Image: First map to mention the Cherokees (1715)
Section of 1715 Beresford Map covering East Tennessee and Western North Carolina
This map is the earliest known colonial document to mention the Cherokees. The first European map to show the Cherokees was published in 1717 in France. This map was prepared by South Carolina Militia officer, John Beresford, shortly after the beginning of the Yamasee War. At the time, Native American tribes throughout the Southeast were killing white traders in their midst. The purpose of the map was to inform South Carolina and British military officials where potential Native American hostiles and allies lived and how many men of military age they had available.
If there were 700 men of military age among these 30 villages, we can assume that the total population was around 3,000 people. There were also 1200 Cherokees shown on this map in the upper northwest corner of South Carolina. No Cherokees were shown living in North Carolina in 1715, but by 1721 the map of South Carolina by Col. John Barnwell showed a large Cherokee population in a narrow band across what is now Western North Carolina. Obviously, there were not 30,000 Cherokees in 1715 as claimed in a documentary film produced by the Eastern Band of Cherokees.
Note the French fort on Bussell Island, where the Little Tennessee and Tennessee Rivers come together. There were also two Koasati villages on the island. This fort was discovered and excavated by Smithsonian Institute archaeologists in the late 19th century, but left completely out of the history books. In 1715, the Cherokee villages were located on the Holston and Nolichucky Rivers. The section of the river between Knoxville and Hiwassee Island was occupied by the Cusate and Koasati Creeks. The maps published in official Tennessee State History Books show all of eastern Tennessee, occupied by the Cherokees from 1600 AD onward.
According to a Middle School history teacher in the Knoxville Area, who contacted us last month . . . Tennessee teachers have now been instructed to tell students the Native American towns in Tennessee, that were visited by Hernando de Soto in 1540 were Cherokee towns . . . even though all the town names and political titles are either Creek or Chickasaw words. She was particularly upset because her heritage is Chickasaw. She did some research and discovered that the Chickasaw are the only federally recognized tribe in the Southeast that were specifically named in the De Soto Chronicles.
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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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