Great Sun marks beginning of birthday celebration with words of honor, healing

Published 1:49 pm Wednesday, August 3, 2016

NATCHEZ — The Natchez Nation’s Great Sun Hutke Fields Wednesday pointed to a hawk circling overhead at the city’s tricentennial kickoff ceremony as a good sign.

“Basically, the hawk could have flown somewhere else, off hunting,” Fields said. “That he stayed to help support us is the Creator’s way of commending the people here for doing the right thing.”

Starting the day off commemorating the first people of this area was the right thing to do, said Fields, who traveled from his home in Oklahoma. He said the people of Natchez have a long history of working to preserve history, including the history of his people.

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“It is an honor to be here,” Fields said. “We are proud to come back to Natchez, our home. It is an honor to have people here who preserve these mounds in a good way.”

Fields began speaking in the Natchez language, pronouncing it in the traditional Nah-Chee. After completing a few sentences, basically giving his introduction, he said that was the most Natchez spoken here in 300 years.

“We are losing our language fast,” Fields said. “It is only through our mothers and grandmothers, with strong cultural connections, who made us learn our language.


“We need to continue our traditions. It is important to keep all the stories of the earth — the religions, traditions, languages and cultures.”

Since the trouble with the French in the area approximately 300 years ago, Fields said his people have suffered.

“I think we still need to shake hands and make up,” Fields said. “Those are deep wounds.”

On hand at the ceremony and meeting Fields was the honorary Consul of France to Mississippi, Keltoum Rowland, who is a French language instructor at the University of Southern Mississippi.

“Natchez is a beautiful city — I would encourage everyone to visit here and the Grand Village,” she said. “It is the birthplace of Mississippi — I would not have missed this event for anything.”

Jim Barnett, historian and former director of the Grand Village, went over the history of the Natchez people in this area. For years before the misunderstandings and conflict with the French, Barnett said, the Natchez and Europeans got along, even trading goods.

But when Fort Rosalie was built and a colony established, a new type of European would be coming in from France, one less rugged and willing to meet the Natchez on their terms.

The people coming in from farms in France didn’t have a clue about the people they were going to live alongside, Barnett said. These colonists demanded the Natchez meet them on their terms.

When the Natchez people rose up in arms, Barnett said, it was an end to them and the colony in the area, but Fort Rosalie lived on and with its establishment 300 years ago, and so, too, did the foundation for the City of Natchez.

“The colonists are still here,” Fields said. “We have learned to somewhat live together. Mississippi has been good to us, where other states have ignored or meddled.

“We come down every year with 25 to 30 people for the Powwow in March and observe our traditions.”

Mayor Darryl Grennell said kicking off Natchez’s birthday at the Grand Village was appropriate.

“It is important to pay homage to the Natchez Indians,” Grennell said. “I am looking forward to the next 300 years. We are going to raise the bar and make Natchez the national treasure it is. We are going to make it shine.”

Grand Village Director Lance Harris said he was honored to have the birthday celebrations begin near the mounds and museum.

“This site was where the original people of Natchez were,” he said. “It’s a very good place and a record of the importance of the Natchez people.”

Thinking back on the hawk, Harris said it was a particularly appropriate symbol because of Fields’ clan symbol — a bird.

“They also call me White Bird, or Crane,” Fields said. “All of my ancestors would roll over in their graves if I did not mention my clan.”