Richard Thornton | Aug 9, 2017 | 5
Footnote: Many Native towns on Chattahoochee River never shown on maps
For those of you just joining us at the People of One Fire, since last autumn, as a professional activity, I have been intensely analyzing the entire Chattahoochee-Flint-Apalachicola River System, in order to determine its true history before being ceded by the Creek Confederacy. The highlights of this comprehensive study are being reported to POOF readers.
Right now I am trying to determine more specific locations (GPS coordinates) for the Native towns and villages along the river between Columbus, GA and Chattahoochee, FL. It is a very difficult task involving the cross-referencing of many sources from the early 18th century to the late 20th century.
One thing has become perfectly clear. There were many, many more towns and villages than shown on the maps . . . and often their names were different than shown on the maps. The maps being used by most scholars only provide ethnic identities, not town names.
This error started on the very first maps from the early 1600s. Initially, cartographers only showed two or three large towns for the entire 550 mile length of the Chattahoochee. Then, beginning with the 1721 Barnwell map, shown above, the cartographer put dots on the maps and tribal names beside them. By that, I mean that you see such labels as “Cowetas,” “Echetes” and “Cussetas” rather than the actual names of towns and villages. The tribal label could potentially represent several towns and villages. Worst still, there were definitely several towns and villages on the river, which were not members of the Creek Confederacy. They were left off the maps.
As time went on, the accuracy of the maps declined. Later generations of mapmakers often just copied the names of tribes without checking to see if they had moved. I have found several examples of academicians writing dissertations or published papers about certain Creek towns, which were no longer located at the site and in the time frame that the academician was writing about. Published maps from the 1700s do not reflect the population density of the Chattahoochee Basin.
The overall picture that is coming from this research is that until after the French and Indian War, the Chattahoochee River, south of what is now Roswell, GA, was densely occupied by towns and villages, which were either members of the Creek Confederacy or on good terms with the Creek Confederacy. Perhaps 75% of the Confederacy’s population was concentrated in this corridor. In regions with substantial flood plains, the villages were often in sight of each other. After the French and their Native allies vacated present day southern and central Alabama THEN the members of the Creek Confederacy spread westward into that region.
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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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