Summary of Native American Tribes – X-Z

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Big Turtle Dance of the Yuchi

Big Turtle Dance of the Yuchi

Yuchi – Also spelled Euchee and Uchee, the tribe previously lived in the eastern Tennessee River Valley in Tennessee, northern Georgia, and northern Alabama. They called themselves Tsoyaha, meaning “Children of the Sun.” Mysteriously, their language never closely resembled any other Native American language, suggesting a long period of isolation from other tribes. The first descriptions of the Yuchi, dating back to the 17th century, suggested that the Yuchi and the Westo were the same people. One of the first camps to be mentioned was that of Chestowee in southeastern Tennessee in 1714. Later the camp was attacked and destroyed by the Cherokee. A large Yuchi camp known as “Uche Town” existed on the Chattahoochee River during the mid 1700’s, located near Uche Creek. It was visited by William Bartram in the 1770s, who praised its layout and thriving population.

More camps were known to exist in present-day Aiken County, South Carolina, and several places long the Oconee River in Georgia. In the early 19th century the Yuchi were forcibly removed along with the Muscogee to Oklahoma. Today, most Yuchi are of multi-tribal descent and many are citizens of the Muscogee Creek Nation, as well as other tribes, including the Shawnee and  Sac and Fox. Though the tribe has tried to obtain federal recognition, they have been unsuccessful, since most Yuchi are enrolled in other tribes. Today, only a very few people are able to speak the distinctive Yuchi language, but efforts are being made to help preserve it in language classes.

Yufera – This name was applied to a town or group of towns reported to have been situated somewhere inland from Cumberland Island in present-day Georgia. The name was derived through Timucuan people,  but it may have referred to a part of the Muskogee tribe called Eufaula.

Yui – Once located on the mainland 14 leagues inland from Cumberland Island and probably in the southeastern part of the present state of Georgia, they were described as having five villages. The name first appears in Spanish documents. They were visited by the missionary at San Pedro on Cumberland Island and appear to have been Christianized early in the seventeenth century. At one time, the missionaries estimated them to number more than 1,000 in 1602. However, no individual mission bore their name and they are soon lost sight of, their history becoming that of the other Timucua tribes.

Yuki – A tribe from the Round Valley of Mendicino County in northern California, their name means “alien” or “enemy” The Yuki were of a much more warlike character than most California Indians. In the 1850’s they were forced onto a reservation in Round Valley, where conditions led to the revolt known as the “Mendicino War” in 1859, which further decimated the tribe. Today there remain but a hundred Yuki only a dozen of which speak the language.

Yuma – Of the Yuman Family, the tribe traditionally lived in the Colorado River Valley and nearby areas in southern California and Arizona. Grouped into loose bands that averaged about 135 people, the bands were lead by headmen, who had shown skills as a warrior and in economic matters. They were not nomadic and seldom left their villages, which were filled with homes made of a frame of logs and poles with a thatch covering. Built, partially underground to keep out the extreme heat, the houses, usually measuring about 20 by 25 feet, were usually occupied by a number of family members. The Yuma were farmers, raising corn, beans, pumpkins, and melons. They were first visited by the Spanish explorer, Juan de Oñate, in 1604-05. They were described as a fine people, far superior to most other Indians. For centuries they battled the Papago, Apache, and other tribes for control of the fertile flood plains of the Colorado River. By 1853, their numbers were estimated to be about 3,000. Today, many of the tribal members live on the Fort Yuma-Quechan Reservation, which is located along both sides of the Colorado River near Yuma, Arizona. The reservations’ nearly 2,500 members prefer to be called the Quechan (pronounced Kwuh-tsan). They continue to be an agricultural tribe, but also operate several businesses and count on tourism as a large part of their economy. The reservation borders the states of Arizona, California, Baja California and Mexico, encompassing 45,000 acres.

Yuma musician, Isaiah West Taber, around the turn of the century

Yuma musician, Isaiah West Taber, around the turn of the 20th century. Click for prints, downloads and products.

Yuman Family – An important linguistic family, these tribes occupied an extensive territory in the extreme southwest portion of the United States and lower California, including much of the valley of Colorado River and the lower valley of the Gila River.

Their social groups were well defined, they lived in communal huts, very well constructed of cottonwood and well thatched, practiced agriculture, and made fine basketry and pottery. Interestingly, they did not borrow the art of irrigation from the Pueblo peoples, resulting in their crops often suffering from drought. They were also not boatmen, instead, crossing rivers and transporting their goods on rude rafts, made of bundles of reeds or twigs. they cremated their dead, and with them all articles of personal property. The climate favored nudity, the men wearing only the breechcloth, and not always that, while women generally wore a short petticoat made of strips of bark.

In the 18th century, Fray Francisco Garcés decribed them: “The Indian men of its banks are well-formed, and the Indian women fat and healthy; the adornment of the men, as far as the Jamajabs [Mohave], is total nudity; that of the women is reduced to certain short and scanty petticoats of the bark of trees; they bathe at all seasons, and arrange the hair, which they always wear long, in diverse figures, utilizing for this purpose a kind of gum or sticky stud.

Always are they painted, some with black, others with red, and many with all colors. All those of the banks of the river are very generous and lovers of their country, in which they do not hunt game because they abound in all provisions.”

Important tribes of the northern Yuman area were the Cocopa, Diegueño, Havasupai, Maricopa, Mohave, Tonto, Walapai, Yavapai, and Yuma. They were said to have differed considerably, both physically and otherwise, the river tribes being somewhat superior to the others. The population of the Yuman tribes within the United States numbered about 3,700 in 1909.

Yurok – The Yurok tribe, whose name means “downriver people,” have lived near the Pacific Ocean coast of northern California and southern Oregon for as many as 10,000 years. The Yurok language, is Algonquin, the farthest west that the language has been found. The nomadic bands lived on hunting and fishing, and gathering nuts, roots, and berries. In the winter, they concentrated in villages, where they lived in rectangular houses with slanted cedar roofs. Social status was determined by wealth, and unlike other Native Americans, the practiced the owning and selling of land. After the gold rush of 1849, the Yurok lost most of their land; however, they now own a number of ranches in California, flourishing with hotels and gaming resorts. They are the largest Indian tribe in California, with nearly 5,000 enrolled members.

Yustaga – Located between the Aucilla and Suwannee Rivers near the Florida Coast, the Yustaga belonged to the Timucuan branch of the Muskhogean linguistic stock. They were first mentioned Luys Hernandez de Biedma, a chronicler for Hernando De Soto, who gave the name Yustaga to a “province” through which the Spaniards marched just before arriving at Apalachee. Later, they were mentioned by both the French and more Spaniards who came through the area. Their history soon merged with the Timucuan peoples. The last mention of the name appears to be in 1659. They were estimated to have numbered as many as 1,000 in 1,600, but by 1675, had already been reduced to about 350.

Zuni Pueblo 1873

Zuni Pueblo 1873. Click for prints, downloads and products.

Zuni – The Zuni Indians of today are one of 19 original tribes that once inhabited the area that is now called New Mexico and Arizona. The Zuni tribe is said to have originated from the ancient Ancient Puebloans a large society that encompassed large amounts of land, riches and many distinct cultures and civilizations. The Zuni people are, in a way, a mysterious tribe. Their culture is very reclusive and isolated much as is their city and their language. They are a very interesting people who are well known for their beautiful artwork, sculpture and dishware. The Zuni are one of the few fortunate tribes who have managed to keep their ways of life the same throughout the years despite the westward push of the European immigrant settlers, the Mexican-American war, and the rough treatment they endured during all of the conflicts that they dealt with.

© Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated January 2021.


Handbook of Texas
Heard, Norman J., Handbook of the American Frontier, Scarecrow Press, 1987
Ricky, Donald, Encyclopedia of Mississippi Indians, Somerset Publishers, 2000
Webb, Frederick, Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico, 1906

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