Arawaks once occupied much of the Southeastern United States
(Image Above) – In 1909, W. H. Roberts found the stela above in the center of a hilltop stone circle, overlooking the Chattahoochee River in what is now Sweetwater Creek State Park. For almost a century it was on display at the Georgia Department of Archives and History without any serious attempt to study it. Like the equally enigmatic Tugaloo Stone, Georgia archaeologists labeled it “some early form of Cherokee writing.” Okay! The stone was in Creek Indian territory until 1827. The stela is now on display at the Sweetwater Creek Visitors Center. In 2011, with the help of anthropologists from the University of Puerto Rico, I was able to explain the artifact. It is a Taino “guardian spirit,” whose presence warned travelers that they were entering another province or sacred cave or religious shrine. This style of art was typically placed on stone slabs 3-5 tall, which were located on hilltops or beside major trails.
The word, Tennessee, is derived from a Creek word, Taenasi, that means “Descendants of the Taino.” Until around 1785, the Little Tennessee was named the Tanasi River and the Tennessee had an Itza Maya name . . . Callimaco . . . which means “House of the King.” Other place names, derived from Arawak words, include Toa, Towasee, Tallikoa, Salicoa, Saticoa, Stecoah, Citigo, Toccoa, Ohoopee and Annewakee. Several members of the Creek Confederacy were Arawak Provinces in South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama!
Throughout the lower Southeastern United States are many ancient place names, which 20th century academicians, operating in an ethnological vacuum, mislabeled “Creek” or “Cherokee” words. They are neither Muskogean nor Cherokee words, they are Itza Maya, Caribbean Arawak, Middle Arawak or Southern Arawak and Panoan words from Peru. Sixteenth and seventeenth century French explorers knew that the Arawaks were a major indigenous ethnic group in Southeastern North America. The Spanish didn’t care, while Anglo-American scholars assumed that whatever tribes existed at the end of the War of 1812, had always existed and that they was they had always lived in the same location. Nobody in academia seemed interested in the etymologies of Southeastern indigenous words.
I first became aware that there was something terribly wrong with the “official” Pre-British history of the Southeast in 1988. Archaeologists, employed by the National Park Service, found an Adena village and a Hopewell Culture village at my farm on Toms Brook in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. A Confederate artillery redan about 200 feet behind my barn had originally been a Hopewell mound! At the time, I was only vaguely aware of what those words, Adena and Hopewell, meant. After checking out books on the Adena and Hopewell Culture from the Shenandoah County Library, I quickly made an appointment with the Department of Anthropology at the nearby University of Virginia. I showed the professor the artifacts that the NPS had given me. The professor ridiculed me and said that those artifacts could have only come from Ohio. He glanced at the archaeological report from the National Park Service and tossed it back on the table . . . then told me that he didn’t have time for such nonsense.
This is something that you are never told. The oldest “Hopewell” style artifacts were found at a culturally isolated town site at the confluence of the Cipola (Cibola) and Apalachicola Rivers in the Florida Panhandle. However, Cipola or Cibola was originally the name of an indigenous province along the Middle Chattahoochee River between Atlanta and Columbus. The Seven Cities of Cibola were actually in the Georgia Gold Belt, not New Mexico. The founders of the Hopewell Culture came from either the Caribbean Basin or South America!
Once our colonial farm, surveyed by George Washington in 1754, was restored, I dived into a series of fascinating historic preservation projects in northwestern Virginia. Over and over again strange Native American artifacts began coming out of the ground at sites in the Shenandoah River Botttomlands between Strasburg and New Market, VA. They looked like that they belonged in Central Mexico, the Caribbean Basin, or South America. These strange artifacts included ornately painted pottery, stone metates and rectangular slate “cassava” grills.
On the telephone, I couldn’t even get past the secretary at the UVA Department of Anthropology. She was simultaneously speaking to me and a professor standing near her. When she transmitted my plea that I had studied in Mexico, he shouted, “Mexico? . . . laughed and walked away.
It would be another 20 years before I would stumble across a downloadable copy of Sam Kercheval’s landmark (1833) book, A History of the Valley of Virginia. In it, Kercheval specifically stated that early settlers found their farmlands “littered” with Indian artifacts, which looked like they came from Mexico or South America. I also learned that the name of the tribe in that part of the Valley was Petun . . . which is the Tupi (South American) word for tobacco. They were known to the British as the Tobacco Indians. By then, I was long gone from Virginia. The Tupi also lived on the South Atlantic Coast near present day Midway, GA.
The “Timucua” were Arawaks, originally from Venezuela
In 1990, at the same time that I was first struggling to get explanations for strange artifacts in the Shenandoah Valley, the brilliant University of Florida linguist, Julian Granberry, succeeded in producing a glossary and grammar for Timucua, the language family spoken by a group of indigenous provinces in Northeast Florida and the interior of Southeast Georgia. He traced the language to Warao-Arawak, which is spoken today, 2,500 miles to the southeast in Venezuela.
First, we should explain. Timucua is a word coined by early 17th century Spanish invaders of Florida to label a group of provinces, which spoke similar languages. The word is derived from the name of the Tamakoa, a tribe that lived on the lower Altamaha River in Southeast Georgia . . . which then was also considered “La Florida” by the Spanish. Tamakoa is a combination of the Totonac-Itza Maya word for “trade” – tama – with the Middle Arawak word for “people or tribe.”
Ironically, the actual Tamakoa really despised the Spanish and soon moved up the Altamaha and then the Oconee Rivers, into northeast Georgia. By the 1700s, they were members of the Creek Confederacy. Dutch-speaking Jewish gold miners in northeaster Georgia called them the Thamacoggin, while the Anglo-American settlers later called them Thamagua. Their capital was at a 40 feet tall mound on the Middle Oconee River near present day Commerce, GA. The mound still exists in pristine condition, but is little known, even within the county, where it is located. In fact, the original name of Commerce was Thamagua.
Granberry’s professional paper (1990) stated that Timucua included several words, which were “borrowed” from the Creeks. They were definitely not Muskogean words, per se. They were all Itza Maya words, such as tama. Granberry did not realize that many branches of the Creeks were not real Muskogeans such as the Choctaw, but actually immigrants from southern, east-central and northwestern Mexico. Apparently, somewhere along their route from the Orinoco River to the St. Johns River, the “Timucua” had come in direct contact with Chontal Maya traders.
During 2012 through 2014, (The Mayas In Georgia Controversy) references to the connection between Timucua and Warao were removed from Wikipedia. Obviously, if the Warao could travel 2,500 miles to settle in large numbers in Florida and Georgia then the much more-sophisticated Itza Maya could easily take two short hops between Yucatan and Cuba then Cuba and Florida . . . then sail along the coasts of eastern North America. However, the Warao-Timucua articles have now returned.
Ocmulgee’s Acropolis founded by Arawaks around 900 AD
During the largest archaeological excavation ever carried out in the United States, between 1933 and 1939 on a plateau overlooking the Ocmulgee River, archaeologist Arthur Kelly discovered that the original inhabitants lived in super-sized teepee shaped structures about 35 feet in diameter. Shell-tempered, Plain Redware pottery* was found in association with the big houses. There were some smaller, but older round structures, containing Swift Creek pottery, underneath the large round structures, so Kelly assumed that all of these round structures were the founders of the large town of mound builders. Not having the technology of radiocarbon dating, he assumed that the rectangular houses were contemporaneous with the round ones. For the next 75 years the only radiocarbon dates were obtained from mounds, so no archaeologist was aware of the actual chronology of the large round houses.
When archaeologists and art historians from the Midwest and Northeastern United States designed the exhibits at the Ocmulgee National Monument museum, they wanted visitors to think that all advanced indigenous culture came from the NORTH. It was a very subtle form of regional propaganda. They intentionally left out any mention of the large round houses, plus all artifacts associated with Mayan culture. Hundreds of 2-3 feet diameter salt drying pans were found at Ocmulgee, which were clearly a technology straight from the Mayas. Within a few years even the archaeology profession forgot about the missing information.
On a town site atop Browns Mount, over six miles to the south of the Ocmulgee Acropolis, Kelly’s team of archaeologists found a concentration of pottery with owl motifs. Any owl motif pottery found at the acropolis was traced to potters on Browns Mount. A decade later, Tennessee archaeologists, Thomas Lewis and Madeline Kneberg, found very similar owl motif pottery on Hiwassee Island in the Tennessee River. For the next 80 years, no Georgia of Tennessee archaeologist realized that the owl motif pottery was very similar to produced by the Toa Arawaks in the Toa River Valley of Cuba! The main town in that region is Barracoa!
In 2012, as his dissertation project of for the University of Georgia, Daniel Bigman carried out a comprehensive ground radar survey of the Ocmulgee Acropolis, plus obtained some radiocarbon dates for residential structures. He discovered that the Arawak style houses had typified Ocmulgee for over a century. Rectangular, Mesoamerican style houses only began appearing only after around 1000 AD, when Itza Maya style houses were first constructed two miles south at Itzasi (the Lamar Village). Thereafter, more and more rectangular houses were built to the point by the time of the acropolis’s abandonment around 1150 AD, almost all houses were rectangular.
*During the period when the Ocmulgee Acropolis was occupied, shell-tempered, Plain Redware pottery typified the utilitarian ware of both Maya Commoners and the peoples of the Caribbean Basin.
De Soto visits a Peruvian Arawak province in the Florida Panhandle
In the late autumn of 1539, the Hernando de Soto Expedition entered a province, which from then forward would be mistakenly be labeled the Apalachee. One of the first towns, he visited in this province was named Apalachen . . . which is the plural of Apalache in the hybrid Panoan-Itza-Muskogean language that was spoken by the ancestors of the Creek Indians. In fact, the real Apalache were in northeast Georgia.
This fact was pointed out by French ethnologist, Charles de Rochefort, in 1658. De Rochefort stated that the real Apalache HAD established a trading colony among this tribe in Florida, but the Floridians never called themselves Apalachee, until the Spanish repeatedly told them that was their name. De Rochefort stated that the Floridians were Arawaks from Peru. Their capital town was named Anihaica.
Charles de Rochefort didn’t have access to an Ashinanka-Southern Arawak dictionary, but he was somehow correct. Anihaica is an Ashinanka word meaning “Elite – Place of.” In fact, most of the “Florida Apalachee” village names can be translated with an Ashinanka dictionary.
There is more evidence. Until the 20th century, bot Ashinanka men and women wore grass skirts like the Polynesians. The chroniclers of the De Soto Expedition stated that the Florida Apalachee wore grass skirts.
De Soto visits an Arawak province in central Georgia
In early March of 1540, the Hernando de Soto Expedition entered the Province of Toa on the Lower Ocmulgee River in central Georgia. The chroniclers of the expedition stated that the conquistadors immediately noticed that the people of Toa were much more culturally advanced than those in present day Florida. The Toa me also averaged a foot taller than the Spanish. The men wore mustaches and turbans. The women leaders also wore turbans. In contrast to the “Florida Apalachee,” both the men and women wore brightly colored and patterned woven clothing. They worshiped a single, invisible God. In short, they appear in every cultural detail to be standard Creek Indians. However, there is a problem.
The people of Toa established colonies in what is now east central Alabama . . . along the Lower Coosa River and in the vicinity of Birmingham, AL. These colonists were called Toasi or Towasee in English, which means “Offspring of Toa.” In the late 1700s, a glossary of Toasi words was developed. Their language was a mixture Taino Arawak and Itsate Creek . . . but the basic grammar was Arawak!
Stelas, very similar to the Sweetwater Creek Stela, can be found in the Toa Province that once existed around present-day Arecibo, Puerto Rico. The indigenous peoples of the Toa River in Cuba originally lived in large round, teepee shaped houses like those that were built at Ocmulgee National Monument for over a century. There must be a connection.
De Soto on the Coosa River: The chronicles of the De Soto Expedition provided little detail on the villages along the Coosa River. However, they did list the names of these communities. They were not Muskogean or Itza Maya words. Several of the names were the same or similar to villages or towns on the Georgia Coast . . . which had a South American Culture at the time of European Contact.
Did the Arawaks originate in the Lower Southeast?
The biggest surprised comes from the writings of French ethnologist, Charles de Rochefort. His landmark book, Histoire naturelle et morale des îles Antilles de l’Amérique, initially published in 1558, also contains several chapters on the indigenous peoples of the Lower Southeast . . . in particular, northern Georgia. De Rochefort interviewed several of the few surviving Arawaks in the Greater and Lesser Antilles, plus Richard Briggstock, who spent much of 1653 in what is now Georgia.
According to the Taino elders, the Arawaks originated in the Coastal Plain of Georgia and South Carolina. They constructed the shell rings there and probably were responsible for the earliest known pottery in North America. Most of the Arawaks began migrating southward until they eventually reached Peru and the Amazon Basin. They then began migrating back north again. De Rochefort stated that at one time there were many Arawaks in the North Carolina Mountains, but they had been mostly replaced by Apalachete (Itza Maya & Creek Indians). Some Arawaks still remained. That would explain the presence of Arawak town names, such as Satikoa (Colonist People). The first map to show Cherokees, living in the North Carolina Mountains . . . the 1721 Barnwell Map of the Southern Colonies . . . lists some villages near present-day Franklin, NC that have a “O” prefix or suffix, attached to a Muskogean or Itza word. That “o” is Southern Arawak grammar. It means “principal town.”
De Rochefort’s version of the Lower Southeast’s Native American history is both different and far more detailed than taught students today. However, his statements should be taken very seriously. Most of the architectural information that De Rochefort provided about Proto-Creek towns was not discovered by North American archaeologists until the late 20th century. Even though he never himself, visited Southeastern North America, he knew many Itsate Creek words and customs. The picture he has painted of the migrations of the Arawaks is exactly opposite current orthodoxies, but in reality, archaeology backs up much of what he said.
Latest posts by Richard Thornton (see all)
- Several branches of the Seminoles considered themselves, Mayas - March 18, 2019
- How “Maya Myth-busting in the Mountains” got infiltrated by an ignorant “white” peon, who wanted to steal Cherokee sacred sites - March 17, 2019
- Video: The False Gods Looking Down on Teotihuacan - March 16, 2019
- Ole Fashion Creek Family Reunion on the Chattahoochee – June 22, 2019 - March 14, 2019
- Call for Native American musicians – Alpine Helen, GA – June 21, 2019 - March 13, 2019