Close to discovering lost bison skin containing Creek writing system
If you know a scholar in the United Kingdom or perhaps have relatives and friends there, please pass this “Wanted Poster” below to them. The UK National Archives will only answer inquiries from British subjects or legal residents of the UK. This has hampered my search over the past ten years. However, during the past two years I have been periodically sending the document to “friendly” academicians in the UK and have gotten a some responses in recent months. Several scholars vaguely remember seeing something matching its description in a book. The image was either a photograph of the velum or an artist’s copy. It was labeled an “Unidentified Mesoamerican writing system.” Thus, we are now fairly certain that the velum or an artist’s copy of it, still exists.
The search for the Lost Creek Indian Migration Legend
Note: If you know the whereabouts of this important artifact or have seen an image of it, please contact Architect Richard L. Thornton at PeopleOfOneFire@aol.com.
The Creek Migration Legend describes the journey of a branch of the Creek Indians, called the Kashite People, from the Orizaba Volcano in Mexico to the North Georgia Mountains in the United States between 1300 and 1400 AD. They were probably fleeing persecution by the Aztecs or some other Mesoamerican civilization, which practiced human sacrifice. Most of the branches of the Creek Indians had been long established in Georgia for hundreds of years, before the Kashite arrived.
The “Legend” actually consists of two documents of international significance, which were created in 1735. They compose what is essentially, “the Rosetta Stone of North America.” The first is a vellum, made from a bison calf skin, on which was painted in the red and black characters of the Creek Indian writing system, the Migration Legend. It was the only complete, indigenous writing system of the Americas to have been created outside of Mexico, but was forgotten in the turmoil of the mid-1700s.
From 1736 until 1783, this document was framed and on the walls of the Georgia Office of the Colonial Office at Westminster. The vellum may have been returned to General James Edward Oglethorpe after the United States achieved independence. Alternatively, it may be in storage along with other documents that were removed from the Georgia Office. It remains officially “lost.”
The second document, a verbatim English translation of the vellum, by Georgia Colonial Secretary, Thomas Christie, was presumed lost forever, until 2015. With the essential help of HRH Prince Charles and the staff at Clarence House, the translation, along with many other priceless documents, was discovered in the archives of Lambath Palace Library.
The Colony of Georgia was physically established at Savannah on February 12, 1733. In 1735, Chikili, the High King of the Creek Confederacy led a delegation of Native American leaders to Savannah to offer friendship to Governor James Edward Oglethorpe. The first treaty between the Creek Confederacy and the Province of Georgia was signed on June 7, 1735.
Creek and Uchee Indians, living near Savannah, had nothing but praise to say for the leaders of the new colony. The attitudes of Georgia’s colonial leaders were very different than those of the aristocrats in Charleston. These local indigenous peoples facilitated trade between the mountains and the South Atlantic Coast. The Apalache branch of the Creek Confederacy spoke a language that mixed Itza Maya, Panoan (a Peruvian language) and Muskogean.
Chikili presented a vellum made from the skin of a bison calf. On it was the Apalache writing system, which described the journey of the Kashite branch of the Creek Confederacy from Orizaba Volcano in Mexico to the Georgia Mountains. At the time, the writing system was described as not being pictures, but “peculiar red and black characters that no one had seen before.” It was a complete writing system that was able to transmit complex thoughts and tenses. The English translation requires eight printed pages.
High King Chikili read the writing on the bison calf vellum as Creek Indian Princess, Kusaponakesa, translated the words into English. Colonial Secretary Thomas Christie wrote down her English words. Later in the month, Christie and Kusaponakesa, worked over his minutes from the meeting to make sure that his translation was complete. Although the vellum was a personal gift to Governor Oglethorpe, he ordered both the vellum and its translation placed in a sturdy wood crate and shipped to King George II on the next available ship. The ship departed on July 6, 1735. The translation was printed in several London newspapers, because it was proof that there was a tribe in North America that had a writing system.
Governor Oglethorpe sent a cover letter to King George, which was reprinted in the newspapers, “The Creek Indians are different that any natives that we have encountered in North America. It is obvious that they are the descendants of a great civilization. They are as intelligent, or more so, than Englishmen. They should be treated as equals in all matters.”
The vellum was soon sent to the Georgia Office of the Colonial Office by King George II, where it hung on the wall until the end of the American Revolution. Presumably, it was initially stored along with other archives of the office, but may have been returned to its owner, General James Oglethorpe, who lived on an estate in Godalming, Surrey.
Several efforts in the early, middle and late1800s by professors from New England universities to find the vellum, formerly in the Colonial Office, and its English translation, were unsuccessful. Researchers gave up hope of finding it after then.
Discovery of the Migration Legend’s translation
After the broadcast of a one hour program in North America and the UK about Richard Thornton’s discovery of a lost civilization in the mountains of the State of Georgia, he gained considerable credibility in the world of academia. Clarence House sent him a brief congratulatory note. Thornton audaciously responded by sending a detailed personal letter directly to HRH Prince Charles, which asked for his help in finding the Lost Migration Legend. The Prince of Wales has always been extremely interested in historic architecture, archaeology, history and urban planning. Thornton is a Historic Preservation Architect and Urban Planner of partial Creek and Uchee Indian ancestry.
HRH Prince Charles directed his Assistant Private Secretary, the famous Welsh poet, Dr. Grahame Davies, to search for the lost documents. His staff determined that a box of documents about the culture of the Creek Indians in Georgia, which included the English translation of the Creek Migration Legend, was given to the Archbishop of Canterbury by King George II. The King had instructed the Church of England to create a Bible in the Creek writing system and language. This never happened, because Archbishop Wake died a few months after the arrival of the documents.
At this point, Thornton was hampered because of a policy that UK National Archives staff will only communicate with British subjects or residents of the UK. His only option was working online. After two years of searching online in the vast inventory list of documents stored by the UK National archives, Thornton happened to notice a new announcement that its staff had finished cataloguing for the first time the contents of the library at Lambeth Palace, home of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Several more days of searching through the hundreds of thousands of archives there revealed a box containing items from the Province of Georgia and dated either June 7, 1735 or July 6, 1735. The contents’ description mentioned that the documents included a description of the political structure of the Creek Indians and their history. This could well be the Migration Legend, but it made no mention of a political meeting.
Thornton tried unsuccessfully to contact both employees at Lambeth Palace and the Church of England for several months, but could get no response. He then contacted the Archdiocese Office of the Episcopal Church of the United States in Atlanta, Georgia. Being Georgians, the Episcopal Church historians immediately recognized the extreme historical significance of the Lost Migration Legend.
The archbishop telephoned Lambeth Palace and requested its staff’s cooperation with Thornton. In a matter of minutes, Thornton received emails from several employees at the Lambath Palace Library, offering to assist his efforts. It took about four weeks for the staff to locate the 285 year old wooden box, where the Georgia Colonial archives were located.
The Chief Archivist at Lambath Palace opened the box on April 29, 2015 and immediately sent an email to Richard Thornton, stating that the English translation of the Migration Legend had been found after being lost for 285 years, but the bison vellum was not in this box. The vellum would have been far too large to fit in the crate. However, more good news was that several more documents were included in the box, which contained invaluable information on the cultural practices and vocabulary of the members of the Creek Confederacy during the early 1700s. They included migration legends of branches of the Confederacy, other than the Kaushi-te. The branches of the Creek Indian Confederacy came from many parts of the Americas.
The Church of England maintains archives that extend back to the sixth century. However, it does not have the vast staff of curators like the British Museum. The staff at the Lambeth Palace Library have done additional research since the discovery of the box. They think that bison vellum was either given back to General Oglethorpe in 1783 or remains in the vast holdings of the Colonial Office.
Therefore, if the bison vellum is to be found, independent researchers will have to spend considerable time going through the holdings of the Oglethorpe Museum in Godalming, UK National Archives and Colonial Office. Nevertheless, it may be mounted on a wall somewhere in a museum or a private residence . . . in plain sight, but of unknown importance to its owners.
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