A Southeastern Native American Holocaust during the Late 1600s
The Lower Cherokees . . . Who were they really? – Part Three
Extreme Northeast Georgia was occupied by Uchees in the 1700s, not ethnic Cherokees! The Rickohockens, Muskogee Creeks and Cherokees played a major role in an ethnic cleansing of indigenous peoples in Georgia and South Carolina. The eight “Lower Cherokee” villages in extreme northwestern South Carolina and the Elate Creeks in Northeast Georgia were originally Itsate Creek refugees from Muskogee depredations farther south. Hence they sought an alliance with another powerful alliance in Northeastern Tennessee to gain protection from the Muskogees.
The report that archaeologists Arthur Kelly, Lewis Larson and Joseph Caldwell wrote about their excavation of Etowah Mounds contains a fascinating story near the end. Throughout 1954, 1955 and 1956 the three men argued about whether Etowah Mounds was built by “the Creeks” or “the Cherokees.” Of course, we now know that both tribes are the entities that appeared in the early 1700s, but academicians back then didn’t understand that fact. Actually, they knew so little about the actual cultural history of the Creeks back then that they didn’t even know that Etowah was derived from the Muskogee-Creek word, Etalwa.
Kelly always thought the Creeks built Etowah Mounds. Caldwell always thought that the Cherokees built Etowah. Larson, who had the largest role in the excavations there, initially sided with Caldwell, but as the excavations continued, he shifted to leaning slightly toward Kelly’s view.
The Etowah Report ends with the archaeologists agreeing that the forthcoming excavations on the Tugaloo and Keowee Rivers in advance of the filling of Lake Hartwell would determine whether Etowah was Creek or Cherokee. In 1957, Caldwell started work on Tugaloo Island . . . one of the Lower Cherokee towns, according to all current references. Caldwell would find that his understanding of the Appalachian Mountains’ Native American history was entirely wrong. Meanwhile, no anthropologist bothered to look at Colonial Period maps. They showed the region around Tugaloo Island was never occupied by ethnic Cherokees. It could well be that Cherokees had nothing to do with the sacking of Tugaloo Island around 1700 AD, because the survivors soon allied themselves with the Cherokees. You will be surprised, who the “bad guys” were.
The reason that Georgia’s archaeologists now tell folks that “the Etowah Report” has disappeared is that it grossly conflicts with several of the key exhibits at the Etowah Museum, which a later generation of archaeologists planned. You see, the famous Etowah Marble Statues were found at the very bottom of Mound C in a round temple next to a rectangular temple with stone walls. The statues were NOT hastily buried in a pit at the top of Mound C. By the mid-1920s, Mound C had been excavated all the way down to its surrounding grade. This is one of the many fairy tales created by late 20th century academicians.
Joseph Caldwell at Tugaloo Island
Tugaloo Island was located in the Tugaloo River, east of Toccoa in Northeast Georgia. Today, it is mostly covered by the waters of Lake Hartwell. Because the archaeological work and the destructive effect of the water, its eight mounds are no longer visible. A nearby Georgia State Historical Marker brags to visitors that Tugaloo Island was the location of the oldest Cherokee town in Georgia and that the mounds were built by the Cherokees there around 1450 AD.
ACTUALLY, what Caldwell discovered was that there had been a small village on the island and on the Georgia shore of the river since around 1000 BC. It became a substantial village during the Middle Woodland Period, occupied by people, who made Swift Creek pottery. It was then occupied by “mound builders” around 800 AD and thrived until around 1700 AD or a little later . . . when it was burned and sacked. A few years later, a small hamlet, composed of simple round huts was built in one corner of the plaza at Tugaloo. The mounds were never utilized again.
During the long period of its primary occupation, the town on Tugaloo Island produced very similar artifacts to those found around Macon, GA. Caldwell had to admit that he was wrong. Both Tugaloo and Etowah were built by ancestors of the Creek Indians. We may never know why the generation of archaeologists after Caldwell ignored his project and wrote the false description of Tugaloo that one now sees on the historic marker and references.
Look at official maps from the early 1700s to the American Revolution. They all label what is now Stevens, Rabun and Hart Counties, Georgia as being Hogelogi . . . Uchee. They label the land between the Keowee and Tugaloo Rivers in South Carolina as being Uchee. Hogelogi is actually one of the ways that Algonquin speakers, such as the Shawnee, tried to pronounce the Muskogee-Creek word, Tokah-le-ki.
On several of these official maps there is an intriguing note. It states that after Cherokees killed the Creek delegates to a meeting at the Hogeloge town of Tugaloo (actually both words are derived from Tokah-le) war broke out between the Creeks and Cherokees. The Uchee at Tugaloo fled the island in 1716 and settled here (southern Stevens County.)
In 1736, the Rev. Charles Wesley, Indian Agent in the Province of Georgia, journeyed up the Savannah River to visit Tugaloo. He described it as “a miserable village of no more than 100 Uchee inhabitants.” It was on the Georgia side of the Tugaloo River near the island. In other words, the island was not significantly inhabited after December 1715. Apparently, frequent floods and the nuisance of having to cross the river to reach the island, made it an undesirable place to locate a village.
Arthur Kelly at Chauga, Cusseta and Tamasee
Joseph Caldwell also supervised a survey of the entire proposed Lake Hartwell Basin. Unfortunately, he went to the Elbert Mounds instead of the Rembert Mounds in Elbert County, GA. As a result an incredibly important archaeological site was covered by water before it could be studied by professional archeologists.
Caldwell did identify several village sites in the general vicinity of Tugaloo in South Carolina and southern Stevens County, GA, which contained mounds. Arthur Kelly excavated these sites. Cusseta at the time, was assumed to be a Lower Cherokee town, as were Chauga and Tamassee. However, we now know that Cusseta was the northernmost Upper Creek town in Northeast Georgia. Probably, most of its residents were actually mixed-blood Uchee-Creek-European ancestry.
Kelly found the same exact patterns at Chauga, Cussetta and Tamasee. Towns with the same cultural characteristics as the Creeks living around Macon, GA lived in these communities until around 1700 AD. A thick layer of ash covered the Muskogean town, which was followed by a smaller village with cultural characteristics, which archeologists at the time assumed to be “Cherokee.”
This is what Kelly wrote in the opening page of his 1961 report on these excavations:
“The analysis of artifacts and ceramic materials from good archeological contexts supports the conclusions arrived at tentatively from the study of the successive mound constructions. The final summary of all the evidence leads logically to a conclusion concerning Cherokee proto-history and prehistory somewhat opposed to theories hitherto regarded by many investigators which tended to bring the Cherokees into the region from a remote point of origin. Purely ethnological studies of Cherokee tribal culture have emphasized traits and complexes which derive from a more northern hearth. The archeological evidence at Chauga, and elsewhere in north and northeast Georgia, as it becomes available from historic landmark sites, are not congruent with the theories of Cherokee origins . . . which assume them to be long time residents of the region.”
Translation into comprehensible English: The “mound builder” towns were occupied by the same culture, who occupied the Proto-Creek towns around Macon, GA. However, the Lower Cherokees, who replaced them, were NOT from a long distance off like early Cherokee villages in Tennessee and North Carolina, but rather emigrants from a locale fairly close to these villages.
There were three mounds in Chauga, not one as stated in the Wikipedia article about Chauga. That is one of the areas, where the anthropology professor, who wrote the Wikipedia article, strayed from the facts. Keep in mind that Kelly’s report was published by the University of Georgia and is still available online. There is absolutely no excuse for a 21st century anthropology professor to write fiction in Wikipedia. Here is the link to the article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chauga_Mound
Chauga is the Cherokee pronunciation of chauka, the Creek word for the Black Locust tree.
Arthur Kelly at Sandtown
In 1968, Arthur Kelly led a team of students and professors from Georgia State University in the excavation of the Creek town of Sandtown, on the Chattahoochee River a mile downstream from Six Flags Over Georgia. A cluster of important archaeological sites were about to be destroyed to build the Great Southwest Industrial Park, being developed by a Texas corporation.
Kelly, as is the case of contemporary archeologists, was not aware that this locale was rich with evidence of Arawak occupation. Very close by is the Owl Rock and the location, where the Sweetwater Creek stela was found. In other words, it was in a region that was not always “Muskogean” like the Tugaloo River.
The archaeological team was surprised to discover that the Sandtown site had been burned and sacked twice . . . once during Pre-Columbian times and then again in the period around 1690 to 1710. The people, who lived in the town prior to the second burning, produced artifacts similar to those found at Early Lamar Cultural Period sites . . . like those in Macon. The final occupation was similar to Historic Period Creeks. In other words, one branch of the Creeks, probably Apalache or Itsate, had been replaced by Muskogee Creeks . . . not crude round huts, like was seen in extreme Northeast Georgia and extreme Northwest South Carolina.
When the De Soto Expedition entered what is now Georgia in March 1540, the conquistadors were astonished to see the Natives wearing brightly colored and ornately patterned clothing. The Florida Apalachee (not their real name) had worn clothing made of Spanish Moss.
When Richard Briggstock visited North Georgia in 1653, he was astonished to see the Apalache elite wearing brightly colored and ornately patterned clothing. The commoners normally wore off-white colored clothing unless given colored clothing by the elite as part of a religious ceremony.
By the 1720s, the Creeks had evidently forgotten how to even weave cloth. In his opening statement to Governor Oglethorpe in June 1735, High King Chiliki stated, “We were naked and you gave us cloth to wear.”
What the Colonial Archives tell us
There is a consistency to European maps between around 1550 and 1701. All Native American town names in present day Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina and western North Carolina are Muskogean, Panoan (eastern Peruvian), Itza Maya or Arawak words. The town of Sara also appears in the Blue Ridge Foothills region of South Carolina. It is not clear what language Sara is derived from.
From 1570 to 1700 the Kingdom of Apalache dominated these maps and gave its name to the Appalachian Mountains. The plural of Apalache is Apalachen, but the word originally only applied to the North Georgia Mountains. Some maps even labeled the Nacoochee Valley, “Domus regae” . . . House of the King in Latin.
Suddenly, in 1701, Guillaume De L’Isle’s map of North America still lists the Apalache, but only as one of the tribes in the Lower Southeast. Many of the other major divisions of the future Creek Confederacy appeared on this map, including Coweta, Cusseta, Tuskegee, Chattahoochee and Apalachicola. Western North Carolina was labeled “Pays du Chouenons” (Land of the Shawnee) but the map also showed Creek towns on the Little Tennessee River within that region. There is no mention of the Cherokees. At that time, all eight of the future “Lower Cherokee” villages in South Carolina had Creek names.
The first map to mention the Cherokees was drawn in 1715 by John and Richard Beresford. It shows most of the Cherokee villages to be located in northeastern Tennessee, where formerly there had been Panoan, Shawnee and Muskogean villages. It also shows the eight “Lower Cherokee” villages in northwestern South Carolina. By this time, all of the major Creek towns of the 1700s and early 1800s were in existence. The 1721 map of South Carolina by Colonel John Barnwell, showed these Creek towns, plus all the major Cherokee villages, whose names would continue to the end of the 18th century.
Two very important details appeared on 1715 Beresford Map that are not mentioned in the history books. The French already had constructed at fort at the confluence of the Coosa and Tallapoosa Rivers in Alabama, plus a much larger and older fort on Bussell Island in Tennessee, where the Tennessee and Little Tennessee Rivers meet. All current references state that Fort Toulouse was not built in Alabama until 1717 or later. There is no mention of the Tennessee River fort anywhere, except on the People of One Fire.
There was obviously a radical change in the cultural landscape of the Lower Southeast at the end of the 17th century. What was it? . . . or was there a combination of horrific events that wiped out much of the indigenous population of the region? Several wars radically changed the ethnic landscape of Southeastern North America, but it seems that a single epidemic wiped out most of its population.
Beaver Wars (1628-1711) – Between 1628 and 1702, the Iroquois Confederacy conquered most of the Upper Southeast. Their attacks on western Virginia (VA and WV) plus Kentucky and northwestern North Carolina occurred between 1672 and 1711. Surviving indigenous tribes either became vassals of the Iroquois or fled southward. Note that the region where the ancestors of the Cherokees previously lived was captured in 1700. So there was obviously vicious warfare going on in this region in the 1790s.
Rickohocken Slave Raiders (1646-1684) – Between 1646 and 1661, the Rickohockens captured Native American slaves for Governor William Berkeley. Beginning in 1660, the Rickohockens had a contract with the Province of Virginia to capture as many Native American slaves as possible. In 1660, they established a base in present day Augusta, GA to facilitate slave raids in the Lower Southeast.
Known as the Westo to Carolinians, they also had a contract to do the same for South Carolina planters until 1680. The Rickohockens were last mentioned in the archives of the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1684. Their territory in southwestern Virginia was captured by the Iroquois Confederacy in 1700.
Cherokee Slave Raiders (1684?-1752) – Although not known as Charakeys until around 1715, proto-Cherokee and Cherokee villages were the biggest players in the Native American slave trade. The provinces of Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina issued distinct branding irons to the 14 bands that made up this alliance. Cherokee slave raiders ranged from the Great Lakes to southern Florida . . . from the Mississippi River to the Carolina Piedmont.
For unknown reasons, ethnologist James Mooney believed the tall tales of The Swimmer in the late 1880s and labeled the Uchee as the big time slavers and the Cherokees as their victims. Mooney equated the Rickohockens and the Westo to the Uchees. In fact, it was the Uchees, who were primary targets of Cherokee slave raids, since their villages were scattered about the Southeast.
Both the Rickohockens and the Cherokees depopulated a region that was targeted for slave raids and then designated their hunting territory. The village was burned. All adult males, not killed in battle, were tortured to death. Older women and the elderly were either killed or left to starve. Children too young to walk several hundred miles to coastal slave markets were killed or adopted. Older children and teenagers were the prime targets for slave acquisition.
There was one difference among the Cherokee slave raiders. Villages located near the periphery of Cherokee territory were sometimes given the option of joining their alliance. That would protect them from slave raids.
Apalachicola and Muskogee-speaking Slave Raiders (1680?-1717) – Apalachicola and Muskogee slave raiders paddled up and down the Chattahoochee River and along the Gulf Coast to obtain Native American slaves to sell to both the French and British planters. They were far more skilled canoe-builders and mariners than the Cherokees. They are probably who burned Sandtown the second time, but also wiped out what was left of the Gulf Coast tribes of Florida. In 1704, the Apalachicola composed most of a force led by South Carolina militia, which pretty much destroyed the Spanish mission system among the Florida Apalachee (who didn’t call themselves Apalachee).
In a treaty between an alliance of Muskogee-speaking towns and the Colony of Carolina . . . signed at Ocmulgee Mounds in 1705 . . . the Muskogee Creeks bragged that they had played a major role in the development of the colony by repeatedly attacking and destroying the many tribes, living near Carolina plantations, who blocked expansion of the colony.
My family, like many others in eastern Georgia and South Carolina remembered bitterly the attacks by Muskogee Creeks during the 1600s. What we remembered was a three way war between the Muskogees, Upper Creeks and Itsate Creeks. I did not realize that the Muskogees were also Creek Indians until I was in my middle-20s. The Muskogees invaded Itsate territory deep into what is now South Carolina. They were fought to a standstill in a horrific battle, which killed most of the warriors on both sides. After then, a peace treaty was signed at Ocmulgee, which became the forerunner of the Creek Confederacy. However, Upper Creeks attacked the pro-Patriot Creeks and Uchees in Northeast Georgia throughout the American Revolution and on until around 1794.
As a result, Creeks in Northeast Georgia and South Carolina ceased being associated with the Creek Confederacy three decades before the Trail of Tears Period. Most did not go west. They either assimilated with their Anglo-American neighbors or moved to Southwest Georgia and northern Florida.
King William’s War or Nine Years War (1688-1697) – This war was fought between Great Britain and many other European countries against France. Both the European colony of Melilot and the Native capital of Apalache in Northeast Georgia disappeared from maps after 1694, suggesting that both towns were possibly sacked by Native armies, allied with France.
Great Southeastern Smallpox Epidemic of 1696-1700 – This was the first documented regional epidemic in the Southeast. Although text books traditionally tell students that the pathogens, left behind by the De Soto Expedition, wiped out the advanced indigenous peoples in the Southeast, eyewitness accounts suggest otherwise. Southern Alabama seems to have been depopulated by pigs who escaped the De Soto Expedition at Mabila in 1541. However, the coastal areas of the Southeast were depopulated as early 1500 by a smallpox plague that was carried by Native traders from the Yucatan.
On the other hand, the Apalache Kingdom in Northeast Georgia was thriving in 1653, when visited by Richard Briggstock. The High King of Apalache boasted that he could count on over 7,000 warriors within a two days walk from his capital and so had no need to fear the English or the Spanish.
The plague started in Virginia in 1696 and had spread as far south as Charleston by 1697. The director of the anthropology department at the University of Mississippi, Robbie Etheridge, studied the paths taken by this plague. She was the editor of a fascinating book, Mapping the Mississippian Shatter Zone . . . The Colonial Indian Slave Trade and Regional Instability in the American South. The depopulation of the Lower Southeast from smallpox in the 1690s directly followed the routes taken by Native American slave raiders to coastal slave markets. By 1717, when Guillaume de L’Isle had updated his map of North America, many, many towns and even, ethnic groups, had completely disappeared from the landscape. What appeared in their place were the fortified towns of the Creek Confederacy and the many villages of the Cherokee Alliance.
Creek words all over the place, where the Cherokees have lived for 10,000 years?
Both Cherokee and wannabe Cherokee scholars seem totally oblivious to is the fact that all of the Lower Cherokee villages had Itsate Creek names, which can also be found at lower elevations in traditional “Creek” areas of Georgia and South Carolina. The 1200+ Lower Cherokees were not ethnic Cherokees at all. They were Creek refugees, who were the remnants of large towns to the south. They fled to the mountains to avoid the slave raids of the Rickohockens and the depredations of the Muskogee-speaking towns on the Chattahoochee River.
Some ethnic Cherokees moved into the Georgia Mountains after the American Revolution, but there are very few ethnic Cherokee place name in Georgia. Yonah Mountain and Walasi-yi Gap did not switch from their original Creek names to Cherokee words until over a decade after the Cherokees had been forcibly removed to the Indian Territory.
Over time, Lower Cherokee chiefs intermarried with Middle Cherokee and Overhill Cherokee families to cement political relationships. However, you see no Cherokee personal names among the Lower Cherokees. Some Lower Cherokees probably learned one of the more important Cherokee dialects in order to take part in tribal conferences, but one never sees ethnic Cherokee village names in Lower Cherokee territory until the 1790s . . . only Itsate Creek and Uchee words.
So who were the Lower Cherokees, Elate and Northeast Georgia Apalache-Creeks? They were Itsate Creeks, Apalache Creeks, Chickasaws and Uchees, who survived the holocaust,created by the British-sponsored Native American Slave Trade and a horrific small pox plague.
The Lower Cherokees were Itsate Creek and Uchee refugees in eight small villages at the headwaters of the Savannah River, who decided to form an alliance with militarily powerful villages in Northeastern Tennessee, in order to provide some protection from slave raids. These refugees settled on the sites of burned towns, after they were sacked by some other tribe.
The Elate (Foothill People) were Itsate Creek, Uchee and refugee villages from the Georgia Coast, which formed an alliance of 12 villages in order to protect themselves from the Native American slave raids. Many of these people were partially descended from Sephardic Jewish gold miners or other Europeans, who settled in the region during the 1600s. They were neutrals, but found their territory being given to the Cherokee Alliance in the 1785 Treaty of Augusta. They had absolutely no political influence in the Cherokee Tribal Government that formed in 1817. As a result, many eventually moved to the Creek sections of Alabama or assimilated with their white neighbors.
The Northeast Georgia Creeks were a combination of indigenous Itsate Creeks, South Carolina Creek and mixed-blood Indian refugees and Savannah River Uchees. From 1717 until 1786, they were members of the Creek Confederacy. However, when a Tory, Alexander McGillivray, moved the Creek Capital to Pensacola, FL, ceded the Yamacutah Sacred Shrine and then launched attacks on the Pro-Patriot Uchees and Creeks in Northeast Georgia, they ceased to be associated with the Creek Confederacy.
And now you know!
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