Mysterious origins of the Uchee (Yuchi~Euchee) – Part Three
Because there has been so little research into the Uchee, anything said about their possible origins must be in the realm of speculation. About the only benchmark is that their presence in the Southeast predates the Muskogeans and probably the Souians. Keep in mind that the ethnic history of the Southeast is not just Brunswick stew. It is a different recipe for Brunswick stew in each of dozens of Pre-Columbian provinces. Things are going to get really complicated in this edition of . . .
Native American Brain Food
Uchee migration legends have them migrating from the Home of the Sun to the South Atlantic Coast by canoe. Of course, the immediate response for most people would be that the cultural memory recalls voyages across the Atlantic. This speculation may or may not be true. The Home of the Sun may have meant a motherland to the south. However, there is a much bigger question mark.
The Uchee may be the hybridized descendants of several indigenous ethnic groups, who were linked together by mixing with another non-indigenous population, which did come by water from somewhere. The Uchee migration legend is remarkably similar to that of the Zoque in Mexico, who were the likely, initial creators of the so-called Olmec civilization. This civilization is currently considered by Mexican anthropologists to be the first in Mexico, but it was predated by a culture in Peru.
The Zoque Migration Legend is that they arrived on the Gulf Coast of Mexico from a land to the east via three massive flotillas of canoes. The time of their first arrival was around 1600 BC and the last around 1200 BC. They introduced mound-building and pottery making to eastern Mexico. Before then, Eastern Mexico was way behind what is now the Southeastern United States.
Note the long nose and short chin of this Zoque woman in Chiapas State, Mexico. There were several Uchee elders living in Graham County, North Carolina with almost identical features. Click photos to enlarge them.
This is when things become very interesting . . . and very complicated. It is hard to find a “pure” Uchee in Oklahoma because they have been mixing with the Creeks and Choctaws for 180+ years out west. There are some elderly Euchee (that’s what they like to call themselves in Oklahoma) around Sapulpa, who look more similar to the old paintings of pure Uchee in the late 1700s and early 1800s.
In contrast, the Uchee who lived in isolated coves of the Cohutta Mountains, before moving to the Snowbird Cherokee Reservation in Graham County, NC (See Part Two) look as pure Uchee as one can get.
A group of Uchee men like to hang around the north side of the post office in Robbinsville, NC. I got to talk to them and learned a lot more about Uchee cultural traditions from them. Unfortunately, there is no way that I could get permission to use their photos in this article, since I don’t remember their names or addresses.
The pure Uchee look like Southeast Asians, but with longer noses. They really don’t look like the Algonquians, Siouans and Athabascans, whose ancestors came over from Siberia. As you can see in the photos below, they are almost identical to the Zoque I met in the Lowlands of Chiapas State, Mexico.
The situation gets even more complex. The majority of Snowbird Cherokees look very different from both their Uchee neighbors and the Qualla Cherokees. The Quallas call them “Moon Faces” because they look like, well, the famous Olmec heads.
The Snowbirds originated in the northeast tip of Georgia and northwest tip of South Carolina, near the headwaters of the Chattooga River. They were forcibly grouped with the Cherokees by the federal government and then in 1838, were forced to go on the Trail of Tears, even though they were not living in the Cherokee Nation and did not sign the treaty giving up their lands.
The earliest map of this region shows the Upper Little Tennessee Valley being dominated by the Itsate (Itza People.) Apparently, the Yuchi and the Snowbirds were their vassals . . . but were they? The Itzas were not ethnic Mayas and were next door neighbors to the Zoque. It is known that the Itza priests spoke the original Itza language that was incomprehensible to their Mesoamerican neighbors, especially the Mayas.
Most of the Itsate moved southward into Northeast or Central Georgia at the start of the 40 year long Creek-Cherokee War and ultimately joined the Creek Confederacy. Only a few Itsate villages near Brasstown Bald Mountain in Georgia and Cherokee County, NC remained in the Cherokee Alliance.
So were the Uchee originally the priests of the Itza Mayas and Itsate Creeks? Could it be that is why the Itza Mayas migrated northward? Was it to go to a land where some of their relatives already lived? Remember in our discussions of the Creek Migration Legends, we discovered earlier this year that the Apalache, Itsate and Uchee all claimed to have entered North America at Savannah, GA.
It gets even more weird. Tsunulahunski (Junaluska) the conjurer who led the Snowbird Cherokees is called a Cherokee, but we have photo of him when he was old. He looks like a Uchee. Eighteenth century maps show the Hogeloge Uchee living immediately south of the people, who became the Snowbird Cherokees. Did the Cohutta Mountain Uchee move to the Snowbird Reservation because they had always enjoyed a symbiotic duality with the Snowbirds? It sure looks that way. Again, it is the same pattern that can be seen in other Uchee bands around the Southeast. They liked to pair off with other ethnic groups, who spoke entirely different languages.
Mexican anthropologists now believe that the Olmec Civilization was composed of at least two ethnic groups, one that looked like the Uchee and one that looked like the Snowbird Cherokees. You can even see the difference in the art of the Olmecs. Are the Zoque and “Olmec heads” in Mexico, pretty much the same dual ethnic partnership that we see in the Southern Highlands? It could well be.
Concentric circles all over the place
It seems that we have come up with speculations that are hard to prove, but plausible. The Uchee and the Snowbirds came from Mexico. That would fit nicely into the “Mayas in Jawja Thing.” Unfortunately, that may or may not be the case. The common name of the Uchee in the 1700s was the “Round Town People.” That is because their towns, their houses, their plazas, their council houses and their temples were all round. A Euchee friend of mine in Sapulpa, OK told me that the circles symbolized the sun. Remember Tsoyaha means “Children of the Sun.”
Several of the petroglyphic boulders in the Northeast Georgia Mountains are covered in concentric circles. The carvings seem quite ancient. I then asked her what the concentric circles meant . . . many suns? She said, “No . . . that is one of our most sacred symbols. It symbolizes a time and space portal . . . in contemporary terms, a star gate.” Okay, we are now entering the Twilight Zone.
You see, boulders covered in concentric circles can be found on the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry, Ireland . . . the nearest point between Europe and North America. Kerry is the Anglicization of the Gallic word curraigh, which means “Dark People.” The Curraigh were also known as the Sea People. They had black hair, bronze skin and non-European faces.
These County Kerry boulders date from the Bronze Age and are about the same length as those in Georgia. The concentric symbols can be also found on petroglyphs at coastal town sites in northwestern Scotland.
Where the concentric circle motif is most common is on the southwest coast of Spain. The concentric circles were the “coat of arms” of a large Bronze Age city in a estuary that was built as a series of concentric circles. The city was destroyed by a tsunami around 1200 BC. Several archaeologists are now theorizing that this Iberian Bronze Age city was the source of the Atlantis legend. In many locations around the Mediterranean Basin, concentric circles were used to symbolize Atlantis.
Iberia, Ireland and Scotland are not the only places in Europe where one sees the concentric circles. My main project while working for the Town Architect’s office in Landskrona, Sweden was the design of a pedestrian village on Ven Island in the Oresund Channel.
On the second day of work, Stadsarkitekt Gunnar Lydh took me over the Ven on a boat. He wanted to drill into my youthful Gringo head that everywhere we stepped was an archaeological site. I had to be very careful where I placed the buildings, but even then his archaeologists would dig first before the contractors.
Ven had been the center of a great Bronze Age civilization, populated by people who were not ethnic Swedes, but the Sjofolk (Sea People), who had black hair, bronze skin and non-European facial features.
All of Denmark, Ven Island and the Skǻne province of Sweden was wiped out by a tsunami around 1200 BC. The Bronze Age survivors supposedly sailed away from the Oresund Channel and were replaced by Germanic peoples.
Gunnar took me over to the west side of the island to see the petroglyphs on the cliff. There were several rune stones, but what he was particularly proud of was the much older Bronze Age symbols.
Guess what? Most were identical to the ones seen on those boulders in the Georgia Mountains, but also included stylized boats. I blew up a photo of one petroglyphic boulder. The concentric circles, stars and solar wheels were almost identical to those on the Reinhardt boulder in Georgia.
There is yet another place in which concentric circles were popular – Peru. Both Peru and the province of Para in northern Brazil get their name from the root word, para, which can mean “sea or water” depending on the local dialect. The Panoans of central and eastern Peru built large shrines in the form of concentric circles. They made stamped pottery that was identical to what is called “Swift Creek style” in the Southeast.
To this day, the Panoans wear clothing with the “Swift Creek” motifs on them. Many contain a line of concentric circles in the front. In the image below you will see that those same concentric circles were found on Late Swift Creek pottery from the Upper Savannah River Basin, one of the places where the Uchee lived. Those same motifs are found on Mississippian Period stamped pottery in the section of the Georgia coast that the French at Fort Caroline called “Water People.”
The word for water, oue (pronounced owe or owa) was used by the Neolithic and Bronze Age, non-Celtic people on the Atlantic Coasts of Ireland, Scotland, France and Spain. It is also the word for water for the Muskogee-Creeks and the Uchee living near Savannah, GA. There must be a connection.
Apalache is the Anglicization of Aparasi, which means “Offspring from the Sea.” The name used for the Savannah Area by Captain René de Laudonniè, commander of Fort Caroline, was Ouete, which means “Water People” or “Sea People.”
This confusing overview of concentric circles and an Asiatic “Sea People” on both sides of Atlantic leads us to one conclusion . . . as “hippy dippy” as it may be. Perhaps, there really was an Atlantis, and its occupants were Asiatic in origin. Just as the Greek historian Homer wrote, the Atlantians might have spread advanced culture throughout the known world. There is profound evidence of the same cultural symbols of Atlantis on both sides of the Atlantic . . . concentric circles. The Uchee could well be at least partially, the descendants of the people of Atlantis.
If this speculation seems preposterous, think about this. When settlers first arrived in the region around Atlanta, there was an ancient triangular temple built out of quarried stone next to the Nodoroc Mud Volcano in Barrow County (NE Metro Atlanta.) It contained a carved stone sacrificial altar with three stone steps. We know the exact dimensions of this temple because it was measured by an architect before being dismantled and transported to the plantation of a Georgia governor.
There is only one other place and time period in the world where such triangular temples were built . . . Bronze Age Cyprus.
All that we need now to prove these speculations is Stargate Atlantis. The truth is out there somewhere.
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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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