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Unraveling the real history of the Cherokees

Between 1793 and 1832, the Cherokee People accomplished one of the most remarkable feats of societal revitalization in human history. At the beginning of the period, they were a beaten, demoralized, economically bankrupt minority being overrun by hoards of white settlers. By the end of the period, they were the most literate people on the face of the earth. While only 20% of white Americans could read & write in 1830, over 80% of the Cherokees in Georgia were fully literate in their new Sequoya syllabary.

This phenomenal renaissance and the tragic Trail of Tears period that ended it, have somehow resulted in a fabricated history for the Cherokees. Much of the blame can be assigned to lazy research habits by 20th century scholars, but the truth is that the Cherokees know very little about themselves prior to a 1725 map by an English cartographer. They know virtually nothing factual of their heritage before the Colony of South Carolina signed a treaty with eight renegade Itsate Creek (yes Creek) villages on the headwaters of the Savannah River. The Muskogee name for those villages that broke away from their mother provinces in Georgia or fled from the South Carolina Coast, was Chora-ke or Splinter People.

You have to remember that the Itsate and Mvskoke Creeks were enemies until some point in time during the1600s, when they formed the confederacy. I grew up hearing of a great battle in which my Creek ancestors stopped the advance of the imperialistic Muskogees. I didn’t even realize that the Muskogees were also Creek Indians until in college.

This article examines the reasons why expanding real Cherokee history before 1700 will be so difficult and explodes four myths: (1) the origin of the Cherokee’s name, (2) Cherokee tall tales about the Shawnee, (3) the origin of the Lower Cherokees, and (4) Cherokees in the Georgia Mountains.

If interested in reading more on this subject, Read more

Have a great week . . . I’m off to go hiking and look at mountain wild flowers!

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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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