Classic example of why Native Americans should fact-check all books about their heritage
The recent People of One Fire article about the fact that the Battle of Taliwa never happened, stirred up quite a hornet’s nest among wannabe’s. To refresh your memory, the first mention about Nancy Ward being the heroine of the Battle of Taliwa was made by a distant white cousin of hers, four years after her death. There was never a Creek town named Taliwa. The Cherokees were catastrophically defeated in 1754 and in the process, the Creeks occupied all lands in Georgia and North Carolina back up to the 1715 boundary.
The myth of Nancy Ward and the Battle of Taliwa began as a few sentences without many of the details of the present version. Each generation of Cherokees exaggerated things a bit more. Smithsonian ethnologist, James Mooney, published a longer version of the myth along with other Cherokee myths in 1891. Obviously, nobody in academia, from Mooney onward fact-checked any part of the myth. A drama now touring the United States, added on many more historical fabrications that the audiences think are real history. The play leaves out the part about Nancy Ward being 1/2 to 3/4 white and one of the earliest Cherokees to own African slaves.
In addition to being called a “sick psychopathic liar,” I received several emails from people claiming to have proof that the Cherokee won all of North Georgia in 1755. All but one, were just quoting statements made by contemporary amateur historians on their personal websites or inaccurate history printed on Chamber of Commerce tourist brochures.
One email was intriguing however. The person had scanned the map above from a book by Dr. Charles Hudson and was correct in saying that the same map appeared in other books by anthropology professors with PhD’s. The author suggested that before making up history, I should go get a PhD in the subject. In fact, by tracing back the chain of citations in book indexes, I found that this map was printed in at least six textbooks, used by anthropology and history students today, plus also appears in several books, professional papers and dissertations going back to the mid-20th century. Apparently, Hudson copied the map from a much earlier book.
It’s fake history
Note that the title of the map at the top of the page says that it is a section of the famous 1755 map published by John Mitchell. However, as you can see immediately above, the “Cherokee proof” map bears no resemblance to John Mitchell’s map. The rivers are not even in the same place. Mitchell included a river east of the Chattahoochee River that does not exist. Note that Mitchell’s map states “Deserted Cherakee Settlements” over a broad swath of Northeast Georgia and western North Carolina, yet late 20th century academicians described the fake map as “a description of Cherokee villages in North Georgia during the early 1700s.”
The author of the fake map included “Long Swamp Village.” There was never a Cherokee village by that name . . . at least according to the research library at New Echota National Historic Landmark. John Swanton created this village name out of thin air in the mid-20th century. In 1935, Luke Tate, the author of the History of Pickens County, Georgia, stated that early settlers assumed that the mounds located at the mouth of Long Swamp Creek were built by the Cherokees and created the name of the village because of the adjacent creek’s name. This Proto-Creek town was actually abandoned around 1600 AD, but by the 1980s Long Swamp Creek had become “one of the most important and oldest Cherokee towns.” No one seemed to think it odd that the Cherokees had another myth, stating that they conquered a Creek town here in 1755.
The name of the person who drew the original version of this bogus map has eluded me, but it is definitely fake history. The most likely author would have been some archaeologist or historian on the payroll of the WPA during the Great Depression. Why Hudson thought the map was drawn by John Mitchell in 1755, I cannot explain.
Always look closely at maps in books and make sure that the information is accurate. Such erroneous maps as above were presumed to be accurate, because no one challenged them. Then generation after generation of academicians assumed that since so many others prior to him or her had published it, the map must be completely reliable.
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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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