The Paracus, Taino and Calusa Peoples of Georgia & South Carolina
For the past two years Gary Daniels and I have had burrs in our saddles, trying to figure out the ethnicity of a corridor that runs from the Georgia gold fields to southern Florida. The Southeastern Native American world according to late 20th century anthropology orthodoxies just didn’t match what one finds in the Spanish and French colonial archives. At the People of One Fire, we have a policy of releasing important research results as soon as they happen. That is why our core group of researchers are making such rapid progress in unraveling the past. We talk to each other regularly and don’t let our egos get in the way of scientific curiosity.
It has really intrigued me that substantial Peruvian and Maya DNA was found in BIA card-carrying Cherokees from the immediate area around Brasstown Bald Mountain, GA. Genetic tests of these folks don’t appear to show ANY North American Indian DNA. These Cherokees don’t even look like “regular” Cherokees.
Being that he enjoys gnats, sun strokes and hurricanes, Gary has been focusing on northern Florida and lower SE Georgia. In between trying to stop neurotic control freaks with brains and hormones that stopped changing at age 13 from destroying the economy and cultural heritage of Georgia any further, I have been focusing on NE & upper SE Georgia, plus western South Carolina. Gary’s primary sources are the Spanish colonial archives, while mine are the French Huguenot memoirs. Our findings, no matter how revolutionary they may seem, are increasingly collaborating each other. Don’t want to steal Gary’s thunder, so you can read his updates on “Lost Worlds.”
Later this week, I will send out my detailed article on the French Huguenot explorations. It will also be at PeopleofOneFire web site along with lots of pretty pictures.
However, here are some findings that you will find interesting.
- The Native provinces on the SC coast north of Kiawah Island up to the Santee River were Calusa. The Calusa’s appear to have been originally from NW South America. They worshiped and made human sacrifices to the sun god, Toya. Yes, the remnants of the SC Calusa, such as the Edisto, later joined the Creek Confederacy, but they were not Muskogeans. Perhaps they were the people that gave such a South American-Caribbean flavor to Weeden Island ceramics – then they were pushed eastward by the Muskogee-Creeks.
- Kiawah Island, SC was inhabited by the Keowee Creeks. Their mother town was near Watkinsville, GA on the Oconee River. One branch of the Keowee became original members of the Lower Cherokees. Most Keowee just melted away into the Creek Confederacy.
- The Wahale (Guale) were probably also from Florida. Wahale means “southerners” in the Creek languages. The Wahale appeared to have been a mixed Maya-Muskogean-Ciboney-Calusa people. Among the Wahale one finds village names and traditions from all four cultures. My gut feeling is that they originally from the Lake Okeechobee Region.
- In extreme northeast Georgia and NW South Carolina were the Paracus People, originally from the region where the Natzca Lines were found in Peru. The gold nuggets and alluvial gold dust was collected by the Apalache (or Palache or Biloxi) along the headwaters of the Etowah and Chattahoochee Rivers. The Apalache were Siouans with a Muskogean elite. The Paracus worked the Apalachee gold into thin sheets and chains then shipped them down the Savannah River in exchange for salt processed by Yuchi workers on Tybee Island. Tybee is derived from the Itsa Maya word for salt, Taabe.
In the 1560s, the king of the Paracus controlled the entire Savannah River Basin’s trading system. He was an arch-enemy of the Calausa provinces located on the coast of South Carolina. A Muskogean town named Patofa was located at Augusta, GA, but seems to have been a vassal of the Paracus.
- Apparently, much of the interior of South Carolina was a potpourri of ethnic groups, who were ruled by Muskogean elites in major towns during the 1500s. All but one of the political titles recorded by Juan Pardo’s chronicler were modern Creek words, but the village names seem to be from many ethnic groups. Several of the village names look South American or Arawak. In 1700 John Lawson stated that almost every village that he encountered on the Santee River had a different language – and the people even looked different.
- There were definitely Taino Arawak villages on the Lower Ocmulgee River. Toa means “Mother Town” or “cassava griddle” in Puerta Rican Arawak. The Georgia Arawaks were called Toasi by the Creeks. They eventually joined the Creek Confederacy. The Sweetwater Creek stela found in SW metro Atlanta is identical to Taino art found in the Toa Province of north-central Puerto Rico.
- The French colony, Fort Caroline, couldn’t have possibly been on the St. Johns River. De Laudonierre said that the Mocama were on an island to the south of Fort Caroline. That’s Cumberland Island, GA. He also said that the river that the fort was built on was the dividing line between two ethnic groups, who were hostile to each other – i.e. the Wahale and Tamacoa (Timucua in Spanish.) The most likely location for the fort is a triangular island immediately southwest of Darien, GA on the Altamaha River. The surviving drawings of Fort Caroline show to be on a triangular island, created by two creeks.
- Captain Rene’ Goulaine de Laudonierre, bless his heart, also solved the mystery of the “Timucuans” by telling us their real name. They called themselves the Tama-coa. That’s a hybrid Totonac-Arawak name meaning “Merchant People.” It means the same as Tamale and Tamatli, who were the Muskogean people around the Forks of the Altamaha, who spoke so many Mesoamerican words.
So the anthropologists at FSU, who theorized that their beloved, but extinct, “Timucuans” were hybrid bands of merchant people, rather than a pure ethnic group were dead on target. Y’all download some Mexican and South American indigenous dictionaries and I bet you’ll will be cooking with gas!
How about them thar apples?
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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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