Surprising late date on maps for word, Timucua
Forgotten Peoples of the Southeast – Part Eight
Research Update: The Southeast’s past is getting more and more complex as our research techniques become increasingly sophisticated. At this moment, it appears that the elite of Kusa (Coça) may have been originally Koshabo from Peru, while their subjects, the Kusate (Cussata) were definitely Muskogeans from east-central Mexico. What we do know for sure was that the South American lima bean was introduced to the Southeast at exactly the same time that the Kusa appeared. Koshabo means “strong people” or “elite” in the Panoan languages of Peru. The Koshabo in South Carolina came to be known by British settlers as the Cusabo.
Much of the work of the People of One Fire over the past eight years has been to separate academic myths from scientific facts. A good example is the word, Chicora. It is the name of a myriad of institutions, subdivisions, schools and even a state-recognized Native American tribe in northeastern and central South Carolina. Yet the real location of Chicora was Savannah, GA and the word itself is obviously a Hispanicization of Parachicora – a word we know today as Palachicola. The commander of Fort Caroline, René de Laudonnière, visited Chikola in 1562 and 1565. In his memoir, he specifically stated that Chikola and Chikora were the same town. Muskogeans could not pronounce the “r” sound.
Go to any reference now and you will be told that the Chicora were a Siouan People based near Georgetown, SC, who governed a massive province along the South Carolina and North Carolina coast. Some articles might add as a footnote that no European explorer ever found a tribe by that name in the Carolinas after the word was first mentioned by two Spanish slave traders in 1525. Hm-m-m.
The Timucua and Tamakoa
The same may be said of Timucua. Would you believe that the first map to mention a word like Timucua was drawn by Colonel John Barnwell in 1721, as he was building Fort King George on the Altamaha River in present day Georgia? His map says that the Timucua once lived in the region south of the Altamaha, but now they were extinct.
Timucua is the Hispanicization of the tribe that lived about 21 miles inland on the Altamaha River named the Tamakoa. Tama means “trade” in Totonac and Itza Maya. Koa means “people or tribe” in several of the Arawak dialects.
The Tamakoa moved northward up the Altamaha River immediately after the Spanish began subjugating the Georgia Coast. Their last known location in the late 1700s was northeast Metro Atlanta at the headwaters of the Oconee River, which is a major tributary of the Altamaha. The Muskogee-Creeks called them the Tamakoake, which was Anglicized to Thamacoggin. By this time, they were members of the Creek Confederacy. Thamacoggin was the original name of Jefferson, GA – which is the country seat of Jackson County. In 1787, the Tamakoake moved to Alabama and apparently lost their distinctive ethnic identity.
At some point in the late 1500s or early 1600s, the Spanish began to use Timucua as the informal name of an administrative district that included several provinces in present day northeast Florida and southeast Georgia. However, the word Timucua never appeared on Spanish maps, in the same way that Apalache did. This was typical of the Spanish. They would take the name of one town, such as Guale (actually Wari) and apply it to a region. No tribe in Florida or Georgia ever called itself the Timucua or the Guale.
It is true that the provinces in northeast Florida shared similar lifestyles and pottery styles, but I am not convinced that they spoke the same languages. Some of the Timucua provinces had Itza or Muskogean names, while most had Arawak names.
The Arawak language that seems to come closest to translating the most NE Florida place names in Warao. The Warao People still live today on platform houses and villages along the Orinoco River Basin in Venezuela, Guyana and Suriname. The word, Warao means “Boat People” in their language. This “o” suffix for people can be seen in some place names as far north as the North Carolina Mountains. Some of the early Cherokee village names had “o” suffixes. Since the Warao have an ancient tradition of maritime skills, it is quite plausible that they would be capable of migration across the Caribbean Basin.
The Mocama People in the southeastern tip of Georgia appear to have spoken an Arawak dialect used along the Mocapra River in Venezuela. The Takatacuro Indians of the region of the Atlantic Coast near Midway, GA appear to have spoken an Arawak language used along the Tacuro River in Venezuela.
No tribe in Florida ever called itself either the Timucua or the Tamakoa. Yet today Timucuan Ecological Reserve is the name of a massive unit of the National Park Service near Jacksonville. Florida school children are taught that the Timucua Indians occupied the northeast part of their state. These diverse provinces, some of whom were enemies of each other, are treated as a single ethnic group by Florida anthropologists.
Just as in the situation in South Carolina with the word, Chicora, there is a legion of institutions, schools, subdivisions, streets and even a real estate firm named Timucua in Florida. The mythology was so deeply ingrained into late 20th century Floridians, that to say otherwise is an act of heresy equal in abomination to telling folks there that the Fort Caroline they see in Jacksonville is a 1/12th scale fake, built in 1961,
It is a hard roe to hoe.
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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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