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How Politicians Erased the Chickasaw from the Maps

During the period between 1660 and 1700, France covertly dispatched marines, traders and army engineers to toughly explore and map the interior of the Southeast. By 1684 they had already traversed the Tennessee and Chattahoochee Rivers to their sources. Only the French Broad River could not be canoed from the Tennessee River to its source because of Class 5 rapids and steep canyon walls near Hot Springs, NC. The maps and archives provided specific names of ethnic groups and villages in the Southern Highlands. There is no doubt of their ethnic accuracy. Apparently these maps are completely ignored today by historians, THPO’s and anthropologists. Instead they rely on a grossly inaccurate NAGPRA map adopted in 1991.

The Chickasaw originally controlled all the middle and lower sections of the Tennessee River. There was a Chickasaw town at Paducah, KY until fairly late in the 18th century.

Chickasaw Map

Chickasaw Territory Map

Early French maps showed the Kofitachite in the southern end of the Cumberland Plateau. They were apparently responsible for the abandonment of Kusa but this may have also been caused by a rebellion of Chickasaw vassals such as the Napoche.

In the 1550’s, the Ustanauli controlled a powerful province in NE Georgia. The Kofitachite invasion forced them to relocate to the edge of NW GA. They spoke a Chickasaw dialect.

In 1717 Chickasaw moved to a town of Chiska on Chattahoochee River. In 1976 archaeologist Bennie Keel identified the crude round houses of a “newcomer” group along the headwaters of the Tuckasegee River near the South Carolina line. The hamlet was radiocarbon dated to about 1680 AD. These huts were probably built by the Cofitachete invaders.

How late 20th century politicians erased the Chickasaw

Later 18th century maps showed the Chiloki on the Flint River in deep southwest Georga.

Later 18th century maps showed the Chiloki on the Flint River in deep southwest Georga.

Many of the ethnological “facts” about the Southeast’s indigenous peoples that are now being taught America’s students are politically motivated fabrications from the period of 1980 through 1992. They were never based on colonial archives, or even artifacts. There is no better example of the situation than with the Chickasaw. Please closely examine the 1701, 1901 and 1991 maps provided above. Perhaps what is even more frightening is that Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs now uses an official map that is almost as inaccurate in the Southeast as the NAGPRA map.

The Chickasaw People have the only ethnic name mentioned in the chronicles of the de Soto Expedition that today is clearly a federally recognized Native American tribe. The town of Katapa was only mentioned by Pardo’s chronicler. The Chiloki or Chaloke, mentioned by de Soto’s chroniclers, show up as a tribe different than the Cherokee on 18th century maps. They gradually worked their way southwestward until probably composing one of the divisions of the Seminole Alliance.

At the time of contact with the French, the Chickasaw occupied a vast territory in the heart of eastern North America that stretched from the Ohio River southward to the Piedmont. There were even Chickasaws in southwest Georgia. The Chickasaw never fought a war against Great Britain or the United States. They were steadfast allies of their non-indigenous neighbors. They sent troops to fight with St. Clair and Harrison in the Midwest, against the Cherokees in the American Revolution and Chickamauga War and against the British in the War of 1812. Even though probably, man for man, once the most ferocious warriors in the Southeast, the Chickasaw have become known for their civility and intelligence and yet . . .

The Native American Grave Repatriation and Protection Act was a major legislative action during the early part of the George Herbert Bush Administration. Major impetus for this act came from the extensive evidence that president’s father, Prescott Bush, had been with a group of Skull & Bones members from Yale, who dug up Geronimo’s grave and placed his skull in their sanctuary. President Bush was very anxious to prove that he personally did not condone such nefarious activities.

Something else was going on behind the scenes in Washington that never has been fully understood. Someone or some group was using NAGPRA as a covert means to change history in the Southeast. My friends at the Harpers Ferry History and Archaeological Center of the National Park Service told me that the highly inaccurate NAGPRA map was forced down their throats by appointed officials high up in the Department of the Interior.

This effort in the 1980s was ironically straight out of the book, 1984. The original NAGPRA tribal territory map showed three tribes occupying the entire Southeast. The Cherokees were shown to have once occupied all or most of seven states, including all of Georgia, most of Alabama and northern Florida. The Seminoles were shown to have always lived in a small region south of the Everglades, while the Creeks only lived in a small six county area in east-Central Alabama. The Choctaw, Shawnee, Alabama, Chickasaw, Catawba, Yuchi, Powhatan, Saponi, Natchez, Chitamacha, Timucua, Calusa and many other tribes never existed.

As can be seen in the attached images, the final version of the NAGPRA map that was slipped through Congress during Desert Storm without discussion is not a whole lot better. At least Florida’s congressmen went to bat for the Seminoles. Their territory is now fairly accurate, but should extend into southern Georgia, while the Florida Panhandle should be labeled “Creek.” What the politicians did was, when large numbers of Native American constituents complained about their traditional homeland being labeled “Cherokee,” that particular congressional district was usually changed to “Unknown Tribal Affiliation.” Over many protests from the Creeks, northern Georgia, their heartland where the three Creek mother towns of Etowah, Apalache and Kusa are located, were labeled “Traditional Cherokee Territory.”

Choctaw, Creek and Siouan descendants have generally been able to intervene when the NAGPRA map was used to misinterpret archaeological sites. However, the presence of large Chickasaw, Shawnee, Yuchi, Alabama and Koasati populations has been successfully erased. The only exceptions I know of are two counties in eastern Georgia whose local histories proudly announce that the Yuchi’s were indigenous to their county . . . despite what everyone else says!

The state of Georgia does not acknowledge the presence of the Chickasaw at all, even though the word “Chickasaw” is on several areas of Georgia’s colonial maps. Kentucky does not acknowledge their presence even though the Chickasaws once occupied (at least) the western half of the state. Alabama places them in two counties in its extreme northeastern corner even though the Chickasaws once occupied about at least a third of the state, including the location of Moundville. Even though the Chickasaws once occupied a vast region in Tennessee that stretched from the Mississippi to near Knoxville, Tennessee places them on the extreme western edge of the Volunteer State and says almost nothing about their culture in the official state curriculum.

Examples of the Great Chickasaw Rub-Out

I first became aware of the “Great Chickasaw Erasure” while the historic preservation and planning consultant for Adairsville in northwest Georgia. Indian trader and author, James Adair, took his Chickasaw wife and family to that locale from the South Carolina Upcountry in 1776, when the Cherokees joined the British and began raiding white settlements. No one really knows where Adair resided after the Revolution, but his family stayed put. Their lands were absorbed by the Cherokees when northwest Georgia was given to the Cherokees in the 1794 treaty. Adair is now a prominent family name among both the Cherokees and Creeks in Oklahoma. However, several of his descendants avoided deportation by claiming to be mixed-blood Chickasaws and temporarily living in Tennessee during 1838. Some Adair descendants still live in the Adairsville area. There is a marble monument to his two sons in downtown Adairsville . . . calling them great Cherokee chiefs.

The restoration of the 1845 Adairsville Rail Depot was federally funded. It was where the Great Locomotive Chase between the General and Texas began. Federal regulations mandated that I carry out thorough historical research. That is when I discovered that Adair’s wife was Chickasaw, not Cherokee, and that her birthplace was in a Chickasaw village nearby. The Ustanauli (Oostanaula River) were Chickasaws, not Cherokees. Most of the Chickasaws in Ustanauli moved to a town by the same name in western Tennessee when the Cherokees decided to make it the location of their capital, New Echota. Go to Adairsville today, though, and you will be told: “The Cherokees, who built nearby Etowah Mounds and many other mounds in Georgia have lived in the Adairsville area for at least 2,000 years, maybe longer.”

Lawrence County, Alabama is possibly the birthplace of the Chickasaws, who trace their heritage back to the Copena Culture. Oakville Mounds in Lawrence County, with 20 mounds, was the largest Copena town. The town was developed between 0 AD and 500 AD. Hernando de Soto never came within 100 miles of Lawrence County. The county was part of the Chickasaw Nation until 1816 when it was ceded to the United States. Nevertheless, this is what your children or grandchildren will be taught by the Oakville Mounds Museum and in official Alabama histories: “Cherokees were living in Lawrence County when Hernando de Soto came through here in 1540, perhaps much longer.” Wikipedia virtually says the same thing.

Most recently, Christina Rose of Indian Country Today wrote an article about 15 skeletons being found in a Tennessee cave. The article stated that inquiries were sent to numerous Tribal Historic Preservation Offices (THOPO) and that someone had decided that the skeletons were Cherokees from the Mississippian Period. That is caca de toro. It is impossible to determine the tribal identity of Mississippian remains. All of the Southeastern tribes are assimilated peoples and none of the tribes existed as distinct tribes prior to European Contact. The Southeast was divided up into provinces that might contain several ethnic groups. Contemporary Native Americans are genetically very different from Pre-European Contact indigenous peoples.

Furthermore, no map shows the Cherokees living in Tennessee until 1718. Where they were shown to be living in 1718 (extreme northeastern Tennessee) previous maps showed being occupied by Muskogeans or Europeans.

Apparently, no DNA analysis was done and the determination was done by the NAGPRA map. It doesn’t matter. There is NO DNA test indicator for any of the Southeastern Tribes, and may never be. Colonial Period Cherokee skulls can often be identified because they are flat on top like Caucasian skulls, but then the researcher has the problem that during the Colonial Period, all the tribes were beginning to intermarry with Caucasians, Africans and other tribes. To read the article:

And now you know!

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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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