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Classic example of why Native Americans should fact-check all books about their heritage

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.

The rivers on the Mitchell map are somewhat “off,” but the fake map above appears to be a 20th century map with hand-lettered additions.

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.

4 Comments

  1. sqdncertrucker@windstream.net'

    I cannot comment on northwest GA but you should note the Col. Chicken visited the Nacoochee Valley in 1755 and two CHEROKEE villages were there. How far west the Cherokees occupied is not known by me. By 1775 a “Long Swamp Village” was occupied by Cherokees. And by 1800 the entire northwest GA area was occupied by Cherokees. I have serious concern as to your contention that northwest GA was occupied by Creek Federation tribe in 1755.

    Reply
    • There is a North Carolina historic marker on the NC-GA line south of Franklin, NC describing the two battles of Itsate Pass during the first Anglo-Cherokee War. It states that Itstate (Echete in frontier English) was the southern boundary of the Cherokee Nation.

      In 1776, William Bartram visited a Cherokee village in present day Otto, NC not to far from that sign. Bartram stated in his book that he entered the Creek Nation about 20 miles south of that Cherokee village.

      The 1780 Map of the Province of Georgia, prepared by Royal Engineers under Lord Cornwallis labeled all land west of the headwaters of the Chattahoochee and south of Yonah Mountain as “The Country of the Creek Indians.”

      Around 1778 Chief Sour Mush was expelled from the Cherokee Nation, because he refused to go along with the peace treaty with the Continental Congress. At the time, the Upper Creeks were allied with what became known as the Chickamauga Cherokees, but then were just considered Indian allies of the British. The Upper Creeks let Sour Mush settle his 50 member band at a site near Nelson, GA near the headwaters of Long Swamp Creek. When Augusta fell, Major Thomas Waters moved his Tory Rangers to Sour Mush’s camp. The village was attacked on Oct. 22, 1783 by combined SC and GA militia under Andrew Pickens and Elijah Clarke. Sour Mush surrendered and then a couple of days later, Pickens and his soldiers met the 12 chiefs of the Elate (Foothill People in Creek) at Salacoa, where a formal land cession treaty was signed. Then in December, the Elate signed another treaty at Hopewell Plantation which set the southern boundary of the Cherokee Nation at the North Carolina – Georgia Line. The Treaty of Hopewell was protested by the Creeks because the Elate had only ceded Creek lands that they did not own. Congress agreed and rejected the treaty. In the 1785 Treaty, Pickens and some Georgia agents secretly gave NW Georgia to the Cherokees for hunting lands. The agents did not tell Congress that no Creek representatives were present. The Creeks did not find out about their land being given to the Cherokees until 1790. At that point they declared war on the State of Georgia.

      Reply
  2. fredandfran@outlook.com'

    Richard, where may I find further information on Nancy WARD and her African slaves? It is believed by many of my paternal lineage that Kizzie/keziah NEWMAN was descended from Nancy.

    Thanks.

    Reply
    • It was in a standard biography of her, by a non-Cherokee source. Cherokee History websites don’t mention that she was more white than Indian and that she promoted slavery among the Cherokees as a means of the Cherokees increasing their wealth and being more accepted by white Southerners.

      Reply

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