Select Page

Map of Alabama, Florida and Georgia showing South American peoples

Map supplement

Several people have written me today expressing surprise that South American and Caribbean provinces originally covered much more area in the Lower Southeast than the Cherokee Nation between 1795 and 1838.   However, the difference is that the South American and Caribbean influences were profound for at least 1500 years prior to the arrival of English-speaking colonists.  The Creek word for Yaupon Holly tea is exactly the same as the Eastern Peruvian word for a tea made from a South American cousin of the Yaupon.

It is the same situation for much of the South Carolina Low Country.  Most of the village names, mentioned in the chronicles of the Juan Pardo Expedition are South American words.   Remember that he generally called a village chief, an orata?  Orata is still the word used for a village chief in eastern Peru and the headwaters of the Amazon River.  Orata has also been absorbed into the Creek language, but is used for an appointed official,  hamlet chief or neighborhood leader.

The Toa Arawaks were Ciboney People from the Toa River Basin in central Cuba and Arecibo, Puerto Rico.  They produced owl-motif pottery like that found at Brown’s Mount near Macon, GA.


The following two tabs change content below.
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.



    Who were the native peoples in the FL panhandle. And, what were the significant trails through that area. Was one the

    • Hey Sharon

      Along the Suwanee River was a hybrid people called the Yustanaga, who were mixed Uchee and Shawnee. To the west of the them all the way to the Apalachicola River were a people, who the Spanish called Apalache, but who called themselves a word that was similar Tallahassee. West of the Apalachicola River was the Chatot, who spoke a dialect of Choctaw. Beyond them were the Pensacola and the Mobile.


    Very interesting post. It’s amazing to see how far inland South American tribes have lived in Southeastern North America.
    What interests me is the Arawak and Warao.

    In an earlier post ‘Surprising late date on maps for word, Timucua’
    I’ve already put forward the similarities in words for tree and canoe in various languages (and dialects).

    Similar words for tree(oak)/canoe:

    Talewil = tree (California – Wiyot)
    Halewil = canoe (California – Wiyot)
    Kalapi(kulupi) = pin-, white oak (Muskogee-creek)

    Alawas = tree, valley oak (California – Miwok)
    Aruwax = tree, white oak (California – Chalon)
    Aruwa = sago(tree?) canoe (Venezuela – Warao)
    (k)Arukwa = tree (Columbia – Tunebo)
    (g)Aruda = tree (Mohawk oneida)

    Arabu = tree (Arabuko = woodland/forest) island Carib)

    Interesting notes:

    Origin of the name Aruba.

    The first inhabitants of Aruba were of an Arawak tribe from the South American mainland.

    Historia di Aruba

    National Archaeological Museum Aruba

    The First Inhabinants of Aruba

    There are many theories on the origin of the place name Aruba:

    Spanish: Oro Hubo (there was gold)
    Tupi-Guarani: Oirubae (companion)
    Carib: Oraoubao (shell-island)
    Gulf of Maracaibo: Oruba (well located)
    Taino: Aruboa
    Uruba (canoe-island)

    Gulf of Darien; originally Gulf of Uruba which means ‘Gulf of Canoes’.
    The Gulf of Darien is the southernmost region of the Caribbean Sea, located north and east of the border between Colombia and Panama.

    It is commonly accepted that place names and resource usage both play significant roles in defining aboriginal territory.

    With the place name Gulf of Uruba meaning Gulf of Canoes it would be even more proof that the words for tree and canoe are all connected to native languages/dialects from South America and the Caribbean; which could be the ultimate origin of the word kvlvpi (kulupi / kalapi?) meaning pin-, white oak (oak tree) in Muskogee-creek.

    • Actually, there were Peruvians and Arawaks in NE Tennessee and western North Carolina too. They occupied the region that the Cherokees later claimed. I will show that in a later episode!


    Thank you for your reply @ Richard.

    It would be great to see more info on the territories of the Peruvians and Arawaks in Southeastern (and Northeastern?) North America.

    It really makes me wonder if Arawaks actually reached Iroquois lands/territory either by trade, warfare or refuge.

    Iroquoian – Mohawk Oneida

    In the Iroquoian Mohawk Oneida language we can find two examples for the word tree:
    ‘garuda’ and ‘garoha’ (garo’ha?).

    Source: Michelson, Gunther 1973

    ‘A thousand words of Mohawk. Ottawa, Canada: National Museum of Man.
    ; Maracle, David R. 1990. Mohawk language dictionary. Belleville,
    ON: Mika Publishing Company

    These Iroquoian Mohawk Oneida words for tree could have an Arawakan (mainland and Caribbean) origin.

    aruda ? – garuda = tree
    aruha ? – garuha = tree

    aruwa = sago(tree)canoe; Warao
    arabu = tree (arabuko = woodland/forest); Island Carib

    uruba = canoe ?, canoe-island; Arawak (Caquetio-Arawak)


Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to POOF via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this website and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 565 other subscribers

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Share this post with your friends!