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Lies that your teacher told you about the Chickasaws & Creeks – Part One

Lies that your teacher told you about the Chickasaws & Creeks – Part One

 

Don’t always believe what historical markers, state history textbooks or local newspapers tell you!

On April 29, 2015, the Chief Archivist at the Lambeth Palace Library in London emailed me high resolution images of all the documents in a long forgotten wooden box.   On July 7, 1735, Supervising Trustee of the new Province of Georgia, James Edward Oglethorpe, had dispatched that box on a ship headed to London . . . to be presented to HRH King George II.  Realizing the importance of the box’s contents, King George soon dispatched the box to the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Wake, with instructions to use the documents, written by Georgia’s Colonial Secretary, Thomas Christie, to create a Holy Bible in the Creek language.  The box was accompanied by a large velum, made from bison calf skin, which in the Creek Indian writing system, told the migration legend of the Kaushete People, a major branch of the Upper Creeks.  This document is now known as the Creek Migration Legend.

The velum was hung on the wall of the Georgia Room of the Colonial Office in Westminster Palace until the end of the American Revolution.  We still cannot find its current location, mainly because we are getting no cooperation from British archivists, due to their extreme hostility toward the current administration in Washington, DC.  They don’t seem to understand that Native American scholars have no responsibility for what our federal government does or doesn’t do.

The immediate response of Archbishop William Wake to reading the reports from Thomas Christie, was to appoint two young brothers, recently graduated from divinity school, to go to Georgia as missionaries to the Creek and Uchee Indians.  Their names were John and Charles Wesley.  They, along with George Whitfield, later founded Methodist Societies, which after the Wesley Brothers’ deaths many decades later, became the Methodist Church.  However, their time in Georgia was a disaster.  Charles was eventually sent home after alienating all the Native Americans, Presbyterians and Lutherans in the Colony.  Until then, Oglethorpe kept Charles in Savannah, where he could to the least harm.  With time on his hands, Charles began writing hymns . . . especially Christmas carols such as “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.”   A century later, another song writer would compose “Jingle Bells” in that same section of Savannah. The reports sent back to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel by the Wesley Brothers and later, George Whitefield, were added to the contents of the box, along with some later letters from Thomas Christie.

John Wesley behaved like a bantam rooster in the new colony.  He deeply resented that fact that the Creeks were at least a foot taller than him and had no clue that their traditional religion had the same beliefs as his.  Traditional Creek monotheistic beliefs appear to have been highly influenced by French Huguenots in the late 1500s, who came to live among the Creeks.  After a disastrous sermon given by Wesley to the Creeks at the nearby town of Palachicola, Oglethorpe assigned Wesley responsibility for being the go-between with German-speaking Moravians and Salzburg Lutherans, who were settling in the colony.  That turned out well, but in the meantime Wesley humiliated the daughter of the Chief Magistrate in the colony and had to escape Georgia during the night in a canoe . . . with an arrest warrant on his head.

Archbishop Wake died prior to John Wesley’s return to England.  The new archbishop had no interest in promoting missions among the “savages” in the Americas. However, in 1738 he appointed a close friend of the Wesleys, George Whitefield, to be a missionary to the white colonists in Georgia.  Whitefield was a great success and eventually became a celebrity throughout the British North American colonies.  He became the first evangelist in North America and essentially invented the concept of open-air Protestant “revivals.”   John Wesley applied the same concept to England and Wales with great success . . . especially in Wales.

The location of the box sent by Oglethorpe was forgotten for 285 years.  New England professors made several trips to England during the 1800s without finding it.   The Smithsonian Institute dispatched a team in 1887 to find the “Creek Migration Legend,” but couldn’t.  They formally reported that the contents of the box were lost forever.  Wrong!

A world that your textbook never told you about

Very frankly, I was absolutely astounded when I began reading the reports by Thomas Christie and Charles Wesley.   Virtually everything that I had been told in my Eighth Grade Georgia History class about the Native Americans in Georgia at the time of its settlement was mythology.  Two major tribes, the Uchee and the Chickasaw, had been erased.  The southern boundary of the Cherokees at that time was roughly the North Carolina State Line between Hiwassee River and the South Carolina State Line. South and west of the Hiwassee, Upper Creek territory extended into North Carolina and Tennessee.

At that time (the 1730s) the Chickasaws still occupied ALL of northern Alabama and ¾ of Tennessee.  There were Chickasaw villages, south of Yonah Mountain in present day White, Hall and Banks Counties in Northeast Georgia.  The Chickasaw village of Nacoochee was actually located where Cleveland, GA is today.  Yet all three of those counties tell the public on their websites that they were home to the Cherokee Indians for thousands of years.  There were also Chickasaw villages on the Flint River in Southwest Georgia.

Would you believe that the Eastern Band of Cherokees secretly bought a large tract of land, SOUTH of Yonah Mountain near Cleveland, GA, in hope of some day building a casino there?  It is land that was always within the boundaries of the Creek Confederacy, but occupied by Chickasaws until 1818, when ceded to the State of Georgia.  This is why local amateur historians in the Nacoochee Valley and White County are so loyal to a Cherokee history that never was.  They are being cheered on by Boss Hoggs, who give generously to local civic organizations that support the Cherokee Cause.  The northern half of the county was in Cherokee territory from 1785 to 1821, but not occupied by ethnic Cherokees. Its occupants spoke a Creek dialect and moved to the Creek Nation in Alabama, after selling their land to North Carolina real estate speculators in 1821.  Until the mid-1830s, Yonah Mountain was named Noccosee Mountain on official Georgia maps and Yeona Mountain on an 1832 federal gold mining map. Nocose is the Creek word for bear.  At that time some descendants of the 17th century Asturian and Portuguese gold miners still lived in the region.  Yonah Mountain got its Cherokee name . . . the word for Grizzly Bear, not Eastern Black Bear . . .  in the 1830s when the new emigres from North Carolina misinterpreted the little-used Asturian-Spanish name of the mountain, Yeona, to be an Injun word and looked it up in a Cherokee dictionary.  There are NO grizzly bears in the Southeast.  LOL 

Meanwhile, the Uchees were the predominant indigenous people in Southeast Georgia and along the Ogeechee River as far north as Sparta, GA in the Piedmont.  This was their Motherland, not Tennessee.  They told General Oglethorpe that after sailing across the Atlantic from the “home of the sun” they had first settled near Savannah.  They also occupied the Lower Ocmulgee River in the vicinity of Hawkinsville.  There were some Uchee still living in the Cumberland Plateau of Tennessee and on the south side the Hiwassee River.  North Carolina also contained Uchee villages near Old Fort, Lenoir and Morganton.

As the province’s Indian Agent, Charles Wesley journeyed to Tugaloo, near present day Toccoa in the extreme northeastern tip of Georgia, to meet with the leaders of tribes in that region.  He described Tugaloo as a village containing about 100 Uchees and the region around it being occupied by Uchees, Chickasaw, Soque, Apalachee and remnant Creek tribes that had relocated from South Carolina.  He said that he never met a Cherokee, while in Georgia. The Sokee spoke Itsate Creek.  The Miccosukee in Florida are their descendants.  They were not Cherokees.

Yet today, Georgia teaches its students . . . and has even erected official state historical markers stating: “Tugaloo was the first Cherokee town in Georgia. Beginning around 1450 AD Cherokee priests maintained Sacred Fires night and day in the temples atop Tugaloo Mounds.”

In 1957, two to three decades before these official historical markers were erected, the famous Georgia archaeologist, Joseph Caldwell, excavated Tugaloo.  He determined that it originally was settled around 200 BC.  Mound construction began around 800 AD and that the town continued to have similar cultural traits as other Proto-Creek towns until around 1700 AD or slightly later . . . at which time the town was completely burned and abandoned.  A small settlement of crude round huts was later established in one corner of the main plaza.

Well . . . the lies about Native American history in our state history books, historical markers and local newspapers are legion. We could probably make them into a television series in the United States that would last for at least a decade. In the meantime, the second part of this series will examine lies taught about the Chickasaws, Creeks and Uchees in state history texts and historical markers.  

An example?  As you can see in the painting above . . . in 1735, many Creeks in the eastern half of Georgia looked like Itza Mayas and actualy had Maya names!  Tamachichi, the man, who sold the land for Savannah, had a name, which means “Trade Dog” in Itza.  He was originally the chief of the Itza-te Creeks around Macon, GA, but was expelled by the newly re-created Creek Confederacy in 1717.  He then became an itinerant trader and slave catcher . . . before gathering about 50 followers and moving them to the unoccupied location, where the town of Savannah was planned . . . just a few months prior to the arrival of the colonists.   In current lingo, we would call him a real estate scam artist.

Many of the absolute facts will make some Chickasaws, Creeks and Uchees mad, because they conflict with what their elders told them. These lies, validated by white academicians, are  now even in the official histories, maintained by the tribes.  Most Chickasaws have no clue that they were founding members of the Creek Confederacy.   They only left the alliance in the 1720s, after the Coweta-Tuckabatchee faction pushed through a law, mandating their particular language, which is now called Muskogee, as their official parliamentary jargon.  In numbers, the majority of Confederacy members originally spoke dialects of Itsate (Hitchiti).  Until the 1790s,  more people within the current boundaries of Georgia spoke Itsate than English.  However, the Muskogee speakers were militarily dominant in the Confederacy.  Later in that century, many of the Itsate speakers left the confederacy or moved to Florida, when a British Tory,  Alexander McGillivray, made himself Principal Chief of the “Muskogee Creek Confederacy.”   Well, even there we find another lie.  The word, Mvskoke (Muskogee) was not coined until the mid-1700s!  In 1735, the Creeks called themselves Apalache or Palache.   The English and French colonists then called the Lower Creeks, Cowetas and the Upper Creeks, Cusates.

A big thank you to sociologist-historian Jim Loewen, for not being upset by my copycatting of the name of his best-selling book, Lies My Teacher Told Me!

 

 

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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.

2 Comments

  1. lbtagawa@gmail.com'

    Question–you mentioned that the Creek religion was influenced by the Huguenots. I’m very interested. Have you posted on this topic or can you direct me? Thanks!!!

    Reply
    • Yes, Marilyn Rae and I wrote a book about it. The Apalache Chronicles. Survivors of Fort Caroline’s massacre traveled up the Altamaha to the Oconee River in Northeast Georgia and were given sanctuary by the King of Apalache, if they agreed to marry Apalache women. We are talking about the real Apalache in Northern Georgia. They eventually converted the King of Apalache and the Apalache elite to Protestant Christianity.

      The book is available from the publisher, Ancient Cypress Press, and from Amazon.com . . . perhaps also Barnes and Noble.

      Reply

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