The Forgotten History of the Cherokee Nation before 1838
This comprehensive People of One Fire article is particularly designed for teachers. So much propaganda and false history has entered television documentaries and publications, containing Cherokee history, in recent years that is very difficult to get at the facts. Contemporary authors and journalists seldom fact-check sources. PBS approved national broadcast of a program, which stated that the Cherokees were the first people to cultivate corn, beans and squash . . . built most of the mounds in the Southeast . . . plus were the ancestors of the Aztecs and the Mayas!
PS – Just got an email screaming liar! Guess I should add that almost all of the information came straight from either articles in Wikipedia or the New Georgia Encyclopedia. All the maps are well known and can be accessed online. I have photocopies of Charles Hicks’ letters to John Ross.
State historical markers, tourist brochures, wannabe Cherokee pseudo-historians and public entertainment have distorted the public’s understanding of Cherokee history. For one thing, when one reads the actual detailed events of the era . . . what the Cherokees endured during the years leading up to their Trail of Tears was far, far more horrific than most generalized histories describe. There was much bloodshed within the tribe as factions constantly murdered each other in blood feuds. Social stress and alcoholism resulted in many wife-beatings, murders and property crimes, which were punished severely as the ruling elite tried to bring order to their tribe.
Increasingly, white thugs entered the old Cherokee Nation to rob, rape and murder, but were seldom punished and never executed for capital crimes. Meanwhile, Cherokees, who committed almost any crime against whites could expect to be hung . . . if they lived long enough to make it to a trial. In the early 1800s, a organized crime ring seized the Creek villages of Buzzard’s Roost and Sandtown near present day Six Flags Over Georgia. From then until 1838, raiders from Sandtown stole horses, cattle, pigs and personal belongings with impunity within the Cherokee Nation then sold them to white buyers in Georgia and Alabama.
By 1817, a century of almost continuous warfare and then the manipulations of the federal and state governments had changed the Cherokees from a prosperous, egalitarian society into a distressed one in which a few mixed-bloods prospered mightily from being slave-owning planters, while the majority of Cherokees were very poor and in a cultural malaise. By the time that the Cherokee Nation was established in Georgia, it was NOT idealistic Garden of Eden as portrayed in all TV documentaries.
Then there are all the less gruesome ironies that have have been dropped out of what one reads in internet essays and newspaper articles. For example, the two leaders of the two factions for and against relocation to the Indian Territory (Oklahoma) were next door neighbors. John Ross, the leader of opposition to removal, was born in Turkeytown, Alabama and actually lived very little of his life at the so-called John Ross home in the Chattanooga suburbs. As an adult, his primary home was on a plantation across the Oostanaula River from present day Downtown Rome, GA until 1838. The leader of the pro-treaty faction, Major Ridge, lived in a log plantation house one mile up the road from Ross’s home. Ridge was not a full-blood Cherokee as stated in a recent PBS documentary, but a half-blood of Natchez-Cherokee heritage. Ross was at least 7/8ths Caucasian. Natchez refugees established villages among the Upper Creeks and Cherokees in 1830.
Below is is a time line of the 18th and early 19th century Cherokee history that is easily verified by public archives, but seldom mentioned in the doctored version of history that the public sees. Beginning in 1991, North Carolina academicians and amateur historians throughout the Lower Southeast began substituting the word, Cherokee, or words similar to Cherokee. for tribes or towns with Muskogean names in 16th and 17th century archives. Their justification is that “All Indian words are ancient Cherokee words, whose meanings have been forgotten . . . well, at least in North Carolina!” As a matter of fact, all Native American words, recorded by the chroniclers of the Hernando de Soto Expedition in present day Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Tennessee were either Muskogean or Itza Maya words . . . with the exception of Chisca, which is a Panoan word from Peru. Chisca means “bird.”
Many of the Chisca survivors of a 1682 attack by Spanish-speaking men from the southern Appalachians probably became the Cherokee Bird Clan. Robert de La Salle mentioned this massacre in his report to the King of France, but it has been ignored by academicians, because they thought it impossible that there would be Spanish-speaking whites living at that time in the mountains of Georgia and North Carolina. However, some Chisca survivors moved south to the Chattahoochee River and eventually joined the Creek Confederacy.
The Real Cherokee Time Line
1701 – The Guillaume De L’Isle Map of North America labeled western North Carolina, Pays des Chaouanons ~ “The Shawnee Nation,” but also showed Creek towns along the length of the Little Tennessee River in North Carolina and Tennessee. It is highly probable that the Tionontatecagas in southern West Virginia and the northeastern tip of Tennessee were an early name for the Cherokees, used by the French and their Shawnee allies.
1715 – First mention of a word like Cherokee on a European map . . . John Beresford showed a large concentration of “Charakeys” in the northeastern tip of Tennessee and 8 small Charakey villages with Creek names on the tributaries of the Savannah River in South Carolina. He also showed most of eastern Tennessee occupied by “Cusatees” (Upper Creeks) and a French fort on Bussell Island, where the Little Tennessee River joins the Tennessee River. He called the Upper Tennessee River, the Cusatee River.
1715-1717 – The Cherokees switched sides to the British in the Yamasee War in December 1715, and thus were able to greatly expand their territory in the Carolinas. December 1715 also marked the beginning of the 40 year long Creek-Cherokee War. The Cherokees invited 32 Creek leaders to the neutral Hogeloge Uchee village of Tugaloo to discuss a joint strategy of attack against the British. The Creek leaders were murdered in their sleep. The Cherokees then informed the British that they were willing to become allies of South Carolina.
1725 – Colonel George Chicken, a British official living in Charleston, traveled through western North Carolina in order to create the Cherokee tribe and pressure the alliance to select a “king.” He gathered together at least 14 small tribes in present day South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia to form one large tribe that agreed to stop the advance of French colonization efforts in the Southeast. The Shawnee villages in North Carolina and the Creek towns in eastern Tennessee had become French trading partners, so they were the first targets of the new British-Cherokee alliance.
1730s – A series of epidemics, in particular, smallpox reduced the population of the Cherokee tribe by somewhere between 1/2 and 2/3. The smallpox caused several symptoms in Cherokee victims, unseen in European victims, such as the nose falling off.
1754 – In August of 1754, in response to the outbreak of hostilities between French and British colonial forces, government officials in Savannah and Charleston persuaded all but one of the tribal towns in the Creek Confederacy to sign a peace treaty with the Cherokee Nation. For over a decade there had been little formal warfare between the Cherokees and the Upper Creeks in North Georgia and Tennessee. The British thought that they had ended the 40 year long Creek-Cherokee War, since the one abstaining Creek town, Coweta, was located in present day Columbus, GA and couldn’t possibly take on the entire Cherokee Nation. However, they forgot that the Principal Chief of the Creeks, Malatchi, lived in Coweta.
1754 – In October of 1754, Coweta launched a blitzkrieg against the entire Cherokee Nation, led by troops of highly mobile, mounted riflemen. It was an entirely new concept in tribal warfare. The rapid movements of the combined Coweta cavalry and infantry columns defeated all Cherokee armies that were sent to stop them. Within a few weeks, all Cherokee villages south of the Snowbird Mountains had been destroyed. Six captured Cherokee chiefs were burned at the stake on the banks of the Chattahoochee River.
The Cherokees sent a delegation of chiefs to Charleston to beg that British Redcoats attack the Coweta Creeks. Georgia officials vetoed the proposal, but in the time being, a mixed blood Coweta “special ops” unit slipped into Charleston, wearing European clothing, and murdered 25 Cherokee chiefs on the streets of Charleston. This confirmed the suspicions of South Carolina officials that they really, really didn’t want to get involved with this Creek-Cherokee thing.
1754 – Principal Chief Malatchi timed the signing of the Cherokee surrender treaty for the exact day that was the 40th anniversary of the murder of 32 Creek chiefs by Cherokee delegates at a friendly conference in the Uchee village of Tugaloo in December 1715. He pledged neutrality in the war between France and Great Britain, unless either country sent troops through Creek territory.
1755 – Some Upper Creek tribal towns in southeastern Tennessee and northern Alabama renounced the two 1754 peace treaties with the Cherokees and signed a treaty with France to fight the British and their Indian allies. With French munitions, they recaptured all their territory previously lost to the Cherokees up to the Hiwassee River. Alarmed that that French-allied Creeks were within a day’s march of all Overhill Cherokee towns, the Cherokees sent a delegation to Charleston, SC, begging that the British build a fort on the Little Tennessee River to protect them from the nearby hostile Creeks.
Keep in mind that all contemporary Cherokee histories state that at exactly the same time, “the Overhill Cherokees were capturing all of North Georgia, after defeating the Upper Creeks at the fictional Battle of Taliwa.” The following year, South Carolina built Fort Loudon near the Overhill Cherokee town of Chota to protect them from the Upper Creek towns, who were allied with the French and also, the Shawnee. It is peculiar that Southeastern academicians with PhD’s in history or anthropology will write one paragraph, stating the never-happened Battle of Taliwa as the pivotal moment when the Overhill Cherokees captured all of North Georgia then in the next paragraph state that the Overhill Cherokees were so terrified of the Upper Creeks at their “doorstep” in Tennessee that they begged the British to build a fort in their midst. This suggests that current curricula in Dixie doctoral programs stress rote memory of orthodox “facts” rather than an analytical approach to history and anthropology.
1758 – Increasing tensions and atrocities by both sides caused a bloody war to break out between the Cherokees and the Provinces of South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. However, the Cherokees refused to formally become allies of France, so they had no direct source for replenishing munitions. Indian trader, James Adair, organized a troop of 100 Georgia Chickasaws, modeled after the Coweta Mounted Rifles, in order to protect the Georgia frontier from the Cherokees. Adair was always distrusted, if not hated, by the Cherokees thereafter.
1760 – On June 27, 1760 an invading force of British Redcoats and South Carolina militia were defeated by the Cherokees at Itsate Pass near the Cherokee village of Echoe. A North Carolina State Historical Marker states that Itsate Pass in Otto, NC was the southern boundary of the Cherokee Nation. On June 27, 1761 a second invading British force defeated the Cherokees.
1763 – All Cherokees, Creeks, Shawnees and Uchees living in the mountains, east of the 84th longitude line, were removed from North Carolina. The eastern boundary of the Cherokee Nation in North Carolina became a line running through present day Robbinsville and Murphy, NC. That line is 45 miles WEST of the Qualla Cherokee Reservation.
1776 – The Cherokees agreed to become allies of the British against the Colonial rebels. While fleeing the Cherokee village of Echoe, after hearing that the Cherokees were about to go on the war path, botanist William Bartram stated in his memoirs that the boundary between the Cherokees and Creeks was the Tugaloo River, about 18 miles south of the North Carolina Line. A map of the southern colonies, published by the British Army in 1776, stated that there were approximately 100 Cherokees and 25 Cherokee men of military age in the entire province of Georgia, which then extended to the Mississippi River.
1776 – After initial Cherokee raids into South Carolina, the famous Indian trader and historian, James Adair, took his wife, children and their spouses to a location on Oothlooga Creek near present day Adairsville, GA (Bartow County). His wife had grown up in the nearby Chickasaw town of Ustanauli. Very soon thereafter, several other white traders with Native American wives, moved to the same area of Georgia. All of the mixed-blood children of these traders were to become prominent leaders of the Cherokee Nation, even though very few or none were of actual Cherokee heritage.
1777 – Sour Mush, the leader of a small band of about 50 people, was banished by the Cherokee National Council for opposing a peace treaty with the United States. Many Upper Creeks were still allies of Great Britain. He eventually was allowed to settle in Upper Creek territory along Long Swamp Creek near present day Nelson, GA in Pickens County. Sour Mush eventually joined the Elate Confederacy, an alliance composed of neutral Hitchiti, Uchee and South Carolina Indian villages in the Georgia Mountains. Elate means “Foothill People” in Hitchiti Creek.
1780 – Major Thomas Waters, a British officer in command of a unit of Tory Rangers, fled Augusta, GA, after its recapture by Georgia and South Carolina militia units. He was living with Sally Hughes, a mixed-blood Cherokee niece of Sour Mush. Sour Mush allowed the rangers to establish a camp near his village from which to raid the Georgia frontier.
1783 – On October 22, 1783, in the last battle of the American Revolution, a combined force of about 400 South Carolina and Georgia mounted militia, under Colonial Andrew Pickens and Major Elijah Clarke, attacked Sour Mush’s village. Sour Mush quickly surrendered and told the Patriots where the Tory camp was located. They then attacked the Tories, but Major Waters and most of his men escaped to the rugged mountains near the headwaters of the Etowah River. Many of the mixed blood descendants of the Tory rangers and their Native American wives still live in the Georgia Mountains. For the details of this battle go to Long Swamp Creek.
1783 – Two days after the Battle of Long Swamp Creek, Pickens and Clarke led their men to the village of Salicoa, where the principal chief of the Elate lived. Salicoa was located near Fairmont, GA in Gordon County. There was NO Treaty of Long Swamp Creek as stated in virtually all Cherokee histories. The Elate were essentially “tenants-at-will” of the Upper Creeks, yet they had the gall to cede lands belonging to the Creek Confederacy in Northeast Georgia. When Pickens and Clarke presented this bogus treaty to their legislatures, they were told to go back and get a real treaty, which included the Creeks.
In December 1783, Pickens sponsored another treaty conference at his Hopewell Plantation near the Savannah River in Oconee County, SC. The legitimate leaders of the Creek Confederacy refused to attend. The Elate did send delegates. Pickens was able to persuade five Creek oratas (village chiefs) to attend. Three of them balked at giving their lands. The Elate delegates and two drunk Creek oratas signed a treaty, which ceded the lands of pro-Patriot Creek tribal towns in Northeast Georgia to Georgia and South Carolina, plus set the Georgia-North Carolina line as the boundary between the Cherokee Nation and the Elate Confederacy.
The Creek Confederacy threatened war after learning about the conference. The United States Congress refused to ratify the treaty because under the articles of Confederation, states had no powers to sign treaties with Indian tribes and also, because the official leaders of the Creek Confederacy and Cherokee Nation were not represented.
1784 – In June 1784 a federally sponsored conference was held with all the major Southeastern tribes at Augusta, GA. However, the representatives of the federal government were actually the same old cronies from Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. They pulled a “fast one” and treated separately with each tribe without the others knowing the contents of the treaties. The Elate lost their separate identity and were lumped with the Cherokee Nation , even though they spoke a Creek language.
This is the reason that there are very, very few Cherokee place names in the Georgia Mountains. For generations, Georgia Mountaineers assumed that all the Indian words, such as Chenocetah, Coosa, Unicoi, Yahoola, Etowah, Oconee, Armuchee, Sautee, Chattahoochee, Tesnatee, Chestatee, Tallulah, Oostanaula, Oothlooga, Chattooga, Hiwassee, etc. were Cherokee, but they were actually Creek words. Yonah Mountain and Walasiyi Gap did not get their Cherokee names until a couple of decades after the Cherokees were gone. Ethnic Cherokee and wannabe Cherokee scholars are notorious for not bothering to learn any other Native American languages, but their own. The consistently try to “squeeze” nonsensical combinations of Cherokee words into Creek words in order to explain them.
Georgia had deeded Creek lands in Northeast Georgia to veterans, who were owed back payments for service in the Revolution. Over the vehement objections of Creeks in the region, concerning the lost of the sacred Yamacutah shrine, the Creek government now based in Pensacola, FL ceded the lands east of the Oconee River. The Creeks living in Northeast Georgia were already alienated from the Creek Confederacy because Pro-British Upper Creeks had attacked their farms and villages during the American Revolution. The attacks continued until around 1793. The Northeast Georgia Creeks left the Creek Confederacy in large numbers and “cast their lots” with their white neighbors and friends. This is the reason that there are SO MANY people with substantial Creek heritage in Hart, Jackson, Madison, Franklin, Elbert and Wilkes Counties, Georgia, plus Oconee, Greenwood, Anderson and Barnwell Counties, South Carolina.
The Georgia representatives secretly gave the Creek and Chickasaw lands west of the Chattahoochee River and east of the Tennessee River (a portion now in Alabama) to the Cherokees as hunting lands only in hope of ending the Chickamauga War. The Creeks did not know about this clause until around 1790. Throughout this time, many Chickasaws and Upper Creeks in Northeast Alabama were actually fighting against white Tennesseans in the Chickamauga War, not knowing that their lands had been given to the Cherokees. The Creeks were left with a narrow, almost useless, corridor extending northward to Clarkesville, GA.
1786 – The Chickamauga Cherokees attacked the Chickasaw town of Ustanauli in northwest Georgia and then drove Pro-United States Chickasaws out of what is now Northwest Georgia and Northeast Alabama. This was in response the Chickasaws defending the Georgia frontier during the Revolution and to the participation of Chickasaws as allies of the United States government in a campaign against tribes in the Midwest. Some Cherokees had traveled north to assist the Northwest Indian Alliance.
The site of Ustanauli would eventually become New Echota, the capital of the new Cherokee Nation. Most North Georgians don’t know that the Chickasaws once lived on their lands. The Chickasaws are not mentioned in the state’s official history textbook, even through their presence in the state preceded that of the Creeks and they played such an important role in protecting the frontier settlements.
1787 – At age 15, Nunnehidhi (the future Major Ridge) joined the Chickamauga Cherokee guerillas.
1788 – The capital of the Cherokee Nation was moved from Chota in Tennessee to Coosawatee Town near the ruins of the ancient town of Kusa on the Coosawattee River in Georgia.
1790 – After learning about the Cherokees secretly being given Northwest Georgia and what is now Northeast Alabama in the 1786 Treaty of Augusta, the Creek Confederacy declared war on the State of Georgia, but affirmed its loyalty to the United States. As directed by President George Washington, Colonel Marinus Willett traveled through the width of the new Cherokee Nation to the Creek Nation to explain to the Creeks that war against Georgia meant war against the United States. The Creeks were promised that they could keep most of Alabama forever, and so withdrew the declaration of war.
Willet passed through the southern edge of the new Cherokee territory. He described most of the handful of villages as being newly settled. Here is what is interesting though. All of the villages along the Etowah River with Native American names were Creek words. After the 1796 Treaty of Philadelphia, these Creek villages moved either south or west into the new boundaries of the Creek Confederacy. There was never a Cherokee village named Long Swamp Creek on any map produced before 1838. This fictional village on the Etowah River only appeared in maps, produced by 20th century academicians.
1792 – Nunnehidhi (the future Major Ridge) was elected to the Cherokee National Council. This is significant evidence that Chickamauga hostiles were not all renegades, who had been expelled from the Cherokee Nation like Sour Mush. Chickamauga Cherokees, like Nunnehidhi, were living in officially non-hostile villages, but then killing small groups of white settlers. Politically correct TV documentaries and essays in recent years have decried the attacks of Southwest Territorial (Tennessee) militia units on “peaceful” Cherokee villages, but that obviously was not the case.
1793 – On October 17, 1793, the Chickamauga Cherokees, Creeks and Chickasaws were catastrophically defeated. In a panic, Ridge led his brother Uwatie and his friends, Charles Hicks, David Hicks, James Vann, David Vann, and George Gist (Sequoyah) to the remote Natchez village of Pine Log in present day Bartow County, GA in order to hide from the Southwest Territorial militia. Their spouses soon joined them and they established farms here.
1794 – In the Treaty of Philadelphia, the hostile Chickamauga Cherokee faction accepted peace and the Cherokees were given Northwest Georgia as their permanent home. The southern boundary of their hunting lands had been the Etowah River, but the new line ran through Kennesaw Mountain, GA. The Cherokees had ceded most of their lands in Tennessee and therefore relocated their capital from Chota on the Little Tennessee River to Coosawatee on the Coosawatee River near the ruins of the ancient proto-Creek town of Kusa.
1796 – In the Treaty of New York, the Creek Confederacy formally acknowledged the new boundaries given the Cherokee Nation.
1797 – Major Ridge and his wife felt it safe to come out of seclusion in the village of Pine Log and then established a large farm on Oothlooga Creek, near where James Adair had established a compound for his half-breed children and their spouses in 1776.
1801 – Charles Hicks was appointed interpreter for the chief United States agent to the Cherokee Indians.
1802 – Georgia ceded the lands that would become most of Alabama and Mississippi. In return, the federal government gave Georgia an agreement in which it promised to remove the Cherokees from the new boundaries of Georgia within 10 years to a reservation in Alabama or Arkansas.
1804-1806 – With the help of Moravian architects and craftsmen, mixed-blood Cherokee, James Vann, constructed a magnificent plantation house in Spring Place. It was initially an austere Federal Style house, but his son, Joseph Vann, added the Greek Revival portico . . . making the Vann House the first Greek Revival house in the Southeast’s interior. The 800-acre property around the mansion included 42 slave cabins cabins, 6 barns, 5 smokehouses, a trading post, a Moravian mission, a Moravian school, more than 1,000 peach trees, 147 apple trees and a commercial distillery.
1807 – Major Ridge and Alexander Saunders murdered Chief Doublehead at the request of the Cherokee National Council because the chief had secretly sold Cherokee lands without permission of the National Council. Ridge had been a sponsor of the Cherokee law, which proscribed the death penalty for anyone illegally selling Cherokee land. James Vann was also supposed to be one of the killers, but he was too drunk to participate. Members of the Ridge, Watie, Saunders, Vann, Ross and Doublehead families would be killing each other until at least 1865 in an endless round of revenge killings.
1809 – James Vann was murdered. No one was ever charged for the murder, but it was possibly a member of the Doublehead family. The killer could have also been one of his wives or children. He was notorious for beating his wives and children, when drunk.
1811 – Although only 21, John Ross was appointed Indian Agent for the United States to the Cherokees.
1812 – President James Madison informed Georgia officials that the relocation of the Cherokees, as promised, would have to be delayed because of war being declared on Great Britain. Georgia Creeks were promised that if they helped the United States, they could stay in Georgia forever. An entire regular US Army regiment was formed by Georgia Creek volunteers to fight the British Rangers and Marines, who were raiding the coastal islands and towns of Georgia. However, most of the volunteers were Creek men living outside the boundaries of the Muskogee-Creek Confederacy.
1813 – Cherokees in Georgia were told that if they volunteered to help fight the Red Stick Creeks in Alabama, they could stay in Georgia forever. Major Ridge raised a company of over 100 Cherokees, who played a very important roll in Andrew Jackson’s victory at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in 1814. This is when “The Ridge” took the first name of Major . . . even though his official rank was Captain of Cherokee Volunteers. Many other future famous Cherokee leaders were a member of this company. The company adjutant was John Ross.
1813 – After reading a book called Idea Fidei Fratrum, Charles Hicks embraced Christianity and was baptized on April 20, 1813 by Moravian missionaries as Charles Renatus (“Born Again”) Hicks.
1814 – Another Cherokee officer, 1/4th Cherokee, Charles Hicks, had repeated nightmares on the march back home after the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. He kept on seeing the bodies of the Red Stick Creek women and children and realized that yet once again, Native Americans had been duped into killing other Native Americans.
1816 – John Ross first went to Washington, D.C. in 1816 as part of a Cherokee delegation to negotiate issues of national boundaries, land ownership and white encroachment. As the only delegate fluent in English, Ross became the principal negotiator, despite his relative youth.
1817 – Charles Hicks was elected Second Chief of the Cherokee Nation and soon began functioning as acting Principal Chief, because Principal Chief Pathkiller lived in Turkeytown, AL and was quite elderly. Hicks invited Methodist “Circuit Rider” ministers to preach in the open air at a spring sacred to Cherokee conjurers near Pine Log, GA. The conjurers summoned “demons” from the spring. This was the first time that any significant number of Cherokees switched to Christianity from their traditional demon-conjuring religion. He was hated by the conjurers from then on. Pine Log Methodist Church and Campground is located where these missionaries preached.
Hicks is rarely discussed by contemporary Cherokee historians even though it was he who spearheaded the Cherokee Renaissance and in my opinion, was by far, their greatest leader. Hicks was a brilliant man, who owned one of the largest personal libraries in the United States. Hicks wrote the first, and perhaps only, comprehensive history of the Cherokee People in the form of eight long letters to John Ross. North Carolina academicians and Cherokee bureaucrats ignore these letters, because virtually nothing they say today about their past, jives with what Hicks wrote.
An explanation of traditional Cherokee religion
Qualla Cherokees tell tourists today that the Cherokees always worshiped “The Creator.” This is horse manure and one of the many secrets that the Cherokees keep from white academicians and from their 1/1280th Cherokee lovers-of-all-things-Cherokee in Tennessee. From the very beginning the primary conflict between the Creeks and Cherokees was rooted in religion and political organization. In his “History of the Cherokee People” Charles Hicks stated that the first thing the Cherokees did, when they captured a “mound builder” town in North Carolina or Tennessee was to burn the temples on top of their mounds and build “town houses.”
Archaeologist Joseph Caldwell radiocarbon dated the burning of the mound-top temples at the large Creek town on Tugaloo Island to around 1700 AD or slightly later. This is strong evidence of the relatively late date that the Cherokees actually arrived in the Southern Appalachians.
The Apalache (proto-Creeks) were monotheistic and had a permanent elite, composed of priests and professionals, who lived in separate villages from the villages of the commoners. The creation of the modern Creek Confederacy in 1717 also included the abandonment of a hierarchical society, but monotheism continued.
The Cherokees were animists, whose religion was virtually identical to that of the Caribs. Cherokee conjurers would summon demons from fires, springs or even boulders then speak on behalf of the demons, when they possessed the conjurer. The conjuring religion is stronger than ever on the Qualla and Snowbird Reservations. That is why the Christian churches are so sparse and small on the two North Carolina reservations.
I know very little Cherokee and so can’t tell you what was actually being said. The conjuring rituals are very similar in appearance to the “speaking in tongues” services in Pentecostal churches, but are held in remote locations. The Snowbird Cherokees, who invited me, assumed that I was a “broken man” and spiritually powerless, since I was homeless and had little money. With the same frozen smile that I had seen before of satanic occultists, they said that they were going to “teach me secret knowledge.” I kept careful notes. LOL
These occult activities by modern Cherokees might seem to be a harmless way for people to release tensions and socialize, but many, if not most Cherokees are prone to bipolar behavior and alcohol addiction. Throw in voluntary possession by demonic spirits and you have sudden, inexplicable outbursts of rages or deep depression. Tourists and people attending Cherokee history/language workshops rarely or never see these outbursts, but folks working along side of Cherokees do.
The significance of kitani and kituwah
At some time point in the late 1600s or early 1700s, the Cherokees rebelled against a hereditary clan composed of priests, known as the Kitani. Afterward, their only religious leaders were conjurers and their society was significantly more egalitarian than that of the Highland Apalaches. The Cherokee town houses were large enough to hold all adults of a community, so they could participate in the conjuring ceremonies and more benign activities like political meetings and musical entertainment.
The words, kitani (fire starters) and kituwa (sacred fire) are highly significant, because they are Alabama Indian words and have no meaning in Cherokee, other than being proper nouns. Cherokees and Cherokee wannabees get so angry that they turn blue in the face when they read this . . . but it is a fact.
Originally, the kitani were priests who started and maintained fires in Alabama temples, but in the contemporary Alabama dictionary is defined as a sorcerer. Charles Hicks described a long period in which some bands that eventually became Cherokees wandered about the Southeast. These two words strongly suggest that at least one of those bands was formerly on the Coosa River in Alabama in close contact with the Alabama, or perhaps even their vassals.
1817 – The federal government initiated its Cherokee Relocation Program in 1817. Cherokees who voluntarily relocated to Arkansas were paid for their land in the east and given generous payments for transportation and rebuilding in their new homeland. Most of the early settlers were from Tennessee. They resented the seizure of power by the young mixed bloods in Georgia, who were the veterans of the Battle of Etowah Cliffs, and the shift of Cherokee culture into being a mirror image of white society.
The Cherokee National Council branded as traitors anyone, who sold their property and moved to Arkansas. The Council also established stiff fines and whippings for any Cherokee, who assisted other Cherokee emigrating to Arkansas. The legal efforts did not stop the steady flow of families westward.
1817-1818 – Major Ridge led a Cherokee company down to Florida to assist the federal troops, fighting the Seminoles.
1818 – John Ross, at age 28, was elected President of the National Council of the Cherokee Nation.
1819 – With the money that Major Ridge made off the Red Stick War and the Seminole War expedition, he established a 223 acre plantation on the Oostanaula River, immediately north of John Ross’s plantation. By this time, Ridge had at least 30 African slaves. That same year, he sent his son, John, and his brother Uwatie’s son to Cornwall, Connecticut to study at the Foreign Mission School.
1821 – Land speculators from Burke County, North Carolina . . . the major center of gold mining even today in North Carolina . . . negotiated the purchase of the bottom lands of the Nacoochee Valley in Northeast Georgia from Native Americans living there and later sections of the lands to the south of Yonah Mountain in present day White County. The following year, families from North Carolina occupied the valley. Gold was officially discovered in the Nacoochee Valley in 1828. Thus, whites did not “steal” the Nacoochee Valley from the Cherokees after gold was discovered there, as stated in a recent PBS documentary.
There is something else odd about these historical facts. In 1821 the Nacoochee Valley was within the boundaries of the Cherokee Nation and it was a capital offense for individual Cherokees or even Cherokee chiefs to sell Cherokee land. Yet, the Native American occupants of the Nacoochee Valley sold it without permission of the Cherokee National Council and then moved to the territory of the Creek Confederacy in Alabama. That strongly suggests that the occupants of the valley were not Cherokees and that the Cherokee leaders knew it.
1822 or 1824 – These are the most common dates given for the death of Nancy Ward, a mixed blood Cherokee lady, who endeared herself to Tennessee whites by warning them of pending Chickamauga Cherokee attacks and encouraging Cherokees to purchase African slaves.
1823 – The capital of the Cherokee Nation was moved from Coosawattee in Georgia to Ustanauli, at the confluence of the Conasauga and Coosawattee River.
1823 – The state governments, plus citizens of Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee began to agitate for the removal of the Cherokee Nation, in accordance with the agreements of 1802 with the federal government. Congress responded by appropriating $30,000 to extinguish Cherokee title to land in Georgia. In the fall of 1823, negotiators for the United States met with the Cherokee National Council at the new capital then called Ustanauli.
1825 – Surveyors began laying out a town in a grid pattern at Ustanauli. The Cherokee National Council re-named the capital, New Echota.
1825 – The Cherokee National Council issued a silver medal to George Gist, honoring his creation of a Cherokee syllabary.
1826 – Alarmed at the construction of a capital town for the Cherokees, the Georgia General Assembly asked President John Quincy Adams to negotiate a removal treaty with the Cherokees. John Quincy Adams initially balked, but later initiated communications with the Cherokees. Federal commissioners met with Cherokee leaders to discuss generous terms for relocating most Cherokees to west of the Mississippi River.
The majority of Cherokee leaders initially refused to discuss the issue. However, Andrew Ross, the brother of John Ross and a member of the Cherokee Supreme Court was the first Cherokee to speak favorably toward relocation.
Acting Principal Chief Charles Hicks changed his mind and became the leader of the Treaty Faction. Shortly thereafter, Hicks health began deteriorating due to a undiagnosed illness. This is highly suspicious. His symptoms certainly sounded more like poisoning by some accumulative toxin like arsenic. Major Ridge initially opposed a new treaty, but then began to change his mind too.
1827 – On January 7, 1827, the official Principal Chief, Pathkiller, died. On January 20, 1827 Charles Hicks died, two weeks after assuming Pathkiller’s office. His younger brother William Abraham Hicks was appointed interim Principal Chief by the National Council. At the time, Major Ridge was Speaker of the National Council and John Ross was its President.
1827 – Upon his graduation from college in Connecticut, Elias Boudinot returned home to the Cherokee Nation and in conjunction with missionary Samuel Worcester, almost completely changed the syllabary, created by George Gist (Sequoyah). Gist probably never saw the Cherokee Syllabary used today, which is based on Gist’s and Worcester’s work. Gist would not have been able to understand it, unless shown the connections with his letters.
In recent years, Cherokee historians have repeatedly stated that “by 1825 or 1828, 80% of Cherokees were completely literate in the Cherokee syllabary system.” There is is absolutely no evidence to back up this statement. As will be stated below, the Cherokee Phoenix eventually stopped publishing any articles in the Cherokee syllabary, because there were such a small demand for its use. Apparently, even Major Ridge was largely ignorant of the Cherokee syllabary.
The Real Sequoya Syllabary
There is something very inexplicable about the real Sequoya Syllabary. Most of the letters are identical to Circassian Medieval Script and many are similar to Georgian Medieval Script. This is highly significant because the Archaic name for the mountain-dwelling Circassian People is Chirake. In 1673, Virginia explorers, Robert Needham and Gabriel Arthur, visited a town built of brick and occupied by white people, at the headwaters of the Tennessee River, northeast of present day Knoxville. The town contained an Eastern Orthodox Christian Church and a nine feet tall bell, which rang three times a day, calling the people to pray. Even today, massive bells in Armenian Orthodox Churches ring three times a day, calling members to say the Lord’s Prayer. The two poorly educated men from Virginia certainly wouldn’t have known that.
1828 – On February 27, 1828 Elias Boudinot, son of Uwatie and nephew of Major Ridge, began publishing The Cherokee Phoenix newspaper. Initially, the newspaper was written in both English and in the Cherokee syllabary. Members of the Cherokee Nation, who learned the syllabary, received the newspaper free. However, most of the issues were mailed to subscribers in the North and free to members of Congress. Over time, it contained less and less Cherokee text and increasingly contained articles that could best be described as propaganda. Within a couple of years, the newspaper was written almost entirely in English, plus most of its subscribers lived in other parts of the United States and Europe.
1828 – Andrew Jackson was elected president and immediately announced his intention to nullify all treaties with Southeastern tribes. Georgia took his hint and passed a series of acts, intended to drive the Cherokees out of the state. The State of Georgia hired surveyors to survey the entire Cherokee Nation in Georgia and to divide up into lots or distribution by a lottery. The surveyors were also charged with carefully describing all improvements so the Cherokees, “who did not break any state laws,” could be reimbursed for the property.
1828 – Four to six years after her death, a distant white relative of Nancy Ward, living in Tennessee, concocted the myth about the never-existed Creek town of Taliwa, the never-happened Battle of Taliwa and Nancy Ward’s heroic role in leading a charge against 2,000 Creek Indians that won all of North Georgia for the Cherokees in 1754 or 1755. Wikipedia credits Cherokee historian Emmet Starr for this story, but his 1921 book only mentions the true historical facts that Nancy Ward saved the life of a white woman, a Mrs. Bean, and that she also warned white settlers of pending Chickamauga attacks on several occasions. Unfortunately, the myth has been fossilized by a legion of state historical markers, poorly researched books, academic papers, poems, songs and now even a musical play. It is as difficult to convince believers in Tennessee and Georgia that these events never happened as convincing white Southerners that Jesus was a Jewish rabbi, not a white Southern Baptist.
1829 – By this time, both the State of Georgia and the Cherokees were largely ignoring history. Georgia’s position was that the Cherokees were non-indigenous squatters, who had entered the state after the American Revolution without its permission. It was factual though, that the federal government had promised in writing to remove all Cherokees from Georgia by 1812. Of course, the facts were that Georgia had swindled the Creeks and invited Cherokees to occupy North Georgia in order to get rid of the Creeks. Some Cherokees had drifted down into the state during and immediately after the American Revolution, but most only came after the United States government and State of Georgia signed a treaty giving them that territory.
Cherokee leaders began stating publicly that they had occupied all of North Georgia long before the Revolution. There are still a lot of Georgians, who still believe this fib. The Cherokee Phoenix began publishing false history and false affidavits that were intended to garner support by influential persons living in the Northeast, who didn’t know diddlysquat about Georgia’s history and geography. Midwesterners tended to be as hostile to Indian tribes as Southerners, perhaps more so.
A typical tactic by Elias Boudinot was to publish an affidavit that supported a particular version of history. The affidavits were always signed by imaginary Cherokees with common English names, who nevertheless were unable to even sign their own name. One of the most outrageous sets of affidavits in the Phoenix claimed that several Cherokee individuals had SOLD recently murdered Creek mikko, William McIntosh all of the land for his plantation on the Chattahoochee River between present day Newnan and Carrollton. Of course, just like the Cherokees, all tribal land belonged to the Creek Confederacy and so individual members did not have to purchase land. The Cherokees never lived anywhere near his plantation anyway.
1829 – John Ross, new Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, led a delegation to Washington in January 1829 to resolve disputes over the failure of the US government to pay annuities to the Cherokee, and to seek Federal enforcement of the boundary between the territory of the state of Georgia and the Cherokee Nation. He was rebuffed by Andrew Jackson, who announced his support for forced removal of the Cherokees to west of the Mississippi River.
1830 – The Indian Removal Act for Southeastern tribes was passed by the United States Congress. Georgia passed a series of laws removing virtually all the civil rights of American Indians. They stayed on the books until after Jimmy Carter was sworn in as governor in 1971. One of the laws required any white man, living on Indian property, to get a license from the State of Georgia. The missionaries working with the Cherokees, refused to obtain said licenses and thus were arrested. Many were sentenced to long jail terms “at hard labor,” typical of convictions for very serious felonies.
1832 – The State of Georgia passed a law that declared the Cherokee tribal government illegitimate and made it illegal for the Cherokees to meet together for any reason other than to sign a treaty, ceding their lands. In 1832, the State of Georgia issued deeds to most of the winners of the Cherokee land lottery. White land speculators and families began showing up at Cherokee farmsteads with militiamen, demanding that the Cherokees leave “their” property.
At this point, New Echota essentially became a ghost town, occupied by units of the Georgia State Militia. The Cherokee National Council was forced to meet in Red Clay, Tennessee.
1832 – The Cherokee National Council forced Elias Boudinot to resign as editor of the Cherokee Phoenix and replaced him with Elijah Hicks. By this time, both Boudinot and his uncle, Major Ridge, had given up hope of avoiding relocation to the Indian Territory and had been advocating the signing of a treaty favorable to the Cherokees.
1833 – The Cherokee People split into two factions, The National Party, which wanted to fight removal indefinitely and the The Treaty Party, which felt that removal was inevitable and therefore the Cherokees should seek the best possible terms. John Ross headed the National Party, while William Hicks headed the Treaty Party.
1834 – Several advocates of the Treaty Party, including John Walker, Jr., were murdered. A delegation of the Treaty Party headed to Washington. Some signed an unfavorable treaty, pressed by Secretary of War Cass. It was rejected by Ridge and Watie family. After the Cherokee Nation received no positive results from two Supreme Court cases, representatives of both factions traveled to Washington, DC, claiming to be the representatives of the Cherokee People, and met repeatedly with federal negotiators.
1835 – Federal negotiator John F. Schemerhorn met Cherokee representatives in July 1835 at John Ridge’s plantation. The house still stands in northeast Rome, GA. A more favorable treaty was worked out, but it was rejected by the National Council in October 1835.
In December 1835, a group of Cherokee men varying between 100 and 500 in number met in long sessions in New Echota to work out a better treaty. The newest treaty contained larger cash payments and allowed anyone wanting to stay in the Southeast to apply for state citizenship and receive a 160 acre allotment. The committee reported the results to the full National Council gathered at New Echota, which approved the treaty unanimously. The treaty was concluded at New Echota, Georgia on the 29th of December, 1835 and signed on the 1st of March, 1836.
1836-1837 – After news of the treaty became public, the officials of the Cherokee Nation from the National Party representing the large majority of Cherokee objected that they had not approved it and that the document was invalid. John Ross and the Cherokee National Council begged the Senate not to ratify the treaty due to it not being negotiated by the legal representatives of the Cherokee Nation. But the Senate passed the measure in May 1836 by a single vote.
As soon as the Senate ratified the treaty, wealthy Cherokee families began leaving Georgia. The Vann’s, some Adairs and the Pro-treaty Ross’s took up residence in Tennessee, outside Cherokee lands. Many of the mixed blood Cherokees living in what is now Murray, Lumpkin, Dawson, Pickens and Gilmer Counties, such as the Hughes, Perry’s, Quinlan’s, Adair’s, Thompson’s, Davis’s, Saunder’s, Water’s and Ralston’s applied for state citizenship. These were families, descended from white men married to non-Cherokee Indian wives or mostly white mixed-blood Cherokee wives, who had been classified as Cherokees. The Ridges and Waties moved to the northern edge of Arkansas, about 50 miles east of the Cherokee Reserve. They no longer wanted to live among the Cherokees.
Many middle class and poor Cherokees apparently were never aware that they could apply for state citizenship and remain in the Southeast. It was primarily white husbands with Cherokee wives, who took advantage of the program.
There are also many families in North Georgia and Northwestern Alabama, who now claim to be Cherokees, but show up with Sephardic Jewish ancestry and little or no Native American ancestry. It is not clear how they avoided deportation and few have any explanation today.
1838 – There were over 3,000 Creeks and Uchees living in the Cherokee Nation. The fate of most remains a mystery today. Theoretically, they were not affected by the Treaty of New Echota, but about 800 were forced along with the Cherokees by federal troops. A significant percentage of “old mountain families” in Gilmer, Fannin and Union Counties, Georgia have striking Upper Creek features. There were definitely Uchee communities living in the Cohutta Mountains until the 1920s, when the land was bought up by the US Forest Service. Perhaps, since the names of the Creeks and Uchees were not on anybody’s pickup list, they were able to hide out in the highest mountains.
1838 – President Martin Van Buren directed General Winfield Scott to forcibly move all those Cherokees who had not yet complied with the treaty and moved west. Stockades were erected throughout the Cherokee Nation. Federal troops arrested anyone, who looked like an Indian and marched them to the stockades. All Native American prisoners were out of Georgia within a month after the military operation began.
1839 – A “secret society” within the National Party prepared a hit list of Treaty Party members, who were to be murdered as punishment for signing the Treaty of New Echota. It is highly significant that most of the victims on the list were related to Major Ridge and Alexander Saunders, the two men to murdered Chief Doublehead on order of the National Council for the same offense that they committed . . . selling Cherokee lands without permission of the National Council. Of course, Major Ridge had formed another National Council, but this was not considered.
The Adair, Hicks, Vann, Hughes, Walker and Rogers families were generally not molested, even though Charles Hicks and William Hicks had been the official heads of the Treaty Party. However, all but one of the Ridge-Watie signers of the treaty were murdered and the killers were descendants of Doublehead. During the following decades in Oklahoma, Ridge-Watie descendants assassinated National Party members, particularly the Doubleheads, and then their survivors murdered Ridge-Watie descendants. The blood feud continued until the end of the American Civil War. It was yet another example of the white majority in the United States using divide and conquer techniques in an attempt to destroy a Native American people.
Some things never change.
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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.
Latest posts by Richard Thornton (see all)
- Video: Fifth anniversary of the filming of “Mayas In Georgia” - June 23, 2017
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- Map: South American and Caribbean Peoples in the Southeast (1540 AD) - June 21, 2017
- Baracoa, Guantanamo . . . the Cuban Connection - June 21, 2017