Richard Thornton | Mar 17, 2017 | 1
More info about early Chickasaw history
According to Chickasaw tradition, they migrated as far east as the Savannah River and then began drifting westward again. Archaeological discoveries bear this tradition out, but the archaeologists didn’t realize it. The reason is that Southeastern archaeologists are so focused on potsherds as a means to measure cultural change that they don’t really know much about the people who made the potsherds.
The Chickasaws in the Creek Confederacy
All of the documents that I found in the forgotten box at Lambeth Palace in spring of 2015 were consistent. The Chickasaws were one of the four founders of the original Creek Confederacy. The other three founders were the Alabama, Kusate and Apike. The Chickasaws also joined the 1717 Creek Confederacy, which was dominated by Coweta and Cusseta. However, according to these documents the Chickasaw resented the political victory of Coweta in establishing its language, an early dialect of Muskogee, as the official parliamentary language of the confederacy. The Hitchiti-speaking Elate refused to join this confederacy because of the dominance of Muskogee. The Chickasaw soon dropped out, but remained close allies of the Upper Creeks.
James Adair’s wife was a mixed Chickasaw-Jewish lady, who grew up in Ustanaulli at the confluence of the Conansauga and Coosawatee Rivers. In 1776, Adair settled his family on Oothcalooga Creek on land granted him by Ustanauli. The Oostanaula River gets its name from the Chickasaw town. In the early 1800s, the Cherokees evicted the Chickasaws in order to build New Echota at the location of Ustanauli. The Chickasaws then moved to the last remnant of Chickasaw territory on West Tennessee. There is still a community by the name of Eastanolee in West Tennesse.
The Creek history documents stated that the Chickasaws and the Kusate (Upper Creeks) had an ancient tradition of pairing their villages, even though both peoples continued to speak their own languages. University of Tennessee archaeologists recognized this pairing of ethnic groups having slightly different cultural traditions when working at planned TVA reservoirs in the late 20th century. They called the Kusate’s the Dallas Culture and the other people, the Mouse Creek Culture. Why can’t Southeastern archaeologists use Muskogean words when they name our ancestors? LOL
Unfortunately, the UT anthropologists misinterpreted the Chickasaw towns as being “Yuchi.” They didn’t do their architectural and ethnological homework. Uchees only built round buildings in round villages. The Mouse Creek villages and architecture were identical to Chickasaw villages elsewhere in the Southeast. The Mouse Creek myth has become orthodoxy, so there is little the Chickasaws can do to correct the faulty speculation in the near future.
Read a detailed account of the Battle of the Flint River. In 1702, an army composed of allied Apalachicola and Chickasaw warriors devastated an invading army composed of Spanish soldiers and Florida Apalachee militamen on the banks of the Flint River in southwest Georgia. Not only were the Chickasaw still living in North Georgia in the early 1700s, but also in southwest Georgia . . . and they were allied with the Creeks. Late 18th century and early 19th century archives suggest that the Chickasaws in Georgia remained in the Creek Confederacy so long that everyone assumed that they were Creeks.
Archaeologist Robert Wauchope encountered oval houses with center posts and offset door jambs at several village sites in the Nacoochee Valley. The villages dated from around 700 AD to 1200 AD. The largest of these Chickasaw villages contain oval mounds that match the oval houses
Look at the photo above. See how door openings are created by one wall being more recessed than the other? That is a unique Chickasaw tradition. Wauchope also discovered square communal buildings with a central column rising up out of circular hearths. That is another unique Chickasaw tradition.
Another people moved into the Nacoochee Valley and established their villages among the Chickasaw villages around 900-1000 AD. The newcomers built rectangular Itza Maya style chiki’s (houses) and truncated trapezoidal mounds. The names of their principal towns were Itsate and Cho’ite, but they also occupied many small villages interspersed among the Chickasaw.
The Itsate Creeks eventually predominated in the Nacoochee Valley, but there were Chickasaws south of Yonah Mountain until 1818. Whites called them Creeks because they were members of the Creek Confederacy, but the ethnic Creeks knew that they were Chickasaws.
The Lower Cherokee Language is not extinct. It was a dialect of Hitchiti Creek and I have no trouble translating it. I have also noticed that contemporary Cherokee and white scholars are not aware that the Elate (Foothill People) living in Northeast Georgia were NOT Cherokees. I became suspicious of this when I realized that the Elate villages were not listed as Cherokee villages in several treaties between 1754 and 1776. They were primarily Itsate Creeks and Uchees, who didn’t want to be in the Muskogee dominated Creek Confederacy. They had their own principal chief. The Treaty of Hopewell established the Georgia-North Carolina line as the boundary between the Elate and the Cherokee Nation. The Elate’s land was stolen by the 1794 treaty between the United States and Cherokee Nation and given to the Cherokees.
The famous folklore tale about the Chickasaw brave named Sautee and the Cherokee princess Nacoochee is strong evidence that the original Anglo-American settlers encountered Chicksaws living in Northeast Georgia. Supposedly the star-crossed lovers jumped off the cliffs of Yonah Mountain when their daddies would not let them marry. Of course, Sautee and Nacoochee are both Anglicized Creek words and Mount Yonah was called Mount Nocosee while there were Native Americans living in the valley. North Carolina settlers gave the mountain its Cherokee name, but both words mean “bear.”
Archaeologists forget Wauchope’s discoveries
Robert Wauchope did not publish his book on North Georgia archaeology until 1966. I don’t think very many late 20th archaeologists read it closely. In the late 20th century, archaeologists unearthed the Simpson Field Archaeological Site on the banks of the Savannah River in Anderson County, SC. They freaked out. This village contained those unusual oval houses, but made pottery similar that of nearby proto-Creek villages. The settlement dated from the Late Woodland-Transitional Period (800 AD -1000 AD) yet showed evidence that corn was being grown there. Apparently not knowing that Wauchope had found similar villages about 30 miles to the northwest in the Nacoochee Valley, the archaeologists declared the site to be a cultural isolate . . . which condemned it to be forgotten about. Some archaeologists suggested that it might be a Savano Indian village, while the Cherokees quickly claimed it to be a Cherokee heritage site.
Simpson Field was Chickasaw. The Chickasaws have always said that they lived as far east as the Savannah River. Perhaps anthropologists should start paying closer attention to what Native American scholars say.
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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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