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The Yamasee were a Native American tribe that lived in the coastal region of present-day northern coastal Georgiamarker near the Savannah River and later in northeastern Floridamarker. Starting in the late 16th century, the Spanishmarker established missions among the Guale. The Yamasee were later included in the missions of the Guale province. In the 1670s the Westo tribe forced the Yamasee to move south from the Savannah River. Starting in 1675 the Yamasee were mentioned regularly on Spanish mission census records of the missionary provinces of Guale (central Georgia coast) and Mocama (present-day southeastern Georgia and northeastern Florida). The Yamasee usually did not convert to Christianity and remained somewhat segregated from the Christian Indians of Spanish Florida.

Pirate attacks on the Spanish missions in 1680 forced the Yamasee to migrate again. Some moved to Florida. Others returned to the Savannah River lands, safer after the destruction of the Westo. The Yamasee near the Savannah River became allies of the new colony of South Carolina. Those in La Florida grew increasingly disenchanted with the Spanish. The latter revolted against Spanish rule in 1687 and fled to South Carolinamarker, where they were allowed to settle.

For years, the Yamasee and the Carolinian colonists conducted slave raids upon Spanish-allied Indians and attacked St. Augustine, Floridamarker. In 1715, the Yamasee began to attack South Carolinian colonists, triggering the Yamasee War, which lasted until at least 1717. Many tribes allied themselves with the Yamasee. In 1716 the Cherokee allied themselves with the colony of South Carolina and began to attack the Creek. This turned the tide of the war. While the South Carolina militia could not fight the powerful Creek, they did defeat the Yamasee in pitched battle at Salkehatchie on the Combahee Rivermarker.

The Yamasee then migrated south to the area around St. Augustine, Floridamarker, where they allied with the Spanish against the British. In 1727, the British attacked the tribe's settlement and slaughtered most of them. This event and conflicts with the Creek people decimated the Yamasee population. The survivors finally assimilated into the Seminole tribe, which was created from multi-ethnic sources in eighteenth century and later Florida.


Steven J. Oatis and other historians describe the Yamasee as a multi-ethnic amalgamation of several remnant Indian groups, including the Guale, La Tama, Apalachee, Cowetamarker, and Cussita Creek, among others. Historian Chester B. DePratter describes the Yamasee towns of early South Carolina as consisting of Lower Towns, consisting mainly of Hitchiti-speaking Indians, and Upper Towns, consisting mainly of Guale Indians.


Little record remains of the Yamasee language. It is partially preserved in works by missionary Domingo Báez. Diego Peña was told in 1716-1717 that the Tuskegeemarker also spoke Yamasee (Hudson 1990).

Hann (1992) claims that Yamasee is related to the Muskogean languages. This was based upon a colonial report that a Yamasee spy within a Hitchiti town could understand Hitichiti and was not detected as a Yamasee. Francis Le Jau stated in 1711 that the Yamasee understood the Creek. He also noted that many Indians throughout the region used Creek and Shawnee as lingua francas. In 1716-1717, Diego Peña obtained information that showed that Yamasee and Hitchiti-Mikasuki were considered separate languages (Goddard 2005).

Inconclusive evidence suggesting the Yamasee language was similar to Guale rests on three pieces of information:
  • a copy of a 1681 Florida missions census states that the people of Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria de la Tama speak "la lengua de Guale, y Yamassa" [the Guale and Yamasee language];
  • a summary of two 1688 letters, sent by the Florida governor, mentions prisoners of the "ydioma Yguala y Yamas, de la Prova de Guale" [the Yguala and Yamas language of the province of Guale]; and
  • the Guale called the Cusabo Chiluque, which is probably related to the Creek word čiló·kki "Red Moiety" (Goddard 2005).

The Spanish documents are not originals and may have been edited at a later date. The name Chiluque is probably a loanword. It seems also to have been absorbed into the Timucua language. Thus, the connection of Yamasee with Muskogean is unsupported (Goddard 2005).

A document in a British Colonial Archive indicates that the Yamasee originally spoke Cherokee, but had learned another language.

See also


  1. Dr. Chester B. DePratter, "The Foundation, Occupation, and Abandonment of Yamasee Indian Towns in the South Carolina Lowcountry, 1684-1715", National Register Submission, National Park Service


  • Anderson, William L.(1983) A guide to Cherokee documents in foreign archives.
  • Boyd, Mark F. (1949). Diego Peña's expedition to Apalachee and Apalachicolo in 1716. The Florida Historical Quarterly, 16 (1), 2-32.
  • Boyd, Mark F. (1952). Documents describing the second and third expeditions of lieutenant Diego Peña to Apalachee and Apalachicolo in 1717 and 1718. The Florida Historical Quarterly, 32 (2), 109-139.
  • Gallay, Alan. (2002). "The Indian Slave Trade: The Rise of the English Empire in the American South, 1670-1717". New Haven & London: Yales University Press.
  • Goddard, Ives. (2005). The indigenous languages of the Southeast. Anthropological Linguistics, 47 (1), 1-60.
  • Hann, John H. (1991). Missions to the Calusa. Gainesville: University of Florida Press.
  • Hann, John H. (1992). Political leadership among the natives of Spanish Florida. The Florida Historical Quarterly, 71 (2), 188-208.
  • Hann, John H. (1994). Leadership nomenclature among Spanish Florida natives and its linguistics and associational implications. In P. B. Kwachka (Ed.), Perspectives on the Southeast: Linguistics, archaeology, and ethnohistory (pp. 94-105). Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press.
  • Hann, John H. (1996). The seventeenth-century forebears of the Lower Creeks and Seminoles. Southeastern Archaeology, 15, 66-80.
  • Hudson, Charles M., Jr. (1990). The Juan Pardo expeditions: Explorations of the Carolinas and Tennessee, 1566-1568. Washington, D.C. Smithsonian Institution Press.
  • Hudson, Charles M., Jr. (1997). Knights of Spain, warriors of the sun: Hernando de Soto and the South's ancient chiefdoms. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press.
  • Sturtevant, William C. (1994). The Misconnection of Guale and Yamasee with Muskogean. International Journal of American Linguistics, 60 (2), 139-48.
  • Waddell, Gene. (1980). Indians of the South Carolina lowcountry, 1562-1751. Spartansburg, SC: The Reprint Company.
  • Worth, John E. (1995). The struggle of the Georgia coast: An eighteenth-century Spanish retrospective on Guale and Mocama. Anthropological papers of the American Museum of Natural History (No. 75). New York.
  • Worth, John E. (1998). The Timucuan chiefdoms of Spanish Florida (Vols. 1 & 2). Gainesville: University of Press of Florida.
  • Worth, John E. (2000). The Lower Creeks: Origins and early history. In B. G. McEwan (Ed.), Indians of the Greater Southeast: Historical archaeology and ethnohistory (pp. 265-298). Gainesville: University Press of Florida.
  • Worth, John E. (2004). Yamasee. In R. D. Fogelson (Ed.), Handbook of North American Indians: Southeast (Vol. 14, pp. 245-253). Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution.

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