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Mysterious Bohuron Tribe in Northeast Georgia

The Mysterious Bohuron Tribe in Northeast Georgia. . . and equally mysterious “Creek” names from Northeast Georgia

The membership’s help is needed! While doing research for the Native American history of Jackson County, GA, I stumbled across extensive references to an “Indian” tribe that Anglo-American settlers called the Bohuran, Bouran, Bouharon or Bouharen. French colonial maps in the 1700s call them the Bemarin. I can find absolutely no mention of them in major Georgia historical sources, but they definitely existed. Most of the information came from “The Early History of Jackson County, GA by G. J. N. Wilson (published 1818) or from brief French colonial sources. Here is what we know so far.

At the time of contact with English settlers from South Carolina, the Bohuran lived in the Blue Ridge Foothills, immediately south of the Nacoochee Valley – between the headwaters of the Oconee River and the Chattahoochee River. Their province composed present day Banks and northern Hall Counties. Immediately north of them were the Apalache, who were mentioned in the chronicles of the de Soto and de Laundonniére Expeditions. By the mid-to-late 1700s, the Apalache were living on the Apalachee River in Gwinnett, Walton, Morgan and Putnam Counties – while the Bohuran were in their same location. After the American Revolution, both tribes assimilated into the Creek Confederacy when they moved westward.

In 1770 a war was fought between the Bohuran and the Tallasee Creeks, who had moved into the region just north of Athens, GA after being evicted from the Smoky Mountains by the Cherokees. The Talasee Creeks won and the Bohuran were absorbed into the Creek Confederacy. Here is where things get kornfuzing. Wilson called the Bohurans, “Cherokees,” and said that they were long time allies of the Spanish, while the Talasee were long-time allies of the British. He said that the Cherokees and Creeks were fighting in proxy for their European masters. However, the Spanish had already been evicted from Florida in 1763. Both the Cherokees and Creeks were allies of the British in their wars with the Spanish.

Its gets much worse . . .

Wilson provided the names of several Buhuron leaders and their wives or daughters. Several of the names are clearly Portuguese or Spanish. The principal chief was Amercedes (Portuguese.) One sub-chief’s name was Juanico (Portuguese or Basque.) One woman’s name was Elena (Hispanic.) The other Buhuron names mentioned do not seem to belong to any language I recognize. I can read all Latin-based and Scandinavian languages.

This is why I need your help. The other names include:

Nyxster, Radoarta, Arharra, Shulamuzaw, Lapsidali (woman,) Banna (woman,) Elancydine (woman,) and Eltrovadine (woman.) Trova is a Spanish word, but this may be coincidental. Do any of you recognize these words from another language? Could they be Shawnee, Southern Siouan, Medieval Iberian, Sephardic Jewish, Moorish or Gaelic words?

The personal names that seemed to come closest to the words above are from the histories of the ancient Etruscans and Carthaginians. Could they have belonged to one of the obscure 15+ regional languages that modern Spanish replaced during the past 200 years?

Many of the “Creek” words are untranslatable

This two century old history book contains much more information about the Creek Indians in northeast Georgia than about the Buhurans, but many of the Creek personal names or place names cannot be translated by either Itsate (Hitchiti,) Koasati or Mvskoke dictionaries. One of the Creek leaders had a pure Chickasaw name. However, a large percentage of the words were untranslatable. This leads me to believe that there are some “lost” Creek languages.

The primary reason that I got so upset about the Oklahoma Muscogee-Creek Cultural Heritage Office getting involved with the Track Rock Gap controversy without consulting Eastern Creeks, was that the Muscogee Creeks never lived in most of Georgia, South Carolina, southeastern Tennessee or western North Carolina. They were confined to a triangular province in west-central Georgia and along the western side of the Chattahoochee River in Alabama.

There are many Georgia and South Carolina Creek words (and traditions) that would be incomprehensible to Oklahoma Muscogee-Creeks. For example, Itsate (Archaic Hitchiti) uses “pa,” “po” or “pas” like the Itza Mayas do, everywhere that Mvskoke used “fa.” The Itsate and Totonac word for town is “tula” whereas it is “tvlwv” in Muskokee. A village is a talula in Itsate, while it is a tvlvfa in Mvskokee. House is chiki in Itstate, Totonac and Itza Maya, but chuko in Mvskoke. You get the gist. When someone like me, who knows a modicum of Eastern Creek, Totonac and Maya, has no clue what a Eastern Creek word means . . . and can’t find it in a Creek dictionary . . . you know that there are major gaps in the history books.

Ramoja: This was the name for the Green Corn Festival used by the indigenous “Creeks” in northeast Georgia. There is no “r” sound in known Creek languages. This word sounds Middle Eastern. The newly arrived Tallasee Creeks used the word “posketaw” for the Green Corn Festival. We know that one!

Thumagoa: The name of the “Creek” town, which later became the county seat of Jackson County, Jefferson, was Thumugoa. René de Laundonniére, (French Huguenot colonist 1562-1565) wrote that the Thumugoa lived upstream a bit on the Altamaha River from Fort Caroline. The Thamugoa were arch-enemies of the Natives on the Georgia coast. They worshiped the South American sun god, Hoya, and their high king used the Coastal Peruvian title of Parakusa, not the Maya and Itsate Creek word, mako, or the Mvskoke word, mekko.

The Spanish word for them, Timucoa, is what they are now called. The Spanish called all the Indians in northeast Florida and lower-southeast Georgia, Timucua. Jefferson, GA is 221 miles upstream from where the Thumagoa lived in 1565. Nere, Nara and Narulin were names of Thumagoa girls living in Jackson County.

Nodoroc: There is a “mud” volcano in Barrow County, GA about 12 miles southwest of the former “Creek” town of Thumagoa. Until a massive earthquake occurred in the New Madrid Fault in 1813, Nodoroc belched black smoke. Its mud was so acidic that an animal that fell in the pit would be dissolved within a day. “Creek” Indians living nearby, told white settlers that Nodoroc was the Creek word for “the gateway to hell.” Unfortunately, there is no similarity between “nodoroc” and the known Creek words for either gateway or hell. In fact, there is no “r” sound in the Creek languages. What language was this word derived from?

Ustanali – This is the name of the super-powerful Muscogean ethnic group that controlled most of northeast Georgia (outside of the mountains) in the 1560s. They could field 6,000 soldiers in a war. Their capital was apparently in the large town on the Tugaloo River, near where it joined the Keowee River to become the Savannah. By controlling the Oconee and Savannah Rivers, the Ustanali also controlled the flow of gold, silver, mica, greenstone and crystals coming out of the mountains. In the 1700s they moved to northwestern Georgia. The Oostanaula River gets its name from them.

Unicoy – Contemporary historical markers say that this is a Cherokee word of uncertain meaning that became the name of a major trade route from the Savannah River to the Tennessee River. Turns out that it was actually the name of a “Creek” queen, who lived in Jackson County, GA in the late 1700s. However, her name cannot be translated by a modern Creek dictionary.

Lakoda Trail – This is the “Creek” name of a major trade route between the Savannah River at Augusta, GA and the Little Tennessee River in Graham County, NC. It corresponds to US Highway 129 today. This word can also not be translated by a modern Creek dictionary.

Many of the Creek personal or place names mentioned in Wilson’s book, would be untranslatable to a Muskogee Creek, but understandable to an Eastern (or Itsate) Creek. For example, a Creek chief, named Enomako, came down from the mountains to meet with the Talassee. The Eno were originally a Creek tribe near Charleston, SC. Mako is the Itsate and Maya word for chief. It is equivalent to mekko in Mvskoke.

We know that these people, who used such words and Nodoroc and Ramoja, were a branch of the Creeks, however. They also had many personal and place names, which one could find in Alabama or Oklahoma. Just who composed the other part of their ancestry remains an unsolved mystery.

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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