Cuba Was Not the Cultural Greenhouse of Eastern North America
Cuba Was Not the Cultural Greenhouse of Eastern North America
. . . but Caribbean Peoples did spread deep into southeastern parts of the continent
After leaving Fort Caroline National Memorial and the simplistic ethnic labeling of the South Atlantic Coast in smoldering ruins, the Muskogean Horde is now ravaging the countryside of South Florida with its harsh regimen that imposes precise three dimensional measurement, deductive reasoning and regional analysis on fossilized descriptions of Pre-European history, as maintained in the past few decades by Southeastern academicians.
The lives of South Florida’s archaeologists are being spared, however. Just to work on a Native American town site in southern Florida has been the kiss of death for many fine careers. Their work is never published in mainstream professional journals. The reason is that the knowledge gained from studying these town sites around Lake Okeechobee and the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River are a grave threat to the orthodox descriptions of Native American history. The results of this regional analysis will be published later this fall in Access Genealogy. Enticing tidbits are being fed to you in Native American Brainfood.
Remember those high school history texts or Introduction to Anthropology courses in college that said that corn, squash, bean and tobacco seeds somehow floated across the Gulf of Mexico or Caribbean Sea to Cuba? They sprouted in Cuba for a few hundred years then their seeds floated again up to the mouth of the Mississippi, but did not sprout till they swam pass the Mason-Dixon Line and arrived safely at Cahokia, Illinois. Swimming along side the bean seeds were architectural drawings and specifications for building mounds and planning towns.
The belief that agriculture somehow was transmitted from Cuba to Southeastern North America still exists. It was casually stated as fact by a University of Florida anthropology professor in a paper, he published in April of 2014. The paper was an attack on the vague speculations by the late archaeologist, William Sears, which stated that the advanced cultures around Lake Okeechobee, Florida came from South America. Of course, that is why Lake Okeechobee was originally named Maya-imi (Maya Water) and the ethnic group north of there was the Maya-koa (Maya People in several South American and Caribbean languages.)
No . . . wait a minute . . . the Mayas lived in northern Central America. We have a problem here, Houston.
The influx of Cuban refugees and Latin American immigrants into southeastern Florida over the past 60 years has radically changed the region’s cultural characteristics. The change had infused new energy into a region that traditionally had the intellectual dynamism of a retirement community, composed of suburban New Jersey shopkeepers and auto salesmen.
All of Florida’s indigenous tribes are extinct, except for the one that the Spanish called Apalachee. Relatively few Florida Apalachee survive. However, my Seminole scholar friends insist that remnants of the South Florida tribes survived deep within the heart of the peninsula and were absorbed by the Muskogeans, who settled there. The Seminole tradition is logical because the Seminoles sure did learn how to grow tropical fruits and vegetables masterfully in a short time span.
Nevertheless, having an extinct people make the artifacts that one is studying is a distinct advantage for fabricating simplistic interpretations. For over a century, North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia archaeologists pretended that the Yuchi, Shawnee, Itza Maya, Highland Apalache, Muskogeans and Peruvians, who lived in the Southern Appalachians and Upper Piedmont, never existed. That attitude has come to haunt the profession, after three generations of Creek Indians being allowed to attend public schools in Georgia. Shucks, before then we’uns couldn’t even spell Archytek and now I are one!
Recognizing that Cubano-Latino votes represent a game-changer in major elections, Florida bureaucrats and academicians have subtly changed their interpretations of the past to, in their minds, appeal to new voters from the south. Just as North Carolina anthropologists have re-created the Cherokees into a master race of genetically pure heritage, who have dwelled around the shadows of Harrah’s Cherokee Casino for 10,000 years, we see Florida academicians creating mythical super-tribes in the northern and southern part of the peninsula. It simplifies explaining the past to the ignorant masses.
In the north, the super-group is the Timucuans. No indigenous people ever called themselves Timucua, but the Spanish derived the name from a tribe on Georgia’s Altamaha River, which ended up in northeast Georgia and joined the Creek Confederacy.
In the southern part of Florida, the new super group is called the Arawaks. Florida anthropologists don’t have a clue what languages, most of these southern peninsula peoples spoke and really, know very little about their cultures. So, how can they be sure that all of these ethnic groups are Arawak? There is no way . . . and certainly not much similarity between the vast towns in the Lake Okeechobee region and the Arawak villages of Cuba and Puerto Rico.
Please let me briefly insert a different train of thought here. There is linguistic proof of an Arawak or Carib presence in Alabama, Georgia and western North Carolina – but not in Florida. A Carib type shrine was found on a hill near Sweetwater Creek State Park and the Chattahoochee River in SW Metro Atlanta. The Maybouya (demon) carved on the stone stela at the shrine is identical to those seen in caves around Arecibo, Puerto Rico, which at the time of the Spanish Conquest was the province of Toa.
In the spring of 1540, Hernando de Soto visited the Toa Province on the Lower Ocmulgee River in Georgia. UGA academicians, who are reading a bootleg copy of this newsletter may now shout, Hay caca! I never thought about that! The Itsate Creeks called that province, Toasi, which means “Offspring of Toa.” Muskogee speakers called that province and another one, speaking the same language, in Central Alabama, Towasee. A glossary of the Towasee language, as spoken in the 1700s, still survives. It is a mixture of Arawak and Muskogean words. The Cahaba River in Central Alabama has the same name as the Arawak word for tobacco. Towasee towns once lined the Cahaba River.
Inexplicably, Alabama references tell you that Cahaba is the Anglicization of two Choctaw words meaning “water above.” Say what-t-t-t? The Choctaw, Chickasaw, Alabama and Itsate Creek word for water is “oka.”
However, down in Florida, we have something else happening. Taking a cue from North Carolina anthropologists, Cherokee bureaucrats and wannabe Cherokees, who credit the Cherokees for inventing corn, beans, squash, sunflowers, tobacco, the Stomp Dance, Indian mounds, Swift Creek pottery, gunpowder, pocket calculators, windshield wipers, space travel, Spandex and the US Constitution, the Caribbean Arawaks are being credited as creating the same things in the Caribbean and introducing them to the mainland of North America from their bases in Cuba.
Apparently, this new history is supposed to flatter Cuban-Americans and make them vote for the incumbents. Web sites are replicating over the internet that make such statements as, “Lake Okeechobee, Great Center of Arawak Civilization in South Florida.” The 37 feet diameter Miami Circle is being called “a massive stone monument built by a 3000 year old, advanced civilization in South Florida.”
Ahora vamos a Cuba por los hechos
We now go to Cuba for the facts.
I decided to check the facts rather than believing the professor at the University of Florida. I inserted into my CD player an illegal, Cuban manufactured, CD of salsa music that my sister sent me from Canada, and traveled to Cuba over the internet. Here are the facts:
The aboriginal people of Cuba are believed to be the Guanahatabey . They are extinct now. They had been pushed to the western interior of Cuba by the Arawak invaders, by the time the Spanish invaded. The Guanahatabey were primitive hunters and gatherers. Their description sounds exactly like the Chiliki, encountered by Hernando de Soto in Upstate South Carolina.
Many anthropologists suspect that the Guanahatabey were also the aboriginal people of the Southeast. Between 20,000 BC and 6,000 BC, one could almost walk between the Florida Peninsula and Cuba. It was still a relative short canoe journey until around 3,500 BC. Up until the early 1800s, the channel between Cuba and SW Florida was regularly traversed by Calusa trade canoes and later, Seminole trade canoes.
There was pottery being produced in South Florida.3200 years before the earliest pottery in Cuba. The oldest known pottery in Cuba dates from around 800 AD. American anthropological texts say it was introduced by Taino Arawaks, who entered the island from the eastern end near Santiago. Cuban archaeologists say that the oldest pottery is in SW Cuba – the region nearest the Yucatan Peninsula.
There was very little agriculture in Cuba before 800 AD. Maize pollen (Indian corn) has been found in association with the oldest pottery. However, the Arawaks grew very little corn, beans and squash, except in the highlands of Puerto Rico and Cuba. Their staple crop was cassava. They did grow a small, sweet squash on vines. The same crop was grown by the Calusas in SW Florida.
I am not convinced that the Native provinces in the interior of Cuba were really Arawaks. The indigenous peoples in the interior were quickly enslaved by the Spanish to work in mines. Those that didn’t die in the mines or were murdered by the Spanish, quickly died off from European diseases. The surviving Taino Arawaks in Cuba are descended from coastal tribes.
The Arawaks did not build large towns, practice large scale agriculture or build large pyramidal mounds. Their art strongly resembles the art of northern South America from where the Arawaks originated. The only currently-known North American style of art that strongly resembles Caribbean art is the Weeden Island Culture of north-central Florida and southwest Georgia.
One caveat concerning the current pre-Hispanic history of Cuba is furnished by its archaeologists. A large chunk of western Cuba slid into the Gulf of Mexico around 1600 BC. The cataclysm must have created the tsunami from hell. On this submerged landscape, underwater archaeologists are finding what appears to be man-made, stacked stone structures. The chronology coincides with the founding of Poverty Point in northern Louisiana and the appearance of the Zogue (Olmec Civilization) on the southern Gulf Coast of Mexico. There may be an extremely old indigenous civilization under the waters off the coast of western Cuba. This is not an established fact at this time, however.
Whatever that research reveals, there is no question that agriculture, mound-building, permanent towns and weaving of fabrics appeared in the Southeast long before the Arawaks arrived in Cuba. Maize pollen, radiocarbon dated to around 1200 BC has been found near Lake Shelby, AL. The Watson Brake Mounds in northern Louisiana date from around 3400 BC. The Arawaks did not introduce corn, beans, squash and mound-building to the Southeast from their villages in Cuba. They were no where around.
Tobacco could well have been introduced into Southeastern North America from the Caribbean Basin, most likely Puerto Rico . . . but not by the Taino-Arawaks. Until around 800-1000 AD, Puerto Rico was inhabited by Tupi Peoples, who originated from the Orinoco River Basin in South America. The first South Americans to arrive there around 2000 BC are called the Ortoiroid People by anthropologists. They were followed by the Saladoid People from the same region between around 430 and 250 BC.
Several of the tribes along the South Atlantic Coast could have migrated there from Puerto Rico after the island was invaded by Taino Arawaks. They may also be descended from peoples from northern South America or the Caribbean Islands, who were fleeing the aggression of the Taino Arawaks, Caribs or some aggressive South American ethnic group.
The real Native American history of the Southeastern United States is extremely complex. It is not a story that can be explained by associating its inhabitants with the “Five Civilized Tribes” recognized by the federal government or the creation of mythical super-tribes, created by contemporary anthropologists.
Arroz con pollo, anyone?
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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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