So your family is from Alabama, Georgia or South Carolina and think you are Cherokee?
As commercial DNA labs are becoming more skilled in mass testing genetic samples, a lot of folks in the Southeast, whose great-grandmother was a Cherokee Princess, are finding out that she was more likely a daughter of Zion or the descendants of Spanish grandees. There is an answer in history . . . at least in the factual history that POOF researchers are developing.
The drawing above portrays a Sephardic Jewish or Spanish gold mining village on Dukes Creek in White County, GA, which was discovered in 1828, mentioned in the first archaeological book on the Southeast in 1873, then erased from Georgia’s history books.
This past Thursday, a lovely lady with jet black hair stalked me for awhile then approached me at the cheese counter of the Dahlonega, GA Walmart. She whispered, “Excuse me sir.”
I was not accustomed to having attractive female strangers speak to me. I looked around to see if she was actually talking to someone else. She smiled directly at me . . . “Are you the guy on the History Channel program about the Mayas?”
Still surprised, I answered, “Yep, that’s me. You are one of the few people in Dahlonega, I’ve met that even knew about the program. For some reason, everybody at the Fresh ‘N Frugal Supermarket watched it, though.“
She smiled, “Wow, that’s weird. I thought you were famous. I just subscribed to y’all’s newsletter, The People of One Fire. It’s great! What are you doing in Dahlonega ? Have you found a Maya city here?”
I answered, “Oh, I live here. The premier of “America Unearthed” was filmed here. For reasons, I still can’t figure out, the Dahlonega Nugget (local newspaper) decided to censure out anything to do with the film crew being here, the Mayas in Georgia program on the History Channel, the Creek Indians or me individually.
She laughed and said, “I’d believe that. Unless you have a kid playing sports at Lumpkin High School, there is not a whole lot in the Nugget these days, but ads.“
“Hey, I’m glad I ran into you, because I have been wanting to write y’all. Both my mama’s and my daddy’s family always thought that they were Cherokees. In fact, they were members of a Cherokee Tribe when I was little, but I am not sure if it still exists.”
“I sent off DNA samples of me and my kids to “23 and Me” in hope that we could be made members of the Cherokee Tribe in North Carolina. The tests came back that we were Jewish, Scottish . . . uh-h-h . . . Iberian, North African and uh-h-h . . . Northern Germanic. We had absolutely no Indian blood. So my great-great-great-grandmother that we always said was a full-blooded Cherokee princess who married a gold miner, wasn’t a Cherokee at all.”
“What’s really weird is that back in the 1990s, one of my best friends was a gal here in Dahlonega, whose family was from Nazareth in Israel. They were Christian Palestinians and could have been descended from Jesus. She is really pretty and almost looks oriental.”
“Boy did she tell a different story than what the newspapers and Muslims are saying. She said that most of the people calling themselves Palestinians today are Arabs. The real Palestinians are either Christians or Jewish. First, the Muslim Arabs stole their land in the 1800s and then after Israel became a separate country, the European Jews stole their businesses. “
“Well, anyway . . . everyone always said that she and I could be twin sisters. We do look alike. I always joked that maybe the Mormons were right. The Ten Tribes of Israel did settle here and become Cherokee Indians. But then, after I read your article about New Jerusalem, it all made sense. We could have been twin sisters . . . well, distant cousins. Why don’t my kids’ history textbooks talk about that?”
The only answer that I could give her was, “I don’t know”, but added, “Hey, this will blow your mind. You know the (censored) Museum down on (censored) Street? (Censored) is a Creek word, not Cherokee. It is still the official title of the Speaker of the Muscogee-Creek National Council.”
*On February 10, 2016. a white couple, living about a mile to the northwest and wearing Indian “thangs” drove up to my house in a jeep, festooned with Injun thangs. The man delivered a letter from a lawyer in Gainesville, GA that said if I mentioned name of their tribe or the name of the museum in this article they would sue me for libel. We removed the words, but they have a big surprise coming. As the white man wearing the bear claws drove away from my cabin, he announced, “We know who we are. Do you know what you are?” He displayed a demonic smile and walked back to his jeep. I didn’t even know the name of the tribe, until they threatened to sue me. That’s why I never mentioned the name of a local Cherokee tribe in the article. Even the lady, who talked to me, didn’t know it still existed.
She looked dumbfounded. “You’re kidding. My children’s father and I gave money to that museum in honor of my Cherokee ancestor, who we now know was not even Cherokee!”
Yep . . . welcome to the world of Southeastern non-history.
Native descendants in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina
There were definitely hundreds or thousands of people from the Old World living in the Southern Highlands in the 1600s. Where they went or what happened to their descendants has always been an enigma. Maybe they never left the Southeast.
There is a gross misconception of where the Cherokees lived in South Carolina and Georgia. Cherokee villages were never located anywhere but in the extreme northwestern tip of South Carolina. Their maximum population was about 1200, but declined steadily to a handful by 1776. Yet half the white people in Piedmont and Up Country of South Carolina claim to be the descendant of a Cherokee Princess.
In recent years, several Chambers of Commerce in North Georgia have adopted the motto, “Home of the Cherokee Indians for at least 10,000 years.” Of course, the $1000 a year that they get from the North Carolina Cherokees encourages that belief. The first Cherokee village appeared in what is now Georgia in the 1720s. However, until the American Revolution, the Cherokees were never located anywhere in Georgia, but the extreme northeastern tip. In 1776, the British government estimated the entire Cherokee population of Georgia to be about 100 persons.
The boundary line between the Creeks and the Cherokees ran through the middle of Stephens, Habersham and White Counties. Clarkesville, GA originated as a trading post that mainly served the Georgia Creeks in the southern half of the county and the Soque from South Carolina, who had been settled in the northern half of the county. The Soque were NOT Cherokees, but a Muskogean people assigned to Cherokee territory. You can check the official history of Habersham County, if you don’t believe me.
All of the village and stream names in the Nacoochee Valley of White County are Creek words. Mt. Yonah had a Creek name of Nocasee until after the Indians were gone. The Chickasaw were the aboriginal occupants of the Nacoochee Valley and continued to live in the southern half of White County, plus parts of Banks County, as members of the Creek Confederacy. These days White County is one of those counties that call themselves the home of the Cherokee Indians for 10,000 years.
Let’s just tell like it is. The State of Georgia did a far more efficient job of a “Final Solution” for the Cherokees than the Gestapo’s rounding up of the Jews during World War II. Between 1828 and 1832, every square foot of Cherokee territory was surveyed. The surveys included every building, every fruit tree and every Cherokee located on that farm.
By the time of the Trail of Tears, Georgia officials also knew the names of virtually every Cherokee, who had earlier moved west, or were from the wealthy Cherokee slave-owning class, that had sold their property and moved to Tennessee. All Cherokees and Free Blacks in Georgia were required to have the equivalent of passports to travel through the state, outside the boundaries of the Cherokee Nation.
Creeks, Uchees and Caucasians inside the Cherokee Nation were not usually listed in the surveys. In fact, over 3,000 Creeks were living in the Cherokee Nation, when the roundup began in 1838. About 800 were seized by federal troops anyway, but the majority hid out in the rugged Cohutta, Brasstown and Nantahala Mountain Ranges to avoid capture. With them were a few hundred Cherokees, who became the nucleus of the Qualla Cherokees in North Carolina. Most Towns County, GA Indians were living at such remote locations that they avoided detection. The mountain Creeks just became invisible and assimilated with the arriving white settlers.
A vast area of northern Alabama was first settled in the 1700s by people of Sephardic Jewish ancestry or mixed Jewish, Northern European and indigenous ancestry, who had been driven out of eastern Tennessee by the invading Cherokees. In the hill country around Jasper, Alabama, the local families acknowledge their Jewish ancestry. However, to the north, in an area of Northwest Alabama that was always Chickasaw, quite a few of these Sephardic descendants have organized “Cherokee” tribes and given themselves Cherokee names and Cherokee clan membership. They can’t understand why their DNA tests show up with “zip” or only minuscule Asiatic ancestry.
Native America descendants in North Georgia
The only location in North Georgia where authentic Cherokee ancestry can easily be documented is Bartow and Gordon Counties. This area is where wealthy members of the Vann, Ross, Hicks, Thomas, Saunders, Adair, Ralston and Hughes families resettled from Tennessee after the troops had left.
The only other locations of legitimate Cherokee ancestry would be a Cherokee woman, who was married to a white man. Such families were allowed to stay in Georgia, but not at the same location as where they lived in the Cherokee Nation. The chance of any of you having a “full blooded Cherokee” female ancestor is almost zero. White men by the late 1700s preferred light skinned mixed bloods to insure that they were not part African. At any rate, the term, full blood, is an oxymoron when applied to Cherokees. Almost none of the important leaders of the Cherokees were ethnic Cherokees in the 1700s and early 1800s. They were either from some other tribe or of predominantly European ancestry.
Most of the Native American descendants in Murray, Fannin, western Gilmer and Union Counties call themselves Cherokees. However, many wonder why their physical appearance is of tall, gracile eagle-like people, and very different than the Cherokees up in North Carolina.
These raptor-like people are the descendants of the aboriginal Kusa Creeks and Uchee. in the late 1780s, the Overhill Cherokees were not particularly interested in locating within rugged mountains and so let the indigenous peoples remain, if they submitted to Cherokee authority. That is why the Creek place names of Coosa and Nottely, plus the Uchee place name of Choestoe still exist in Union County.
Choestoe is the Anglicization for the Uchee word for their Rabbit Clan. There were originally a chain of villages with that name along the Hiwassee River in Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee.
If your “Native ancestry” is from White, Stephens, Habersham, Banks, Jackson, Hart or Elbert Counties in Georgia, plus all points south, your Native ancestry is most likely either Creek, Chickasaw, Uchee, Sephardic Jewish or Middle Eastern . . . no matter what your family tradition says you are.
Very few of the Native American place names in North Georgia are actually Cherokee words. Most that are Cherokee words were added after the Cherokees left. The general assumption among most North Georgians is that if it is an Indian word, it must be Cherokee. The creator of the premier web site for translating Cherokee place names gave himself a Cherokee name. It was a mountain in his county. He has always been frustrated, though, because he couldn’t translate his official Cherokee name with a Cherokee dictionary. Good reason, the mountain’s name is straight out of a modern Muskogee-Creek dictionary.
If your “Native Ancestry” is from Gwinnett, Lumpkin, Dawson, Pickens or Gilmer County Counties in Georgia, it is most likely a mixture of Spanish, Sephardic Jewish, Dutch and Middle Eastern. For example, the Perry Family of Ellijay-Gilmer County are considered scions of Georgia Cherokees. However, they look like people of Spanish-British ancestry. There is a good reason. Their original name was Perez.
The ethnic origins of the Mestizo peoples of Northern Alabama and Northern Georgia will have to remain in the realm of speculation, until there is comprehensive genetic study on the scale of those being done in the British Isles and Scandinavia to determine ethnic history. My guess is, however, that the geneticists will find a much higher percentage of ancestry from the Iberian Peninsula, North Africa and Middle East among these “Native American descendants” than anyone has ever thought possible.
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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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