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The Miccosukee . . . their real history that you were never told

The Miccosukee . . . their real history that you were never told

Indiantown was originally a neutral trading ground, established by Seminole people living around Lake Okeechobee.  At that time, in the mid-1800s, the Seminoles lived in dispersed, remote extended family camps, deep within southern Florida.  They thought that they were on swampy land that the whites didn’t want . . . and they didn’t want whites bringing their diseases and vices into their adopted homeland. 

The previous article, written by a teacher in Indiantown in 1917,  marked the exact moment in history, when white families began establishing large farms around Indiantown, quickly driving out most of the Seminoles.  Today, Indiantown is an unincorporated community of over 6,000 residents, of whom about 2.3% are Native American.

The descriptions of the modern histories of the Seminole and Miccosukee Tribes in Florida that one reads in references, such as Wikipedia, are generally accurate, but the early histories are increasingly off-base the farther one goes back in time.  Caucasian academicians still don’t understand the complex history of the People of One Fire (aka Creek Confederacy), the Seminoles and the Miccosukees, plus now they have to adjust the history of the Seminole and Miccosukee Tribes to be compatible with bogus Cherokee-Hernando de Soto history, created in the 1970s and 1980s.

The Miccosukee Origin and Migration Legends will be thoroughly examined in the next article of this series, but first we should explain exactly who the Miccosukee People are.

seminolecamp1

The modern Muskogee Creeks in Oklahoma are the descendants of a confederacy, created by the town of Koweta in 1717.  However, they are not the descendants of all the ethnic groups that eventually joined that confederacy nor was Koweta a member of several earlier confederacies.  Koweta was an enemy of the first “People of One Fire,” which was composed of the Alabama, Chickasaw, Kusate and Apike Tribes.  The Ichese Creek Confederacy was another enemy of the first “People of One Fire”.  It was composed of tribes, who spoke dialects of  Itsate (Hitchiti), which evolved from the languages in Mesoamerica.  Creek families in Georgia and South Carolina still have a vague memory of a horrific three-way war between the Upper Creek Confederacy, the Ichese (Ochesee) Confederacy and a Muskogee-speaking confederacy.   It apparently happened in the late 1600s, but this is not certain.

These Miccosukee gals are identical to the indigenous peoples of Southern Mexico.

These Miccosukee ladies are identical to the indigenous peoples of Southern Mexico & Central America.

Emperor Bemarin (Brim) of Coweta established Mvskoke (Muskogee) as the official parliamentary language of the 1717 confederacy, but it is an established fact that Itsate (Hitchiti) was the predominant Native language spoken in Georgia throughout most of the 1700s.  There were several other languages spoken by members of the 1717 confederacy, which include Highland Apalache, Uchee, Southern Shawnee, Chiska, Cusabo, Kolima and Sokee.  However, in a generation or two, most of these minor languages died out, leaving primarily Itsate, Mvskoke and Sokee.

At the time of the De Soto Expedition (1539-1543) Itsate-speakers dominated southeastern Tennessee, the higher mountains of North Georgia and the region around Ocmulgee National Monument.  This reflects the original settlement pattern of Itza immigrants, who dominated key trade routes such as the entire length of the Little Tennessee River, plus trade path intersections and mountain passes.  However, during the late 1600s, the English-sponsored Native American slave trade, plus some catastrophic plagues drastically reduced Itsate populations.  They were pushed southward by the Cherokees, when the Cherokees were forced southward by the Iroquois Confederacy.

There was always resentment among Itsate speakers because of the use of Muskogee as a parliamentary language in the 1717 Creek Confederacy.  Although the descendants of advanced civilizations in Mesoamerica and powerful provinces in North America, they were often treated with contempt by the leaders of Koweta, Kusseta and Tuckabatchee, who spoke Mvskoke.  Repeatedly, Creek Confederacy leaders ceded Itsate lands to the British, while holding on Muskogee-speaking lands. 

The last straw for the “Hitchiti Creeks” was the Treaty of Fort Jackson in 1814, in which Creek General William McIntosh gave away all remaining Hitchiti lands in Georgia, even though the Hitchiti Creeks were allies of the United States and did not participate in the negotiations at Fort Jackson.  He did not cede any Koweta lands.  At this point, most remaining Hitchiti Creeks in Georgia either elected to assimilate with their neighbors, or move to Florida.  Thus, what had originally been the ethnic identity of the majority of Creeks, became a small faction in the Creek population that was forcibly moved to the Indian Territory in the 1830s.

Chiaha, one of the larger Itsate provinces sent some of its population into Northeast Alabama, while the remainder ended up in Southwest Georgia, where the Florida Apalachee had formerly lived.   The presence of the Chiaha in the Great Smoky Mountains is remembered today by the names of the Cheoah Mountain Range and Cheoah River near Fontana Lake.  After moving down into Florida, the Lower Chiaha became core members of an Hitchiti-speaking alliance in Florida.

While I was Director of the Asheville-Buncombe Historic Resources Commission,  the professors in a self-appointed group studying the route of the Hernando de Soto Expedition, received large payments from the State of North Carolina, the Biltmore House Corporation in Asheville, the Eastern Band of Cherokees and the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce.  In response, the initially routed these conquistadors through Asheville, even though there were no occupied towns in the French Broad River Valley at that time.  However, in the later publication of the book on the “Entrada” of Don de Soto,  he was routed along a 300 mile detour northward through NW North Carolina and NE Tennessee.  There were no trails or occupied Mississippian town sites to justify this totally illogical route.  At the time, De Soto was headed straight westward from Kofitachiki to Kusa in Northwest Georgia.  On the North Carolina detour, his men would have had to average 50 miles a day through the mountains to match the chronology of the De Soto Chronicles.  Also, the academicians had to avoid offending the Cherokees by place proto-Creek towns on Western North Carolina Rivers with Creek names. Actually, there was no logical reason for De Soto to pass through either North Carolina or Tennessee, but he may have skimmed their edges.

Once De Soto’s mythological route through the Middle Appalachians was orthodoxy, academicians had to joggle with the history of the Seminoles.  You see, the tribes, who formed the original Seminoles, were from the Southern Highlands of North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.  The existence of most of these tribal homelands was erased.  Chiaha was placed in far northeastern Tennessee on the headwaters of the Tennessee, which later in the book was labeled “the ancient homeland of the Cherokees for at least 10,000 years.” Chiaha was an important division of the Creek Confederacy, however.   So if what you read in Wikipedia doesn’t seem to make sense, it shows that you have a logical mind. Oh what tangled webs mortals weave, when at first they try to deceive.

There were NO Muskogee Creek towns on the Chattahoochee River, south of present day Fort Benning.  The Lower Chattahoochee River towns were Hitchiti, Apalachicola, Uchee, Shawnee, Chiska originally from Eastern Peru, Westo from SW Virginia, Tupi from the Amazon Basin and Panoans originally from eastern Peru, but more recently from the Georgia coast.  Eufaula was originally a Panoan town from the coast.  Most of the Lower Chattahoochee Creeks eventually moved to Florida and became Seminoles.

The Okvte or Okone were originally in the Okefenokee Swamp and on the Oconee River in Georgia and the Oconaluftee River in North Carolina and the Upper Savannah River in South Carolina.  Most of the surviving Okone first moved to Southeast Georgia and then into Florida after 1763, where they became core members of  an Hitchiti-speaking alliance in Florida.

The Tokee or Tokele were originally on the headwaters of the Tuckasegee River, Highlands and Sapphire Valley in North Carolina. When pushed out by the Cherokees, some moved to the Upper Tallapoosa River Basin and Middle Chattahoochee River in West Georgia and East-Central Alabama.  Their principal town was Tokahpasi (Tuckabatchee).   Some Tokee joined the Cherokee Alliance, where they were known as Toke-koa or Tokqua.   The two rivers in North Georgia, named Toccoa, plus the Tugaloo River, get their name from the Tokee. Many of the Tokee moved to northern Florida after the French and Indian War, where they became known as the Tokase.   The Tokase became core members of an Hitchiti-speaking alliance in Florida.

The Tamauli or Tamatli were originally located on the upper Altamaha River in Georgia, the Keowee River in South Carolina and the Valley River in North Carolina . . . where Tamatla and the Cherokee Casino are now located.  Their language was probably the closest to Itza Maya of any Creek province. Tama means “trade” in both Totonac and Itza Maya.   The Tamauli were once a very powerful province, but were decimated by plagues and British-sponsored slave raids.  Their remnants on the Altamaha mostly moved to Florida and became core members of an Hitchiti-speaking alliance there.  Those minuscule numbers of surviving Tamauli on the Keowee and Valley Rivers became Cherokees.

Sokee Town (c. 1790) on the Soquee River in Habersham County, GA

Sokee Town (c. 1790) on the Soquee River in Habersham County, GA

The Sokee or Soque (pronounced Zjhō : kē) formerly composed one of the most powerful provinces in South Carolina. They were located in the northwestern part of the state.  They spoke a Mesoamerican language, but it was not one of the Maya or Totonac languages.  Their name is pronounced exactly the same as the Zoque of southern Vera Cruz State, Mexico . . . who are the descendants of the Olmec Civilization.  That the newly discovered Miccosukee Migration Legend states that their ancestors migrated from this region, along the edge of the Gulf of Mexico to the Southeast, is strong evidence that they are one and the same.

The Native American slave raids and European plagues so decimated the Sokee’s population that most of the remnants were forced to join with the Cusabo Confederacy that ultimately moved westward to the Lower Chattahoochee River and joined the Creek Confederacy.  While the elite of the Sokee moved into Creek territory, some Sokee commoners stayed in the mountains and gave their name to the Soquee River in Northeast Georgia and Soco Gap on the western side of Maggie Valley, NC.  Although under Cherokee domination, they soon learned that they would have no role in the Cherokee Nation, when its government moved to Northwest Georgia.  For awhile those Sokee shared the fate of the Cherokees, but most of those ultimately moved southwestward into Creek territory after the 1818 land cession.  Culturally, they had little in common with the Cherokees.

Many of the descendants of Sokee, who stayed in the Creek Confederacy, are now members of the Thlopthlocco Tribal Town.

Miccosukee is the Anglicization of the Mikko Sokee, which means “Leaders of the Sokee.”  Apparently,  they are descended from the elite of the Sokee, who refused to join the Cherokee Alliance and therefore moved southward.  Descendants of the Sokee Commoners, who eventually joined the Creek Confederacy and lived around Thlopthlocco in Alabama, look just like the Olmec statuary.  The Miccosukee in Florida can either look like Olmec statuary or like Lowland Mayas.  Perhaps the original elite of the Sokee were descended from refugees, who fled Lowland Maya cities as they collapsed.   The newly discovered Miccosukee Migration Legend does state that they picked up remnants of other tribes, as the traveled northward along the edge of the Gulf of Mexico.

As stated in the 1917 newspaper article, published by the Palm Springs Post,  all the Creek Indians in Florida were called Seminoles by Caucasian Americans.  This did not change until the 1950s.   Also, academicians have seemingly been always unaware that there were distinct differences between the tribal divisions, who formed the alliance in Florida.   They originally spoke different languages.  Hitchiti, like Mvskoke is really a trade language, adopted so different ethnic groups in an alliance could communicate.   Even some of the vocabulary and grammar in the “Georgia Muskogee” used by some Seminole bands in Florida, is different than Oklahoma Muskogee.

The Confederate Congress granted full citizenship to members of the “Five Civilized Southeastern Tribes” in 1861. When Florida came back into the Union at the end of the Civil War, Seminole citizenship was redacted.  The US Congress did not grant full citizenship to many tribes, such as the Florida Seminoles until 1924.  

In 1950, a Congressional committee announced its intention to withdraw recognition of the Florida Seminoles as a tribe, since they did not have a tribal government.  This jump-started efforts to join all the Seminole bands into one tribe with a constitutional government.  The United States would then pay them for all tribal lands.  Muskogee-speaking Seminoles lived closer to towns.  It was feared by Hitchiti speakers that the Muskogee speakers would dominate the statewide tribe, so some Hitchiti-speakers refused to join the original Seminole tribe.  There were a significant number of Seminoles, who didn’t want to join any tribe, formerly structured by the US Government and be forced to live on a reservation in order to get federal hand-outs.  They wanted to maintain there traditional tribal band arrangement. There were many Seminoles, who did not want money, only clearly title to their traditional lands.  

This is when the word, Miccosukee, first appeared in the media. That was the name selected for one of the alternative tribes.  In 1957, the Seminole Tribe of Florida received federal recognition.  In 1962, the Miccosukee Tribe of Florida received federal recognition.  The traditionalist Seminole Nation of Florida and Everglades Miccosukee Tribe of Seminole Indians have never received federal recognition.

A confusing situation today

Many hold outs eventually joined one of the federally recognized tribes, but there are still numerous isolated pockets of fullblood or almost fullblood Seminoles, who refuse to join any large tribe. There were also many legitimate Creek communities in the northern half of Florida, which were never given the opportunity to join either Seminole tribe.  Florida is one of the few Southern states that does not offer state recognition.  The Florida Creek tribes are faced with the option of being merely incorporated groups of Creek descendants or fighting for federal recognition, which is hard to get.  

Well, the situation is really more confusing than that.   It was the Itsate (Hitchiti-speaking) Creeks, who began leaving the Creek Confederacy in droves, after half-blood British Tory and self-appointed Principal Chief Alexander McGillivray, began dispatching Upper Creek raids against pro-United States Creeks in Georgia and South Carolina.  Those raids continued until 1793.   So the majority of Creeks in the Southeast, who avoided being marched to Oklahoma are Hitchiti Creeks.  Their closest relatives are the Miccosukee and Hitchiti-speaking Seminoles, not the Muskogee Creeks in Oklahoma.  Hitchiti Creeks in the southern half of Florida are called Seminoles or Mikkosukee. Those in northern Florida or Georgia are often not aware of the genetic, cultural and linguistic differences between Muskogee and Hitchiti Creeks.  When they form state-recognized or non-recognized tribes, they invariably call themselves Muskogee Creeks. 

We have a situation today in which the only state-recognized Creek tribe in Georgia is in an area of Southwest Georgia, which was originally Florida Apalachee, but in the latter half of the 18th century was occupied by Hitchiti Creeks from the Southern Appalachians.  It is near the site where the Miccosukee last lived in Georgia, before moving to central Florida.  Muskogee Creeks NEVER lived there. 

For many years, this tribe called itself the Tama Muskogee Creek Tribal Town, but now also is known as the Lower Muskogee Creek Tribe.   The Province of Tama was in upper Southeast Georgia, where the Ocmulgee and Oconee Rivers join to form the Altamaha River and never was in southwest Georgia.  Nevertheless, the Tama Creek Tribal Town has an Itza Maya name and calls itself Muskogee Creek.

It’s an ethnological jungle out there, folks!

 

 

 

 

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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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