez people who historically inhabited Mississippi and Louisiana, and who now mostly live among the Creek and Cherokee peoples in Oklahoma. The language is considered to be either unrelated to other indigenous languages of the Americas or distantly related to the Muskogean languages.

Around 1907 he worked with anthropologist John R. Swanton who collected information about Natchez religion. [3] Swanton commented that Sam, having lived among the Cherokee and Creek his whole life and being fluent in both languages, had absorbed so much of their oral tradition that it was difficult to know the extent to which his stories reflected original Natchez tradition. For some of passages in the narratives that had sexual content, Swanton only provided a translation into Latin. [4] In the 1930s he worked with linguist Mary Haas who collected grammatical information and texts. In 1931, anthropologist Victor Riste made several wax cylinder recordings of Watt Sam speaking the Natchez language, which were rediscovered at the University of Chicago in the 1970s by Archie Sam and linguist Charles Van Tuyl. [5] [6] One of the cylinders is now at the Voice Library at the University of Michigan. [6]

John Reed Swanton was an American anthropologist, folklorist, and linguist who worked with Native American peoples throughout the United States. Swanton achieved recognition in the fields of ethnology and ethnohistory. He is particularly noted for his work with indigenous peoples of the Southeast and Pacific Northwest.

The Cherokee are one of the indigenous people of the Southeastern Woodlands of the United States. Prior to the 18th century, they were concentrated in what is now southwestern North Carolina, southeastern Tennessee, and the tips of western South Carolina and northeastern Georgia.

Muscogee (Creek) Nation

The Muscogee (Creek) Nation is a federally recognized Native American tribe based in the U.S. state of Oklahoma. The nation descends from the historic Creek Confederacy, a large group of indigenous peoples of the Southeastern Woodlands. Official languages include Muscogee, Yuchi, Natchez, Alabama, and Koasati, with Muscogee retaining the largest number of speakers. They commonly refer to themselves as Este Mvskokvlke. Historically, they were often referred to as one of the Five Civilized Tribes of the American Southeast.

He was the biological cousin of the other last speaker of Natchez, Nancy Raven, who in Natchez kinship terminology was his classificatory aunt, and through his father Creek Sam (b. 1825) he was the great-uncle of Natchez scholar Archie Sam. [7] [8] In some of his stories he used a register of Natchez that he referred to as "Cannibal language" in which he substituted some words with others. [9] As among the Natchez the language was generally passed down matrilineally, Watt Sam did not teach the language to any of his children. [2]

Nancy Raven was a Natchez storyteller of Braggs, Oklahoma and one of the last two native speakers of the Natchez language.

Archie Sam Muscogee-Cherokee-Natchez traditionalist and stomp dance leader

Archie Sam was a Natchez-Cherokee-Muscogee Creek traditionalist, stomp dance leader, scholar, enrolled member of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, and the Sun Chief of the Natchez Nation.

He is buried at the Greenleaf Cemetery at Tahlequah, Oklahoma. [1]

Tahlequah, Oklahoma City in Oklahoma, United States

Tahlequah is a city in Cherokee County, Oklahoma, United States located at the foothills of the Ozark Mountains. It is part of the Green Country region of Oklahoma and was established as a capital of the 19th-century Cherokee Nation in 1839, as part of the new settlement in Indian Territory after the Cherokee Native Americans were forced west from the American Southeast on the Trail of Tears.

Related Research Articles

Tanoan languages language family

Tanoan, also Kiowa–Tanoan or Tanoan–Kiowa, is a family of languages spoken by indigenous peoples in present-day New Mexico, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.

Muskogean languages language family

Muskogean is language family spoken in different areas of the Southeastern United States. Though the debate concerning their interrelationships is ongoing, the Muskogean languages are generally divided into two branches, Eastern Muskogean and Western Muskogean. Typologically, Muskogean languages are agglutinative. One language, Apalachee, is extinct and the remaining languages are critically endangered.

Comecrudan languages language family

Comecrudan refers to a group of possibly related languages spoken in the southernmost part of Texas and in northern Mexico along the Rio Grande. Comecrudo is the best known.

Akokisa tribe

The Akokisa were the indigenous tribe that lived on Galveston Bay and the lower Trinity and San Jacinto rivers in Texas, primarily in the present-day Greater Houston area. They are regarded as a band of the Atakapa Indians, closely related to the Atakapa of Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Pedee people ethnic group

The Pee Dee people, also Pedee and Peedee, are American Indians of the Southeast United States. Historically, their population has been concentrated in the Piedmont of present-day South Carolina. In the 17th and 18th centuries, English colonists named the Pee Dee River and the Pee Dee region of South Carolina for the tribe.

The Taensa were a Native American people whose settlements at the time of European contact in the late 17th century were located in present-day Tensas Parish, Louisiana. The meaning of the name, which has the further spelling variants of Taenso, Tinsas, Tenza or Tinza, Tahensa or Takensa, and Tenisaw, is unknown. It is believed to be an autonym. The Taensa should not be confused with the Avoyel, known by the French as the petits Taensas, who were mentioned in writings by explorer Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville in 1699. The Taensa are more closely related to the Natchez people and both are considered descendants of the late prehistoric Plaquemine culture.

Sergei A. Kan is an American anthropologist known for his research with and writings on the Tlingit people of southeast Alaska, focusing on the potlatch and on the role of the Russian Orthodox Church in Tlingit communities.

James Owen Dorsey American anthropologist

James Owen Dorsey was an American ethnologist, linguist, and Episcopalian missionary in the Dakota Territory, who contributed to the description of the Ponca, Omaha, and other southern Siouan languages. He worked for the Bureau of American Ethnology of the Smithsonian Institution from 1880-1895, when he died young of typhoid fever. He became known as the expert on languages and culture of southern Siouan peoples, although he also studied tribes of the Southwest and Northwest.

Raymond D. Fogelson is an American anthropologist known for his research on American Indians of the southeastern United States, especially the Cherokee. He is considered a founder of the subdiscipline of ethnohistory.

Robert A. Brightman is an American anthropologist and the Greenberg Professor of Native American Studies in the Department of Anthropology at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. Brightman is known for his work among the Cree Indians in Manitoba, Canada.

Raymond J. DeMallie is an American anthropologist whose work focuses on the cultural history of the peoples of the Northern Plains, particularly the Lakota. His work is informed by interrelated archival, museum-based, and ethnographic research in a manner characteristic of the ethnohistorical method. In 1985 he founded and became the director of the American Indian Studies Research Institute at Indiana University Bloomington.

William Curtis Sturtevant was an anthropologist and ethnologist. He is best known as the general editor of the 20-volume Handbook of North American Indians. Renowned anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss described the work as "an absolutely indispensable tool that should be found on the shelves of all libraries, public and private alike."

The Chisca were a tribe of Native Americans living in eastern Tennessee and southwestern Virginia in the 16th century. They later merged with the Shawnee, and became extinct as a tribe during the 18th century.

Jason Baird Jackson, Ph.D. is the Director of the Mathers Museum of World Cultures and Professor of Folklore and Anthropology at Indiana University Bloomington. He is "an advocate of open access issues and works for scholarly communications and scholarly publishing projects." At IUB, he has served as Chair of the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology and as Director of the Folklore Institute. According to the Journal of American Folklore, "Jason Baird Jackson establishes himself as one of the foremost scholars in American Indian studies today."

The Taensa language was the Natchez language-variant spoken by the Taensa people originally of northeastern Louisiana, and later with historical importance in Alabama. The language is also well known in linguistic and historical circles for the fact that two young co-conspirators published purported studies of the Taensa language in 1880-1882 that was later proven fraudulent, unequivocally in 1908-1910 by John R. Swanton.


  1. 1 2 "Watt Sam". Findagrave.com. Retrieved 2013-10-13.
  2. 1 2 Kimball, Geoffry (2005). "Natchez". In Janine Scancarelli; Heather Kay Hardy (eds.). Native Languages of the Southeastern United States. University of Nebraska Press. pp. 385–453.
  3. Swanton, John R. (1929). "Myths & Tales of the Southeastern Indians", Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin, No. 88, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office.
  4. Swann, Brian (2011). Born in the Blood: On Native American Translation. University of Nebraska Press. p. 173. ISBN   978-0803267596.
  5. Fricker, Richard L. (9 October 1977). "Language of extinct tribe haunts scholar". Boca Raton News. Retrieved 3 September 2013.
  6. 1 2 Barnett, James F. Jr. (2007). The Natchez Indians: A History to 1735. Jackson, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi. p. 134. ISBN   9781578069880. OCLC   86038006.
  7. Galloway, Patricia Kay; Jason Baird Jackson (2004), "Natchez", in Raymond D. Fogelson (ed.), Handbook of North American Indians, Vol. 14: Southeast, Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, pp. 598–615 [unified volume Bibliography, pp. 772–999]
  8. Martin, Jack B. (2004), "Languages", in Raymond D. Fogelson (ed.), Handbook of North American Indians, Vol. 14: Southeast, Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, pp. 68–86 [unified volume Bibliography, pp. 772–999]
  9. Kimball, Geoffrey (2012). Natchez Cannibal Speech. International Journal of American Linguistics, Vol. 78, No. 2 (April 2012), pp. 273–280