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News Update: Quapaw and Mandan were at Ocmulgee!

News Update: Quapaw and Mandan were at Ocmulgee!


It is obvious now that Ocmulgee National Monument was a constantly evolving, multi-ethnic conurbation 38 miles long.

By reverse-engineering the chain of poorly researched speculations, made through the decades made by ethnocentric Midwestern and Northeastern anthropology professors, I was able to get back to the parent tribe in South Carolina, which spawned the various Dheghian and Chiwere Siouan Tribes . . . now living in the Great Plains, Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma.  What these professors did repeatedly was take Anglicized Proto-Siouan, Muskogean and Itza Maya words then interpret them as a word in whatever Algonquian tribe was nearest their college campus.  They also did not know how to pronounce the alphabetic letters of the Creek languages or Late Medieval alphabets of the Iberian Peninsula used in the De Soto Chronicles.  At that time, there were at least 15 languages in the Iberian Peninsula.  Even today,  anthropology professors, who present themselves as “experts on the Creeks” are not aware that the letter S is pronounced as “sh”, “jzh”, “z” or “s” . . . depending on the specific Creek word, dialect or language.

Also, it is highly significant that the Mandan migration legends state that their original homeland was in the Lower Southeast and that they migrated westward to a river, where an advanced people lived in giant teepees. While living across the river from the giant teepees, the ancestors of the Mandan learned how to grow corn and other crops.   Their ancestors then migrated up the Mississippi River until they settled in the Great Lakes Region.  The direct ancestors of the Mandan moved southward to the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.  So their migration legend does place them at one time near Cahokia. 

Their direct ancestors left that region in a time of many deaths then began migrating farther and farther northwestward on the Missouri River until the reached the most northerly point, where corn would grow.  Thus, the presence of many Siouan tribes with advanced cultural traits in the Great Lakes Region is explained completely by Mandan cultural history.  Although of lighter complexion than most American Indian tribes, the Mandan have NO cultural memory of being Welsh or Irish colonists . . . as claimed by several popular books in the late 20th century.

Last year, I discovered that most of the commoners in the Northwest Georgia part of the Province of Kawshe (Kusa~Coosa) were Dhegihan Siouan and Chickasaw.   The vassal towns of Kawshe in Southeast Tennessee were Chickasaw,  Uchee and Itsate Creeks (Mixed Itza Maya and Chickasaw) and provincial Toltecs, recently arrived from southwestern Vera Cruz.  These Tennessee Valley vassals were together labeled Kaushete or People of the Province of Kaushe.  The elite of the Kaushe were the hybrid Itza-Muskogean Kaw or Wind Clan.  By the early 1700s they were called the Kawetaw (Coweta) by Muskogee-speakers.  Even today the Kaw Nation in Oklahoma calls itself “People of the South Wind.”

About 15 years ago Midwestern anthropology professors proclaimed that the “keyhole house” people were the original founders of villages in southern Illinois around 800 AD that would explode into a metropolis around 1050 AD.  There were few or no ceremonial mounds built at Cahokia until the original village was razed and a new formal citadel was constructed to the side of it by newcomers around 1050 AD.  They assumed that the “keyhole house” people were descendants of Hopewell Culture villagers in Ohio and also created the first “woodhenges.” 

The ethnocentric nature of Twentieth Century Gringo Anthropology was showing its ugly face again.  Keyhole houses were at Kolomoki in Southwest Georgia many centuries before they appeared in southern Illinois.  A woodhenge dominated the main plaza of Kolomoki from its founding around 200 AD.  The movement of advanced cultures and corn horticulture was from South to North and West, not vice versa.

The founders of Ocmulgee’s Acropolis, near a large Swift Creek Culture village, built massive round houses like those typical of NW South America.

Ocmulgee’s “history” was defined by outsiders

Caddo houses in the 1700s

During the 1930s, the Director of Archaeology for all Smithsonian Institute archaeological projects in Georgia was Dr. Arthur Kelly.  He was from a small town in East Texas and a graduate of Harvard.  Until the 1950s, Kelly believed that Ocmulgee was founded by Caddo immigrants from East Texas and Louisiana because most of the houses for the first century of Ocmulgee’s occupation were massive round teepees that could hold 30 or more people. Kelly assumed that in later centuries, the Caddo had downsized the original round houses into family-size structures.  Maybe yes, but probably not.  Caddo houses were almost identical to those of the Southern Sami (Scandinavia),  Adena Culture (Ohio Valley) and Copena Culture (northern Alabama and NW Georgia).

The Director of Archaeological Excavations at Ocmulgee was Civil Engineer Joe Tamplin, a recent graduate from Georgia Tech.  Tamplin was taught archaeology by Kelly in the field.  Throughout the period when most of the excavations were done at Ocmulgee, Kelly and Tamplin were the only college graduates employed on the site.  However, Kelly was gone much of the time due to administrative responsibilities.  Interestingly enough,  books and papers by Georgia archaeologists on Ocmulgee generally do not mention Tamplin.  If he is accidentally mentioned, he labeled a “foreman” or “senior laborer.”

A memento from my childhood rediscovered – the original Ocmulgee brochure!

Kelly and Tamplin found a Swift Creek village at the base level of excavations, but not under the plaza and larger mounds.  For the first century most of the houses on the acropolis were essentially massive teepees, which Kelly interpreted as super-sized Caddo houses.  The also found what appeared to be earth lodges on the edge of the Acropolis and at a several villages downstream on the Ocmulgee. 

James Ford, an assistant to Tamplin with then, only three years of liberal arts education in Mississippi,  interpreted the eight round, communal structures on the Acropolis, which we now know were built about a century AFTER Ocmulgee’s founding, as Mandan earth lodges.  He instructed Joe Tamplin to design the reconstruction of one of them (THE Ocmulgee Earth Lodge) as a sod covered earth lodge, even though it was only 20th century building materials that made that myth possible.  These eight structures were actually chokopas,  identical in every detail to the temples built to the god, Kukulkan (Quetzalcoatl) in southern Mexico.

After World War II,  archaeologists from the Midwest and Northeast on the staff of the National Park Service took control of Ocmulgee National Monument and guided the contents of its museum.  They prepared the brochures for visitors, (seen at right) which stated that the Swift Creek Culture People were from New England,  the Farmers , who lived at the Lamar Village, were from the Lower Mississippi Valley and the Master Farmers, who built the Acropolis, were from Cahokia.  The existence of the older Swift Creek village and the South American houses, which dominated Ocmulgee’s Acropolis for over a century were erased.  There is no mention of them in the museum.  These archaeologists also erased the existence of hundreds of 2-3 feet diameter Maya-style salt brine drying trays, because such artifacts were not found at Cahokia.

Although Ichesi (Achesee ~ the Lamar Village) was actually founded around 990 AD* on an abandoned Swift Creek village site,  visitors to the Ocmulgee Museum are told that it was not founded until 200 years AFTER the Ocmulgee Acropolis was abandoned.    

*Radiocarbon date obtained by National Park Service archaeologists in 1974.

Although the so-called Ocmulgee Earth Lodge gets a lot of hype in academic literature and on the internet, the truth is that it was short-lived structure, erected about a century after Ocmulgee’s founding.  For most of the town’s existence, it either wasn’t there or else was a low mound on the landscape.  The re-construction of the building was totally botched.   The actual entrance “tunnel” was probably a curving ramp, reinforced by logs.  The real orientation of the actual doorway may or may not had any astronomical significance.

The Downstream People

When doing the research prior to constructing a model of Ochesee for Judge Patrick Moore of the Muscogee-Creek Nation, I ran across the mention of a people called the Atasi,  Otasi or Otosee, living south of Brown’s Mount on the Ocmulgee River.  The name means “Ata or Ota – descendants of.”  They were definitely members of the Creek Confederacy, because in the mid-1700s they relocated to the Lower Chattahoochee River.  Nevertheless, the elders in Oklahoma knew little about them.   Most elders knew nothing, but a few Hitchiti-Creek and Seminole elders thought that they were the same thing as the “Downstream People.”   They speculated that the Atasee had moved farther south and become Hitchiti-speaking Seminoles.  Among the accounts of Anglo-American writers, such as Bartram, Adair and Hawkins, I did find brief references to the “Atasee, Downstream People or Downstream Creeks,” but no detailed descriptions.  The Dictionary of Creek/Muskogee merely states that Atase was a tribal town in Eufaula, Oklahoma . . . which means that it was originally a tribal town on the Lower Chattahoochee River.  However,  it does define the Creek word Atv (Ataw) as a Hitchiti and Georgia Creek word meaning, DOWNSTREAM!  

The 1721 Map of South Carolina by Colonel John Bartram placed the Attase on the Ocmulgee River at the confluence of the Ocmulgee River and Tobesofkee Creek.  Later 18th century maps placed them in the vicinity of the Bullards Landing archaeological site southward to present day Hawkinsville, GA.  Most likely, this latter region was their primary homeland during the 1600s and earlier.

I used statistical algorithms to seek out the root words, Ata, Ota and Oto.    I found them first in the name of a tribe on the Wataree River in South Carolina, which was called the Atari or Otari.   “Ri” or “re” is the Uchee and Archaic Irish suffix for a tribe with a formal leader, such as a king or council.  So Otari or Atari also meant “Downstream People.”   Captain John Pardo built a small fort and mission in the principal town of the Otari. 

The root words Ata, Ota and Oto also appeared in the alternate names of the Quapaw and Oto Peoples on the eastern edge of the Great Plains.  Both peoples spoke Siouan languages (Dheghian and Chiwere), built earth lodges and were alternately known as “The Downstream People.”   Midwestern anthropologists interpreted the English phonetic spelling of Atasi (Õ : tä : jzhē) as an “Algonquian” word otaigi, which meant “Downstream People.”  Akansa was interpreted as meaning “Downstream People” in the Dheghian Siouan languages.  Like all other Siouan tribes, Midwestern academicians placed aboriginal homelands of the Kansa, Quapaw and Oto Peoples in the Great Lakes Basin, even when their oral histories said otherwise.  Many Siouan tribes were located there, when first contacted by French traders and trappers in the late 1600s, but they had not always lived in the region.

Apparently, most Atasi evolved into being Creek or Seminole villagers, speaking a dialect of either Hitchiti or Muskogee.  Some Atasi villages elected to migrate to regions in which peoples speaking languages similar to their own were in the majority.

Wandering villages

My reading over and over again of the Creek and Siouan migration legends has convinced me that prior to the Great American Holocaust,  the primary socio-political division of indigenous Americans in North America was the village.  There was no concept of a large swath of people being members of a “tribe”.   Uchee, Siouan and Muskogean village bands wandered across the landscape, staying at one location as long as the soil was fertile and the game, plentiful.  Most of these villages were democratic and egalitarian in nature.  They should not be called chiefdoms.  When large towns or ceremonial centers did rise up at key trading centers, villages speaking several languages or dialects might relocate in their periphery, to take advantage of access to trade goods and military protection.  Some Uchee, Siouan, Arawak, Panoan and Shawnee villages eventually began speaking dialects of the Creek languages, others maintained their cultural identity and eventually migrated elsewhere.  

The Creek and Seminole Peoples today consider Ocmulgee National Monument as their first “Mother Town.”   However, a direct cultural tie between the Creek Indians encountered by Georgia colonists in 1734 can only be found in those neighborhoods and villages within the Ocmulgee Conurbation that displayed Mesoamerican traits.  By then, the Atase, who remained in the Southeast were making the same styles of artifacts and building the same style houses as their hybrid Itza, Uchee and Muskogean neighbors.  No earth lodges have been found in the Creek Homeland that date beyond the late 1600s.

It is obvious now that Waka (the real name of Ocmulgee National Monument) was founded by families, whose ancestors had lived in South America. However, it steadily grew into becoming the SuperWalmart of the Southeast.  Several ethnic groups settled there from other parts of the Americas.  That is one of the many reasons while Ocmulgee National Monument should be expanded and re-designated Ocmulgee National Historic Park. 


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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.

1 Comment


    Attasse: “The great counsel-house or rotunda is appropriated to much the same purpose as the public square, but more private, and seems particularly dedicated to political affairs; women and youth are never admitted; and I suppose it is death for a female to presume to enter the door, or approach within its pale. It is a vast conical building or circular dome, capable of accomodating many hundred people; constructed and furnished within, exactly in the same manner as those of the Cherokees already described, but much larger than any I had seen there;”
    Tallisi (Alabama and South Carolina)? “This Talimeco was a town of great importance, with its very authoritative oratory on a high mound; the caney or house of the cacique very large and very tall and broad, all covered, high and low, with very excellent and beautiful mats, and placed with such fine skill, that it appeared that all the mats were only one mat.”

    Richard, This must have been the largest building of the Creeks who had incorporated some people in Alabama who must have lived as far as Eastern Tenn. and South Carolina with the same type of Conical buildings on ancient mounds. P.S Some people were aligning stones and mounds in N.E Alabama back to 2500 BC:


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