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Footnote: There were three distinct ethnic groups called “Apalache”

Footnote:  There were three distinct ethnic groups called “Apalache”


Readers will be thoroughly kornfuzed in the next edition of The Florida Connection, unless I explain something.  There were three distinct ethnic groups in the Lower Southeast, who the French and Spanish called Apalache or Apalachicola. The British initially called the Highland Apalache, Palache, but later called them, Creek Indians.  I have finally figured this out by analyzing their differing migration legends, surviving words and religious beliefs.

(1) Highland Apalache, Kusa, Kusabo and Satibo  – These people primarily lived in the Piedmont and Appalachian Mountains, plus the coastal areas of  South Carolina and Georgia at the time of European Contact.  Their ancestors were Conibo, Shipibo, Kaushibo and Satibo immigrants from Eastern Peru.  They originally spoke Panoan languages.  The Highland Apalache were associated with the Swift Creek and Napier Cultures, during the Woodland Period. The Satibo in Georgia lived along the Sattila River.  The Kusabo tribes in South Carolina lived near Port Royal Sound and along the Santee River.  Santee is an alternate name for the Satibo, both in the Southeast and Peru. 

At some time in the past, the Highland Apalache intermarried with Itza Maya immigrants, and thus by the 1500s, used the Itza suffix “te” for “People or Tribe.”  They called themselves, Aparashite.  The Kusabo tribes in South Carolina continued to use the Panoan suffixes “bo or po.”  

The Highland Apalache were monotheistic and worshiped an invisible South American sun goddess named Amana.  They did not practice any form of sacrifice, involving the shedding of blood.   The Kusabo and Satibo primarily worshiped the Peruvian deity, Atoya.   They did practice human sacrifice.

The Highland Apalache elite lived in round houses, with low pitched roofs.  Their commoners lived in separate villages that were identical to Creek villages of the early 1700s.  Their mounds were relatively small, oval shaped and often veneered with cobblestones.  Their temples, called wakas or huacas, were usually built of fieldstone and placed on hilltops or mountainsides as was the custom in Peru.  Many of the Woodland Period stone cairns in the Southern Highlands and Appalachians were probably built by Panoan peoples, because this was also their custom in Peru.   Because the Highland Apalache built with stone and did not frequently build pyramidal mounds,  their massive towns in Northeast Georgia have generally been ignored or misinterpreted by Georgia archaeologists.

(2) Apalachi-kora  (Apalachicola), Palachicola, Conchakee or Chicora – This ethnic group was descended from Southern Arawak immigrants from Peru,  Ecuador or southern Colombia. “Kora” is a Southern Arawak word for “people or tribe.”  Southeastern Indians rolled their R’s so heavily that French and English speakers wrote their R sound as an L.  The Southern Arawak suffix, Kora, became the Choctaw and Chickasaw suffixes kola, okola and okla.   Okora means “Principal People” in Southern Arawak.  Of course, its derivation, Okla, is the root of the state name, Oklahoma.

The Spanish called this people, the Apalachicola.  The French called them the Conchakee.  The British called them the Palachicola or Palachicora.  After the American Revolution, Anglo-American settlers called them the Lower Creeks.

The Apalachi-kora first settled in the Savannah Area and probably were the first residents of Ocmulgee, but during the Late Mississippian Period they were concentrated in the Columbus, GA – Phenix City, AL area and along the Lower Savannah River.   The complex of mounds and shrines on Irene Island near Savannah was most likely the capital, known as Chicora by the Spanish and Chicola by the French.  This is what is stated in the memoir of Fort Caroline’s commander, Captain René de Laudonnière.

The Apalachi-kora were strongly influenced by the Highland Apalache.  They were monotheistic and worshiped Amana.  They did not practice any form of sacrifice, involving the shedding of blood.  Originally, their houses were large, round structures with cone shaped roofs, but by the time of European Contact, they lived in towns very similar to those of the Highland Apalache commoners.

(3) Florida Apalache – This people was also descended from the Southern Arawaks, but were heavily influenced, culturally, by first, the Chontal Mayas of Tabasco, Mexico and then the Highland Apalache.  The region where the Florida Apalache lived was originally called Am Ixchel (Amichel), which means “Place of the Goddess Ixchel.”   Spanish missionaries recorded that the Florida Apalache worshiped a pantheon of deities and did have idols.  The deities, recorded by these missionaries, are identical to those worshiped in Tabasco, Mexico.

The Florida Apalache built rectangular plazas, pyramidal mounds and rectangular temples identical to those of the Chontal Mayas, who were descended from the Olmec Civilization.  However, the houses of the Florida Apalache were large, round structures with cone-shaped roofs.  

According to the traditions of both the Highland Apalache and the Florida Apalache,  the Florida Apalache became a tribe, distinct from other peoples on the Gulf Coast, after the Highland Apalache established a colony where Tallahassee, Florida is now located.  The Highland Apalache built a road to connect the Appalachian Mountains with their colony, which is now US Highway 41.  Over time, the colonists spoke a hybrid language, which was unintelligible to the highlanders, but the two peoples continued to be trading partners, despite their linguistic, religious and architectural differences.

The chroniclers of the De Soto Expedition recorded the capital town of the Florida Apalache as being named Anihaica, which means “Strong or elite – place of” in Southern Arawak.   Anihaica or just Ani could have been the name of their ethnic group  The village of Apalachen in the far eastern part of their province was chosen as the name of their ethnic group by the Spanish. Apalachen is the plural in Panoan for Apalache.  This name indicates that it was an Apalache colony.   The Floridians did not call themselves Apalache, but were known to Muskogean speakers as the Tulahalwasi, which means “Descendants of Highland towns.”

There were other peoples on the Gulf Coast such as the Pensacola and the Biloxi, who were closely related to the original Florida Apalache people, but they retained separate identities.   Biloxi is the French spelling of their actual name of Palache.

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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.



    Funny thing Richard.
    My oldest sister has a very old chipped horse couch shell with the end sawn off.
    We used to take turns trying to blow it on our front porch as kids. Takes a large lung capacity to make noise with that thing.
    We were always told that we were to keep that thing safe as it was all that was left of when we came thru the islands. I never knew what islands.
    One small piece Richard, of a very large puzzle.

    But I will say this: you are right about the different cultures. Some existed side by side I think from what I have seen. I know about a few round ones half buried somewhere. the fire pit is always near center, and the walls dug down about waist height at the sides. Except these are slightly elongated circles, almost ovals. But yes, great job.
    You have snowed me under this summer. I got much catching up to do here. You have written so much. I cannot thank you enough. You are a talented writer with much good to say. Have the best new year ever….
    Take care up there

    • YES!!!! The conch shell was used as a horn! In fact, the French called the Apalachicolas, the Conchakee or Conk Shell People.


        Well honey, sometimes we used to ride with my dad up to the top of Big Frog Mountain.
        Down at the base was where an old town site was. Hint, the town site was not white folk.
        Anyhow, we used to see how loud we could get blowing the sawed off middle part. It’s kinda like a trumpet sound, and we discovered it carried many miles. Weird things always happened when we did that that I remember quite well.
        One of my aunt’s said it was much much older than the old slave days. My family will not let this outta their sight. But maybe I can get my brother to let you see it and examine it.
        Those long corner points are all broken and chipped.
        But I had to decide to trust you first. this thing is very old.


    Richard, Happy New Year. I watched this video for the first time today. I had never seen this one before so thanks for posting it to us. As always I continue to learn at every posting. You may remember that I have been teaching about the Seminole in near by schools for 4th grade students. This video covers much but leaves out a lot about Osceola in his younger years including his Creek name (Little Owl I was told) which is too bad. If you know differently on his name please let me know.

    Thanks again for all the time and effort you put in on the quest to bring us thee real history of South Eastern Native peoples.

    You may remember that most of my life I lived on the Tomoka River north or Ormond Beach and within walking distance through the woods of the Addison Block house. The nearby plantation house was taken and burned by the Seminole twice. The park system owns/controls the property now but does not do a good job of preserving the sites.

    Thanks again, Jay

    • Thank you for your kind comments and may you have a wonderful year too.


    Regarding music: Cabeza de Vaca writes that on April 12, 1528, the Narvaez expedition landed in Trinidad on its way to Florida. While there was a hurricane, additional sounds were heard of Indian bells, flutes, native tambourines, and other instruments. When they reached Apalache, they were greeted by Indians playing flutes made of reed. Vaca observed therapeutic use of music.
    Source: history of Music and Dance in Florida, 1565-1865; Wiley L. Housewright, 1991, UAlabama Press.

    Also, do. you know anything about Hitchiti women in th Savannah areas who married colonials?

    • Itsate (Hitchiti) women in Savannah, who married colonials? Well yes . . . one of them was my gggg-grandmother Mahala! For five generations afterward, at least one girl in each generation was named Mahala in her honor. Mahala means “teacher” in Itsate and Muskogee. Until the late 20th century most descendants married other people, who were Creek or Uchee, so over time the percentage of NA DNA increased.

      When among the ancestors of the Creek Indians in North Georgia, the De Soto Expedition chroniclers counted 32 different musical instruments being played in an orchestra in Kusa. They said that Creek reed instruments varied in sound from a piccolo to a bassoon.


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