Nairne's Muskhogean Journals
The 1708 Expedition to the Mississippi River
Discovered in the British Library, the earliest known account in English of Muskhogean society, chronicling a remarkable diplomatic episode between European colonists and Native Americans
Nairne's Muskhogean Journals: The 1708 Expedition to the Mississippi River, printed from a previously unpublished manuscript in the British Library, is the earliest known account in English of Muskhogean society. It chronicles a remarkable diplomatic episode in Colonial Indian-white relations.
In the winter and spring of 1708, Captain Thomas Nairne and Thomas Welch, a Carolina trader among the Chickasaws, accompanied by a group of Indians, left Charles Town and traveled west to the Mississippi River and south nearly to the Gulf of Mexico. This expedition was a key to English strategy during Queen Anne's War. Nairne visited the Chickasaws to confirm that tribe's allegiance to the English and then went south among the Choctaws in a futile attempt to draw that powerful tribe away from their loyalty to the French.
Although he shared the racial and cultural biases of contemporaneous Englishmen, he knew the importance of the Indians as allies and enemies and so conducted his diplomatic negotiations as among equals when he visited the southern tribes. This knowledge of the Indians' importance seems to have tempered his biases, and the diplomatic mission became a study of Indian life and culture.
Nairne recorded in great detail--and with the eye of a critic of the Muskhogean society and his own. His accounts include discussions of marriage and mourning ceremonies, rituals and techniques of hunting and warfare, and, most important, the political culture of the Chickasaws and Creeks. Nairne's scientific analysis--he collected data and then drew conclusions--of the matrilineal and consensual bases of Muskhogean society has not been surpassed by any other early observer. Thus, Nairne's Muskhogean Journals: The 1708 Expedition to the Mississippi River is a rich source of information important to anthropologists, archaeologists, and colonial historians.