Grand Village hosts Iberville landing reenactment

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 14, 2005

NATCHEZ &045; The sun they worshipped beamed down on the Natchez Indians as they met with French explorers, smoking a peace pipe with the French and welcoming them to their land.

The smoke rising in silence only broken by a few words and by the songbirds in the trees, it was easy to believe the meeting was just like a similar gathering more than 300 years ago in Natchez.

Except for those gathering around with digital cameras.

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Dozens of people gathered Friday and Saturday at the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians to view reenactments of explorer Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur d’Iberville’s landing in Natchez.

On Saturday crowds gathered to see a reenactment of a peace pipe ceremony between Iberville and the Great Sun, who ruled the Natchez.

Smoking the peace pipe was highly symbolic to the Natchez, said Grayhawk Perkins, a Houma-Choctaw who portrayed the Great Sun.

The pipe was used only for prayer, with the smoke symbolizing prayers rising to the Creator.

&uot;When you went back on your word, it was not the Natchez or the French you had to answer to, but the Creator,&uot; said Perkins, who had spoken during the reenactment in Mobilian, the trade language spoken in Natchez in Iberville’s day.

And as tobacco is used today to draw poison from a sting, so tobacco in the peace pipe symbolizes the Creator spiritually cleansing the person using it.

When d’Iberville arrived with Jean Baptiste le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville and about 50 French and Canadian soldiers, they were greeted by Natchez war chief Tattooed Serpent, who led them to the Great Sun.

By fostering a relationship between the French and the Natchez, Iberville hoped to gain the Natchez as allies to prevent the British and the Spanish from gaining land and trade in the area.

&uot;Obviously, this didn’t work, or we’d all be speaking French now,&uot; said Edmond Boudreaux, who portrayed Iberville.

In addition to the reenactments, the event featured crafts demonstrations, a recreation of a campsite and displays of tools.

The event was started in 1999 to mark the 300th anniversary of Iberville’s landing.