Richard Thornton | Aug 9, 2017 | 5
The Elate: A Native American Alliance Erased from History
Forgotten Peoples of the Southeastern United States: Part One
Today’s article starts a series that will be continued throughout the year. You will be learning about the forgotten indigenous peoples of Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, West Virginia, western Maryland, western Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Florida. The complete research report, upon which this particular article is based, along with references, may be read in Access Genealogy: “The History of the Etowah River Valley.”
In 1492, throughout the southeastern portion of North America there were regions, densely populated with indigenous ethnic groups, whose names are missing or barely mentioned in contemporary history and anthropology books. That some even existed, we only know from their earthworks and town sites. Others were visited by the 16th and 17th century European explorers, but no longer visible when English colonists began taking permanent possession of the landscape. Still others figured quite prominently in the colonial archives of Spain, France and Great Britain, but were intentionally erased from the history books by the Great Britain, after it won control of eastern North America at the end of the Seven Years War, or by the fledgling United States, when their lands were in the way of settlers.
For many persons in the United States, Native American history might be interesting, but not very relevant to the 21st century. The indigenous population of North America declined by at least 90% during the Colonial Period, because of the arrival of immigrants from the Eastern Hemisphere. Today, those citizens, officially defined as American Indians, Alaska Natives and Hawaiian Natives by the federal government, represent about .9% of the population of the United States. Those who are mixed race, but have significant indigenous ancestry represent about 2% of the population. The percentage of Americans with any Native American heritage has never been estimated, but it is probably a much larger figure. Nevertheless, from a statistical perspective indigenous Americans are not politically significant.
1984 began in 1492
As I researched the Colonial archives in an attempt to develop a more accurate understanding of the Southeast’s Native American history, I stumbled upon one Machiavellian scheme after another that was intentionally carried out by governments and scholars in the past to alter the public’s perception of reality. These schemes began as soon as Europeans first made contact with the Western Hemisphere’s indigenous peoples. Distortion of the present became the distortion of history in our contemporary literature.
These Machiavellian schemes and distortion of facts are still going on . . . and perhaps are even more effective because of the replicative nature of the internet. Fabricated history and archaeology are perceived by some as tools for political propaganda . . . or at the least, the means for promoting one’s own academic career. That is exactly why the study of Native American history in the Southeast is so relevant. By knowing what was done in the past to alter the political majority’s perceptions of reality, the reader will be better able discern such fudging when it occurs in the present.
Two towns and a battle that never existed
During the five year period, that I did research and built town models for the Muscogee-Creek Nation, I initially assumed that every book, written by a famous anthropologist or historian, and published by a university press, was completely accurate. However, as I became more knowledgeable on the subject, I began to discern glaring errors in the interpretation of architecture and town plans.
Even while an architecture student and much more so as professional, I had been an eyewitness to instances of anthropology professors behaving badly . . . the most notorious being when certain professors were bribed to loop the Hernando de Soto Expedition northward through Asheville, NC. At the time, I was the Executive Director of the Asheville-Buncombe County Historic Resources Commission, but neither I nor the State Archaeologist Office had any part in the scheme.
The big paradigm for me was in 2008, when a team of history and law professors from the University of Oklahoma meticulously researched the Colonial Archives of South Carolina and Georgia. Among many amazing discoveries found in the long ignored records of the past, they discovered that the Battle of Taliwa never occurred, the Creek town of Taliwa never existed and that the Cherokees were defeated catastrophically in late 1754, permanently ending the 40 year long Creek-Cherokee War.
In fact, the Koweta Creek army marching through North Carolina at the time had burned a third of all Cherokee villages and executed 32 Cherokee chiefs. They would have exterminated the Cherokees as a people had not the British government heavy-handedly intervened, because the Cherokees were needed to fight the French-allied Indians in western Virginia.
And yet . . . there is a play currently being performed in Downtown Nashville, TN that glorifies these events that never occurred. Such is the nature of our times. Also, a legion of history books treat these events as facts. Propaganda has become reality and reassertion of factual history is a threat to the “natural order of things.”
Many reports and books by Georgia archaeologists from 1939 to 2010 mention that the Cherokee town of Long Swamp Creek was built by the Cherokees in 1755 at the location of Taliwa to cement their great victory in conquering all of North Georgia . . . including some by the archaeologist, who publicly stated in 2012 that “This Maya thing is a bunch of crap.”
In late 2006, the Georgia Department of Transportation issued a national press release stating that a planned archaeological dig on the edge of Archaeological Zone 9Ck1 near Ball Ground “was going to prove that the Cherokees had been in Georgia for 1000 years.” That particular town site had been earlier excavated by the famous archaeologists, Robert Wauchope and Arthur Kelly. It was found to be a satellite town and contemporary of Etowah Mounds.
After GDOT commissioner, Gina Abraham, was put on the hot seat by the newly formed People of One Fire, she eventually wrote a letter explaining that the archaeologist, who had recently moved to Georgia from Illinois to supervise the 9CK1 excavation, had confused her project location with the Cherokee village of Long Swamp Creek, which was a mile away. Say what-t-t? Someone with a PhD in Anthropology can’t read a map?
Go to the website of the Marble Valley Historical Society, the official historic preservation group of Pickens County, GA. It will tell you that “Long Swamp Creek was an important Cherokee town from the early 1700s.” Never mind that elsewhere in the website, you are told that the Cherokees conquered all of North Georgia in 1755 by capturing a Creek town at that same location. Say what-t-t?
It gets better. The author of the History of Pickens County, Luke Tate, clearly stated in 1935 that the Cherokee village of Long Swamp Creek never existed. A special grand jury was convened to examine and verify the accuracy of Tate’s book. Early settlers saw the ruins of a long-abandoned Proto-Creek town (archaeological site 9Ck1) and assumed that it was a historical Cherokee village.
In 1890, while writing down children’s bedtime stories in North Carolina, told to him by the Swimmer, Smithsonian ethnologist, James Mooney, elaborated on the frontier folklore relating to Taliwa and Long Swamp Creek. He gave the tall tales from an eccentric, uneducated source the veracity of factual history. His books on the Cherokees gave this ethnocentric, provincial version of another state’s history credibility. Mooney is squarely to blame for most of the inaccurate Native American history that now appears on state historical markers and history books in the Southern Applachians. Why Georgia academicians have never challenged Mooney’s statements, we will never know.
The Swimmer was an old man with a reputation for telling tall tales in the Qualla Cherokee community. Most of the history, myths and legends he told Mooney don’t even square with Cherokee tradition. He never visited any of the famous archaeological sites such as the Track Rock Gap, Etowah Mounds and Long Swamp Creek in Georgia, or the Peachtree Mound in North Carolina, yet this eccentric Cherokee’s fictional stories about their origin has been taken as the gospel truth by contemporary archaeologists in North Carolina and Georgia, while the highly educated descendants of the Muskogean peoples, who actually built these structures . . . well, you remember what happened in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Such is the nature of times.
Picking up the pieces
It was obvious that most everything that is currently published by university presses about the Southern Appalachians between 1500 and 1776, except the actual words of the De Soto and Pardo Chronicles, is horse manure . . . but how could one explain the ethnic situation in the region in the early 1800s? Dr. Joshua Piker, a member of the University of Oklahoma team in 2008, advised me to stop using the statements in contemporary anthropology books as factual history and instead go to the original eyewitness sources. That I did.
The more I dug into the colonial archives, the less anything jived with the history I was taught in high school. We are told by the State of North Carolina and the Eastern Band of Cherokees that the Cherokees have lived in North Carolina for 10,000 years, yet I found French maps from the late 1600s that said that the Creeks and Shawnees occupied the region. I found numerous eyewitness accounts of Spanish Sephardic colonists in the Appalachians throughout the 1600s.
I found a stone inscription at 5,800 feet in the Smoky Mountains that memorialized a Jewish wedding on September 15, 1615. I found that about 85% of the Native American place names in the North Carolina Mountains are either Creek or Itza Maya words. I found a Creek legend that stated that a branch of the Creeks had destroyed the Track Rock terrace complex, while migrating from the Smoky Mountains to the Georgia Piedmont. Its occupants were NOT Muskogee Creeks and pre-dated their arrival.
I found that the earliest map of the Cherokee Nation in Georgia labeled the main town in the Nacoochee Valley, Nocosee, and Yonah Mountain as Nocosee Mountain . . . that’s the Anglicization of the Creek word, nokose, for bear. Only the later maps used the Cherokee mispronunciation of the word . . . Nogoochee . . . which became Nacoochee.
We are told by history books and archaeologists that the Georgia Mountains composed an uninhabited no-man’s land until after the American Revolution. That is not true. I found several accounts by Indian traders and government officials that mentioned thriving villages in the region. Their names were either Itsate Creek or from a language that was neither Muskogean nor Cherokee. Most of these names never appeared on the lists of villages in the Cherokee Alliance or Creek Confederacy.
Several colonial archives specifically stated that the southern boundary of the Cherokee Nation was roughly the North Carolina-Georgia line westward to the Hiwassee River, and then the Hiwassee Valley through western North Carolina and Tennessee. During the First Anglo-Cherokee War, on June 27, 1760, an invading British Army was attacked and severely defeated when it entered the southern boundary of the Cherokee Nation at Itsate (Echoee) Pass. That’s at the North Carolina-Georgia State Line.
Maps showed the territory of the Creek Confederacy to include all of Tennessee and western North Carolina, south of the Hiwassee River and the portion of North Georgia, drained by the Conasauga, Coosawattee and Etowah Rivers. That left a huge chunk of land east of Coosa Bald Mountain and north of the source of the Apalachee River that was owned by somebody else other than the Muskogee Creeks and ethnic Cherokees.
I also stumbled onto something else very odd. In 1818, Native American villages with Creek names in Habersham and White Counties (NE Georgia Mountains) sold 2000 acres of land to a consortium of families from Burke County, NC. Another cluster of villages with Creek names in what is now the Alpharetta area of Fulton County, GA sold their land that year to DeKalb County. Both groups of villages then moved southwestward into the territory of the Creek Confederacy.
At that time, neither the Cherokee nor Muskogee-Creek leadership would have been allowed any village to sell tribal lands to private individuals or state governments. Their chiefs would have been executed. Tribal land could only be ceded via treaties with the United States.
The answer to the riddle came from three sources, the memoirs of Colonel Andrew Pickens, the Treaty of Hopewell Plantation and account of a federal official traveling through the new Cherokee Nation in Georgia. Most of the Native American villages that they described have been erased from the history books.
Battle of Long Swamp Creek: In the last battle of the American Revolution on October 22, 1783, a small army of Patriot Mounted Militia, under the command of Col. Andrew Pickens and Major Elijah Clarke, attacked the camp of Cherokee Chief Sour Mush and his 50+ member band, near Long Swamp Creek in present day, Nelson, GA. The Patriots were looking for the Tory Cavalry Company, commanded by Lt. Col. Thomas Waters, who had been driven out of Augusta, GA on June 6, 1781. Since then, Waters’ band of Tories had been ravaging farmsteads and murdering civilians on the Georgia frontier.
Chief Sour Mush was banished from the Cherokee Nation in 1777 because he refused to comply with a peace treaty with the United States. His band was allowed to settle on lands within the territory of an Indian alliance that Colonel Pickens called “the Elady.” The Elady were essentially “tenants at will” of the Koweta Creeks, but the Koweta Creeks had little interest in the Northeast Georgia Mountains because most of the game was gone. Elady is the Anglicization of the Itsate Creek word, Elate, which means “Foothill People.”
Sour Mush surrendered quickly and then told him where the camp of Lt. Col. Waters was. Waters was married to a relative of Sour Mush. Many of the Tories had Indian wives with them. Official local history says that the Patriots killed or executed all of the Tories. That is not true. Waters and most of his men escaped up the Etowah River and settled at its headwaters, where I live. Many of their mixed-heritage descendants still live in this region. My cabin is on Waters Road.
Three days later, the Patriots traveled to the Elate (Elady) town of Salakoa, where they met with the 12 town chiefs of the Elate Alliance – not the Cherokee Nation. A provisional peace treaty was signed in which the Elate gave away all of the lands of the Apalache and Talasee Creeks in the Northeast Georgia Piedmont, but none of their own in the mountains.
In December, Andrew Pickens invited leaders of the Creek Confederacy to attend a treaty conference at his plantation, Hopewell. The national Creek leaders refused to attend, since under the Articles of Confederation, they could only negotiate with representatives of the national government. Eight Creek town mikkos (chiefs) from Northeast Georgia did attend. Six, including my gggg-grandfather, refused to sign the treaty, but Fat King and Quiet King were persuaded to sign , while drunk. Congress refused to ratify this treaty because it was not made between leaders of the Creek and American national governments.
Pickens then invited the Elate chiefs to his plantation, who did sign the treaty. They expanded the treaty to include even more Creek Confederacy land being taken, but none of theirs. It is interesting that the Elate chiefs, except for Sour Mush, had Creek, Spanish and English names.
It is important to note that although all “Cherokee History” web sites call the Treaty of Hopewell a Cherokee treaty. It was NOT. In fact, the treaty confirmed the boundary between the Elate and the Cherokees to still be the North Carolina-Georgia state line. Nevertheless, Congress refused to ratify this treaty on the same grounds that is was not made between leaders of national governments.
Pickens then invited leaders of the Cherokee, Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations to his plantation, in the company of agents officially representing Congress. The general terms of the treaties with these tribes were worked out, but the formal presentation and signing of these treaties occurred in Augusta, GA in 1785. The Elate chiefs continued to sign treaties with the United States as a separate political entity.
In the 1785 Treaty of Augusta, the United States gave the Cherokee Nation, the Creek lands in northwestern Georgia solely as hunting grounds. They would not be allowed to live there. The southern boundary of this territory was the Etowah River, but excluded the Creek sacred lands around Etowah Mounds on the north side. The commissioners knew that the much more powerful Creek Confederacy would attack the Cherokees, if they found Cherokee hunters shedding blood at Etowah Mounds. In the Creek version of the Treaty of Augusta, the Creeks only ceded a small strip of land between the headwaters of the Chattahoochee and Savannah Rivers.
1790 – Colonel Marinus Willett’s journey through North Georgia:
It would not be until 1790 that the Creek Confederacy realized that Northern Georgia had been stolen from them by Georgians representing the United States. The Creek Confederacy then declared war on Georgia. In short, the Cherokees were given North Georgia in a Machiavellian land swindle, they did not conquer it.
The center of power of the Creek Confederacy had shifted to Pensacola, Florida because half-blood Principal Chief Alexander McGillivray had moved there. The Hitchiti speaking Creeks of northern and eastern Georgia deeply resented McGillivray’s dictatorial behavior and domination of the confederacy by Muskogee speakers. They and the Elate cut separate deals with the United States at the 1785 treaty conference and pocketed the land payments themselves, rather than passing the money on to McGillivray.
Furious, McGillivray dispatched Upper Creek war parties with close ties to the Chickamauga Cherokees to raid Itsate Creek and Elate farms in North Georgia. However, the North Georgia Creeks had always had a tradition of intermarrying with their white neighbors in order to maintain peaceful relations. Many white farmsteads were attacked also, resulting in a bloody guerilla war between the Upper Creeks in what is now Alabama and the Georgia militia. Ironically, many of the Chickamauga Cherokee villages were now in Georgia, but their war was with the Tennessee Militia.
In order to avert a major war between the Upper Creeks and the United States, Colonel Marinus Willitt was asked by Congress to negotiate a peace with the Upper Creeks, in what was then Georgia, but now Northeast Alabama. Willitt traveled from Hopewell Plantation in extreme NW South Carolina all the way across North Georgia. He mentioned several newly established village along the Etowah River with Itsate Creek names. They were Elate, Itsate-speaking villages, who wanted to get as far from the Cherokees as possible. These villages all disappeared from the maps of Cherokee lands after the southern boundary was extended southward to Kennesaw Mountain in 1794.
Willett was able to convince the Upper Creeks that an attack on the State of Georgia now meant an attack on the United States. Most Upper Creek chiefs henceforth refused to obey McGillivray’s orders to attack Northeast Georgia farmsteads and tensions cooled down . . . for awhile.
Vast numbers of Overhill Cherokee refugees began squatting on the “Northwest Georgia hunting lands” after the 1785. This was not anticipated by the Georgia land swindlers and they immediately complained to the federal government about it. In 1802, the State of Georgia was promised by the federal government in writing that all Cherokees would soon be removed from the state’s boundaries.
The current propaganda and Trail of Tears film being distributed by the federally recognized Cherokee tribes calls Northwest Georgia, “the ancient land of the Great Cherokee Nation for hundreds of years.” This is horse manure. That region was an official Cherokee reserve from 1794 until 1836. Prior to 1794 the Georgia Cherokees were illegal land squatters. In fact, most of the original Cherokees in North Georgia were renegade bands at war with the United States, such as the one headed by Sour Mush or the wives of Tory bushwhackers.
After 1802, Cherokee leaders were formally urged to relocate their people to Alabama. This is why the principal chief, Pathkiller, was based in Turkeytown, Alabama. The construction of a Cherokee National capital at New Echota in 1825 was specifically designed to thwart the federal government’s promise to move all the Cherokees to Alabama. The Cherokees were shrewdly creating “accomplished facts” to counter the legal agreement with Georgia in federal courts.
The Cherokees were not indigenous to Georgia and the State of Georgia never agreed to allow them settle there permanently. This fact is never told in current literature. The myth of the Battle of Taliwa was created by Elias Boudinot in 1827 in order to make readers of the Cherokee Phoenix think that Cherokees had “conquered all of North Georgia” prior to the existence of the United States. Boudinot concealed the existence of the Elate and lied on depositions presented to the US Supreme Court. He also repeatedly published false affidavits in his newspapers, stating that the Cherokees had lived on the Etowah River since the early 1700s.
There is something else most readers won’t know and Cherokees won’t tell you. The “Sequoyah” Syllabary used today was created by Elias Boudinot and the Rev. Samuel Worcester in 1827. Sequoyah probably never saw it. His syllabary contains letters that are almost identical to the Late Medieval script used by Circassian, Armenian and Eastern Anatolian Christians in the Middle East. Now you figure that mystery out! The Cherokee syllabary was almost unknown to North Carolina Cherokees until they were taught it in the late 20th century.
By 1794, the Elate were a powerless minority that was now being labeled “Cherokees,” even though most spoke a Creek language. In the 1794 Treaty of Philadelphia with the Cherokees, the Elate were not even represented. Over the strenuous objections of Georgians, Northwest Georgia was given as a permanent home to the Cherokee Nation by the federal government. Most of the Elate and remaining Itsate Creeks lands were given to Georgia. From then on, the Elate ceased to exist as a distinct American Indian polity in the eyes of the United States government.
Outraged at being made landless by the bullying of the Cherokees, Creek Confederacy, Georgians and United States, the Elate and Itsate Creeks in Northeast Georgia either elected to assimilate with their white neighbors, move to Northwest Alabama or else move to Florida. That is why there was a “Cherokee” town named Ellijay in present day Gilmer County, GA – containing families with Spanish and English names – and a “Seminole” town named Ellijay in the Florida Everglades, also containing families with Spanish and English names.
Don’t believe everything you read in either tourist brochures or in the history books. A lot of folks wrote history with a hidden agenda. The truth is out there somewhere.
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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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