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Mesoamerican and South American words found in the Native languages of the Southeastern United States

Mesoamerican and South American words found in the Native languages of the Southeastern United States

Native American Brainfood

More than any other factor, the failure of Caucasian anthropologists to thoroughly analyze the etymology of indigenous languages in the Southeastern United States is the direct cause of their profession’s flawed, simplistic understanding of the past. Actually, very, very few even bother to familiarize themselves with the languages of the peoples, who made the potsherds they love to classify. 

There is no excuse. Anthropologists in all other parts of the world now consider genetics and linguistics to be the keystones for understanding an ethnic group’s unrecorded history. Two or more ethnic groups could have made the same or similar styles of pottery, stone implements and architecture.

Most Southeastern languages are agglutinative. This means that verbal descriptions of new objects or concepts were created by joining two or more words together.  The “Creek” languages are especially complex because their ancestors would often join words from several,  completely different languages to make a new word.  This is because their cultural history, very early on, involved blending distinct ethnic groups together.

Another problem seen in academic, professional and hobbyist publications on anthropology is that the authors often assume that the English place name was the same as the actual indigenous word.  Beginning with an Anglicized indigenous word, they create bizarre interpolations and speculations concerning the past – most often from a Eurocentric perspective.  For example, over a century ago, a Scandinavian-American professor in Minnesota looked at the word Muskogee and decided that the Creeks were really Algonquians, because there was a town in Michigan named Muskegon, derived from the Algonquian word for swamp.  The professor then went a step further off the deep end and said that both tribes were originally Vikings because the Scandinavian word for a peat bog is mosse.  The actual Creek word is Mȁskoki.  It means, “Medicinal Herb People.”   


 The Etowah Model

The year is 2006.  The Muscogee-Creek Nation asked me to build a 4 x 8 feet model of the town of Etowah for display under its national seal in the Mound Building.  Because of the model’s prominent location, they asked me to closely follow the findings of the ground radar study of Etowah that the MCN was funding AND thoroughly research the archaeological literature on Etowah Mounds.  My report on the research was to be approved, before I started work on the model.

True to tradition . . . the archaeologists being paid by the Creek Nation refused to let me see their ground radar scans, since they said the printouts were their personal property.  I was able to get some sections with the help of park rangers, but for the overall town plan, ended up using infrared scans from NASA.  The infrared images matched the ground radar perfectly, but also found some mounds across the river, where the archaeologists did not work.

I soon noticed that the houses in the first occupation of Etowah were identical to those of the commoners in the suburbs of Chichen Itza around 1000 AD.  The houses in the second and third occupations of Etowah were identical to Totonac houses that I has seen under construction about 800 miles away in northern Vera Cruz State.  Both in Mexico and Northwest Georgia, these houses were prefabricated and set into pre-prepared footing ditches.  Archaeologists call these houses, post-ditch structures.

Out of curiosity, I looked up the word casa (house) in online Totonac and Itza dictionaries maintained by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.  In both Totonac and Itza, the word was chiki . . . that’s the Georgia Creek and Seminole word for house.  The Muskogee, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Alabama word for house is choko/chuko.  It is the Maya word for “warm.”

I mailed a letter to the University of Georgia’s Department of Anthropology, describing my discovery and thought the professors would be excited.  Instead, the department chair sent me a very curt and angry email telling me essentially . . . “to bug off.”   It was then I realized that over the past 200 years . . . say one million or more people in the United States have gotten bachelors or postgraduate degrees in Anthropology, Linguistics, Southeastern History or one of the Muskogean languages.  NOT ONE had ever thought of putting Totonac, Itza and Muskogean dictionaries on the same table and comparing the words. 

Even the professors, teaching Muskogee at the University of Oklahoma, had not compared their mother tongue to those to the south.  This  was especially surprising, since at least in Alabama, Florida and Georgia, we Creeks are told as children that we are part Maya.  The DNA tests confirmed it.  We are, but we also have many other indigenous peoples in our genes.  My journey into the past began.


This continues to be an on-going process, but so far the suffixes, prefixes and root words below have been found in Southeastern indigenous dictionaries, colonial archives and modern place names.


Pre-Gaelic Bronze Age Irish and French

There are probably many more words from this extinct language that can also be found in Uchee and Muskogee, but neither it nor Uchee have a published dictionary.

Mia [Island] – The Creek word appears to be the same as a Bronze Age Irish and Iberian word for island, but in some cases, strangely it is the word for a pond or lake. There are also similar words for island in several Bronze Age Mediterranean languages.

Ue, Eue or we [water] – The original and largest body of Uchee on the Lower Savannah River, PLUS the Muskogee Creeks use this word for water. Uchee is derived from the Muskogee word Ue-si, which means “Water People.”  The Anglicized Scottish word, whiskey, and the French word for water, eau, are derived from this ancient word.  You go figure!


Muskogean languages [Northeastern Mexico & Southeastern United States)

ShipiboDancing6I am convinced that the Choctaws and the aboriginal people of Tamaulipas State, Mexico were the same ethnic group.  When you see a –che, -si, -se, -see or –tchee at the end of a Southeastern US or Northeastern Mexican indigenous place name, you can be fairly certain that it is a Muskogean suffix.   The suffix means “children of”, “ offspring of” or “descendants of.”    When added to the name of a provincial capital, it meant all the people living in that province, but also was applied to the names of colonies found by that ethnic group. The “si” sound is pronounced like she or tshee or jzhe. 

Ironically, the most common Muskogee-Creek suffix for “people or tribe” is a Southern Arawak word – ke. On the other hand, the Hitchiti Creeks in Georgia, South Carolina and Florida use an ITZA MAYA suffix for people – te.   So much has happened in pre-European past of the Southeast that we can’t quite explain yet.  We now know that for centuries Maya miners obtained their attapulgite for making Maya Blue in Georgia and we know that many Georgia Creeks carry Highland Maya DNA markers and once spoke many Highland Maya words. It is highly probable that Maya miners journeyed farther up the Chattahoochee River to obtain mica, gold and copper.  The Mayas used vast quantities of mica in stucco, murals and cosmetics. Their nearest source for mica was near Mexico City . . . 800 miles of mountains away.  Rather than carrying small baskets of mica over these mountain on the backs of humans, it would have been much easier to dispatch large sea-going trade canoes and sail boats up the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee River System.

It is still not known if these immigrants were runaway slaves or bands of farmers, craftsmen and traders, escaping the drought and societal collapse in Mesoamerica..  It is very apparent, however, that few members of the literate Maya elite took refuge in the Southeast when their civilization fell.  So far,  Maya writing has only been found at the Track Rock terrace complex in the North Georgia Mountains.  Amazingly, the glyphs state:  Hene Mako Ahau Kukulkan, which means Great Sun (King) Lord Quetzalcoatl.  

According to Maya traditions, the real King Quetzalcoatl sailed due north from the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula about 20 years before the current earliest radiocarbon date at Track Rock.  Mobile Bay and the mouth of the Mobile-Alabama-Coosa River System are due north of Chichen Itza.   The source of the Coosa River is on the next mountain range west of Track Rock Gap.

Caske or Kaske [warrior] – Itsate (Hichiti), Koasati and Archaic Chickasaw

Chola or Chula [Fox] – Similar in all Muskogean languages

 Chata [Red] – Muskogee only.

Ena or eena (small) – Used as suffix for village named after larger town

Etalwa (Principal Town – Muskogee word derived from Etula – Totonac and Itza word with same meaning.

Homa or Huma [Red] – Used in all Muskogean languages except Muskogee.

Kli [People or Clan] – This is used in the Muskogee names of clans.  It may be derived from okola or else from a South American tongue.

Kola or cola [People or Clan] –  Although found in Gulf Coast Choctaw and some Lower Creek place names, it is actually the Muskogean pronunciation of the Southern Arawak word, kora, which means the same.

Kona, cona, or ekona [land, earth] – This word is often seen as a prefix, root or suffix.  When combined with the Totonac suffix, hi, as in Konahee, it means “mound builder.”

Le or li [place of or people of] – Tamauli-Muskogean word, today primarily seen today in proper nouns.

Lucha, Loacha, Loocha, Loochi or Luchi [turtle]

Nokose [bear] – This word or one very similar is used in all the Muskogean languages. Nakose or nikase is often used for bear cub.

 Oka [water] – See waka under Southern Arawaks.

Okola or okla  [People or Tribe] – This is used in Choctaw, Chickasaw and Alabama, but actually is derived from the Southern Arawak.  See okora and kora.

Rakko, rako, raco, lako or locco  [large or big]

Sawa [raccoon] – Muskogee is the only Muskogean language that does not use this word for raccoon.

Suale, Suala, Suali, Sula or Xuale [vulture] – This is a common root word for the names of towns or ethnic groups in many Southeastern languages. It harkens back to the Woodland Period.  The indigenous town of Salicoa in Northwest Georgia was originally Sualikoa, which meant “Vulture People” . . . using an Arawak word for people.

Talla [to measure or survey] Derived from Totonac and Toltec word for town – Tula.

Talwa [town] – Muskogee word derived also derived from Tula

Taska or Tuska [Warrior] –  Alabama, Muskogee, Choctaw and Chickasaw

Tuski or Tusqui [Pilated Woodpecker] –  Muskogean languages


By late 2013, POOF already knew that a branch of the Taino Arawaks, named the Toa, had lived in Georgia. They were encountered by De Soto on the Lower Ocmulgee River and also lived on the Chattahoochee River in what is now SW Metro Atlanta. Those Arawaks eventually joined the Creek Confederacy.

By late 2013, POOF already knew that a branch of the Taino Arawaks, named the Toa, had lived in Georgia. They were encountered by De Soto on the Lower Ocmulgee River and also lived on the Chattahoochee River in what is now SW Metro Atlanta. Those Arawaks eventually joined the Creek Confederacy.

Southern Arawak (Peru and Amazonia)

Aho (Sweet Potato) – This is also the Creek word.  Juan Pardo visited a village in South Carolina, which specialized in the growing of sweet potatoes.  Its name was Ajo in Spanish, which is pronounced Aho.

Ani [strong or elite] – as in Anihica, capital of the Florida “Apalachee” – which is today Tallahassee, Florida.

Hika, hica or haika [Place of] – as in Utinahica, capital of the Utina on the Ohoopee River in Georgia.

Ki, ke, kee, ge or gee [People or Tribe] –  This suffix is used by the Shawnees, Muskogee-Creeks and Cherokees.

O [principal or most important]  – A suffix often attached in the Southern Highlands to root words from another language.  For example, in the early 1700s, the capital town of the Itzas in the Little Tennessee River headwaters near Dillard, GA was called Echteo.

Sati [Colonists]  – Also a Panoan word . . . as in Satipo = Place of Colonists.  One of the towns named Satipo was in the Appalachians and visited by Juan Pardo in 1567.  By the late 1600s, it’s name was Satikoa.  This word evolved in the 1700s into Sitikoa, Seticoa and finally the Cherokee town of Stechoah.

Waka [water] – This is a very similar word to oka, which is the word for water among the Choctaws, Chickasaws, Alabamas, Koasati’s, Itsate Creeks and Miccosukees.


The Miami Circle around 200 AD

The Miami Circle around 200 AD

Middle Arawak

(Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, Lower Antilles and Amazonia)

 Ami [water] – One of the words for water in Cherokee

 Barbakoa [barbecue]

Cacique [chief]

Hurrican [hurricane]

Koa or coa  [People or Tribe]


Panoan (Shipibo, Conibo, Chiska, Kashibo, Kusabo, etc.) – Peru

A  [from] –  Prefix seen in such place names as Appalachian Mountains.

Amana [Invisible Creator Goddess of the Andes and Georgia Apalache]  Original name of Creek Master of Breath.

Apalache [Aparashi – From Peru or the Amazon Basin – descendants of]

Atoya [principal god of Andes Mountains, SC/GA coast and Calusas]

Ase [Yaupon Holly and Sacred Black Drink] It is the same word in all the Creek languages!

Bo [place of] – suffix as in Asebo (Ossebaw) Island and Cusabo People.

Chiska [bird] –  Eyewitness descriptions of the fierce Chiska warriors of Peru are identical to those of the fierce Chiska warriors of Tennessee.  They wore identical, yet distinctive clothing and hats. Chisqua is the name of the Cherokee Bird Clan.  There has to be a connection.

-en [suffix that creates plural form of noun] – such as Apalachen means Apalaches – from which the Appalachian Mountains got their name.

Huana or Wana – [priest] –  The famous Creek leader, Chikili (early & mid-1700s) was the Wana or High Priest of the western towns of the Creek Confederacy prior to becoming High King.

Huaka or Waka – [temple] – also original name of  massive Mississippian Period town at Ocmulgee National Monument.

Kusa, Kaushe or Kauche [Strong or ruling elite) as in Kusa and Kusabo

Orata or olata –  [Village chief] –  These words are seen in the reports of Juan Pardo and René de Laudonnière in the 1560s.

Para [large river or ocean] –  Pàra is the Panoan name of the Amazon River and the origin of the name of Peru.

Paracusi [strong or elite from Peru or the Amazon River] – Title of High King for the Apalache, Satipo, Calusa and Creek Peoples.

Pira [canoe] –  Became pila in Muskogee because of rolling the R.

Kora, kuro, cora, cola [People or Tribe] – as in Pensacola and Apalachicola

-ni [Suffix that converts proper noun into a possessive adjective] – example would be Okani (Oconee River and tribe).

Uriwa [king] – This title was reported by René de Laudonnière while visiting tribes on the coast of Georgia.



Itza (pronounced Ĭt : jzhä) and Totonac

The Itza Mayas were not the same ethnic group as the Mayas, who built the great Classic Period cities.  They were vassals of the Totonac-speaking Teotihuacano elite until around 600 AD, who possibly originated in the Pre-Classic Maya city of Itsapa.

Ahau or Ahaw [Lord or noble]

Am or Al  [Place of] –  This is the prefix in Amixchel (Name of Gulf Coast) and Altamaha River.

Altamaha [Place of Trade River]

Atta [below or downstream]  – Root word of Creek Tribal Town called the Attasi.

Calli [large house or palace] – As in Callimaco (Tennessee) River

Chibalem [to write] – Same word in Itza and Itsate Creek, but “to write” is an entirely different word in other Muskogean languages.

Chiaha [Salvia River]  – as in a Chia Pet and the powerful province in the North Carolina Mountains that was visited by Hernando de Soto and Juan Pardo.  They also raised Maya honey bees!

Chiapas [Salvia – Place of]  –  This species of salvia produces a highly nutritious seed.

Chichi [dog or coyote] – Also used by Itsate Creeks, but not Muskogee Creeks . . . as in the famous Creek chief,  Tamachichi = Trade Dog.

Chiki or chickee [small house lived in by commoners]

Chiliki, chiloki or chilaki [barbarian, foreign speaker} – The word means the same in Itsate and Muskogee Creek.  Yes, this is the same word, used for a primitive tribe in South Carolina that was visited by Hernando de Soto’s Expedition. The Totonacs primarily applied it to Chichimec barbarians.

Choko [warm] –  Also Muskogean word for a winter house.

Chokopa [warm place]  –  Also Muskogean word for a earth insulated council house.

Cho’i-te [Maya language spoken in Tabasco State] – became town of Chote or Chota at several locations in North Georgia, western North Carolina and on Little Tennessee River in Tennessee.  In mid-1700s one town in Tennessee first changed its name from Itsate to Chote then when the capital of the Cherokees became Echote, which evolved to Echota by English speakers.

E or I (most important) – This is an Itza prefix which means important or most important.  It was place in front of an ethnic name to label a capital.  For example, the capital of Chiaha was Ichiaha.  Muskogee speakers still use this grammatical practice, even though they are not aware that it is Itza Maya.  Overhill Cherokees also formerly used it.  When Chota became the Cherokee capital, its name was changed to Echota.

Efahau [representative of a lord] – survives as Efau in Muskogee and Itsate Creek

Echete – Pronunciation and spelling of Itsate by South Carolina colonists.

Etula (capital town) – became the word Etowah.

Haw [river]  – as in Alapahaw River which means Alligator River.

Hene ahau or heneha [Sun Lord or Second Chief of the Muscogee Creek Nation in Oklahoma]

Hene mako [Great Sun or High King] –  Same meaning in Itsate Creek, but became Hese Mikko in Muskogee.

-hi [suffix added to noun to make it a verb] – also a very common feature of Creek languages.

Hitchiti – Pronunciation and spelling of Itsate by Georgia frontiersmen and 20th century Gringo academicians.

Ichisi [Descendants of the Itza Mayas] –  This was a major town visited by Hernando de Soto, which was still influential in the early 1700s.

Itzapa [Place of the Itza Mayas] – Creek name for the North Georgia Mountains.

Itsate  [Corn tamale people and largest branch of Creek Indians in Georgia, western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee]  Name of many towns in Middle Georgia, Northeast Georgia and on Little Tennessee River in Tennessee.  It was written as Echete or Echitee by Carolina and Georgia mapmakers.

Ichi – [maize, American corn] – Same word in Georgia Itsate Creek.  Became Achi in Muskogee Creek.

Kanahi [builder of mounds or pyramids –  sophisticated urbanized people]

Kaw or Kau [eagle]

Kaa’xi, Cauche or Kauche [Forested Mountains] –  Town visited by Juan Pardo and name of Upper Creeks for themselves.

Mako [strong – Itza and Georgia Itsate Creek word for king] – The word became Meko in Muskogee and Mingo in Chickasaw.

Mapi lto trade] – combined with “le” to be Mapila or Mobile.

Pa or po [suffix- place of in Itza Maya and Itsate Creek] – became “fa” in Muskogee.

Talako [lima bean] – became Muskogee word for all beans

Tama [to barter or trade] –  Tama means the same in Itsate Creek, but means “town” in Chickasaw and “maize” in Southern Shawnee.

Tamahi (merchant) – Combined with Itza word for people, became Tamahiti in Virginia, better known by their Algonquian name of Tamahitans.

Talula  or tulula [District administrative town with one mound]

Tamauli, Tamaule or Tamale [Hybrid Muskogean-Maya residents of Tamaualipas, who migrated to the Southeastern United States after their land was invaded by Chichimec barbarians.

-Te or ti [suffix for people or tribe] – Same meaning in Itsate Creek.  It can be seen on many Creek proper nouns.

Tula [town] – means same in Itsate Creek.  Became talwa in Muskogee.

Tulupa [village] – Became talufa in Muskogee Creek.

Yama [an agricultural clearing in the forest].   Means the same as a milpa in other Maya languages.  Became the name of the province along the Mobile River and Lower Altamaha River.

White Path [major trade road interconnecting several towns] –  Same meaning in Maya, Apalache and Creek.


I did the drawing on the above right.  This has to be the funniest event in a year of the absurd. It occurred during the “Maya Myth-busting in the Mountains” campaign jointly sponsored by the US Forest Service, Georgia Society of Professional Archaeologists, Society for Georgia Archaeology, Georgia Republican Party and Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina. An article was distributed to professional journals and news media around the nation, where Georgia archaeologists stated that they knew for a fact that the Mayas didn’t come to Georgia and therefore they didn’t have to give any reasons. The photo that these “experts on the Creek and Maya Indians” chose was a close-up photograph of the Maya glyph, hene, in the center of Boulder Six. This was one of the first Maya glyphs translated. It precedes the names of Maya kings. Actual experts on the Maya civilization around the world rolled in the floor laughing when they realized the Peach State’s self-styled Maya experts had used a well known Maya glyph as “proof” that the Mayas were never in Georgia.  The only reason that the Republicans were involved evidently was that many moons ago,  I was a intern for Jimmy Carter and a friend of the family.  They never forgave Jimmy for winning the Nobel Prize and being liked around the world. Those of us working on this research are pretty much apolitical. 

Yucatec Mayan

No people in the Classic Maya civilization called themselves Maya, which correctly should be pronounced Maia.  Maiam was the name of a Post Classic kingdom in the Northern Yucatan Peninsula.  The Maiam Mayas, plus the Chontal Maya trader, who were based in Northern Vera Cruz, spoke a hybrid language that mixed Itza, Toltec and Nahua.

Am or Al  [Place of] –  This is the prefix in Amixchel (Name of Gulf Coast) and Altamaha River.

Maia or Maya – This ethnic name is found in the Macon, GA area and Southern Florida, but is tied to an Arawak suffix, koa, which means “People or Tribe.”

 Tamatli – Name of Chontal Maya merchants in northern Vera Cruz and adjacent regions of Mexico.  Also, name of a tribal town in the Creek Confederacy.

Tli (Place of)  – This word is derived from the Nahua suffix “tl” but also could be used as an ethnic name. The Tamatli occupied a cluster of villages on the Chattahoochee River near Eufaula, AL.


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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.



    incredible. I sure am enjoying this.

    • Thank you!

      I add a few words each month to the list as I have time.


    Richard, One more word connection “Vila”: The war Mico of the Albama, Tuskaluza told Desoto he was going to take them to a location called “Ma-Vila” now called mobile. “Vila” is a proto Keltic word meaning city. The Phoenicians (“Kina-ani”) settled the Ibiza island in 650 BC for it’s salt. The locals call it “Vila d’Eivissa”, or simply “Vila”.

    • That’s a Spanish misinterpretation of Mapila. The Spanish tried to convert sounds they had never heard before into Castilian. Even Mapila does not exactly match the letter.
      There are several differences, even between how English speakers pronounce a Roman letter. The B, P and V sounds in Medieval Castilian were very similar.


        Richard, That being said the sound they heard and wrote was “Vila”.
        Another important sound for this land called “Havilah” in the Torah is “Ha” which means water in Mayan and there were several classic cities all over Central America, Mexico that ended with that sound. The Ala-tama-“ha” river as it was called till the 1800th century and some other locations in the South still ends with “Ha” sound perhaps another connection also with Para (Peru) as there are cities that still end with that sound. GOD Bless You.

        • Mapi-le are actually two words. It means Trader – People. You can’t break up the syllables another way to make it fit some other language. That would be the same as turning Readers into Re Aders.

          You have to remember that most of the De Soto Expedition members died. The few that survived would not be writing their chronicles for another four years. They wrote down a lot of the town names wrong and many of the words are spelled differently by each of the authors. What they wrote as Talimachusy was actually Talwa Mochasee. Coste was actually Kusate. Olameco was actually Tulameko, etc.


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