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Example of why doing Native American history research is so difficult

Example of why doing Native American history research is so difficult


Thanks to Hurricane, now Tropical Storm Florence, I have time to finally finish the video on the Kusa (Kaushe in Creek) People.  They became the core of the Upper Creeks, but even the Upper Creeks in Oklahoma have no clue who their ancestors really were or what their name means.

Getting scientific information from anthropology books, professional papers and websites such as Wikipedia is like chopping through a rain forest with the sun only rarely shinning.  So, so many academicians have been brainwashed into thinking that just because one quotes an authority figure, it must be true.   They then stack together a bundle of such quotations, add a sufficiently tiny bit of new thought so as not to threaten the Purple Gatekeepers and then call it a scientific article or book.

Actually, the situation is much worse than that.  In the autumn of 2017,  Tribal Cultural Preservation Officers of the Mandan, Arikara & Hidatsu Nation,  the Kaw (Kansa) Nation and the Quapaw Nation sent me copies of professional papers, written by competent ethnologists, who had tape recorded the actual migration legends of their elders.  The transcripts were published as books or professional papers.  YET,  the tribal histories published on their websites give very different accounts of their origins . . . accounts which match the convoluted orthodoxies of anthropological authority figures, who apparently ignored the actual migration legends.

Siouan tribes that remained in South Carolina insist that the Siouan Peoples originated there, but many Siouan bands migrated southward, westward or northwestward . . . later growing into tribes that we call the Lakota, Osage, Cheyenne, etc.   However, some anthropologists or a group of anthropologists decided several decades ago that all of the Siouans and branches of the Caddo Ethnic Family, who ultimately lived in earth lodges on the Great Plains, came from the north side of the Ohio River and Mason-Dixon Line.  This belief eventually led to the “fact” that is seen in many references, which states that the Earth Lodge tribes were refugees from Cahokia.   Here are examples:

Wikipedia:  “All oral migration legends of the Quapaw confirm that they once lived in the Midwest on the Ohio River, but fled west of the Mississippi River to escape attacks by the Iroquois.  It is currently believed that both the Dhegiha and Lakota Siouans arrived on the Great Plains around 1670 AD.”

The Wikipedia articles on the Dhegiha Siouan tribes are especially confusing because Wikipedia allows anyone to modify or add to the articles.  The initial statements in the articles are very authoritarian.  They are presented as established facts that can’t be challenged.  However, following these paragraphs are paragraphs, which significantly conflict with the established facts, which are then followed by paragraphs, which state that they can’t find any archaeological evidence, which backs up the established facts and therefore there are many competing interpretations of the tribes origins.

Quapaw Nation Website: The Quapaw were a division of a larger group known as the Dhegiha Sioux many years ago. The Dhegiha split into the tribes known today as the Quapaw, Osage, Ponca, Kansa and Omaha when they left the Ohio Valley.  The Quapaw moved down the Mississippi River into Arkansas, this is the origin of the word Ogaxpa, which can be translated as “downstream people”.

Well, no,  the origin of the name of the Arkansas River is the alternate name of the tribe, Akansa, which some professor at the University of Illinois decided was similar to an Algonquian word meaning, “downstream” people.  That is because he had already decided that all the Dhegiha Siouans were originally residents of Cahokia or one of its outlying towns.  Depending on the pronunciation Akansa in the Kansa language means “arm or branch of the Kansa”  or “Southern Kansa.”   The Quapaw lived south of the Kaw or Kansa People.  Alternatively,  if one applies a prefix commonly seen in North Georgia indigenous town names, it means “Principal Kansa.”

Actual Migration Legends

The Quapaw Elders stated that their people once lived on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean near Georgetown, South Carolina.  Their first contacts with Europeans occurred there long ago.  Once the white people (Spanish?) became abusive, the ancestors of the Quapaw fled westward from the South Atlantic Coast and eventually settled at the confluence of the Arkansas and Mississippi Rivers.

Quapaw Migration Legend puts them on the coast of South Carolina!

The Mandan Elders stated that they once lived in the Lower Southeastern United States, not the Midwest.    A more advanced people on the western side of the river, who built “giant” teepees, taught them agriculture. 

During the first century of its existence, the housing at Ocmulgee consisted of giant teepees.  Bullard Landing, which is to be included in the proposed Ocmulgee National Historic Park, contains the ruins of at least 24 earth lodges. 

The Mandan eventually migrated westward as far as the Mississippi River.  Here they settled for awhile on the eastern side of the river.  They eventually migrated northward almost to the source of the Mississippi River. Ultimately, they migrated  southward along the Mississippi until they reached the Missouri River.  They then migrated up the Missouri until they reached the most northerly point where corn would grow.

The Mandans in Dixie . . . Part One

The Kaw or Kansa Elders said they the originally lived on an island in a large river SOUTH of the Ohio River.   Their population eventually grew too great for the island and so they migrated to the east.   They eventually abandoned this location also and ultimatedly crossed the Mississippi River.   From here they migrated northward to the Arkansas River then northwestward up the Arkansas River.

There are some key words in the Kansa language, such as the word for town, which are borrowed from the Chickasaw.  The tribe’s official name, Kaw, is the Maya and Itsate Creek word for eagle.  The Kaw Nation has two subdivisions . . .  the Black Eagle Clan and the White Eagle Clan.  It is highly unlikely that the Kansa would have been living in Ohio, when they picked up Muskogean and Maya loan words. 

Kansas Indians on the Coosa River of Alabama and Georgia

So that is the essence of the problem over and over again.   We have a long chain of academicians, who built stacks of cards and called them facts.  They have degrees in anthropology, but were never trained how to integrate large quantities of data nor encouraged to base interpretation of Native culture on primary sources of information. They will consistently quote the bogus translations of Creek words by turn-of-the-century ethnologist, John Swanton, rather than paying $28 for a Creek dictionary. They were never trained how to work at the regional scale like urban planners do.  Instead, they were selectively bred to be obedient followers of masters.   That approach to anthropological education became a big, big problem, when the most powerful masters in the world of Southeastern archaeology labeled standard Creek place names and political titles as “ancient Cherokee words, whose meaning have been lost.”


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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.

1 Comment


    Richard, The Ocmulgee rounded rectangular buildings and steep inclined tee pees buildings have a certain connection with the Yucatan Puuc style. The connection with the “birdmen copper plates” found from Spiro to Etowah and Chichen Itza is perhaps another connection with the Kansa (Poverty Point (1500 BC) A mound shaped like an Eagle?) and the Issa (snake symbol) peoples seemed to have moved to Georgia by 900 AD. The Aztecs had a lore about an Eagle eating a snake where they would build another city. Indicating the Itza / Issa were the people that the Aztecs called “Toltecs”.


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