The Mandans in Dixie . . . Part One
During the late 20th century, the King Village Site on the Coosa River, west of Rome, GA was heavily publicized by the media and archaeological journals. It was always described as a Proto-Creek village that was a planned satellite of nearby Kusa . . . which the expeditions of Hernando de Soto (1540) and Tristan de Luna (1559) had probably visited.
In an earlier article, POOF told you that this village was actually 72 miles downstream from Kusa, but only 12 miles downstream from a large town with mounds, where Downtown Rome now sits. Its architecture and village plan were very different than typical of ancestral Creek towns, but very similar to those of the Mandan, Arikara and Hidatsu Peoples . . . 1200 miles to the northwest in North Dakota.
How could that be? It is yet another one of those situations of drawing lines between dots.
To read the POOF article on this village go to The King Village.
Until very recently the story of the Lower Southeast’s Pre-Anglo-American past was a mixture of misunderstood eyewitness accounts, discounted eyewitness accounts, folklore and provincial scholarship . . . in some cases, very bad scholarship. In general, academicians have no clue, what the indigenous words they put into their academic papers and dissertations mean. When artifacts are found in Pre-Columbian strata, such as bronze weapons and iron tools, they are sometimes mentioned, but never publicized . . . because these artifacts would conflict with orthodoxy.
North American anthropology students, who elect to specialize in archaeology, usually do not have the broad educational background in world history, languages other than English and architecture to adequately interpret the information produced by modern technology. As a result, they fall back on replications of what was said by past authority figures . . . i.e. their professors.
As a result, late 20th century archaeology professors threw out everything . . . eyewitness accounts, maps and folklore. They decided to base their interpretation of the past on the micro-analysis of artifacts alone. That is a very dangerous strategy, if one really knows exceedingly little about the people, who made the artifacts.
Here is an example. In 2005, the dean of Florida archaeology, Jerald Millinich, wrote an article in Archaeology Magazine about Jacques Le Moyne, the artist at Fort Caroline. Entitled, “The Devil in the Details,” Millinich concluded that Le Moyne’s water colors were fraudulent because they portrayed Indians with South American cultural traits, instead of Florida Indians.
Well no, Dr. Millinich . . . yours is an inverted deduction. All of the tribes on the GEORGIA coast were Panoans, Tupi or Peruvian Arawaks from northwestern South America. You see . . . that’s more proof that Fort Caroline was on the coast of Georgia, where all European maps place it.
Irish religious refugees and disenfranchised Vikings
The author of the first history of Georgia, William Bacon Stephens, matter-of-factly opened his1845 book by stating that early colonists in Georgia and the southern coast of South Carolina encountered Gaelic-speaking tribes, who appeared to be of mixed European-Indigenous heritage. He provided several references from the Middle Ages and European Contact Period to back up his history.
Stephens first referred to Antiquitates Americanae, a mid-19th century book by Danish historian, Carl Christian Rafn. Several Irish and French monastic journals record the emigration of Gaelic Christians from Ireland, plus Arian Christians and traditional pagans from around Dublin, across the ocean to “Whitmannsland.” Norman bishops in Ireland were particularly persecuting the Ossreigh People of Leinster, who adhered to the practices of the Gaelic Christian Church, such as having married priests. The Normans had conquered the Scandinavian colonies of Dublin and Wexford. Norman lords were seizing the assets of Viking lords and Scandinavian traders. According to the monastic journals, the Vikings in Ireland furnished the transportation for the Ossreigh refugees.
There is intriguing eyewitness information from the late 16th century book by Peter Martyr d’Anghierar . . . De Orbo Novo (The New World). In 1521, Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón, a wealthy sugar planter of Santo Domingo, dispatched Francisco Gordillo northward to explore the continent of North America, in anticipation of establishing a colony there. Upon reaching the Bahamas, Gordillo encountered his cousin, slave trader Pedro de Quexos (Pedro de Quejo). Their two ships sailed together to the South Atlantic Coast.
The expedition landed at the “River of St. John the Baptist”, where they kidnapped 70 natives to sell in Hispaniola. One, whom they named Francisco de Chicora, provided some ethnological information about his province of Chicora, and the neighboring provinces. The two men and their soldiers also visited neighboring provinces, but did not kidnap slaves there.
The most interesting story that they told later, was about the chief Datha of Duhare. Datha was described as having ornate designs painted all over his body. Spanish records described the people of Duhare as being light skinned and much taller than typical Spaniards. They raised dairy deer and used their milk to make cheese.
Ayllón led the establishment of the colony of San Miguel de Guadalupe, somewhere near the mouth of the Altamaha River in 1526. Over half of the 600 colonists, including Ayllón, died before the colony was abandoned.
* The version of this story that you read in Wikipedia has been altered significantly from what was originally said by contemporary sources in the 1500s. The altered version states that the natives mentioned were Siouans and that Chicora was in northeastern South Carolina. In fact, none of the words in Peter Martyr’s account of the Gordillo Expedition spoke Siouan words. French and Spanish maps place Chicora near Savannah. The commander of Fort Caroline, René de Laudonnière stated that Chicora and Chicola were the same places and located on the Savannah River. In fact, the Creeks living near the new colony of Savannah still had a cultural memory of De Laudonnière visiting them in his barque.
When reading the Martyr account of the expedition, I was surprised how accurate the description of the Durhare dairy practices was. These details seemed unlikely, if fabricated by a conquistador and a slave trader. I contacted the Consulate of the Republic of Eire in Atlanta, asking assistance in translating Gaelic words. Their office connected me to a professor at Trinity College in Dublin.
The professor told me that the only source of milk for the Irish, until the Vikings introduced dairy goats was from dairy deer . . . deer, who had been selectively bred over the eons to have large udders. Ossreigh meant “Deer People” in English.
The professor determined that ALL of the “Indian” words, recorded in the account of the Province of Duhare, were Early Medieval Gaelic! Duhare was the word for “Irish” during that era. Datha means “painted.” It is virtually impossible that either the Spanish slave raiders or Peter Martyr could have known Early Medieval Gaelic, in order to concoct the story. So Early Medieval Irish refugees and Scandinavian mariners DID colonize the South Atlantic Coast in the same time period (1150 AD – 1200 AD) when Ocmulgee’s acropolis was permanently abandoned and Etula (Etowah) was temporarily abandoned.
1527 – Vesconti Maggiolo Map
The second expedition of Giovani da Verrazano for King Francis I of France sailed down the coast of North America. Veconti Maggiolo prepared a map of the voyage from Verrazano’s log and nautical charts. Somewhere along the coasts of present day Georgia and northern Florida, Maggiolo labeled towns named Normanvilla, Angleland and Longvilla. Norman means Scandinavian or Viking, while villa means “village.” It is odd that Maggiolo used the Scandinavian-English word for long in the other town’s name. Angleland is the Old Anglo-Saxon word for both their original home in southern Denmark and their new home, England. Long in Italian is lungo, which is derived from a Goth word. The Goths were originally from Scandinavia. In Swedish, the town’s name would have been Långby.
Långby had a colloquial meaning, however. It was the name that the Viking Age Scandinavians gave to port villages along coastal rivers, which were used as bases for raiding (Vikinger) or trading (Russinger) in the interiors of foreign lands. It is highly unlikely that an Italian sea captain and cartographer would know this in 1526!
The legend of Prince Madog
William Bacon Stephens’, History of Georgia, immediately jumps into a discussion of Prince Madoc. Prince Madog ab Owain Gwynedd (aka Prince Modoc) was a Welsh noble, who had a falling out with his family and was on the losing end of battles with the Normans in England and other Welsh princes. According to obscure, Medieval Welsh oral legends, he took colonists to a land across the Atlantic Ocean in three voyages.
Prince Madog’s voyages corresponded to the exact same time period as the Irish refugees and Scandinavian-Irish mariners were sailing to the South Atlantic Coast. Madog’s port of departure, Llandrillo, was only 100 miles east of Dublin. It is quite possible that if these voyages from Wales really did occur, the Welsh emigrants also traveled in the sturdy Scandinavian sea craft.
The earliest published reference to a seafaring Madog appears in a cywydd by the Welsh poet Maredudd ap Rhys (fl. 1450–83) of Powys, which mentions a Madog who is a son or descendant of Owain Gwynedd and who voyaged to the sea. Another mention of the Madog legend appears in a sixteenth-century manuscript by Welsh antiquarian and politician Humphrey Llwyd and was popularized after it was reproduced in historian David Powel’s History of Wales (1584).
Philosopher and astrologer John Dee and merchant and adventurer George Peckham both incorporated the Madoc story into their writings of 1580 and 1583, respectively, to justify England’s prior claim on land in the Americas. Sir Thomas Herbert later incorporated the Madog story in his popular book, A Relation of Some Yeares Travaile, Begunne Anno 1626 (1634).
Mixing Mandans with Prince Madog
Throughout the 1700s there were rampant rumors of white-skinned, Welsh-speaking Indians within the interior of North America. At one time or another, at least 12 tribes were claimed to be descended from Welsh colonists. As has been mentioned in early POOF articles, pioneer archaeologist, Charles C. Jones, Jr. stated that stone ruins were endemic in North Georgia and Northeastern Alabama, when the first Anglo-American settlers arrived. Farther north in Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio were large enclosures, built out of field stone. Many settlers immediately assumed that these stone ruins and the remnants of fortified Native American towns immediately assumed that Europeans, in particular the Welsh colonists had built them.
In 1674, Virginia explorers, James Needham and Gabriel Arthur, had encountered white Anatolian Christians, North Africans, Spaniards and Portuguese in the Southern Highlands. In the 1690s, Governor James Moore of South Carolina encountered Spanish-speaking whites in the North Carolina and Georgia Mountains. Nevertheless, the belief in Welsh-speaking Indians continued throughout the 1700s.
In 1810, John Sevier, the first governor of Tennessee, wrote to his friend Major Amos Stoddard about the conversation he had in 1782 with the old Cherokee chief Oconostota (or Ostenaco) concerning ancient fortifications built along the Coosa and Alabama Rivers. The chief allegedly told him that the forts had been built by a white people called “Welsh”, as protection against the ancestors of the Cherokee, who eventually drove them from the region.
Colonel John Sevier claimed that Ostenaco, the War Chief of the Overhill Cherokees, had told him that there were “men, who called themselves Welsh” living in Northeastern Tennessee and North Carolina, when the Cherokees arrived. These men sowed grains and plowed with horses. The elderly chief stated that the Cherokees had killed or driven them off. Sevier had also written in 1799 of the alleged discovery of six skeletons in brass armor bearing the Welsh coat-of-arms. Contemporaries of Sevier also claimed that Cherokees had told them of the Welsh-speaking settlers in their new realm. Some said the Cherokees called these Welsh, “moon-eyes.”
Well, there are several problems here. The Welsh-speaking Welsh called themselves Cymry, not Welsh. Somewhere along the line, the Cherokees had been persuaded to substitute the words, Welsh men for white men.
Also, Ostenaco died in 1780! He had been dead for two years when Sevier supposedly had this conversation. In 1780, Sevier and his former neighbor in Shenandoah County, VA , Colonel John Tipton., were recruiting their former neighbors to relocate to Northeastern Tennessee, because it looked like the British were going to win the Revolution. So Sevier was either 500 miles away from Ostenaco’s town or leading a wagon train.
The general assumption that all early white colonists were descendants of Prince Madog’s three expeditions is inexplicable. In 1658, Charles de Rochefort’s book had stated that the High King of Apalache had allowed Englishmen and Spaniards to settle on the northern frontier of his realm (North Georgia, Northeastern Tennessee and Southwestern Virginia) to provide protection from “wild Indians,” who were pushing down from the north . . . most likely the ancestors of the Cherokees.
Lewis and Clark Expedition
In 1804, President Thomas Jefferson specifically instructed Captain Meriwether Lewis and Lt. William Clark to survey and study the Devils Backbone near Charlestown, Indiana. Jefferson suspected that these ruins had been built by Prince Madog. Actually, they are identical to some sites built in Peru by the Moche Culture. A Moche ceramic figurine was found near the banks of the Ohio River at the Devil’s Backbone.
Jefferson also instructed Lewis and Clark to look for proof of the Welsh-speaking Indians out west. While living with the Mandans on the Missouri River in present day North Dakota, during the winter of 1804-1805, Lewis became convinced that the Mandans were the descendants of Prince Madog’s colonists, who intermarried with Indians. This belief was primarily based on the fact that they were farmers and culturally more advanced than their Siouan neighbors.
One particular legend thoroughly convinced Lewis of this Welsh heritage. He wrote it down in his journal that the Mandans claimed that they had once lived far to the south among “a race of giants” who built their teepee’s of logs and came from “across the sea” and whose leader had promised to return for them one day. Lewis wrote that the local Native Americans, whom they lived near, supported their claims.
Of course, it was not unusual for Creek men to be 6 ½ to 7 feet tall. As can be seen in the illustrations at the top of this article and in this section, the Creek chokopa was shaped like a giant teepee and built out of logs.
The Institutionalization of Folklore
The Mandans at Ocmulgee
In 1934, James Ford was assigned by Arthur Kelly to excavate mound D-1 . . . unfortunately now named the Ocmulgee Earthlodge. Ford took on the task with three years of liberal arts education in Mississippi and part of a year, as a laborer at pueblo village sites in the Southwestern Desert Plateau. Kelly was gone much of the time and so daily supervision of all archaeological excavations at Ocmulgee was the responsibility of Joe Tamplin, a recent Civil Engineering graduate of Georgia Tech.
Ford immediately recognized the four timber columns within the “earth lodge” and then assumed that the people, who settled Ocmulgee were either from the Southwest or Mandans. Since dirt had been piled on top of the burned ruins of the structure, Ford eventually decided that Mandan Indians settled Ocmulgee. Of course, radiocarbon dating didn’t exist at the time. Neither Ford nor Kelly talked to the Creeks. They would have told him that it was a Creek tradition to burn abandoned buildings and cover them with dirt.
Ford’s interpretation of a Mandan presence at Ocmulgee is what the newspapers picked up on. No one asked about Ford’s qualifications to make such an interpretation. Georgians assumed that men called professional archaeologists by the federal government must be that. The tie between the Mandans and the Prince Madoc legend became stronger than ever.
After the Cherokees were forced out of Northwest Georgia in 1838, Anglo-American settlers in Murray County, GA found evidence of a much earlier presence of Europeans in their region. They found European artifacts and primitive iron tools associated with the ruins of houses with chimneys. There were several seemingly ancient mine shafts. One of the largest tunnels was a silver mine at the base of Fort Mountain. Rumors of the Cherokee folklore about “moon eyes,” who lived underground, spread around the communities. Pretty soon, all believed that Prince Madoc’s Welsh colonists had once lived in their midst and built the stone walls at Fort Mountain for protection against Cherokee attacks, 600 year earlier. Of course, the Cherokees were nowhere around in 1200 AD, but the white settlers didn’t know that. In the 1980s, the silver mine at Fort Mountain was dated to around 1600 AD.
In 1938, Atlanta businessman, Ivan Allen, Sr. gave the upper slopes Fort Mountain to the State of Georgia for a state park. The imposing mountain is located immediately east of Chatsworth in Northwest Georgia. On top of Fort Mountain is an asymmetrical oval enclosure, formed in part by stone walls in the shape of two serpents meeting at a ceremonial entrance. The gateway is aligned to the Winter Solstice Sunset . . . which marks the beginning and end of the Maya solar year. Exactly like the situation at the Old Stone Fort in Manchester, TN stone walls were only constructed where the soil was too shallow to support log palisades.
The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built a stone lookout tower at the high point within the enclosure. On it was placed a bronze plaque announcing Prince Madoc’s association of the wall and the Cherokee legend of the moon-eyes as factual. The plaque described the Cherokees as ancient occupants of Northwest Georgia, who watched “moon eyed people” build the walls. In fact, the Cherokees were only lived in Northwest Georgia for less than five decades before being forcibly marched to the Indian Territory. They were nowhere around when these walls were built.
In 1950, Chattanooga, Tennessee historian, Zella Armstrong, published, Who Discovered America? The Amazing Story of Madoc. The book was very popular in the Southeast for about a decade. It’s primary proof that a long list of Native American structures were built by the Welsh was based primarily on the assumptions that:
- American Indians were intellectually incapable of building stone structures.
- American Indians were intellectually incapable of building ditches and timber palisades around their villages.
- All stories of Welsh-speaking Indians, who nevertheless, called themselves an English name (Welsh) were factual.
- Chattanooga was the capital of the Welsh kingdom in North America.
- The Mandans were the descendants of Welshmen, who married Indian women. Their villages were originally concentrated along the Coosa, Oostanaula and Tennessee Rivers in Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee, until they were driven out by the Cherokee Indians.
The book is full of comical misunderstandings of Southeastern Native American cultures. For example, it has the Muskogee Creeks arriving in Georgia from Mexico around 1400 AD and driving the Cherokees out of the southern half of Georgia. It says that Muskogee means “from Mexico.” The actual Native American word is “Maskoki.”
In 1953, Hatchett Chandler persuaded Mobile’s Virginia Cavalier Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) to erect a marker commemorating Madoc’s alleged landing at Fort Morgan in Mobile Bay. The plaque stated, “In memory of Prince Madoc, a Welsh explorer who landed on the shores of Mobile Bay in 1170 and left behind, with the Indians, the Welsh language.” There is an identical plaque at the port in Rhos-on-Sea, Wales.
Several books were published in the 1960s and early 1970s that pretended to show proof that the Mandans were Welshmen or Irishmen. Tables were published that equated Mandan words with Welsh words.
From 1950 until the 1970s, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee school children were taught the Prince Madoc Legend as historical fact. Then in the late 1970s, archaeology and history professors began exerting heavy pressure on state boards of education to remove all discussions of Europeans arriving in North America before Columbus from their curricula. They presented “proof” that the Mandans were Siouans, closely related to their neighbors, the Lakota and Cheyenne, who had always lived in the Northern Plains. This goal was accomplished by the late 1980s.
The real Mandans
In 2014, Dr. Elizabeth A. Fenn, a highly competent professor of American history at the University of Colorado, wrote a comprehensive and accurate book on the Mandan, Arikara and Hidatsu. It is entitled, Encounters at the Heart of the World . . . A History of the Mandan People.
Fenn tossed out all the folklore about the Mandans being the mixed blood descendants of the Welsh. This folklore is given no credence at all. However, Fenn also produced solid, irrefutable evidence that the Mandans were not related at all to the Siouan tribes on the Western Plains. This was a myth created by American archaeologists that had no basis in cultural evidence, linguistics and genetics. The archaeology professors involved merely fabricated these prevarications in order to make the public think that they were experts on the Mandans.
Then Fenn subtly dropped a bombshell in the midst of recounting several Mandan Folklore stories. The Mandans had arrived in North Dakota in fairly recent times after migrating from the Southern United States. It was in their Migration Legend and stated in the oral traditions of several of their Siouan neighbors. Culturally, their closest relatives are the Caddo, Atakapa, Kadohadacho, Tunica, Nassoni and the Natchitoches of Louisiana. Linguistically, they have some connections to the Natches and Taensa (called the Taenasi by the Itsate Creeks). Taenasi is the origin of the word, Tennessee.
The Atakapa had an explanation of their origin very similar to that of the Mandan. Their oral history says that they originated from the sea. An ancestral prophet laid out the rules of conduct. In Part Two, POOF will discuss the Mandan oral traditions.
There is no cultural memory among the Mandans of being partially descended from the “Welsh” or any other non-indigenous people. This story was caca de toro made up by white Americans in the 19th century in a widespread effort to justify their ethnic cleansing of the indigenous peoples of North America. Their cultural memory begins on the Gulf of Mexico, where they lived on the west side of a large river and a much more sophisticated people, speaking their same language, lived on the east side. The ancestors of the Mandans, Arikara and Hidatsu had migrated northward until they had reached the headwaters of the Mississippi River then turned southward again till they reached the Missouri River then they had followed the Missouri to what is now North Dakota.
The Mandans WERE indeed . . . from Dixie.
In Part Two, we will trace the migration route of the Mandans and propose an explanation of how Mandan architecture could be built on the Upper Coosa River in the 1500s.
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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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