Richard Thornton | May 9, 2017 | 23
Access Genealogy publishes the Original Migration Legend of the Creek People
AccessGenealogy.com announced on Friday, September 25, 2015 that it had become the sole source on the web for those wishing to read the original English words of the Migration Legend of the Creek People, which were recorded by Georgia Colonial Secretary, Thomas Christie, on June 7, 1735. The original handwritten documents have been presumed lost for 280 years.
This popular history and genealogical reference site was already ranked Number 1 by Google for those researchers wishing to know more about Migration Legend. However, the only version available until this time was an English translation of excerpts of the document that were published in two German language books during the 1700s.
The translator of the German excerpts was linguist Albert Samuel Gatschet, a self-taught ethnologist from Germany, who was employed by the Smithsonian Institute. After becoming fluent in English, Gatschet became fascinated with the cultures of the North American Indians, particularly the Mound Builders. He traveled across the Atlantic and convinced the Smithsonian that he was the world’s leading expert on the Southeastern Indians.
If this seems odd, Cyrus Thomas, the Smithsonian’s chief archaeologist, who hired Gatschet, had even less credentials. Thomas was a self-taught expert on the insects of Indiana, when hired. He had no formal education in anthropology, archaeology or American Indian history. However, he was a Union veteran and had political connections! Nevertheless, he taught himself what was considered at that time to be scientific methods for archaeology.
Explanation of the Migration Legend
While attending the first diplomatic conference between the Creek Confederacy and the new Province of Georgia, High King Chikili brought with him a buffalo calf velum, on which was painted in red and black abstract characters, the legendary history of the Kaushete (Cusseta People) who were a major division of the Upper Creeks and the last branch of the Creeks to arrive in the Southeast. It was a complete writing system, not pictographs as used by Northern tribes.
While Chikili read the velum, the famous Creek woman, Mary Musgrove translated and Thomas Christie recorded. At the end of the reading of the velum, Chikili gave a speech to the assembled dignitaries of the colony. Realizing that he had in his possession extraordinary documents, Supervising Trustee, James Edward Oglethorpe ordered both the velum and its translation shipped immediately to the King George II of England and the colony’s other trustees.
Although the buffalo velum was mounted on the wall of the Georgia Office at Westminster Palace until at least 1784, the English translation by Christie was quickly misplaced. It has been assumed lost for 280 years since then.
Several Muskogean cultures in the Southeast used copper and brass tools and weapons. Although People of One Fire researchers have identified numerous examples of clustered or individual Itza Maya glyphs on the stone, ceramic, copper and shell art at sites in North Georgia, Caucasian anthropologists have still refused to label Muskogean culture, a civilization . . . on the grounds that “the ancestors of the Creeks, Seminoles, Miccosukees, Koasatis and Alabamas were illiterate.”
In addition to providing extremely valuable information on the history of the Muskogean peoples, the recently discovered documents provide absolute proof with multiple witnesses that the Muskogeans were indeed literate. The problem is that they wrote on leather and to date, no leather codices have been found. This is probably because of the damp, acidic soil of the Southeast and the violent chaos that accompanied the European occupation of the region.
Optional versions for readers
After the documents were retrieved by a professional archivist in England on April 28, 2015, the Archbishop of Canterbury paid for having them being photographed with a special high resolution digital camera that does not damage ancient artifacts. However, these images, although enhanced, would be almost illegible to laymen because Christie wrote on both sides of the paper and the ink had run through the paper.
The digital images were electronically transmitted to the Apalache Foundation, where they were enhanced again by a powerful business computer with special software previously used for enhancing ancient maps and architectural drawings. The macro-enhanced images then went thought a painstaking transcription process.
Readers of the new web pages on Access Genealogy will have several options. They may read the actual words recorded by Thomas Christie as Mary Musgrove, translated the Creek words of the High King Chikili. Albert Gatschet’s version is provided so the reader can see the differences. The original words were also translated into modern English. For example, Mary Musgrove used the word “hill” when actually the velum was describing a high mountain. The final option is an annotated version of the modern translation, which links descriptions in the Migration Legend to actual geographical places in Mexico and the Southeastern United States.
There is no cost involved with doing research on Access Genealogy. To read the original Migration Legend, plus a modern translation and annotations, click this link:
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Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer-builder. He is today considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the Southeastern Indians. However, that was not always the case. While at Georgia Tech Richard was the first winner of the Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture and culture in Mexico under the auspices of the Institutio Nacional de Antropoligia e Historia. Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, the famous archaeologist and director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, was his fellowship coordinator. For decades afterward, he lectured at universities and professional societies around the Southeast on Mesoamerican architecture, while knowing very little about his own Creek heritage. Then he was hired to carry out projects for the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The rest is history.Richard is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the KVWETV (Coweta) Creek Tribe and a member of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe. In 2009 he was the architect for Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial at Council Oak Park in Tulsa. He is the president of the Apalache Foundation, which is sponsoring research into the advanced indigenous societies of the Lower Southeast.
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