Natchitoches (nakˈətäsh) [key], city (1990 pop. 16,609), seat of Natchitoches parish, NW La.; inc. 1819. Its industry is centered on the production, processing, and shipping of lumber and farm products, including cotton, poultry, and cattle. There are also fish farms. The first permanent settlement in the Louisiana Purchase territory, Natchitoches was founded c.1714 as a French military and trading post. It served as the dividing line between French and Spanish territory. The city was an important port on the Red River until the river changed its course in the early 1800s (the riverbed has since filled and is known as Cane River Lake). Natchitoches was occupied by the Union army during the Civil War. The lasting old homes and plantations attract tourists. Northwestern State Univ. and a U.S. fish hatchery are there.