Richard Thornton | Jun 3, 2017 | 15
Map of Alabama, Florida and Georgia showing South American peoples
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.
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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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