Koasati, Cusate, Cusseta, Coushetta . . . what’s the difference?
In the late 20th century, University of North Carolina graduate and University of Georgia professor, Charles Hudson, unilaterally translated the European spellings of numerous Creek words in the chronicles of the De Soto and Pardo Expeditions without consulting either a Creek dictionary or the Creek People. He was consistently wrong. Some he even labeled “ancient Cherokee words, whose meanings have become lost.” Because from that generation onward anthropology in Southeastern universities has been characterized by rote replication of the opinions of authority figures rather than training students how to think and analyze, his mistakes have become fossilized. Any attempts to correct these mistakes are viewed as heresy.
Particularly disturbing are the professional papers about the indigenous peoples of the Tennessee Valley, coming out of the University of Tennessee’s Department of Anthropology. They are now saying that all of the Proto-Creek “Dallas Culture” towns in eastern Tennessee were Koasati . . . just not true. The current generation of professors there think that the Koasati are the same people as the Cusate. These recent papers and books from UT quoted Hudson rather than using archival materials from their own state, when discussing the Koasati.
If any institution should have their “ducks in row,” it should be UT. Their department has an outstanding tradition of scientific endeavor that once upon a time radically changed the history books.
So readers can get back to their daily tasks quickly, POOF will provide you with a concise etymologies of these words.
Pronounced Kō : ä : shă : tē . . . Koasati is the Anglicization of the Itsate Creek word, Kowasati, which means “Bobcat People.” It is highly probable that they originated as the intermarriage of an Itsate elite with commoners, who were members of the Uchee Bobcat Clan.
Koasati was originally a dialect of Itsate, but after over 200 years of close association with the Alabama People, Koasati has absorbed many Alabama words. The same thing has happened to Itsate. I have found that Itsate (Hitchiti) was essentially a dialect of Itza Maya at the time that the modern Creek Confederacy was formed in 1717, but now has absorbed many Muskogee words. One has to use an Itza Maya dictionary to translate Itsate personal names as late as 1754!
The Koasati were not mentioned by name in either the De Soto Chronicles or the Creek Migration Legends. The Tennessee River town of Coste, as written by the Spanish, referred to the Kusate, which will be discussed below. However, towns around the Southeast, named Casqui in the Spanish archives, were probably trading centers occupied by Koasati. Caske is the Koasati word for “warrior.”
This is speculative, but there is strong evidence that the Koasati’s homeland was not the Tennessee Valley, but the Cumberland and Duck River Basins near Nashville. Tullahoma, Tennessee is a Koasati word meaning “Red Town.” It was the aboriginal territory of the Uchee Bobcat Clan. There was a very advanced indigenous people, living in this region, whose ethnic identity has never been confirmed. None of the major tribal divisions in the Upper Creek Confederacy were from Central Tennessee, yet the Upper Creeks always claimed the region as their territory and viciously attacked early settlers in the Nashville Area. By this time, the Koasati were a minor division of the Creeks, but they would have brought their territorial claims into the Creek Confederacy.
The first definite appearance of the Koasati is on the 1684 map of North America by French cartographer, Jean Baptiste Franqueline. Casquinampo is the name given to the Tennessee River below its confluence with the Little Tennessee River. This is a Koasati word meaning, “Many Warriors.” Mia Rakko (Big Island) in the Little Tennessee River is labeled the capital of the Casquinampo Indians (Koasati). Big Island later became the home of the Cherokee town of Chota and Fort Loudon. It is near Vonore, TN.
When the Cherokees conquered the Upper Tennessee River Valley, the remnants of the Koasati’s moved down into Alabama. After the French lost the French and Indian War in 1763, many Alabama and Koasati villages moved to Louisiana and Texas. By the late 1700s, the few remaining Koasati in Alabama had lost their cultural distinction and were probably little different than other branches of the Upper Creeks.
Cusate (Coste in Late Medieval Castilian)
Pronounced Kŭ : shă : tē, Cusate is the spelling used on late 17th century and early 18th century French maps for the Upper Creeks living in the Upper Tennessee Valley. Their actual indigenous name was Kaushete. The Upper Creeks in Oklahoma today call themselves the Kauche. They spoke a dialect of Itsate that was distinctively different than the dialect spoke by the Koasati. As can be seen in the map above, early 18th century British maps used an almost identical word, Kusatee. Cusate is a hybrid Panoan-Itza Maya word, which means “Strong or elite – people.” “Te” is the Itza Maya suffix for “people or tribe.”
The Kusate were the descendants of the vassals of the great town of Kusa (actually Kaushe) in Northwest Georgia. Many originally spoke other languages, but their ethnic distinction had disappeared by the time that the French established a fort on Bussell Island, the Tennessee and Little Tennessee Rivers form. They represented a complex blend of ethnic groups such as the aboriginal Uchee and Siouans, immigrants from the area around Macon, GA, Arawaks (Taenasi) and Mesoamericans (Tequistlateco). However, the dominant ethnic layer at the time of European contact were the Tequistlateco, who became known to Muskogeee speakers as Kvsitv (Kaushitaw).
The famous document, known to mainstream academia as “The Migration Legend of the Creek People” is actually a “road map” of the wanderings of the Tequistlateco from their homeland on the slopes of the Oriziba Volcano in western Vera Cruz to the Upper Tennessee Valley and then the migration of one band of Kaushete to the banks of the Upper Ocmulgee River. The arrival of the Tequistlateco in the Tennessee Valley was signified by the sudden appearance of red on buff, checkered pottery, which is still made in the Sierra Occidental region of Vera Cruz and Oaxaca.
Cousheta was the most common name used by the French for the Upper Creeks after Fort Toulouse was built in southeastern Alabama in the early 1700s. The fort appears on the 1715 Beresford Map, so academicians are wrong is saying that it was built after 1717. It was the French who shortened the tribal name Kowasati to Coasate, Coashate or Couashate. Anglo-American settlers in Louisiana misunderstood the name of the surviving band of Koasati in Louisiana and thus called the Coushatta . . . the same name used for Upper Creeks in Alabama.
Cusseta was the name used by the British for a town that was across the Ocmulgee River in Butts County, GA from the original site of Coweta. It was composed of a band of Kusate, who migrated down from the Upper Tennessee River and became allies with Coweta. After the capital of Coweta moved to the present location of Downtown Columbus, GA in 1746, most of the residents of Cusseta moved first to where Phenix City, AL is now located, but later moved again to south of Upatoi Creek, where the administrative offices of Fort Benning are now located.
While the French continued to call all Upper Creeks, Cousheta, the British used the term Cusseta only for the tribal town of Cusseta and its satellite villages in the vicinity of the Chattahoochee River. This is why white academicians assumed that Cusate and Cosate were European names for the Koasati. The French in Louisiana always called the Koasati either Coasate, Couashate or Coasharte.
Alabama-Quassarte Tribal Town
This is a federally recognized tribal town in Oklahoma, which is composed of the descendants of approximately eight Alabama and Koasate towns in Alabama, which were clustered around Wetumka. Quassarte represents the effort of some Alabama or Creek person in Oklahoma, trying to represent the Louisianne French word Coashate in English phonetics.
The Alabama and Koasate were different tribes, speaking different languages in the Southeast, but ironically, some of the Alabama’s ancestors originated in the coastal regions east of where the Tesquitlateco originated. Their original name was Al Ipama. The Ipama were a community of the Chontal Mayas on the coast of Vera Cruz. Al Ipama means “Place of the Ipama.”
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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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