Select Page

Chiaha . . . how THAT myth was created by the De Soto profs

Chiaha . . . how THAT myth was created by the De Soto profs

At exactly the same time that the Joara Myth was created, another one got started by the same group of professors behaving badly.  Now most references tell you that after De Soto toured the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, he paddled downstream in his Mad River Voyager Canoe to Zimmerman Island, Tennessee, which the reference will tell you was the site of Chiaha. 

Wikipedia will then tell you that Chiaha means “highlanders” in Creek.   By that time, it’s three strikes and Wikipedia (and academia) are OUT!

“Highlanders” in Creek is “Hilwalsi”.  We will tell you the real meaning of Chiaha later on.  It will blow your mind.

Zimmerman Island, Tennessee (Archaeological Site 46JE 2) is at the lower end of the French Broad River just downstream from where it passes through a gorge and the North Carolina State Line. Downstream it enters the Tennessee River Flood Plain.   It did have a mound, which was excavated in 1942.  According to North Carolina state archaeologists, who I worked with in Asheville, the island was abandoned around 1400-1500 AD, at the same time all the other towns in the Lower French Broad River Valley were abandoned.

Please read the Joara article first so you will understand how the professors used highway maps to chart the path of De Soto.   Something I didn’t tell you in that article was this . . .  I found a professional paper online, which was written by one of the De Soto Team professors.  He stated that they did not use the eyewitness account of Captain Juan Pardo’s expeditions because . . . and I quote . . . the author, Juan dela Bandera was “geographically confused.” The reason that Don Juan was “geographically confused” was that in 1568, he did not describe the same routes for his commander, Juan Pardo, that the late 20th century professors decided in advance were the routes for Captain  Pardo.  OMG!  And you wonder why have so much contempt for these academicians?

We know more about Chiaha than any other Pre-European Conquest town visited by the Spanish.  The reason is that De Soto went there and Pardo went there twice.  Between the two of them, we have lots of info in order to locate the town.  Here it is:

  1.  Chiaha and Kofitvchiki (Cofitachequi if you are indigenous language challenged) were the only two towns definitely visited by both De Soto and Pardo.
  2.  Chiaha was described as a town on a long island in the high mountains.   Three mountain rivers came together with the main river just upstream from this island.   Downstream the main river entered a deep gorge. At the other end of the gorge were the towns of Tali and Saticoa.
  3. Upstream from Chiaha were small villages named Conesagua and Conestee.   *They are both Itsate Creek words, but the good professors described them as “ancient Cherokees words, whose meanings have been lost.
  4.   The De Soto Chroniclers stated that all along the rivers leading to Chiaha were cultivated fields of salvia.
  5.  The DeSoto Chroniclers stated that Chiaha was the only province that they visited in which the people raised domestic honey bees and ate honey.*
  6.  Shortly after leaving Chiaha and heading south back to Santa Elena,   Juan Pardo’s company entered a deep gorge where they found silver ore.

*Academicians have always ignored this  statement because it is well known fact that the Mayas were the only people in the Americas to domesticate an indigenous honey bee.   If there were honey bees in the Southern Appalachians then that means there were Mayas in the Southern Appalachians and therefore, the good professors would have to start looking for tasty crow recipes after being so obnoxious in 2012.

Maya facts

  1.  The homeland of the Itza Mayas was Chiapas.  Chiapas means “Place of the Salvia”  in Itza Maya.
  2.  The Spanish said that the people of Chiaha cultivated salvia along the mountain rivers.
  3. In Itza Maya,  Chiaha means “Salvia River.”   Hernando de Soto and Juan Pardo made contact with descendants of Itza Maya immigrants.
  4. Case closed.
View of the Little Tennessee River Gorge from my February campsite in the Smokies. Ah the perks of being homeless!

View of the Little Tennessee River Gorge from my February 2010 campsite in the Smokies.  Yes, it was cold as a witche’s  ………. .   There was snow on the ground most of the time.

Chiaha facts

  1.  There are no mountain rivers coming together upstream from Zimmerman Island.
  2.  There is no deep gorge downstream from Zimmerman Island.  It was flood plain, but now is the TVA’s Lake Douglas.
  3.  Tali was definitely on the Little Tennessee River.  Saticoa was near the confluence of the Little Tennessee River and Citigo Creek,
  4.  John Herbert’s 1725 Map of South Carolina show villages named Conesagua and Conestee on the Little Tennessee River, downstream from Franklin, NC and upstream from Fontana Lake.
  5.  Upstream from a large island in Bryson City, NC the Oconalufetee, Tuckasegee and Nantahala Rivers join the Little Tennessee River.
  6. Downstream from that island, the Little Tennessee River enters a deep gorge that continues all the way into Tennessee.
  7. Nantahala Gorge is immediately south of the island in Bryson City.   There are silver ore deposits in the gorge and evidence of 16th or 17th century Spanish (or Sephardic) silver mines.
  8.  Also downstream in Graham County, NC are the Cheoah Mountains and the Cheoah River.  A retired Florida archaeologist found many 16th century Spanish artifacts near the confluence of the Cheoah and Little Tennessee Rivers.  He thinks that this was the site of Pardo’s fort, but it may have been a De Soto campsite.

During the winter of 2010, Roger Kennedy was sending me checks to live on while I camped out in the Smokies and Nantahala Mountains in search of De Soto’s and Pardo’s actual route.   We were going to co-write a book on the subject. Since he was a highly respected historian, past director of the National Museum of American History and past director of the National Park Service, such a book would have permanently shut up the professors behaving badly.

Unfortunately, just about the same time that I stumbled upon the Track Rock ruins, Roger’s cancer came back suddenly with a vengeance and he died on September 30, 2011.  So the observations that  I recorded while in the North Carolina and Tennessee Mountains remain just that.   At the present time,  I don’t have the prestige to take on all the references in the world.

My three herd dogs picking up the scent of either Hernando de Soto or Juan Pardo in the Little Tennessee Gorge. Actually, they were elk droppings.

February 2010 – My three herd dogs picking up the scent of either Hernando de Soto or Juan Pardo in the Little Tennessee Gorge. Actually, they were elk droppings.  All the locals were astonished that a Jawja boy was a skilled cross-country skier.  Actually, I was taught in Scandinavia by Scandinavians.  Not a shabby way to track down Srs.  De Soto and Pardo.




The following two tabs change content below.
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.



    Thank you Richard.


    Conestee may come from Kones te’ee meaning ‘Dance people build’,
    kone ‘dance’
    -es ‘people’
    te’ee ‘make, do, act, prepare, build’.

    • Konas was a province in NE Georgia, but was also a Pre-Hispanic province in Peru. Te is the Itza Maya, Itstate Creek and Koasati suffix for “People.”


        konas is not kones
        te is not tee
        No substituting of letters allowed! First rule.

        • Konestee and Conasaugua are Hispanized spellings of Creek words as they were originally pronounced. For example, Muskogee is actually Mvskoke. Etowah was orignally Etula. One sees Cones, Conas and Conos in various European accounts of place names in that region. The Creek spelling is Konaste and Kanasawa.

          Actually the rule is that you absolutely must substitute letters to get to the original pronunciation.


    Is there any connection to Mt. Cheaha in Alabama?

    • Hey Clara

      I think that some of the Chiaha people moved to Alabama after they are driven out of Western North Carolina. Others went farther south to SW Georgia and eventually to Florida where they became Seminoles. The Chiaha People in Alabama stayed in the Creek Confederacy. The whites often called them Chehaw.

      Thanks for writing and have a blessed Easter.


    Did they ever release radio carbon dates at Zimmer?

    • No, radiocarbon dating did not exist when the work was done. It doesn’t matter really. there are not three rivers entering the French Broad just upstream from Zimmerman Island and there is not a canyon downstream.


        I dont mean to be condisending, but that isn’t true.. The Pigeon river, French Broad, and the Nahlichucky river, all mountain rivers from north carolina that come together right upstream upstream from Zimmerman island. There is a huge gorge just down stream from it, past the flooded lake and dam in Sevierville, and I have personally seen silver found there.. I’m not saying I can prove it was chiaha, but don’t lie to prove its not. I don’t believe you’ve even seen this area and a guess is just that, a guess, not proof. Also, did not the yuchi language have a meaning for the word chiaha?


          Sheepwalk bluff, is the name of gorge, its right where the French Broad meets highway 66 bridge. It shows up on Google earth, along with everything I’ve told you of. I won’t be committing again, I’m sorry if I’ve been rude or annoying, but the truth is the truth.


          Why not explore the site when the water of Douglas lake is low n the winter? I have found pot shards from the woodland period on the lake and loads of crystals and semi precious stones near the dam. I spend a lot of time on the lake canoeing also. Wouldn’t another excavation be helpful? Can we examine the evidence from the 1940 excavation that UT has? UT professors dated my pot shards as woodland. Ashely is correct that three rivers do met just above the site and it. Fits the description of being in the middle of the river with branches on either side. More data and better science is what is needed to rules it out . Thanks for all your work.


    Then how do you know what the site dates to? Or anyone for that matter?


    Ain’t it funny how it’s okay for Cherokee to interpret Tali as Tellico and Tahlequah or Chalaqua as Talagi and therefore Cherokee? Yet Kones cannot be read as a mispelling of Konas and Itse as Itza . . .

    I think I smell a smell a double standard.

    • Well, you see Conos/Conas/Canas spelled several ways in the European archives, but that is because the European speakers were trying to interpret sounds from Native Americans that were not quite the same as European speech phonetics.


    Will you contact me please I have more info for you about this topic…

    • Christopher, you can reach us at


    I love reading these articles. I am a descendent of salude (Saluda people) from Saluda sc, where during the 1898 sc constitution my great grandparents with men from here named the county after their ancestors . They did this in 1896 to create a county that would be made up of people that could elect their own sheriff court etc. to hide the fact that they were all mixed peoples from the new race laws being passed in SC. Primarily lead by men from Old Edgefield(which Saluda was cut off from) I know the de Soto commission is wrong and what the scientist say is flat wrong most of the time. We have over 10 mounds here in the area and one extremely large mound site called the Saluda old town site. Artifacts all date from the late Mississippian period and we have mines gold and ruby silver ore mines. One is in my back yard on the little Saluda river (which on George hunters map is called salude rio, a spanish word) . However whenever you hear about coftiachique they never mention Saluda or it’s mound site as this would disprove their “theory” that talemico is in Camden. The won’t even mention it in papers because my cousin got scientist to come in 1972 to add it to the historic register and they found ample artifacts to date it from the archaic period to late Mississippian. We descendants know full well that de Soto arrived at the mounds of hiyama (now under lake Murray near Columbia SC) then went to talemico and the main towns of coftiachique which is at Saluda old town site. The mounds in Camden South Carolina are ilapi or issawi (branch in the river)!town. De Soto then went up the broad river to our other villages and then over to chiaha near morganton and franklin nc. Just like Saluda old town site here. All the scientist try to say those mounds are Cherokee . They are not . They belong to chalaque (Language the creeks don’t know) and xualla(sa lou ah dee). The creek interpreters Gave the spanish words for towns of people whom they didn’t understand their speech.

    • Saluda is the Europeanization of the Xuale-te or Buzzard People. They were a hybrid Shawnee-Itza Maya culture, mainly concentrated in North-Central West Virginia. Ilape was a Creek province. Their descendants are the Hillabee Creeks.


Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Subscribe to POOF via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this website and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 825 other subscribers

The Information World is changing!

People of One Fire needs your help to evolve with it.

We are now celebrating the 11th year of the People of One Fire. In that time, we have seen a radical change in the way people receive information. The magazine industry has almost died. Printed newspapers are on life support. Ezines, such as POOF, replaced printed books as the primary means to present new knowledge. Now the media is shifting to videos, animated films of ancient towns, Youtube and three dimensional holograph images.

During the past six years, a privately owned business has generously subsidized my research as I virtually traveled along the coast lines and rivers of the Southeast. That will end in December 2017. I desperately need to find a means to keep our research self-supporting with advertising from a broader range of viewers. Creation of animated architectural history films for POOF and a People of One Fire Youtube Channel appears to be the way. To do this I will need to acquire state-of-art software and video hardware, which I can not afford with my very limited income. Several of you know personally that I live a very modest lifestyle. If you can help with this endeavor, it will be greatly appreciated.

Support Us!

Richard Thornton . . . the truth is out there somewhere!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Share this post with your friends!