Origin of the Uchee People . . . Facts and speculations
Image Above: Chestua means Rabbit Clan in Uchee. All references and anthropology books state that the Chestua was on west side of the Hiwassee River (same river~different spelling) in Tennessee. The mythological version of the story is that the Cherokees had been peacefully living on the north side of the Hiwassee for 100 years. Supposedly, the Uchees killed a Cherokee man for no reason, so the Cherokees acquired firearms from a white trader and killed everybody in the village.
The authors of all those articles never bothered to look at the maps. (See below) Up until at least 1715, all of the Tennessee and Hiwassee Rivers were under the control of Upper Creeks and Uchees, who were allies of a French Fort on Bussell Island, where the Little Tennessee and Tennessee join. The Hiwassee confluence is about 98 miles downstream. There were no Cherokee village anywhere near Chestua. Furthermore, this Chestua was not destroyed. It remained on the south side of the Hiwassee River in Tennessee until at least the American Revolution. The Chestua in present day Georgia did relocate to the area that is now the Choestoe Community in Union County, GA.
The South Carolina archives state that a Uchee man cut off the ear of a white trader, based at the Cherokee village of Quanasee in present day Clay County, NC . . . near the NC-GA line. The Uchees lived near what is now Hiawassee, GA. They refused to pay their debt, because he cheated them. The angry trader gave or sold firearms and munitions to Quanasee under the condition that they attack Chestua and obtain enough Uchee slaves to cover the debt. The Cherokees saw it as an opportunity to expand their territory so they “cut off” the town . . . as massacres were called back then.
Just as in the case of this tragedy in the past . . . turned into mythology . . . it is time that the Uchee (Euchee, Yuchi) People get some respect. They certainly deserve to recognized as a separate tribe by the US Government and their unique cultural heritage should be studied. There is a direct connection between the Uchee and those petroglyphs in the Southern Highlands. The Creeks openly admit that they were not around when the ancestors of the Uchees arrived and most of the boulders were carved.
The official name of the Uchee is Tsoyaha, which means “Children of the Sun” in their language.
Uchee is the Anglicized spelling of a Muskogean name which means “Offspring from the Ocean”. Uchee was consistently used by the Spanish and the English from the 1500s to 1700s. Uchee was the spelling used by all Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama and Florida officials. It is perhaps highly significant that the Uchees had an alternative name, which was the same as the “Sea People,” who swept through the Mediterranean Sea Basin around 1200 BC . . . destroying many civilizations. Also around 1200 BC a massive tsunami or storm knocked down most of the trees in Jutland Peninsula of Denmark. A new people appeared in the Savannah Area about this time.
It should be noted that a massive tsunami struck the coast of Georgia and northern Florida around 539 AD. It was caused by an asteroid or comet hitting the ocean off of Cape Canaveral from a obtuse, southeastern vector. It left a debris ridge on the coast of Georgia that is still up to 85 feet tall today. Thus, much evidence of the South Atlantic Coast’s early history was obliterated.
Ogeechee: This is the Anglicization of Okase, which means “Offspring from the Ocean” in Itsate Creek. It was the name of a very powerful Uchee province that extended up the Ogeechee River to its source in Hancock County, GA.
Okate: This is the Anglicization of the Okvte, which means “Water or Ocean People” in Itsate Creek.
Okonee: This is the Anglicization of Okv-ani, which means “Born from Water or Ocean” in Apalache-Creek.
Yuchi: This is what Tennessee frontiersmen called the Uchee. It has become the most common spelling among academicians, except in Oklahoma.
Euchee: This is the spelling used now by Uchee in Oklahoma and Florida.
Houstauna-koa: This is the name used by the French at Fort Caroline (1564-65) for a powerful Creek-Uchee province that controlled the northeast corner of present day Georgia.
Ustanauli: This is the name used by the Creeks and British for the same province.
Tugaloo: This is the Anglicization of the Creek word, Tokah-le, which means “Spotted or Freckled People.”
Toccoa: This is the Anglicization for the Southern Arawak word, Tokah-koa, which means “Spotted or Freckled People.”
Tohogelogi: This is the name used by the French for Uchee living in the Upper Tennessee River Valley. It means “Spotted People.”
Hogeloge: This is the name used by South Carolina authorities for the Uchee living in what is now Toccoa – Stephens County, GA.
Shawnee: The Shawnee called them Utsi-gi.
Cherokee: The Cherokee called them Ani-Utsi, which means “Tribe-Uchee.” Some bands of Cherokee used Utsi-agi.
The Uchees were originally divided up into the Water, Bobcat, Rabbit, Raccoon, Hognose Skunk* and Bear Clans. There may have been more. For example, the “Spotted People” were probably a distinct clan, but this is not known for certain.
*The beautiful Konasawa or Hognose Skunk is the largest skunk. It has the body of a raccoon, but the markings of a striped skunk. This clan’s name survives as Kenesaw Mountain and the Conasauga River.
At the time of initial contact with British colonists, the Uchee were known as consummate traders. They definitely maintained politically neutral trading villages throughout the Southeast, possibly in the Midwest and all the to the Rockies. Once the Native American Slave Trade became endemic, isolated Uchee villages made tempting targets for the Iroquois and Rickohocken slave raiders. They quickly disappeared from the landscape.
In the Lower Southeast, Uchee populations generally developed symbiotic relationships with Itsate or Highland Apalache Creek elites. Uchee villages would not contain large mounds, but the fortified compounds of Itsate or Apalache elite would often contain very large mounds, but relatively few houses. In the Piedmont, the commoners in bi-cultural provinces typically lived in small hamlets or extended family farmsteads. In times of danger, they would race to a fortified provincial capital. British settlers typically called all the people in such bi-cultural provinces, “Creek,” but in fact, the majority of people were Uchee. This fact can greatly skew DNA testing because Uchee are showing up with DNA profiles much more similar to the remnant aboriginal populations of northwest Europe, rather than American Indians.
The symbiotic relationship between the Itsate, Apalache and Uchee was far more complex than a master and serf stereotype. According to the traditions of all three peoples, Uchee priests dominated certain religious practices. In fact, originally most priests may have been Uchees.
To date, the Uchee language is described in all references as a language isolate. All, but one of the dialects of Uchee have been lost. The language is being rebuilt from a handful of speakers in Oklahoma. Supposedly, it is not related to any other American indigenous language. There is still no published Uchee dictionary. It could well be that some academic authority figure made that statement and so all other academicians stopped looking. How could they do a comprehensive comparison of languages without a dictionary?
Also, it should be remembered that the Muskogean languages are far wider known and spoken, yet no one ever noticed that the Creek languages in particular share many words with Totonac and Itza Maya. These are very basic words like chiki for house, iche for corn or talako for bean.
The Muskogee-Creeks and Savannah River Uchee used the word, owe for water. This is also the word for water for a pre-Gaelic language spoken on the Atlantic Coasts of Ireland and France. Whiskey and the French word for water, eau, are descended from this word.
A new cultural tradition appeared in the Lower Southeast around 1200-1000 BC, which marked the transition from the Archaic Period to the Early Woodland Period. It began in Savannah, GA and spread inland in all directions, but particularly up the Savannah River and westward into Georgia. In the past, it has been divided up into Lower Early Woodland (Dunlap Style Pottery or Kellogg Phase) and Upper Early Woodland (Deptford Style Pottery or Cartersville Phase). However, in its website, the Southeastern Archaeological Center of the National Park Service now calls the whole cultural period, Deptford. Serious mound-building had already begun along the Chattahoochee River when the culture transitioned into the Swift Creek Culture around 200 AD.
Dunlap Pottery is typically dated to between 1000 BC and 400 BC, except in the Savannah Area, where it may be older. Deptford and Cartersville Phase Pottery is typically dated to between 400 BC to 200 AD, except in the Savannah Area, where it may be much older.
These cultural periods are characterized everywhere by permanent or semi-permanent villages and increasing dependence on the cultivation of indigenous plants and the operation of fish traps. In most of the region, mounds were limited to modest burial sites, but in the Chattahoochee and Etowah River Basins much larger platform (ceremonial) mounds were constructed.
The Swift Creek Culture did not represent total population replacement. The earliest and most southerly Swift Creek pottery was discovered at the Manville Site on the Lower Chattahoochee River by archaeologist Arthur Kelly. It dated from about 100 AD. Initially, it represented only a minuscule percentage of the pottery. The rest was Deptford Style. Over a period of time, Swift Creek tradition spread northward and represented the predominant pottery styles. This probably reflects increasing numbers of Panoan immigrants arriving in the region. Swift Creek pottery is definitely Eastern Peruvian (Panoan) in origin. Swift Creek motifs can still be seen on the clothing of modern day Conibo People in Peru.
The Uchee have consistently stated that they formerly lived in the “Home of the Sun” before traveling by boat across the Atlantic and arriving at the region between the Savannah and Altamaha Rivers on the Georgia coast. They state that there were no peoples living in the lower Southeast, when they arrived. There were Algonquian tribes living farther to the north. The Uchee did encounter mounds, middens and shell rings, built by a people, who had lived there before them. Most anthropologists have just as consistently ignored what the Uchees said because it did not mesh with their previously created orthodoxy.
Possible earlier migrations: There was a 20 year long deluge in Ireland around 2345 BC, which caused the whole island to be abandoned. This time period matches exactly the appearance of Stallings Island pottery and shell rings on the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina. However, the Uchee Migration Legend states that they saw evidence of people living there before them.
There was a triangular temple, built from quarried stone at the Nodoroc mud volcano near Winder, GA. Many of the stones have peculiar cross marks on them. The same marks can be seen on some stones at an ancient quarry in Union County, GA . . . not too far from the Track Rock Terrace Complex. The only other places in the world, where one can find triangular stone temples, are on the islands of Corsica, Sardinia, Crete and Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea. They date from 2,400 BC to 1,800 BC.
All Uchee villages and principal buildings were round until the mid-1700s. They were often known as the “Round Town” People. In the mid-1700s, they began constructing rectangular log cabins. At that point, their villages tended to be asymmetrical.
The Uchees worshiped a sun god. It may have been one and the same as the invisible Highland Apalache sun goddess, Amana. Amana was a goddess of pre-Celtic Europe AND Peru. However, this is not certain, because Uchee cultural traditions were torn asunder by the slave raids and deer skin wars, plus repeated forced migrations.
The pottery and artifacts of the Dunlap and Deptford Cultures was distinctly different that Stallings Island pottery and almost identical to the pottery and artifacts of pre-Gaelic Ireland and pre-Germanic Scandinavia. In contrast to the orthodox beliefs of anthropologists, I strongly believe that there is substance to the Uchee Migration Legend. The timing of the original appearance of Dunlap pottery exactly matches natural disasters in northern Europe and turmoil in the Mediterranean Basin.
Rather than being a mass-migration of a single ethnic group, I strongly suspect that small, “village size” bands of desperate peoples crossed the Northern Atlanta at different times and found their way south of where the land was occupied by indigenous Algonquians. It is highly possible that bands of pre-Indo-European refugees first landed in such places as Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Cape Cod. There they would have intermarried some with local American Indians, before eventually moving farther south. This might explain the Uchee’s knowledge of Algonquians occupying much of eastern North America.
I think that it is highly possible that other peoples began migrating into the Southeast from several directions after the Uchee arrived. They would have blended their cultural traditions with those of the Uchee, creating the cultural variations across the region that we see today.
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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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