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The Rickohockens, Organized Crime on the Virginia Frontier

A technique used in statistical mathematics has solved a 367 year old riddle.

Access Genealogy is currently sponsoring a comprehensive study of the early European settlement of the Southern Highlands. The full report is expected to be released to the public in late summer, 2013. There will be many surprises such as the role that Native American tribes played in this settlement.

The year is 1646. England was being torn apart by a civil war between Parliament and supporters of King Charles I. The leader of the Powhatan Confederacy, Opechancanough, launched a blitzkrieg like assault on the farmsteads and plantations of coastal Virginia. Someone had told the Native American leader that no reinforcements would come from England. What few people know is that Opechancanough could speak, read and write several languages. He received the best education possible in Spain and Mexico.

After the Powhatan and colonists had fought to a draw, 400 warriors of a tribe that no one had ever heard of marched down the James River valley, devastating almost everything in their path, except the large plantation of the Governor William Berkeley, and a few plantations of his closest friends. These seemingly invincible warriors were called the Rickohockens. Like Sherman marching to Savannah, the Rickohockens burned their way almost to the walls of the capital of Virginia, Jamestown. With total victory in their grasp, the Rickohockens sued for peace, because supposedly they had run out of arrows!

“Cut and paste” histories, that duplicate themselves across the internet, will all tell you the same story. The Rickohockens defeated the Pamunky warriors and Virginia militia in 1656 when they attacked one of the Rickohocken towns. Late 18th century maps show the Rickohockens controlling a region that included SW Virginia, SE Kentucky, NE Tennessee and NW North Carolina. Shortly thereafter, the Rickohockens disappeared from history and probably were the real name for the Cherokees; at least that is what the “cut and paste” histories say.

Many ”cut and paste” websites sites quote varying opinions from professors living 500 or more miles away from the Rickohocken’s stronghold in Virginia, who speculate that the Rickohockens were originally Lenape, Cherokee, Algonquin, Yamasee or Yuchi Indians. However, no anthropologist has been able to find a Native American language that translates the word, Rickohocken.

The Rickohockens were actually known to have at least three names. In Virginia they were called either Rickohocken or a word similar to Recherren. In South Carolina they were called the Weste by Creek Indians and Westo by coastal planters. The word, weste, is now used as pejorative adjective by Creek Indians to describe a savage looking Native American with long, scraggly hair.

Surviving colonial lore about the Rickohockens states that their capital was named Otari and that it was located high in the Virginia Mountains near the Peaks of the Otter. That location is near Bedford, VA. Supposedly either the word Otari or the word, Rickohocken, meant “high place.”

There may be something to that Creek usage of the word, Weste. Spanish friars, whose parishioners on the coast of Georgia were repeatedly victims of Rickohocken slave raids, called them the Chichimecs in their reports to Spain. Historians have generally been disdainful of this label, because the word Chichimec is an Aztec word used to describe the wild tribes of northern Mexico. The Chichimecs DID have long, scraggly hair, however.

What “cut and paste” histories don’t tell their readers

There are some other things that “cut and paste” histories don’t tell their readers about early Virginia. Later in 1646, Governor Berkeley signed a contract between his trading company and the Rickohockens. His company would buy all the Native American slaves the Rickohockens could deliver. He would also buy any furs or skins that the Rickohockens could steal from other tribes. The Native American slave trade was born.

At the same time, Governor Berkeley and his Royalist buddies were buying up the lands along the James River of their massacred owners, plus the forfeited tracts of the defeated Indians. Berkeley despised democracy, middle class folks, yeomen farmers, Puritans, Presbyterians, Anabaptists and anyone else, who was not a rich, white, Royalist Anglican. He later wrote in his memoir:

“I thank God, there are no free schools, nor printing in Virginia; and I hope we shall not have these for a hundred years; for learning has brought disobedience, and heresy, and sects into the world, and printing has divulged them, and libels against the best government. God keep us from both.”

There is more. Between 1661 and 1664 Governor Berkeley pushed through a series of laws that institutionalized slavery, forbade citizenship for Native Americans, Africans and mixed-heritage offspring plus made sexual intercourse between a white woman and Native American or African man a felony. That last law was on the books in Virginia until the late 20th century. Of course, exactly 200 years later, the soil of Virginia would be covered in blood in a Civil War that ended the curse of slavery.

At the time of the 1656 attack on the fortified Rickohocken town, the Rickohockens were the primary contractors for Berkeley’s trading company. They had complained to Berkeley because white settlers were locating ever closer to the mountains. Berkeley was out of office because the Commonwealth had defeated King Charles I. Virginia was being run by Puritans appointed by Oliver Cromwell.

Berkeley saw the situation as an opportunity to “kill two birds with one stone.” Establishing a fortified Rickohocken town where Richmond is now located would stop western settlements and create a perceived “terrorist threat.” He pressured the Commonwealth leaders to attack the town. Their humiliating defeat made a colonial government, run by “commoners,” seem ineffective in combating terrorism.

The researchers have found many things odd about the official history of the Rickohockens. Official British maps show the Rickohockens controlling all of SW Virginia, SE Kentucky, NE Tennessee and NW North Carolina until the early 1700s. However, James Needham and Gabriel Arthur led an expedition that traveled through the heart of Rickohocken country; from Petersburg, VA to the capital of the Tamahiti in northeastern Tennessee in 1673. They never mentioned the words, Rickohocken or Cherokee, but did mention seeing many Spaniards, a brick town with a Catholic church, occupied by Spaniards and a wood framed town occupied by Africans.

Cut and paste histories state that Needham and Arthur traveled to the capital of the Cherokees at Chota on the Tennessee River. In actuality, the words Cherokee, Chota and Tennessee are never mentioned in the original text about Needham and Arthur’s expedition. In the 1980s some well known academicians in North Carolina and Georgia (not Virginia!) created “edited” versions of that text that were intended to make it appear that the Cherokees were aboriginal to eastern Tennessee. They substituted “Cherokee” for “Tomahitan,” “Chota” for “Tomahitan’s capital” and deleted references to the non-indigenous towns, Catholic church, Spanish and Africans.

The Tamahiti (Tomahitan in Algonquin) were a Creek tribe that returned to their ancestral home in southeast Georgia in the 1720s. Their mother town was Tama, which was visited by de Soto. Tamahiti word means “Merchant People” in Itza Maya.

Linguistic Analysis

The Access Genealogy research team used a technique in statistical mathematics to determine what language the word Rickohocken came from. This method is known as multiple regression analysis. The linguist looked for a language that had words with pronunciations that matched Rickohocken, Recherren and Weste. The meanings of the words had to be relevant to what is known about this Indian tribe.

Before the advent of the computer, such a complex analysis would almost be impossible. However, it was accomplished less than day using a personal computer and the internet.

Hopefully, the reader is sitting down at this point. All three words are Nederlandische (Dutch)! In Dutch the words would be spelled Rijkehoogen, Rijkeherren and Woeste. They mean “High or lofty kingdom”, “Rich Gentlemen” and “Wild or Savage.” These Dutch words are actually pronounced very similar to how the Rickohocken’s names were spelled in English.

The Rickohockens were an artificial Native American tribe originally created by Dutch investors to capture Native American slaves and squelch the expansion of Virginia. There is also circumstantial evidence that unbeknownst to their kings, wealthy Spaniards and Englishmen were also involved with this scheme. History lovers will have to wait to the publication of the full Access Genealogy report to learn why and how this all came about. It is a new chapter in American history.

“Shazam Andy – that means my ggg-grandmother was not a full-blooded Cherokee Princess living in the ancient Cherokee capital of NW North Carolina, Mayberry, but a Heinz 57!”

“That’s right, Gomer. These cryptic Mediterranean colonists were all over the North Carolina Mountains in the 1600s. Famous North Carolina historians such as F. A. Sondley of Asheville, knew about them. . . but late 20th century academicians covered it up.”

“Gomer, would you believe that Mount Pilot was one of their trading posts?”


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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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