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The Apalachicola Creeks . . . okay, just who were they?

The Apalachicola Creeks . . . okay, just who were they?

Part Seven of the series

Horse Manure in the History Books

The People of One Fire has published two articles on the words Apalachee, Apalachicola and Appalachian.  Many readers are probably still wondering who the Apalachicola Creeks were.  They are rarely mentioned in academic papers and only briefly (and inaccurately) explained in references such as Wikipedia.   So just who were they?

References and a legion of academicians tell you that their name means “People across the river” because they originally lived on the west side of the Apalachicola River across from the Apalachee.   None of that is true.  Their name has a different meaning.  The Apalachicola never lived across the river from the Apalachee.  The Apalachee in Florida didn’t call themselves Apalachee, anyway.  A few Apalachicola villages existed for a few years on their namesake river, long after the Florida Apalachee were gone, and just before the Creeks lost all their land in Alabama, Georgia and Northern Florida.

The Apalache or Apalache-kora were the original “Creek Indians” in the 1600s, but ironically their biggest enemy was the original Creek Confederacy (People of One Fire).   The Alibaamu (Alabama), Chickasaw, Kaushete (Kusa) and Apike (Abeika) formed the People of One Fire to stop westward expansion of the Apalache Kingdom.  By 1630, the Paracusite (High King) of Apalache functioned in a manner similar to the Pope for a vast area of the Southeast, but the outlying provinces were independent.  The Old Apalache Kingdom fell apart in the 1570s, when French Huguenot survivors of Fort Caroline converted the High King and the Apalache elite in Northeast Georgia to Protestant Christianity.

FEATURED IMAGE ABOVE:  This architectural rendering portrays an Apalachicola village around 1700 AD on the headwaters of the Etowah River, west of present day Dahlonega, GA.  The High King of Apalache began inviting European Protestants and Jews to settle in his lands in late 1565.  So the presence of the surviving Roanoke colonists in the Nacoochee Valley makes perfect sense. As a condition for permanent residence, single European adults were required to marry indigenous spouses.  The Europeans taught the Apalache (Apalachicola) how to build plank houses.  They continued to build this style architecture when several Apalachicola villages moved from Northwest Georgia to the Pensacola Florida area in 1764.  You can see these houses in the sketches by William Bartram in 1776.  Not knowing the true history of North Georgia, several Georgia archaeologists have mistaken these Apalachicola villages as “Early Cherokee villages” and assumed that the Cherokees were in the region much sooner than their arrival after the American Revolution.  However, the Cherokees never learned how to build plank houses until much later, while living in Oklahoma.

Another surprise . . . Katawpa (Catawba) is an Itza Maya word meaning "Place of the Crown." They originated in the region between Atlanta and Gainesville, GA. The Catawbas in South Carolina originated as a province with an Itza-Creek elite and Siouan commoners. The original Katawpas in Georgia were early members of the Creek Confederacy and appear on 18th century maps.

Another surprise . . . Katawpa (Catawba) is an Itza Maya word meaning “Place of the Crown.” They originated in the region between Atlanta and Gainesville, GA. The Catawbas in South Carolina originated as a province with an Itza-Creek elite and Siouan commoners. The original Katawpas in Georgia were early members of the Creek Confederacy and appear on 18th century maps.


Nothing was like you thought it was!

Apalachicola was the name that the Spanish in Florida during the mid-1600s gave to all participants in the Lamar Culture in western Georgia, Northeastern Georgia and the Coosa-Tallpoosa River Basin in Alabama.  They were called Apalache in 16th century Spanish chronicles and Conchaqui in 17th century French archives.  They were a highland people until the late 1700s, even though they are now associated with the Gulf Coast Plain of Georgia and Florida . . .  where some lived in the late 1700s and early 1800s.

The people, who the Spanish called Apalache in Florida (we label Apalachee) never called themselves that.  They were originally a Southern Arawak people from Peru, Ecuador and Colombia.  Around 1200 AD, the true Apalache established a colony at Lake Jackson Mounds near Tallahassee and obviously at Apalachen near the Suwanee River.  They introduced the “Mississippian Culture” to the locals.   According to 17th century ethnologist, Charles de Rochefort, over time the Apalache colonists mixed their language and genes with the local Arawaks to the point that the Florida language was incomprehensible to the true Apalache.  The Florida Apalachee elite called themselves Tulahawalsi, which means “Descendants of Highland Towns.”

Apalache and Apalachee are the Europeanizations of the hybrid Panoan word Aparasi, which means “From (A) Upper Amazon Basin (Pará) Descendants of (si) People (kora).  The fact that almost all Apalache towns were built next to white water, shoals or water falls suggest that their ancestors were  Shipibo, Conibo and Kaushibo from the eastern foothills of the Andes, where the tributaries of the Amazon originate.   Even today, the Shipibo always build their villages next to rapids. You will see a typical Shipibo village in the video below.  Apalachen is the plural of Apalache in the Panoan languages of Peru.

Conibo art is very similar to very similar to Swift Creek Culture art from the Woodland Period.  Shipibo art is very similar to Napier art from the Late Woodland Period.  Conibo means “Place of the Monkeys.  Shipibo means “Place of the Fish.”  Caushibo means “Place of the Strong or Elite.”

Language:  Some Apalache (Apalachicola)Elite words were recorded by French ethnologist, Charles de Rochefort.  They represented a mixture of Panoan, Itza Maya and some Muskogean words.  Their commoners and vassals spoke languages more closely associated with modern Creek languages,  Itza Maya or Toa Arawak.  For example,  the High King of the Highland Apalache was called Paracusite, which means that the Apalache leaders were descended from the Paracus People of Peru. The Paracus developed the high civilization in Nazca Plain, which had large towns and built fieldstone effigies of animals on the desert floor.  They were driven out around 200 BC by the Nazca People.  The Nazca built the lines on the desert floor.

The surviving words in a “Florida Apalachee Glossary” that you see on the internet is actually a description of words spoken by a band of Tamale from Southeast Georgia, who were kicked out of their province because they converted to Catholicism.  They spoke Itsate (Hitchiti).   All of the original “Apalachen” towns, visited by Hernando de Soto are Southern Arawak words.  The capital of this province was Anihaica, which means “Elite – Place of”  in Southern Arawak.  This is where De Soto’s men spent the winter of 1539-1530. 

Twentieth century linguists created a mythical language called Southern Muskogean, because they couldn’t translate real Florida Apalachee words with a Creek dictionary.  It seems ludicrous that they didn’t notice that none of the village and leaders’ names in Florida had any similarity to any Muskogean language.  However, that booboo is symptomatic of what anthropologists have been getting away with in the Southeast.   Those words can easily be translated with Southern Arawak dictionaries from Peru or Columbia.

The 1718 De Lisle Map showed that most of the Apalachicola were living in Northwest Georgia, within the Etowah River Valley. Note "Kataapa" (Catawba) in North-Central Georgia.

The 1718 De Lisle Map showed that most of the Apalachicola were living in Northwest Georgia, within the Etowah River Valley. Note “Kataapa” (Catawba) in North-Central Georgia.

Territory:  During the Middle Woodland Period, the Late Deptford and Swift Creek Cultures, Proto-Apalache territory extended as far south as Kolomoki and Mandeville Mounds.  When Southern Arawaks arrived in the Chattahoochee Basin and Northwestern Florida, the proto-Apalache were pushed northward to Mandeville, which is near Eufaula, AL on the Georgia side of Chattahoochee River.  By the time of the exploration of Georgia by the French from Fort Caroline (1564-1565) the Apalache only occupied the Georgia Piedmont and first range of mountains in Northeast Georgia.

When the Spanish in Florida first made contact with the Apalachicola in 1630,  their southern most cluster of towns was in the vicinity of Columbus, GA.  The people, who the Spanish called Apalache occupied the Lower Chattahoochee River Basin.  From that point onward the Spanish called the entire Chattahoochee River the Apalachicola River.

In 1645, the Apalachicola around present day Columbus, GA refused to allow the Spanish to build a mission and fort in their midst.  The Spanish retaliated by launching a punitive expedition, which burned many of the towns near the Fall Line of the Chattahoochee.  Most of the Apalachicola towns there relocated to Northwest Georgia, where their cousins, the Kaushi (Kusa) had ruled a vast province.   Many of the place names in Northwest Georgia, such as Talona, Cartacay, Ellijay, Euharlee, Armuchee, Oothlooga and Amicalola are actually Apalachicola words.  This is why they cannot be translated with either Muskogee or Cherokee dictionaries.  This is also why there was a Seminole town named Ellijay in Southern Florida.  It was peopled by Apalachicola immigrants from Northwest Georgia.

After the total destruction of the Apalache Mission System between 1703 and 17106, and especially after Spain’s defeat in Queen Anne’s War in 1713,  Apalachicola villages began moving southward along the Lower Chattahoochee River.  In 1716, many of the people of Palachicola on the Savannah River moved to the confluence of the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers.  Here they built a fortified town that would remain the southern frontier of the Creek Confederacy.

Because of the British victory in the French and Indian War, Spain ceded Florida to Great Britain.  Afterward, several Northwest Georgia Apalachicola villages moved to the Pensacola Area.  They still did not move down into the Apalachicola River Basin.  Much of the soil there was unsuitable for growing corn and beans.  A few Apalachicola villages were forced to move southward into Florida after the Muskogee Creeks gave away their land in the 1814 Treaty of Fort Jackson.  However, all Apalachicola villages were gone from the region by 1821.

What happened to the true Apalache or Apalachicola?

Remember, there had been extensive intermarriage between Apalache/Apalachicola in North Georgia from 1566 onward.  Many had become Christians and all had absorbed varying levels of European technology by the time that the British were founding Savannah in 1733.  The Apalache-Apalachicola did not particularly like the Muskogee Creeks, who dominated the new Creek Confederacy, formed in 1717.  Those with lighter complexions easily assimilated with their white neighbors. 

The majority of families with vague memories of Native American ancestry in western South Carolina, Georgia and northern Florida today are probably descended from the Apalache.  If you have a “Creek knot” on the back of your head, your ancestry is Creek, not Cherokee.   All those “Cherokees” in North Georgia and “Creeks” in West Georgia, who are showing up with high levels of Sephardic Jewish DNA, are really Apalache-Creeks.  

By the end of the 1700s,  Apalachicolas, who were mostly Native American, had concentrated in Southwestern Georgia to get as far away from the Muskogees as possible.  When they lost their lands at the end of the Red Stick War,  most Apalachicolas fled southward into Florida and joined the Seminoles.  That is why there were Seminole villages in Florida with the Apalachicola names of rivers and creeks in Northwest Georgia . . . Armuchee, Kusaw, Ellijay, Cartacay, Talona, Italwa, Oothluga, etc.   One large band of Apalachicola fled to eastern Texas.  They maintain their separate identity in Texas to this day.

Now you know!  . . . So why don’t you get down and boogie with some of our Shipibo cousins in Peru?  It is no accident that those Shipibo gals look just like Creek and Cusabo gals in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.  Oh, and notice that the Shipibo men are wearing “Creek” long shirts.  The Shipibo word for their Sacred Black Drink is ase’.  It’s the same word in the Creek languages. 

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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.



    There is a new article on NATIVE-NEWS.COM regarding Cherokee DNA. Some of it agrees with your knowledge and ideas. Just thought you might be interested.


    • I really know little about DNA, but report what the experts say. Now ask me about architecture, urban planning or linguistics and I can talk with certainty.

    • Two major Native American provinces along the Coosa River set up a trap for the De Soto Expedition, somewhere in southern Alabama. At least, they thought it was a trap. The Spaniards lost most of the “goodies” they had stolen previously from other provinces and had many wounded soldiers, but the lost of life among the attacking Native Americans was catastrophic. When members of another Spanish expedition, led by Tristan de Luna, passed through Southern Alabama 12 years later, they found the region barely populated and desolate. Perhaps 2,000 young Native American men had died in the battle and the diseases spread by the pigs killed many more people of all ages. I am not convinced that this battle changed the history of the Southeast. De Soto never found large deposits of gold, although while in Kusa, he was only a few miles from the Georgia Gold Belt. Spain was growing wealthy from gold and silver mines in Mexico and Peru, so there was little incentive to expend that wealth in a section of North America, when there was already a shortage of available colonists.

      Mabila is the Hispanicization of the Northeast Mesoamerican word, Mapi-le, which means “Trade People” or merchants. It is the origin of the French word Mobile.


        Thanks Richard,
        This battle sounded very interesting and before I started to read about it I wanted to be sure this was not the “Battle of Taliwa”
        kind of history. I also noticed no mention of Cherokees….interesting.


    I really enjoyed this article as well as the one about the wildfires in Western North Carolina & North Georgia/ Both articles hit home to me. I grew up in extreme South Western North Carolina. My parents had a Murphy, NC address, but we were only a couple of miles from the Georgia State Line. The mountains that I looked at as I gazed southward through my parents picture window in their living room started in NC at their base, but after you walked up just a short distance you were in GA. My grandfather owned a farm about a mile from the base of these mountains. The bottom land he owned, & where I was raised was along the banks of the North flowing Nottley River. This area was called Coosa Town. My maternal ancestors were the first white men to own land in Cherokee County NC. They were actually living there when Cherokee County was formed from Macon County County. These ancestors of mine that I am speaking of were two brothers, & one of the brothers sons. They made their way from England to Pennsylvania. From there they made their way South down the Appalachians to the Asheville, NC area. They continued west & intermarried with (supposed) half Cherokee & half Scottish women. I have always question the things listed in the history books. I have seen first hand the greed & lust for money by the Eastern Band of Cherokees, as my mother is a member. I sat in on many meetings at the Cherokee Indian Community Center between Murphy & Andrews when I was an adolescent. I knew before I starting reading your articles that the beautiful valley I grew up in was Creek land originally, & not Cherokee. I also now question my Cherokee heritage because I have a Creek knot on the back of my head. I would love to converse with you privately as I have much, much more to disclose & discuss with you. Thank you so much for your great work.

    • Rex, please contact me at We use the email address for personal communications with readers. Thank you for detailed discussion. I would like to add though that I have seen card-carrying Cherokees around Murphy, NC, Hayesville, NC, Hiawassee, GA and Blairsville, GA, who clearly have Itsate (Hitchiti) Creek features, not Cherokee. The best that we can figure out is that the main body of Cherokees in Tennessee were not interested in living in the remote mountain valleys of that region, and so concentrated in the Great Appalachian Valley . . . leaving old time Creek residents to remain as long as they submitted to the Cherokee National government.


    Well my lineage starts with Chief John Blount/Blunt of the Apalachicola Pakana Mvskoke Texas Creeks. I say Texas Creeks because that is the spot they came to in 1832-1834. They were called Apalachicola because that is what Gen. Andrew Jackson called them when they settled on the West of the Apalachicola after the Red Stick War. Blount was the 1st of 5 Chiefs of the Creek Nation to sign the Indian Removal Act to seek a safe refuge in Texas by invite of Sam Houston (they were friends). Andrew Jackson had favor with Blount because he was his top scout and received a medal of valor that my family still has to this very day. But I’m looking for more info to trace my people in Louisiana.


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