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The Forgotten History of Cofitachequi, Cofaqui and the Cofitachete’s

The Forgotten History of Cofitachequi, Cofaqui and the Cofitachete’s

It is perhaps the most romanticized and distorted segment of the De Soto Chronicles.  A legion of professional papers, theses, dissertations and books  have been written about “The Lady of Cofitachequi, queen of the “paramount chiefdom” of Cofitachequi.  She met Hernando de Soto at a river and was carried on a litter.  De Soto kidnapped her, but she eventually escaped and ran off with an African slave (oh horrors!)   

Meanwhile, maps published in the 1600s and first decade of the 1700s displayed in large type, Cofitache or Cofitachete.   This province started out in south central Tennessee then as years went by, cartographers showed it next in northeast Alabama and then either in extreme northeast Georgia or the region, immediately adjacent, in the Carolinas. 

No one caught the connection for 300 years.  Among many other details, they also missed an important statement in the De Soto Chronicles.  Cofitachequi was ultimately described as an abandoned town . . . only two days walk from the Atlantic Ocean.

1544-DeSotoMap-2

This map accompanied the 1544 report to the King of Spain on the Hernando de Soto Expedition. It placed Cofitachequi near the Santee River or Cooper River and Atlantic Ocean in present day South Carolina. It placed the Province of Chicora between the Savannah River and the Altamaha River in present day Georgia. Contemporary historians now call this region Guale.

 

The Indigenous Peoples of the South Atlantic Coast:  Part Two

Early European maps showed Cofitachequi to be about 30 miles from the Atlantic on the Santee River or perhaps the Cooper River, but as the years went on, it was progressively moved inland, then disappeared short after Charleston was founding in 1671.   In 1939, the De Soto Trail Commission placed Cofitachequi on the Savannah River, just south Augusta, GA.   In the 1980s,  a team of Dixie professors placed the town of Cofitachequi at the Mulberry Site on the Wataree River in South Carolina near the Fall Line.  Nevertheless, why would De Soto’s chroniclers place the town near the Atlantic, unless it was true?

Meanwhile, back in lala land . . .  12 years ago anthropology professors spent an entire Saturday morning at a Southeastern Archaeological Conference meeting in Charlotte, arguing whether Cofitachequi was a Cherokee or Catawba word.   Of course, they knew neither language, but that didn’t matter. It was really a pure Muskogee Creek word that meant “Mixed Race-Offspring-of-People.”

There are several other details left out of modern academic discussions.  Cofitachequi was an empty town, recently scourged by a plague. The people, who greeted De Soto were from the capital of a province, named Tallimeco (aka “The king’s town”) . Its late occupants were so disdained by the so-called “Lady of Cofitachequi” that she invited De Soto to dig up the graves of ghost town’s deceased in order to obtain their pearls.  That sounds like the people of Cofitachequi were really, really not liked by their masters.

By the way, not only was the Lady aka Queen of Cofitachequi not from Cofitachequi, but she was merely the niece of the province’s ruler.   The Spanish were so ethnocentric that they didn’t even bother to write down her name.

The Lady of Cofitachequi

The Lady of Cofitachequi

The forgotten Cofitachetes

Until 2013, the only scholar to mention the Cofitachetes was the pioneer French ethnologist, Charles de Rochefort.  His 1658 book, L’Histoire Naturelle et Morale des isles Antilles de l’Amérique, had a full chapter on them.   He said that they were the ancestors of the Caribs.  They  had once lived on the South Atlantic Coast in what is now South Carolina and Georgia, and had been the most advanced people in La Florida (Dixie).

Marilyn Rae and I analyzed De Rochefort’s book in 2013.  The word, Cofitachete,  was labeled “poppycock” by scholars for over 300 years.   However, I instantly recognized it as a legitimate Itsate Creek word.  There is no way that a French Huguenot minister, sitting in a church office in Rotterdam,  could have known the correct grammar and spelling of an Itsate Creek word.  It had to be a word that explorer, Richard Briggstock, had heard while in the future state of Georgia . . . then told it to De Rochefort. [ Rae & Thornton (2013) The Apalache Chronicles: Ancient Cypress Press]

The Itsate Creek word, Cofitachete, means exactly the same as the Muskogee Creek word, Kofitacheke (Cofitachequi).

Very few now lived near the Atlantic Coast.  Most had gradually migrated southward till they reached South America then began migrating northward, where they made life miserable for the Taino Arawaks.  By this time the Caribs language had changed so much that it could not be understood by those who remained in North America.

Most of those who remained in North America had divided up into three large bands.  They became parasitic, transient peoples, who wandered across the landscape plundering advanced civilizations.  When they had consumed all the available food in one province, they would move onto to destroy another.

After they had done much damage to the Apalache Kingdom, the Apalache finally defeated them and placed the surviving Kofitachete on their southeastern periphery.

This map by Guillaume de l'Isle in 1701 was the last one to mention Cofitachequi. The town or province was shown upstream on the Santee River.

This map by Guillaume de l’Isle in 1701 was the last one to mention Cofitachequi. The town or province was shown upstream on the Santee River.  Note that a word similar to Cherokee does not appear on the map.  The probable ancestors of the Cherokees are shown living in southern West Virginia and eastern Kentucky and called Tiomontatecagi. {Upper right hand corner of map}  A note in French says that they live in caves.  The Creeks are about the only Southeastern tribe that do not use a word meaning “cave dwellers” for the Cherokees.  Chaounons mean Shawnee.

Cofaqui or Kofita

While traveling from the province of Okvte (Okau-te) to Cofitachequi,  De Soto passed through the town of Cofita, which was the capital of a province of the same name. It was on a river along a line running from Sparta, GA to Augusta, GA.   There are the ruins of a large Native American town on the Upper Ogeechee River in Taliaferro County is situated on that line.  It has three large mounds. The maps, produced just after the founding of Charleston, labeled the town Cofita,   which means the same as Cofaqui.

Cofaqui means “Mixed Race People” in Muskogee Creek.

Here is the thing about the Ogeechee River town that is interesting.  That province was occupied by a branch of the Uchees at the time Charleston was founded until 1773, when it was ceded to the Colony of Georgia.  The upper Ogeechee was labeled Cofita during that time period.  So apparently,  the Cofita were a branch of the Uchee mixed with some other ethnic group.

The Cofitachete were apparently migratory bands that broke off from the people on the Upper Ogeechee River.   Cofetachequi could have been a colony of Cofita or else a town composed of the handful of Proto-Carib peoples remaining on the Atlantic Coast.

When the British colonists arrived on the coast of South Carolina in the 1670s,  the indigenous people living between the mouths of the Santee and Pee Dee Rivers were called the Winya.   As discussed in Part One,  “ya” is the Uchee suffix for people or tribe.  However, I could not find any indigenous Southeastern language that had a word like “vin.”   It is just not a syllable that one sees in Southeastern indigenous place names.

HOWEVER,  vinju (Bronze Age Norse) and vinje (Archaic Icelandic) mean pasture, and later farm.  Vinje is pronounced roughly win-yeh.  Could the Winyah People have been the mixed-race descendants of refugees from Greenland?   It’s possible.  Hm-m-m.

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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.

12 Comments

  1. urisahatu@yahoo.com'

    Very good article.

    The Uchee, Proto-Carib and the Norse/Icelandic connection could explain why there is a connection between the Panoans of the Amazone headwaters in South America and Scandinavians since they both have a similar word “bo” meaning living or living location.

    Reply
    • michelle.c@houseofancestry.com'

      Could this be why too that there is a showing of Saami or other European Indigenous DNA in the Southeastern Tribes?? The Vikings did much trade and even put into slavery the peoples of the extreme northern lands of Europe especially Finland, Scandanavia, and the Netherlands. I have many ties to the various southeastern Tribes in my family tree and in my DNA I am showing links to both sets of Indigenous peoples those of Europe and Southeast United States. Thus the reason for my question.

      Reply
      • Actually, many moons ago, Navy Intelligence arranged for me to go to Scandinavia to keep watch on Soviet ships and submarines passing by, because I look like a Saami, I am mixed Creek Indian and Scottish. I couldn’t tell anyone for 20 years what I was doing in Lapland.

        Reply
        • michelle.c@houseofancestry.com'

          Richard that is kinda funny if you think about it! But it also gives a roundabout answer to my question too. That it is entirely plausible as to why I am showing Saami and other European Indigenous in my DNA along with the Southeastern United States Tribes together. I had someone tell me to research Saami people cause when they looked at a picture of me and earlier pictures of Saami I looked alot like them. So, I thought it interesting when I saw the article here on POOF that spoke of the Irish Village Duhare (sp?) in the Southeast United States along with other places that are never mentioned in any history book but are noted on maps etc…by early explorers. Thanks.

          Reply
  2. urisahatu@yahoo.com'

    Hey Michelle,

    Very nice to see you active on POOF again.
    There are most likely more pre-Columbian European / Scandinavian connections than mainstream archaeologists
    and historians would like you to believe.

    The DNA, Culture and language can give many clues to what origin an ethnic group belongs to.
    Having said that, It’s also very complex since over the ages many ethnic groups have been mixing (have offspring) with eachother quite a lot. Sometimes a certain ethnic group can take certain cultural traits and linguistic inovations or even have a complete language change.
    You can have ethnic groups in America who have virtually
    no DNA links to Europe and still have a very European
    (western) orientated culture.

    The African continent is a good example. Some African countries have changed completely ever since it was colo-
    nized. You have ethnic groups who have either French
    (Mali), English (Nigeria), Portugese (Mozambique) as their
    first language and their culture has been changed to fit
    western society.

    In Southeast Asia you have Singapore as example.
    The Singaporese (Malays) have English as their first
    language and their culture is also very western orientated.

    The origins of the peoples in Southeast North America is
    very complex. To have an all conclusive answer to who is related to who and what specific origin a certain ethnic
    group has could take many years of research.

    Reply
    • michelle.c@houseofancestry.com'

      Yes, I understand not everything is cut and dried but at least I know it is a clear possibility that Saami is an admix that may have made it here via the Viking settlement as Slaves or other means similar in manner. As with all the admixtures that made it to the southeast United States. I continue to learn new things all the time as I peruse the archives, government, and state records.

      Reply
      • urisahatu@yahoo.com'

        Yes, you’re right. There is a possibility that the Saami
        made it to Southeast North America via a Viking
        settlement.
        Maybe you can write/post an article about the Saami
        or any other ethnic group who might have migrated into
        the Southeast that you know of.
        ‘m still doing research on the origins of the Cherokee
        which is very complex subject on its own.

        What I would like to see is for everyone; or atleast the
        ones who are able and willing to; to choose and focus
        on one main subject / ethnic group and do intensive research and post their findings (research results).
        It will make it easier for readers to understand and
        follow what researchers (participants) are talking
        about without getting lost in all the theories and speculations.

        Reply
  3. joel.mize@comcast.net'

    New poster here: just signing up for April POOF course. Think majority of my NA ancestry is Cherokee, by tradition, but who knows. The simple Ancestry DNA test was not very enlightening. What deeper DNA test & service is best to distinguish NA strains in my DNA ? My European roots are pretty well known from genealogy investigations over 50 years. Surname (MIZE) appearing in Surry Co VA in 1690s, fist known deed in 1718 Brunswick Co VA near Ft. Christiana, along Cherokee Trading Path. NA traditions come in via migration into NC during RW period; then to SC > north GA soon after RW. NA tradition comes through following ancestral & kinship names: Histili (SC); Ramsey (VA/GA); Borders (German/TN/GA); Wofford (SC/GA -Toccoa Falls); Whitehead (VA/NC/GA – Toccoa Falls); Mize (VA/NC/SC/GA -Toccoa Falls); and others.

    Reply
  4. HDRULZ@cs.com'

    I’ve read much of the material on this site and see no mention of many of my documented ancestors – Chief Big Warrior George Washington Cornells, Chief of the Creeks ; Chief Mad Dog Efa Haujo, Chief of the Creeks; The Sehoy Hatali, Creek Indian Princess of the prominent Wind Clan; Red Shoes Hatali who was the Chief of the Choctaws…and so on. These were all my great grandparents from 6 to 8 generations ago. Why is that?

    Reply
    • This is not a genealogy website. We are primarily focused on unraveling the thousands of years of Muskogean history prior to when the people lived that you are descended from. Their lives are well documented because they were in regular contact with with American officials. However, we did have an article on Senoy (Senoia) the mother of William McIntosh. Her name is Jewish and her father was a Jewish trader.

      Mvto for reading the articles!

      Reply
      • HDRULZ@cs.com'

        I am very aware this isn’t a genealogy site and that wasn’t my question of concern. My point is my ancestors did take part in the signing Treaties, were involved in wars, were significant leaders of their tribes, Trail of Tears, involved with American officials working directly with them and the governments, integrating with the Scottish, French and English, etc.,. Also, Senoy and Sehoy are two different Native women completely and I am related to both. Both had roles in our Native history too. I was curious why there is no mention of many of those listed as I have history books of Native American’s and my ancestors are mentioned in their involvement with our Native American history. Possibly your site would be interested in these facts or maybe not. Thanks for your time.

        Reply
        • Sheila,
          This not my website. It is an organizational website that we switched to WordPress and a more secure server because using email distribution of newsletters from personal computers was increasingly being completely shut down by hackers and spammers during 2012. The antagonists in the Mayas In Georgia Thang used a traditional political tactic of putting pressure on many of original people involved to take a low profile. The idea was to isolate me in the public’s eye and make it appear that everybody agreed with them. It kind of backfired on them.

          For the past ten years, We have almost entirely dealt with the period before the settling of the English colonies and the American Revolution, because there are lots of websites and books that period. We wanted to be a voice for the 99.9% of Southeastern Native Americans, whose names have been lost . . . whose very existence has been lost. We got started ten years ago, because archaeological reports, linguistics historic maps and eyewitness accounts were often being ignored by the current crop of academicians and government bureaucrats, when describing the Muskogeans’ ancient heritage. None of the best know anthropologist-authors even bothered to use Creek dictionaries when discussing the European Contact Period . . . they just said what whoever was paying for their reports wanted them to say. So we are using a variety of analytical techniques to get at the truth for the time in the past, when there are few or no written records.

          Reply

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