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Introduction to Part Three of the Peopling of the Southeast

Introduction to Part Three of the Peopling of the Southeast


Above: During the Late Woodland Period, the Garden Creek sites (600 AD- 800 AD)  contained houses, typical of the Hopewell Culture in Ohio during the previous Middle Woodland Period (100 AD-500 AD), but when reoccupied (1000 AD-1200 AD) contained mounds and artifacts, similar to those in the first phase of Etowah Mounds.  Both occupations at Garden Creek are now labeled “Proto-Cherokee” by some North Carolina and Tennessee archaeologists . . . who received grants from the Eastern Band of Cherokees to write their books.


Before outside economic interests pressured the North Carolina Cherokees into the gambling business and white academicians created a phony history for them,  the Qualla Boundary was a much happier, safer and healthier place.  Meanwhile . . . Why would Native Americans on the Savannah River carry Mesoamerican, Peruvian, Polynesian, Sami, Finnish and Basque DNA?

Readers, who have had Southeastern Anthropology courses or are well read on the subject, are probably going to get rather confused in Part Three.  It tells a very different story that what they were taught.   That simplistic, two dimensional story was taught as “done deal” in which there was nothing more to be learned. The story was created by academicians, who felt no personal connection to the people who made those ancient artifacts.  Part Three is a three dimensional, unfinished story . . . written by one of us trying to answer, “Who are we?”   I want to know why my family carries Mesoamerican, Polynesian, Peruvian, Sami, Finnish and Basque DNA.  Many of you have a similar quest for new knowledge.

My first projects, after receiving a masters in urban planning degree from Georgia State University, were preparing the FIRST comprehensive plans for Auburn, Opelika, Sylacauga, Waverly and Lee County, Alabama.  I was astounded to discover that 1/3 of the Waverly town council were very obviously Creek Indians and that the locale had originally been the Creek town of Thlopolocco . . . which in earlier times had been located in the Soque River Basin, where I now live.

My second group of projects was servicing a contract that my employer had with the National American Indian Housing Council. I was to travel over much of the Southeast, Southwest and Northwest, helping tribes create more environmentally sensitive land development plans. The first client of that contract was the Qualla Housing Authority of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.  My first visit to the Qualla Boundary Reservation started on April 19, 1976.

On the third day, I was there,  Chief Arneche, a very fine man, drove me around the reservation to show me mounds that had been built by the Creeks and Uchee.  They have all been destroyed now to cover up the reservation’s true history.   I remained friends with the Arneche family the whole time I lived in North Carolina.  One of his grand-daughters was formerly on the staff of the Cherokee One Feather Newspaper.  Little did I know then that Arneche is a Sephardic Jewish family name! 

On December 16, 1976, I was hired to be the executive director of the new Asheville Downtown Revitalization Program.  In 1982,  I was transferred to be the director of the new Asheville-Buncombe County Historic Resources Commission.  Thus,  I am quite aware how North Carolina academicians and politicians created a fake history for western North Carolina later in 1976 as part of  comprehensive economic development plan for the region.

Today,  street and building signs Cherokee, NC are festooned with the Cherokee Syllabary.  In 1976, very, very few North Carolina Cherokees knew the Cherokee Syllabary.  It had never been used in North Carolina. At the same meeting where economist Terry Gandy and I were briefly introduced to the EBC Council,  two women from Oklahoma announced a workshop for learning the syllabary.  Funding for these workshops came from the State of North Carolina. Economic development specialists thought that having Cherokee writing all over the place would attract tourists.  I confess that I have inside information on a lot of these things.  After going into private practice, I designed the home of the member of Governor Hunt’s staff, assigned to administer the economic development program in western North Carolina.

Would you believe that the core group on the Qualla Boundary was a band that had been living outside the boundaries of the Cherokee Nation before the Trail of Tears? They hunted down remaining Cherokees, who were hiding . . . provided the firing squad for executing Tsali and drove wagons for the US Army.    In return, they were exempted from deportation.   There were Cherokees, who successfully hid out, but they were primarily from the sections of the Tennessee and Georgia Mountains outside the boundaries of the Cherokee Nation.

Twenty years earlier, this same core band had abducted Sequoyah and his wife from Georgia . . . sentenced them to death for witchcraft  . . . and almost succeeding in torturing them to death.  At the last moment,  John Ridge rescued them with a troop of Georgia Cherokee Lighthorse.  Mrs. Sequoyah (whatever her name was) apparently never recovered from her wounds and died fairly soon afterward.

Sequoyah probably never even saw the version of the Cherokee Syllabary used today.  It was quite different and created by the editor of the Cherokee Phoenix and the Rev. Samuel Worcester in 1827.   Originally, the Cherokee syllabary version of the Cherokee Phoenix was given free to Cherokee citizens. However, there was so little demand for the Cherokee syllabary version, the Phoenix was eventually only printed in English. 

In early 1976, a team of professors at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill were given an assignment by Governor Hunt to do the necessary research to prove that the Cherokees had lived in North Carolina for at least a thousand years.  This subterfuge was thought necessary to provide support for a petition to the federal government for a gambling casino on the reservation.  The team of anthropologists and historians decided to go a step further.  They included authoritative statements, based on no evidence, which pushed the presence of Cherokees in North Carolina back to 300 BC.   To provide proof that the Middle Woodland Period occupants of western North Carolina were Cherokees, they changed the name of Middle Woodland artifacts to Connestee, which they assumed was one of those many “ancient Cherokee words in the NC mountains, whose meanings have been lost.”

Why shezam Andy!  Them thar Connestee Injuns had a Charakey name so they gotta be Charakeys!

French and Dutch maps placed the Cherokees east of Lake Erie in 1649 . . . just as tourist brochures said in 1976.

Actually,  like the names of both rivers on the North Carolina Cherokee Reservation,  Connestee is the Anglicization of an Itstate-Creek ethnic name. The equivalent word in Muskogee-Creek is Kvnasv.  Konas was once a powerful kingdom in Peru and later, a proto-Creek province in Northeast Georgia. The “te” suffix is Itza Maya for “people.”  The Konas in Northeast Georgia was visited by Juan Pardo in 1567. In the 1700s, its surviving descendants mostly moved to Florida and became Seminoles.  In the 1990s, North Carolina academicians put Konas in the Catawba River Valley so they could say that Juan Pardo came through Asheville and the Berry Site, which was about 60 miles northeast of Asheville.

Three archaeological sites were studied in order to gain evidence for the professors’ assignment. One of the archaeologists involved,  Dr. Bennie C. Keel, stated in his book, Cherokee Archaeology, that there was a hundred year gap between a continuous chain of cultural development in the region and the very different style of architecture and pottery, which was definitely Cherokee. Keel had to move to Tallahassee, FL to get a job.

Politicized archaeology . . . grossly inept anthropology

When I worked on projects at Qualla, visitors to the reservation were told that the Cherokees had migrated from the Lake Erie region to western North Carolina about the same time that Charleston, SC was settled. Their ancestors did not build any mounds and found very few people living in North Carolina. Colonial archives back up that statement.  They did erect their townhouses (council houses) on top of several abandoned mounds. Of course, visitors were not told that most Southeastern tribes have ancient names for the Cherokees that mean “cave dwellers!”    LOL

A mysterious Moundbuilder

After Jimmy Carter was elected president,  his administration released a substantial amount of federal funding to improve tourist access to the Georgia Mountains.  The focus of the federal investment was a spectacular visitor’s center and natural history museum on top of Brasstown Bald Mountain.   For unknown reasons, the US Forest Service used North Carolina consultants to plan the museum.  At the entrance to the museum was a 6 feet+ tall Caucasian manikin, spray painted a golden tan.  He wore traditional Creek clothing and was mounted on a three feet tall pedestal like a Roman god . . . and labeled “A Cherokee man.”   Most of the artifacts in the museum, from the Ice Age to the 1700s, were labeled Cherokee. In the western corner of the museum was a three feet tall BALD manikin, draped in a deer skin.  It portrayed a mysterious people called the “Mound Builders.”  An accompanying sign stated that “No one knew who the mound builders were.  They lived in North Georgia for about 200 years then mysteriously disappeared.”  Oh, did I mention that the Moundbuilder was going bald?  When is the last time that you saw a bald Creek Indian with a Middle Eastern nose? 

While working for the Muscogee-Creek Nation, I sent photos of the interior of the Brasstown Bald Museum to the MCN National Council.  As might be expected, several members were furious.  The MCN formerly complained to the US Forest Service.  However, instead of correcting the signage in the museum,  the USFS REMOVED all exhibits related to Native Americans in the museum.  The museum manager, not knowing that I had instigated the complaint, told me that the exhibits were removed because the USFS didn’t want to offend the Cherokees by giving in to those crazy Creeks in Oklahoma.  Crazy Creeks?  

While I was employed by the City of Asheville, both my agency and the Western District Office of the North Carolina State Office of Historic Preservation’s archaeologists told visitors that the French Broad Valley was uninhabited during the 1500s then reoccupied by the Shawnee around 1600 AD.  A huge Shawnee town was located at the confluence of the French Broad and Suwannoa Rivers, where Biltmore Village is now situated. Swannanoa is the Anglicization of the Muskogee words, Suwani Owa, which mean “Shawnee River.”  The Asheville Area remained Shawnee, while the Hendersonville and Brevard, NC areas remained Muskogee-Creek until the Proclamation of 1763, which removed all American Indians east of the 80th meridian.  I strongly suspect that the Muskogee language evolved in this region as a mixing of a Chickasaw dialect with Shawnee and Tokahle Uchee.

Shortly before I went back into private practice,  a group of professors from the Universities of North Carolina, Georgia and South Carolina came to my office, armed with state highway maps on which, with masking tape, was shown their route for the De Soto Expedition.  They knew very little about the geography of the Southern Appalachians.  They had just picked up a generous check from the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce.  We told them that De Soto couldn’t have possibly visited Native towns in the French Broad Valley because none were occupied at that time.  That afternoon, they announced that De Soto had stayed at the important Cherokee town of Guaxuli, which was located on the Biltmore Estate.  That site was actually a three-feet high mound, abandoned around 450 AD.  The professors picked up a huge check from the Biltmore Estate that afternoon and yet another archaeological myth became ingrained in the history books.

When the Museum of the Cherokee Indian opened in 1986, visitors were told that the Cherokees had been in North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia for at least a thousand years and had built most of the mounds in a seven state area of the South.  A traditional Creek square, surrounded by rectangular Creek (Mesoamerican) style houses were constructed in the center of the Oconaluftee Living History Village to prove that the Cherokees were living in North Carolina and eastern Tennessee, when Hernando de Soto came through in 1540.   Immediately,  newspaper reporters in North Carolina began stating these delusions as facts. By now TV and newspaper reporters in eastern Tennessee also state this nonsense without blinking an eye.  Oconaluftee has no meaning in Cherokee, but is the Anglicization of the Itsate Creek words, Okani Lufte, which mean, “Oconee People – Massacred.”

In 1988, a state-employed North Carolina archaeologist spent part of a day, digging test pits around a mound near US 411 and 100 yards from the NC-GA line.  She found small potsherds that could not be labeled or else would have been labeled Cartersville Check-stamped, Swift Creek, Etowah I, Etowah II or Lamar Complicated Stamp on the other side of the Little Tennessee River.  Instead, she declared the older pottery to be proof that the Cherokees were full participants in the Hopewell Culture and the Mississippian potsherds proof that the Cherokees were full participants in the Southeastern Ceremonial Mound Culture, which North Carolina archaeologists label the Appalachian Summit Mississippian Culture.

By 1989,  Cherokee casino money was flowing into the pockets of Georgia politicians and archaeologists in order persuade them to change Georgia’s history to match the new Cherokee history.  Economic boosters in the northern part of the state were wanting a Cherokee gambling casino.   The State of Georgia, subsidized by federal funds channeled through the Appalachian Regional Commission,  embarked on a series of projects on the north slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains to stimulate the economies of those counties. The keystone project was the state’s development of Brasstown Resort.  That was classical socialism, but it was okay because good ole political conservatives would get most of the mullah invested by the tax payers.  

Three archaeology firms were hired to investigate Native American mounds, towns and villages that would be impacted by highway improvements and the construction of the resort.  They were instructed to interpret the artifacts as Cherokee, since the main objective of building the Brasstown Resort was to attract a Cherokee gambling casino.  Two firms refused to do so and instead found that the human history of the region closely matched that of the Etowah Mounds area.  The third firm reasoned that since the Woodland Period village that they excavated was three miles from North Carolina and North Carolina had declared that all Injun artifacts in western North Carolina were Cherokee, then the artifacts in Young Harris, GA were also Cherokee. 

Georgia then sent out a national press release stating that all three firms had found proof that the Cherokees had lived in Georgia for at least a thousand years.  An attached map showed the upper 2/3 of the state, including Ocmulgee National Monument, Etowah Mounds, plus the cities of Macon, Columbus, Atlanta and Augusta as having always been occupied by the Cherokees.  I was living in the Shenandoah Valley at the time, but my mother and grandmother had hissy fits about the article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  They wrote me, asking me to do something about it.  It was the only time that I ever saw my Granny Ruby write a cuss word.  At the time, I assumed I would be living on my beautiful Virginia colonial farm forever and so did nothing.

Well,  we could go on ad nauseam with stories like these. Every state in the Southeast has similar ones.  Such things are still going on, as recently as in November 2018.  However, the point is that what you read in newspapers, Wikipedia,  university-published anthropology books, etc. about the Native American history of the United States is often the product of politicized archaeology and history, or else simplistic assumptions made by clueless academicians, living in an anthropological vacuum.  

The official logo of the Museum of the Cherokee Indian was traced from a gorget found in southeastern Missouri in the mid-19th century.

The Tar Heel Spider that wasn’t

Less you still doubt my truthfulness, here is one last example.  A giant replica of a shell gorget, with a spider engraved on it, was placed on the front facade of the Museum of the Cherokee Indian in North Carolina.  Those of you, who have visited the museum may recall that near the entrance was placed a sign stating, “The emblem on the outside of the museum portrays the Sacred Water Spider shell gorget, which was found here on the Cherokee Reservation.   It is one of many types of Mississippian shell gorgets made by the Cherokee People.”

Well-l-l . . . actually as you can see . . . a commercial artist, who was a sub-contractor for the museum’s architects,  found that gorget on page 137 of The Southeastern Indians (1976) by Charles Hudson.  As clearly labeled in the photo’s caption, the photo came from an 1883 report by the Smithsonian Institute’s Bureau of Ethnology.  That particular gorget was dug from a mound in Missouri, across the Mississippi River from Cahokia Mounds!  However, one very similar was unearthed in Moundville, Alabama.  That’s still not the Cherokee Reservation.

Giant Water Spider from the Great Lakes Region

However, the layers of anthropological ineptitude goes far deeper than caca de toro in a Native American tribe’s museum. Charles Hudson quoted a tale in James Mooney’s “Myths of the Cherokee Indian,” which was published in 1891.  In the Water Spider Myth as written by Mooney,  he states that this sacred Water Spider was the giant variety as big as you hand, furry like a tarantula and had yellow and black stripes.  Well . . . that spider only lives in Australia.   There is a type of giant water spider in the Great Lakes region, where the Cherokees originated, but not in the Southern Appalachians. 

As you can see, the Great Lakes Giant Water Spider does have yellow stripes, but does not have thick furry legs. Either Mooney or Hudson altered the description of the Giant Water Spider, so it would look like the gorget . . . or that authentic Cherokee myth originated in Australia!

Charles Hudson announced to the people of Asheville that the Great Cherokee Capital of Guaxule was on the Biltmore Estate.  He pronounced the word “Gwak-Silly.”  The correct pronunciation of the Spanish letters would have been  Wa -shaw-le . . . that’s as in Wassaw Sound near Savannah, GA.   By the way,  Wasa (pronounced Washaw) is the Maori word for ocean. Wasale means “Ocean People.”  Now we know where our Polynesian DNA came from.   Those Polynesians sure did get around. 



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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.



    Hi, Richard. Concerning your article on the ancient alignment from Florida to Tenn. Do you know if that line aliens with a Earthworks in Ohio? It seems that you are right about a connection with the “Para” people of Peru being a big part of the History of the Eastern side of the U.S. I think many people underestimate the advanced Seafaring peoples of the Native Americans. Remember that Columbus (Colon) stated he found a Cat. ship carrying over 200 people in that area that your alignment runs too. Perhaps a crossing point over to the Pacific ships?

    • Yes, it does. There are string of Native American towns all the way to East Central Ohio, plus in Georgia, hilltop and mountain stone circles along the line.


    Richard T., Are you aware that the Norwegian and Swedish sjo/sjö meaning ocean and sea also have another word “hav” with the same meaning?
    Maybe it’s far fetched yet there could be a posibility that both “shaw” in “washawle” and “hav” are related to “wasa”.
    In Polynesian languages/dialects letters are replaced or left out.
    – lua, rua (“two”)
    – makua, matua (“parent, elder, grown up, mature, chief”)
    – vai, wai (“water”)

    Sometimes the letter “h” is replaced by “s”; Example: Hawai’i , Savai’i.

    Eventhough the Norwegian and Swedish “hav” meaning ocean and sea is believed to be derived from proto-Germanic “habą” both “hav” and “habą” could be related to “wasa” as in “-sa”/”-saw” which evolved into “-sav”/”-hav”.
    A proto-Germanic derived term from “habą” is “habnō” meaning “harbor/harbour”, “haven”.
    Old English – hæfene
    Old Frisian – hafen
    Old Saxon – havana
    Old Dutch – havana
    Old Norse – hǫfn
    Old Swedish – hafn

    These forms are similar to (Austronesian/Malayo-)Polynesian words for harbour, haven.

    Ilokano – sabáŋ-an (“mouth (of a river); harbor, port, haven”)
    Maori – awa (“channel, landing place for canoes”)
    Hawaiian – awa (“port, harbor; channel or passage, as through a reef”)
    ‘Āre’āre – tawa (“a channel in the shore reef; a landing place”)
    Sa’a – tawa (“an opening in the shore reef; used in names of landing places”)

    One of the meanings of the word/s makua, matua is “chief”. Makua is the Hawaiian variant of the word matua. Could it be that the word “mako” meaning king is derived from ;a Polynesian source; “matua”/”makua” meaning “chief”?

    • Are sure that hav does not mean “harbor?” Copenhagen in Danska is København. It means “shopping harbor.” In Svenska the city’s name is Köpenhamn,


        Richard T., On the ‘’ online dictionary the following definitions are given for the words ocean, sea and harbour:
        – The Norwegian (alternative/synonym) word for ocean, sea is “hav” and the word for harbour, port is “havn”.
        – The Swedish ( ,, ) word for sea is “hav” and the word for harbour, port is “hamn”.
        – The Danish word for ocean, sea is “hav” and the word for harbour, port is “havn”.
        – The Iclandic (alternative/synonym) word for ocean, sea is “haf” and the word for harbour, port is “höfn”.

        The proto-Germanic word for harbor/harbour, haven is “habnō” which is believed to be derived from proto-Germanic “habą” meaning “sea”.
        When looking at the similar word forms like “havn” words like “havana”, “hæfene”, “havene” and “habene” are given.

        The similarities with (Austronesian/Malayo-)Polynesian words for harbor/harbour, haven and port are noticable.
        Ilokano – sabáŋ-an (“mouth (of a river); harbor, port, haven”)
        Ifugaw – hábaŋ (“said of a person who arrives at the bank of a river and goes across”)
        Fiji – mata-sawa (“landing place on a beach, where canoes are drawn up”)
        ‘Āre’āre – tawa (“a channel in the shore reef; a landing place”)
        Sa’a – tawa (“an opening in the shore reef; used in names of landing places”)
        Maori – awa (“channel, landing place for canoes”)
        Hawaiian – awa (“port, harbor; channel or passage, as through a reef”)

        Either the similarities are coincidence (chance resemblances) or there is in fact a relationship between these seemingly unrelated language families.

        Source/Links: (replace norwegian with any language (if available) you would like to translate) (ocean, sea) (sea) (harbour, haven)

        Austronesian Comparative Dictionary (online) (sabaŋ₁) (sawaŋ₂) (sawaq₁)


    I am considered Gullah Geechee from an island off of the coast of South Carolina. This is such fascinating work! Thanks for sharing.


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