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Canciones de Satipo . . . How we found the South American connection

Mama always said, “Life is like a box of chocolates.  A chain of unpredictable events led to the heretofore unthinkable realization that much of what everyone assumed was indigenous Muskogean traditions actually came from thousands of miles away in Peru.

That ultimately led to the realization that what Oklahoma Creeks, Uchees and Seminoles think is their traditional music and dancing is nothing but ducks waddling in a row.  These geriatric parades on the stomp grounds were designed to be approved by missionaries sent to Oklahoma to make the Natives as lifeless, miserable and bored as their white masters.

You are going to see some real dancing at the end of this article. 

We begin in 2005.  The dean of Florida archaeologists, Jerald T. Millanich wrote an essay entitled “The Devil in the Details” in Archaeology Magazine.  It was Millanich’s critique of the famous water colors of Jacque Le Moyne,  a survivor of Fort Caroline.

Millinich said that the Indians portrayed in the paintings were not dressed like Florida Indians.  They looked like South American Indians.  They carried Amazonian war clubs.  We call them Creek war clubs.  He said that it was completely implausible that Florida Indians would dance around a nautilus shell from the Pacific Ocean.  Actually, they were the shells of giant sea snails, which are quite common off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia.  The Native peoples north of Florida used them as horns.  Millinich closed by saying that he doubted that Le Moyne ever saw a Florida Indian.

Le Moyne probably never did see a Florida Indian, because Fort Caroline was in Georgia and those were typical Natives of the Georgia Coastal Plain.  However, the comparison to South American Indians was a hint that everybody, myself included, missed.

The Apalache Chronicles

In late spring of 2013,  Marilyn Rae contacted me, when she found a 355 year old book in the Brown University Library that seemed to describe the Track Rock Terrace Complex.  It was written by French ethnologist, Charles de Rochefort.   It had been collecting dust for many decades because of being filed in the Fantasy and Utopia bin. Why everyone knew that there were no Native American towns, built of stone in Georgia!  It also portrayed Georgia’s Apalache as having many cultural traditions, typical of South America, and not of the Creeks in the early 1800s.  That was ludicrous

ApalchePeople-1653Marilyn and I found enough collaborated details in De Rochefort’s book to write a commentary on it . . . The Apalache Chronicles.  However, there were two things that really bothered me at the time.   Both the Apalache men and women were portrayed, wearing long, loosing fitting choir robes.  Secondly, they were show wearing conical straw hats, woven from split cane.   I figured, surely some anthropologist or historian somewhere would have long ago mentioned these strange outfits.  I suspected that they were the product of the Dutch engraver’s fertile imagination.


Then one day, I was trying to figure out what happened to the town of Satipo, which was near Fort Caroline.  It was the capital of the powerful Sati-le People on the Satilla River in Georgia.  Satipo and its satellite village, Eufaula, were gone when the Spanish began building missions on the Georgia Coast.  Eufaula moved to SE Alabama.  Did Satipo move there too?   I googled “Satipo.”

There were numerous websites about Satipo, but almost all were in Spanish.  “What the heck?”  It was an ancient provincial capital in eastern Peru that predated the Spanish Conquest.

A Youtube URL caught my eye.  It was “Naysha-Satipo.”   The Spanish citation said that Naysha Mazimara was a talented Conibo Indian lass in Satipo, who was promoting her people’s traditional songs by singing them in Spanish.  Sounded interesting, but irrelevant to my search for a Satipo in Alabama.   I clicked the link anyway.  Pay close attention to the background in the opening scenes of the song.

It is recommended that you expand both videos below to full screen so you can enjoy their full educational value.

Oh My Gosh!   They still wear those strange Apalache outfits in Satipo, Peru to this day.  There is a whole chunk of Southeastern history that has been completely missed by hundreds of thousands of academicians, who have come and gone over the past 200 years.

A Conibo couple in Satipo Province during the 1700s.

A Conibo couple in Satipo Province during the 1700s.  This drawing was intended to mock the Natives in Peru.  Undoubtedly,  the burdens carried by the woman are exaggerations.

 So many days were spent on the Spanish language websites of eastern Peru that Google thought I was a Latin American, thus only sent me Spanish language ads for a month.   EVERYTHING about the Creeks and Seminoles, which distinguished them from other Muskogean tribes, and North American tribes in general, was there in Eastern Peru . . . the Sacred Black Drink, the Creek Square, the Creek long shirts, the ribbon dresses, the turbans, the pill box shaped hats that Seminole mikkos and keepers wear . . . and the especially the music and dances.

This is something else that had bothered me for a long time.  All the eyewitness accounts, both painted and verbal, describe the music of the Creek’s ancestors as being rapid, vivacious and syncopated.  Syncopated can best be understood to those who are not drummers as being like cumbia music. Well, you are about to see what I mean.

French and Spanish explorers said that the ancestors of the Creeks and Seminoles played at least 32 different musical instruments and they played real music,  not the boring boom, boom, boom, hey-ya, hey-ya stuff you see in Oklahoma and pow wow’s.   They had reed instruments that varied in tone from a piccolo to a bassoon.  They had pan pipes made from river cane that were identical to those in Peru.  They had many types of percussion instruments, but the two main drums looked like a conga drum and bongos.  The big Plains Indian drums that you see now in pow-wows was definitely NOT a major player in the Southeastern cultures.

And the dancing?   The explorers lusted in their hearts like Jimmy Carter, while the Catholic friars and Protestant missionaries were appalled by what they viewed as promiscuous dances to honor the devil.  The real dancing was the first thing that the white man destroyed, when he broke the spirit of the people.

Muskogees, Uchees, Alabamas, Seminoles, Chickasaws, Choctaws, Miccosukees, Koasatis and Chitimachas . . . you are about to see your real heritage.   You would not have any trouble getting the young people to be interested in their heritage, if you threw dances like this one.

By the way,  I can show you paintings by such people as Jacques Le Moyne, that exactly capture the dance routines that you are about to see.  In fact, I have seen several paintings from the Colonial Period that portray young Muskogean women, dancing with a cup.

Didn’t you feel sorry for those ugly little Shipibo gals?  Poor things.  They probably can’t even get a date, much less have hope of finding a husband someday.  NOT!   Seriously, you probably noticed that the Shipibo and Conibo do not resemble the Native Peoples in the Andes to the west of them, but could easily past for Muskogeans.

It is not quite clear from the video, but traditional Shipibo and Conibo villages have squares with the arrangement of buildings being very similar to Apalachicola-Creek squares of the 1700s.   There are covered viewing stands on two sides.  The orata’s (chief’s) house is on one end and the community hall is on the other.

Okay, you guys can watch this video again . . . for its educational value.

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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.



    Some say Carter got bent way outta shape after losing his first gubernatorial race, but I never suspected him of lusting after young ladies…

  2. Oh yes, he lusted, but did not actualize his lusts. He admitted that openly. Roselyn was a beautiful woman when he and Jimmy were younger. Of course, both of them are now in their 90s, but still make a handsome couple. Unfortunately, Chip, his youngest son, both lusted and actualized. He blew it. His first wife, Karen, is a beautiful person, inside and out. I had a crush on her, but she chose Chip. The marriage only lasted a few years.


    Definitely more interesting than the shuffling geriatric stomp dance.


    This is too good, the young lady looks, actions, moves and dances just like my daughter. The body shape and dramatic moves, thank you for that insite.


    Richard, Pan pipes (made of silver) are noted to have been traded in the trade network of the A-mer-ica’s starting around 2-300’s AD. They are exactly like the pan pipes from long ago in places like the Mediterranean. Were, the “Ah-par-cu-sa-te” of Georgia were smelting silver for pipes?

  6. Copper pan pipes have been found in Woodland and Mississippian Period burial mounds in Georgia. I did not know the Peruvian name for the mega-pan pipes that are made out of the South American cousin of river cane. I think you know the instrument that I was talking about. It became well known several decades ago when the Peruvian song, “El Condor Pasa” was made a big rock hit by Simon and Garfunkel. I will post a video that shows that instrument being played.

    • According to Youtube, you watched the video of the Shipibo dancers 43 times. Beat me by two!


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