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Kanza Language shows ancient cultural contact with the Chickasaw

Kanza Language shows ancient cultural contact with the Chickasaw


The Kanza are also known as the Kaw, Kansa or Kansas People

The Siouan Tribes, now living on the Great Plains have been gone from the Southeastern United States many, many centuries.  Until relatively recently, their languages were neither standardized nor written down.   Under such conditions, one can expect rapid evolution and absorption of Western Plains words.  However, some cultural connections to their ancient past still exist.  A quick survey of an English-Kanza dictionary revealed those connections.  I also was able to begin translating Indigenous place names in Northwest Georgia and Northeast Alabama that have baffled us for years.  They seem unrelated to any known Southeastern language.

Of course, the Kanza are not mentioned in Southeastern history books, but surprisingly, the Chickasaw are barely mentioned in the Alabama State History text, while they are not mentioned at all in the Georgia State History text.  All of the area of northern Alabama, which their history text shows as “traditional Cherokee territory” was occupied by the Chickasaw until after the American Revolution . . . all of it.  Their capital was where Muscle Shoals, AL is now situated.

The Chickasaw occupied villages, south of the Nacoochee Valley in Northeast Georgia,  north of the Coosawattee River in Northwest Georgia and in the Flint River Basin in Southwest Georgia.  The first official map of Georgia in 1785 (which included Alabama and Mississippi) showed the Chickasaw as being the only tribe north of the Coosawattee River in Georgia and north of the Tennessee River in Alabama.

The 280 year old documents that I obtained from Lambeth Palace in 2015 stated that the Chickasaw were one of the four original members of the first People of One Fire or “Creek Confederacy.”  They were also members of the “modern” Creek Confederacy, formed in 1717 at what is now Ocmulgee National Monument.  The Chickasaw left the confederacy, formed in 1717, because the Muskogee-speaking Creeks pressured the alliance to adopt Muskogee as its official parliamentary and trade language.  Up to that time, Muskogee was a minority language.  Until after the American Revolution, more people spoke Hitchiti Creek in Georgia than English!

Time is limited right now for linguistic analysis, since the main focus is getting educational videos on indigenous architectural history, posted on YouTube.  However, here is a sample of surprises that are going to be found in the Siouan/Biloxi dictionaries.

Town –  Both the Kanza and the Chickasaw use the word Tama for town.  Tama is the Totonac word for “trade,” which was absorbed by the Itza, during the 500 years they were under Totonac domination and then became the word for trade in Itsate Creek and several other Southeastern languages.   SO . . . if you lived in a small Siouan or Chickasaw village at the southern tip of the Appalachians, you would travel to a large Muskogean provincial capital to trade.

Brave – The Kanza adjective for “brave” is nika.   The same adjective in the Muskogean languages is nika, noka, nuka, noki or nuki, but also evolved to become a noun . . . a brave warrior came to be known as a “brave” . . . as in the Atlanta Braves baseball team – LOL.  Chattanooga means “Red Brave.”   The noun form of nika in Kanza is anika.  Anika (Anica) was the name of one of the villages visited by the Hernando de Soto Expedition in Alabama, but also shows up in a late 17th century French map as a town in Northwest Georgia.

Clan or People – The Mandan and Arikara, also Siouans from the Southeast, use the Muskogee suffix for “people or klan” . . . ki or ke . . . which seems to have originated in northern Peru and Ecuador.  In archaic words, the Kanza use the suffix, ga or gi . . . which also appears in Muskogee, Southern Shawnee and Cherokee ethnic names. 

Wind Clan or People –  The Kanza Dictionary translates this word as tajéoníⁿ – kashìⁿ – ga and states that the word really means “Wind people, sub gens of the Kanze gens.”   Actually,  this explanation solves two mysteries in the Southeast.  The two towns near what is now New Echota National Historic Landmark, at the confluence of the Conasauga, Coosawattee and Oostanaula Rivers were Kansa (Kanza) and Kause (Kaushi). They became the nucleus of the powerful Kusa People . . . aka the Upper Creeks. 

Kansa was at the actual site of New Echota.   Its occupants were booted out when the Cherokees decided to build their capital there.  There is no record of where these Kanza went.  It is obvious that the Cherokees selected their town site for the capital as a political statement that they now held the original heartland of an ancient enemy.   Unfortunately,  New Echota would only last for five years and never had more than about 50 permanent residents.

So we now know that origin of the alternative name of the Kanza, the Kaw Nation, came from the root of the Muskogean people, who probably functioned as th elite of Kusa. Akaw now means “South Wind” in Kanza, but kaw in Itsate Creek and Itza Maya means “eagle.”  Thus, the two surviving clans of the Kanza are the White Eagle Clan and the Black Eagle Clan.  Apparently, the Wind Clan (tajéoní- kashì – ga) is no longer a functioning clan of the Kanza, but may be a “secret society” that no one told me about.  In the past, I have found that many western tribes are reluctant to discuss their inner cultural workings with me, because of the far more recent pain of contacts with outsiders. 

Talona Creek – This stream is a tributary of the Coosawattee River, which joins Talking Rock Creek just before it flows into the Lower Reservoir of Carters Lake.  In other words, it was in the heart of Kusa.   In the earliest maps, when Spanish-speaking Sephardic gold miners lived on it, it written as Tayoni then later Taloney.   I strongly suspect that the original word is rooted in the Kansa word for “Wind Clan.”

Yet, the ethnic picture of that region of the Southern Appalachians is still one of mixed ethnicity.  Locals label all Native American names as being somehow Cherokee, when in fact, very few Native American place names in the Georgia Mountains are actual Cherokee words.  One of the few is “Coosawattee,” which is the Anglicization of the Cherokee words that mean “Place of Old Kusa Town.”   Also, in Gilmer County is Tickanetly Creek, which everybody there assumes is a Cherokee word, whose meaning has been lost.  Actually,  it is a Creek root word with a Nahuatl (Mexican) suffix that means, “Place of crossing shallow streams.”   There is still much about the past that we don’t understand.

YouTube puts one on the world stage.  During the coming months,  my work will necessarily focus on architectural history, structural engineering, regional economics and urban planning, because those are my unquestionable professional credentials.  The U.S. Navy knew I had a knack for deciphering unknown languages.  It wanted to pay me to get a PhD in the subject and become a career Naval Intelligence officer . . . but I didn’t.  Nevertheless, I urge those of you, who are interested in linguistics to dive into the indigenous languages of the Southeast and advance the progress of scientific knowledge.

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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.



    Thanks Richard, and God Speed on the You Tube project.

    • Thank you sir! I ain’t going anywhere . . . However, every point and line in a architectural/town computer model requires a mathematical formula. It is very time consuming.


    Fine article! And goodspeed on You Tube. Formerly an academic (Slavic) linguist, I’ve since learned a fair amount about Nahuatl and plan to learn a lot more. Also to look into the Maya language(s). It would be fascinating to study Chickasaw and see what parallels can be found. Can you recommend as a primer?

    • Thank you sir. The Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma has excellent language resources and even their own TV network for teaching Chickasaw.

      FAMSI is the best source for dictionaries and glossaries of the various Maya languages. They never called themselves Mayas! LOL For the languages of central and northern Mexico I go to the Institutio de Verano in Mexico City or the Universidad Nacional Autonimo de Mexico in Mexico City. UNAM did have a website which would translate most of the major indigenous languages into Spanish. That is how I first discovered that the Totonac, Itza Maya and Eastern Creek/Seminole words for house were all chiki! The Choctaw, Chickasaw and Muskogee Creek word for house is the Itza Maya word for warm . . . choko.


    OT – but check out the following link related to the Supreme Court. Court has been asked to take cert on re-establishment of Creek reservation boundaries. Open the document titled petition for cert . . . Scroll down to the statement of the case.


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