Savannah was where it all began . . . the Chicora that no one can find
Perhaps the biggest difference in studying Creek cultural history is that it is real history, not mythology and it is a chronological outline that reaches back to very ancient times. Eighteenth century Creeks remembered a time when they were primitive hunter-gatherers, living in caves in Mesoamerica. There are no gods and goddesses influencing the lives of humans and mating with them, such as one reads in Maya mythology. There are no supernatural monsters such as what one reads in Greek mythology. However, surprisingly, virtually no names of individuals survive. One only hears of the experiences of the people as a whole. Their leaders are anonymous.
How different this approach to life is when compared to European recorded history, which is an account of an endless line of emperors, kings, popes, warlords and generals. The experiences of the people remain anonymous, but names of the tyrants, who made their lives miserable, live on forever.
Well, there is the wog. However, the Creek’s description of the wog matches exactly the creature that we today call the Komodo Dragon . . . a giant monitor lizard. It is quite plausible that a New World cousin of the Komodo Dragon lived in the Southeast. The Komodo Dragon once occupied most of Southeast Asia, China, the Philippines and Japan, until killed off by humans.
The discovery in 2015 of the original handwritten Creek Migration Legends that have been lost for 285 years radically changed our understanding of where the ancestors of the Creeks originated or where they came together to create an indigenous civilization. After obtaining photographs of the original and complete Migration Legend documents in England, I was able to match the descriptions of places where the branches of the Creek Confederacy had formerly lived with actual geographical features in Mexico and North America today. I also came upon a remarkable moment in the winter of 1733 that radically changed our understanding of the Southeast’s past.
A walk around the real estate that would become Savannah
On behalf of the Trustees of the Province of Georgia, James Edward Oglethorpe had just purchased the land for Savannah. Afterward Tamachichi, the Seller’s Agent, gave Oglethorpe, the Buyers Agent, a walking tour of the real estate, the Trustees had purchased. Colonial Secretary Thomas Christie recorded the conversations. Tamachichi first took Oglethorpe to a cluster of low burial mounds that were located on the edge of Yamacraw Bluff . . . roughly northeast of the Savannah Visitors Center. Tamachichi wanted the British to clearly understand why he WAS not willing to sell this tract of land. The mounds were the burial places of his ancestors. His village was also to remain where it was. There was a Creek village adjacent to Savannah until the American Revolution. However, the sacred nature of the mounds next to the water front was probably “forgotten” as soon as Tamachichi died in 1739 or certainly when his beloved nephew, Toonihowi, was killed fighting the Spanish in Florida in 1751.
I was first astounded to read that the ancestors of the Uchee, the Apalache (Panoans from Peru) and the Itzate Creeks (Itza Mayas) had all first entered North America at the mouth of the Savannah River. Their cultures had blended to create the Creek’s first capital town. Downtown Savannah is located on its site. The town was named Aparashikora (Anglicized to Apalachicola) . . . which means “From the ocean or from Peru – descendants of – people.
That meant the Apalachicola Tribe originated in Savannah. The word merely means “Apalache People.” The historic Creek town of Palachicola on the Savannah River was NOT a branch of the Apalachicola, who had moved east in recent times . . . as all academicians assumed. We also now know that the oldest mound in North America is the Bilbo Mound (3540 BC). It is on the grounds of the Savannah Country Club . . . the United States oldest golf course. It was a mound built in the center of a ceremonial pond . . . very ancient public architecture.
The first “emperor” of this polity was buried in a mound that early maps of Savannah labeled “Indian King’s Tomb.” The vestiges of that mound still can be seen. The emperor’s royal compound and a complex of religious shrines were on Irene Island. The Moravians and Anglican missionary, John Wesley, chose the top of the largest mound in the emperor’s compound to build a mission school for the Creek People.
Irene Island immediately upstream from Downtown Savannah. The island was completely destroyed to build ship loading facilities just before World War II. However, just prior to its destruction, the famous archaeologist Joseph Caldwell led a team of highly skilled, African American women in the excavation of key architectural features on the site. The images above are based on a computer model that I created from Caldwells archaeological survey.
The Choctaw, Chickasaw and Alabama use the word okola, okla or kola for tribe. Those words are the Anglicizations of the Muskogean pronunciations of okora and kora . . . Peruvian words for nation and people. That means that basic Muskogean cultural traits traveled from the Savannah River westward to the Mississippi River, not the opposite direction as assumed by all anthropologists. The Mississippian Culture should be called the Savannah Culture.
The red-haired visitor from afar
Almost as an afterthought, Tamachichi told James Oglethorpe a surprising tidbit from the past. As they were standing on the bluff, which is now Factors Walk, Tamachichi stated, “Long ago, a group of Frenchmen led by a man with big, bushy red beard, came up the river in a boat to visit our emperor. The French were hungry and our emperor gave them food.”
This is an event that matches exactly recorded French history. The memoirs of Captain René de Laudonnière specifically mention this incident. He said that when Charlesfort was running out of food, Jean Ribault commanded a barque, which sailed southward about 15 leagues (32 miles) and then up a river about 8 leagues (17 miles) to the royal compound of the king of Chicola. De Laudonnière specifically stated that the place that the French called Chicola was the same as the place that the Spanish called Chicora. The distances exactly match those one would travel between the location of Charlesfort on Parris Island and Irene Island in Savannah.
The distance from the real location of Chicora (Aparachikora) to the first Spanish colony in North America also matches the navigational log of Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón. In 1526, Ayllón’s fleet initially sailed to Chicora, where their Native American guide, Francisco, went AWOL. The fleet then sailed southward about 70 miles and founded the colony of San Miguel de Gualdape on an island in the mouth of the Altamaha River in Georgia. For many decades, South Carolina scholars placed Chicora on Winyah Bay and the first island that the expedition looked at on Pawleys Island, South Carolina. South Carolina scholars then placed the Spanish colony on Kiawah Island, south of Charleston.
However, other Spanish navigation logs and eyewitness descriptions clearly match the mouth of the Altamaha River for the location of the colony. So today, Sapelo Island, GA is the official location of San Miguel de Gualdape, but references still have the Spaniards sailing to Winyah Bay because the Ayllón navigational log states that they went to Chicora first. Chicora is officially at Georgetown, SC so no decent academician is going to challenge that orthodoxy. The current explanation is that Ayllón made a “mistake” in calculating the distance between Chicora and the island where he built the doomed colony of San Miguel de Gualdape. One sees that a lot among anthropology and archaeology professors. If the numbers by eyewitness accounts don’t match their contemporary orthodoxy, then obviously the eyewitnesses are the ones who made the mistake.
For reasons that for the life of me, I can’t discern, Southeastern academicians long ago decided that Chicora was a large province, spanning from Charleston to Cape Fear and speaking a Siouan language, in northeastern South Carolina. Wikipedia also states it as a fact. Juan Pardo traversed all over South Carolina and never mentioned a massive province named Chicora. When British settlers arrived on the South Carolina coast in 1670, they could not find Chicora. In fact, for the past three centuries, generation after generation of South Carolina scholars have been looking for Chicora in all the wrong places. Nevertheless, all anthropological documents in the Southeast assume Chicora to be a large, Siouan-speaking, Mississippian moundbuilder province that covered all of the Coastal Plain north of Charleston. It has grown to be something like the Great Cherokee Empire myth.
A legion of dissertations and professional papers have been presented by historians and anthropologists that make these assumptions, without explaining why the Chicora Indians were Siouan or occupied a vast area of northeastern South Carolina. Of course, they have no words spoken in Chicora that can be translated by a Siouan dictionary, but it doesn’t matter. Some academic authority figure in South Carolina made that call many moons ago and therefore it is a fact.
You see, most esteemed anthropology professors, if you knew anything about the indigenous anthropology of the Southeast, you would know that the Muskogeans and Apalache rolled their “R’s” so much that many Europeans wrote down the R sound as an L. Thus, as Monsieur René de Laudonnière wrote . . . Chiquola (Chicola) and Chicora are the same words. Aparachikora became Apalachicola.
Perhaps another misspelling error by the British is a little beyond the technical levels of Liberal Arts PhD’s in the Southeast, but I will explain it anyway. The Creeks and Apalache Commoners on the Atlantic Coastal Plain aspirated the A in front of Apalachicola so much that the British didn’t hear it. The British wrote down Palachicola near Savannah and Apalachicola on the Chattahoochee River, where the Creeks pronounced the sound more clearly. The “A” suffix means “from” in the Panoan languages of Peru . . . so dropping the “A” didn’t really change the ethnic name’s meaning significantly.
Well . . . there is no excuse at all for this faux pas. The memoirs of René de Laudonnière were translated into English and published by the famous scholar Richard Hakluyt in 1578. This translation is still being published and on the web. The same statement is in Charles Bennett’s modern English translation of De Laudonnière’s memoirs. See pages 29-30 and 40. It was published in 2000 and available from Amazon.com.
There is a state-recognized Chicora Indian Tribe, based on Pawleys Island near Georgetown, SC. Presumably, Pawleys Island was chosen because history books in South Carolina said that that was where Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón made contact with the Chicora Indians. Its website is http://www.chicoraindiantribe.org/. The tribe’s website claims that they are the oldest, and one time largest, Indian tribe in South Carolina. The website comes complete with the soundtrack of a Lakota-Sioux war song. That’s because the folks in Georgetown were told they were Siouans by the academicians in South Carolina. Tribal leaders are also shown, wearing Lakota Plains Indian war bonnets. These people may be of Native American descent, but unless their ancestors came from the Savannah River Basin or regions to the west of there, they are NOT descended from the Aparachikora.
In addition to zillions of businesses, schools, Boy Scout administrative divisions, churches, streets, subdivisions, etc. named Chicora in South Carolina, there is also the Chicora Foundation based in Columbia, SC. In the past, it has been one of the primary sponsors of archaeological digs in South Carolina. Should the People of One Fire send them a Creek dictionary?
Don’t you think that I deserve a PhD in Anthropology from Harvard University, given the number of dissertations and professional papers in the Southeast that I have proven to be caca de toro? LOL
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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.
Latest posts by Richard Thornton (see all)
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- Disturbing video of the occult’s approach to historic preservation - August 17, 2017
- Atlanta’s leaders are right . . . Don’t erase the Old South’s history! - August 15, 2017
- Update: Bronze Age research appears to be headed toward an astonishing discovery - August 15, 2017
- Very pertinent film from the Atlanta Board of Education in 1947 - August 14, 2017