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Hee-Haw . . . words on Dixie’s road maps that you didn’t dream were Maya

Hee-Haw . . . words on Dixie’s road maps that you didn’t dream were Maya


The ancient history of the Southeastern United States is on its road maps, but no one ever took the time to REALLY look up the origins of many of its geographical place names. What 99% of references do is merely replicate the speculations in the past of someone, who didn’t know what they were talking about.

Remember back in 2012 when the Georgia archaeologists strutted around like peacocks, claiming that they knew for a fact that there was no evidence of Maya immigration in North America and they’uns were the experts on subject?   The truth was that they didn’t know diddlysquat about Creek cultural history or linguistics and didn’t have a clue, who the Itza Mayas were.

We’uns can be blind to the obvious, too.   So blind that if it was a snake, it would have bitten me.  Scientific research is an on-going process.  There is never one point that you know everything.  

Nowadays, most Southeastern Native Americans know that Etowah comes from the Itza Maya word, Etula, which means “Principal Town” or “Capital” and that the original name of the Tennessee River until around 1785 was a Maya word . . . Callimaco . . . which means “House or Palace of the King.”   Tallulah is the Anglicization of the Itsate Creek word, talula, which means a district administrative town with one mound.  Almost the same word in Itza Maya is tulala.    However, throughout the Lower Southeast are hundreds of common place names that are Itza Maya words or partially derived from Itza Maya words.   You are going to be surprised.

Every few days, I have OMG moments in which revelations appear that I had never thought about before.  The new information changes the way that I interpret the old information.  This essay is about the revelations on hee and haw.   We will be starting with haw, however.


Haw is the Itza Maya word for water.  After Itza refugees came to North America, haw became a suffix in several river names and place names.   It is especially common in the Coastal Plain of South Carolina and Georgia. In South Carolina, it is more commonly seen as the names of ponds or slow moving streams.   Here are some Itza Maya river, stream and mountain names.



Chiaha Creek  = Chia (Salvia) River  [as in Chia Pets and Chia seed]

Cheaha Creek and Mountain = Chia (Salvia) River


Altamaha River = Place of Trade – River

Alapaha River  = Aligator – River

Alabaha River = Aligator – River

Chehaw Creek = Chia (Salvia) River

North Carolina

Cheoah River and Mountain*  = Chia (Salvia) River

Haw Creek

Haw River

*This was the original location of the Chiaha, visited by Hernando de Soto and Captain Juan Pardo.  After the Cherokees arrived in western North Carolina, the Chiaha Creeks moved southward into Alabama and Georgia – ultimately into Florida.

South Carolina

Waxhaw Creek = waaks-haw = a spring

Hatchee, hatchee or hoochee

Most people in the Southeast know that these suffixes mean “river” is “some Injun language.”   Many in Alabama, Georgia and Florida know that it is the Creek Indian word for a river or creek.   These suffixes are the Anglicizations of a Creek word that is spelled hvcci and pronounced Häw : tchē.   I knew that Haw was the Itza word for water, but it never dawned on me that “hatchee” would be a Maya word . . . it seemed so “good ole fashion Muskogean.”

Then this morning I was trying to translate the name of a town with an Itza name in the Mexican state of Chiapas (Place of the Chia or Salvia).  By rummaging through the Itza dictionary, I finally realized that the Itza suffix “xi” meant “moving.”   So the Itza word for a river or creek was haw’xi . . . which is pronounced Häw : tchē.   It is exactly the same word as the Creek word!   OMG!

There are hundreds of rivers and creeks in the Southeast that end with hatchee, hachee or hoochee.  Here are some of the better known that are derived from Itza Maya words.

Chattahoochee (GA)  =  tcha’ta – haw’xi  = Engraved Stone (stela) – Moving Water

Alapahoochee (GA) = Alligator – Moving Water

Tallahatchee (MS)  = Tula – haw’xi =  Town – Moving Water

Salkehatchie (SC) =  Raccoon People – Moving Water

Choctawhatchee (AL) =  Choctaw – Moving Water

Chubbehatchee (AL) = Big – Moving Water

Calusahatchee (FL) = Calusa – Moving Water

Hee or Hi

There were about 134 branches of the Maya Civilization.  Many of the branches were not originally “ethnic Mayas” and spoke languages that were quite different than “Classic Maya.”   The Itza People were one of those branches.   They probably were originally from Peru, because some of their core words are very close to the Panoan languages of Peru.   However, for 600 years the Itzas were ruled by the Totonacs of East-Central Mexico.  They absorbed many Totonac words into their language.  “Hi” is one of those suffixes that the Itzas borrowed from the Totonacs and then took with them to North America. 

“Hi” is a suffix that is added to a noun or verb to create another noun, which describes the person that does this activity.  “Hi” can also mean to build something.

For example, tama is the verb meaning “to trade.”   So a tamahi is a merchant.   Kauna is a earthen mound, so kaunahi (now Connahee) would be a “mound builder.”   Chiki-hi would be a house builder.   The “hi” suffix is typically  written as a “hee” on the end of a modern place name word.   Place names with “hee” or “hi” at the end more commonly are associated with valleys or mountains, such a Currahee Mountain.  However, the Combahee River in South Carolina is named after the Combahee People, an indigenous tribe associated with the Cusabo Alliance.


Now you know!

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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.



    Richard, you give us superb information and I am trying to keep up with the meanings of the words and hope I can remember them.. I have some of those OMG days with Linear B also so I know the excitement when you discover important meanings. Thanks again for sharing your knowledge.

    • Thank you! It is an honor to have you reading my essays.


    Richard , I remembered they called the town Waxhaw SC after the Waxhaw tribe. I looked it up for some more information and found something I never knew. Early explorers called some natives “Flatheads” because they flattened the heads of their babies. There is much ado about the S. Americans indians and western tribes in N.America, but here they are in the S.E. of America with the same custom. I believe ancient people traveled much more often shared languages and customs throughout the world. Your work is impressive. I enjoy your discoveries at every turn. Thank you!

    • Yes, Laurie, I think that the Waxhaw were Mayas, not Siouans as most websites state. Why would they have a Maya name and flatten their foreheads, if they were Siouans?


        It’s amazing to me that these classifications from the 1600’s and early 1700’s are still cited as accurate. The men who wrote these observations had no basis, even in theory, for knowing if the peoples they encountered were Siouan or not. They also lump most of the Early SE tribes as Siouans including… Cape Fear, Catawba, Cheraw, Eno, Keyauwee, Saponi, Shakori, Sissipahaw, Waccamaw, Wateree, Waxhaw, Woccon, Appomattox, Monasukapanough, Occoneechee, Totero, Saponi, Stukena, Monacan, Cheraw, Sissaphaw, Metiponski, Saxapaha, Sutaree, Sugah, Pedee, Quiawae, Chacee, Nahyssans, and Manahoacs.
        They fail to mention the Saponi was a conglomeration of Pawmunky, Powhaten, and many other tribes of Algonquian-speaking Virginia Indians in the Tidewater region, who were decimated by war and disease from the European invasions.

        • You are absolutely correct Laurie. Many, many tribes in the Carolinas and Virginia have been erased from the maps.


    Richard, as you know some of the people of New Zealand believe that their ancestors left from India (Indus Valley area) stopped in the Americas and then Easter island and finally settled in New Zealand. The “Tokah / Tokaroi” and “Yuehchi /Yuchi” words seem to trace back to Western/Central China of an Asian/Indo peoples that branched off (3000 BC) and some migrated to Northern India. No experts can state that some of these Yuchi people didn’t also make journeys to the America’s as they began trading by sea routes that had been set up long before they arrived in Northern India. I have read a lore of the Yuchi people living in the Bahamas at one time…do you know if the Yuchi ever lived there?

    • According to my Uchee friends in Oklahoma, the Uchees on the Savannah River did travel to the Bahamas and Cuba.


        Richard, Highly angled pyramids, Asian type artwork of dragons, elephants heads, use of the turban head ware among some of the Maya cities indicates a connection with India and Asian peoples that made it to the Americas. China has done very little to investigate the pyramids of the Central/Western side of their country for some reason. They most likely were built 1000’s of years before their first emperor unified China (200 BC), some are flat toped like the Toltec’s and the South East US.

        • I don’t about that Mark. There are mummies wearing turbans in Peru from 6000 BC! The Peruvians also were building pyramids long before the Egyptians were. Since many of these early Peruvian mummies have red hair, I am inclined to think that the red haired mariners, who went from Peru to New Zealand, went other places.


            Richard, You are right about the pyramids beginning in the Americas but there is a match for the tall high angled types in India, some of the Maya cities, and South East Asia. I suspect a trade network of many peoples made it to this land, as we tend to under estimate our Sea fairing ancestors. From what I have read the first pyramids in Cambodia were built in the 8-9th century AD. The (Koh Ker site) which is much later than the Maya pyramids, looks very much like a carbon copy of one of the “Toltec” type temples to me… another Cambodian pyramid has the same shape of the top of the “Tikal” Maya temple in design.



      I have looked at the Indus valley script , and the Easter island script….and they can only be the exact same thing. It would be like finding the Latin alphabet in Rome in 300 b.c. then finding a very similar one in northern kamchatka 1000 years later ( didn’t happen , just a thought example )

      • Matt, you know the Red Haired Mariners originated on the southeast corner of Iran, next to the Indus Valley. They went all over the planet – to South American, Eastern Island and even New Zealand. It is quite plausible that they used the Indus Valley script.


    Murder Creek near Brewton , AL was once called Luxahatchee creek. Big Escambia Creek was called Wecoka River. But the one that still gets me is the native name for the Perdido river ( as shown on the David Tait map of about 1772) : Cassaba.

    • Luxahatchee means Turtle – Water Moving. Wekcoka means “Water – Short” or a short creek. Cassaba squash were the most common type of squash grown by the Natives of Florida and the Caribbean Basin. It is a small, very sweet squash . . . almost like a cantaloupe with a pumpkin texture.


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