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The mind-boggling meanings of Yama, Yamasee, Yamacraw and Yamacutah

The mind-boggling meanings of Yama, Yamasee, Yamacraw and Yamacutah


Folks . . . this one is going to end up being really bizarre . . . but I just follow the evidence, wherever it leads me.


The Yamasee Confederacy was a late 17th century/early 18th century alliance of remnant peoples in the South Atlantic Coastal Plain . . .  mostly in the Georgia portion.  Southeastern anthropologists and historians periodically hold academic conferences on the Yamasee . . . without one of the self-described experts on the subject ever bothering to research the meaning of Yamasee.  If the academicians even knew a tidbit about the indigenous languages of the Southeast, they would have least know that Yamasee means, “Yama – descendants of.”    However, what does this root word, YAMA that is  in several geographical place names, mean?   The answer was not quite as simple.

Several years of research on the internet provided many alternative explanations . . . all of which did not seem to make much sense until late March 2017,  when I discovered that most of the sacred symbols of the Uchees and Creeks, were being carved on stones in southern Scandinavia, 2,000 years earlier.  So again, we are coming full circle back to the Bronze Age mariners, who apparently explored most of the known world.

The Horned Fertility God in Bronze Age Scandinavia became a demon spirit among the Arawaks  and a figure often seen in Proto-Creek art.

In Alabama and Georgia

In the Muskogee-Creek dictionary,  yama is defined as the Muscogee word for the Mobilian Trade Jargon . . . a Muskogean dialect with many Tabasco Maya words, which was originally spoken along the Mobile, Tombigbee and Black Warrior Rivers.  Hence, it was probably the language of the great town at Moundville, Alabama.  Yama has no other meaning in Muskogee other than being a proper noun.

In Itsate (Hitchiti) Creek,  the linguistic situation is a little more complex. They used generic label,  Yamasi, for all the Native provinces downstream from the Itsatate province of Tama on the Altamaha River.   The Itsate Creeks of Georgia called the indigenous inhabitants of present southwestern Alabama, Mapi-leMapi-le means “traders” in Northern Totonac and Huastec (Mexico).  That is also what the Mobile Indians called themselves.   The chroniclers of the de Soto Expedition wrote their name as Mabila.  Europeans typically interpreted a Muskogean B and a European P sound. French explorers wrote Mapi-le as Mobile

The main body of Katapas were in Georgia!

Yamacraw is the English name of the bluff overlooking the Savannah River, where modern day Downtown Savannah, Georgia sits. It is where the Colonial Province of Georgia was founded.   Georgia archaeologists vaguely state that Yamacraw is a Creek word, but it is not listed in any contemporary Creek, Alabama, Koasati or Choctaw dictionary.   At a Southeastern Archaeological Conference held in Charlotte, NC 12 years ago,  North Carolina academicians argued that Cofitachequi,  Yamasee and Yamacraw were Cherokee words, whose meanings have been forgotten.  South Carolina scholars countered back angrily that they were Catawba words that are no longer in use. 

I wonder if anybody in South Carolina other than “the Catawbas” knows that the Catawba’s never called themselves by that name, until the British told them that was their name.   Catawba is actually the Anglicization of Katawpa, which was a Creek province with a Maya name that was located near Gainesville, GA.   The word means “Place of the Crown (or capital) in Itza Maya.” The Muskogean Katapas established a colony among Siouan tribes in northern South Carolina, whose capital was also named Katapa.

“Catapa” is mentioned several times in the chronicles of the Captain Juan Pardo Expeditions.  The North Georgia Katapa moved southward into West Central Georgia during the 1720s during the worst stages of the Creek-Cherokee War.  They were thereafter shown on maps as being members of the Creek Confederacy.  They disappeared as a separate branch of the Creek Confederacy in the early 1800s. 

The original map of Georgia by Emanuel Bowen placed the Yamacraw north of the Yamasee.  Yamasee means “Colonies of the Yamacraw.”

The name Yamacraw and the label of “Yamacraw Indians” on Georgia colonial maps just made no sense until 2013, when Marilyn Rae and I discovered that the Apalache Creeks of North Georgia and Northeast Alabama came from Peru.   The English ethnic name, “Yama People,” would be written as Yamacora (Yamacola) in the dialect of Apalache Creek, spoke in South Georgia.  Apalache speakers in Middle and North Georgia would use the word Yamate.  They called themselves, Apalache-te.  Either Yamacraw was the mispronunciation of Yamacora by South Carolina Indians or the Anglicization of the word.   So . . . the Yama People, whoever they were . . . were NOT ethnic “Muskogee Creek” Indians, but some of their remnants did eventually join the Creek Confederacy.

It is important to remember that the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Mobilian and Pensacola suffixes for “People or Tribe” are Apalache (South American) in origin.   Depending on the dialect, the word was cola, ocola, ocala or okla . . . as in Oklahoma.  In South Georgia Apalache, cora means “people or tribe” and  ocora means “principal people or tribe.”  No Choctaw or Chickasaw linguist ever picked up on that fact.


An architectural rendering of one of the four arms of the Yamacutah Shrine.  Two land surveyors described the rock engravings in detail.

Yamacutah is the name given in The Early History of Jackson County, Georgia to an ancient shrine, built out of quarried and field stones in that county.  Although Georgia Creeks vaguely remember that there was once a very sacred shrine in Northeast Georgia,  they don’t remember its name or exact location.   The only detailed description and name of the shrine is found in this book.  The book was published in 1911 by W. E. White and based on a hand-written manuscript, written by Gustavus Wilson in the 1840s.  This manuscript was based on the childhood memories of the author’s grandfather, whose family settled Jackson County, when there were friendly Creek Indians still living in the region.  The strange spelling of many Native American personal names in this book is probably the result of the words being passed orally down three generations.  Actually, most of those “Creek” Indians were Arawaks, whose ancestors were living at the mouth the Altamaha River, when Fort Caroline was constructed in 1564. 

The reason that Florida archaeologists can’t find Fort Caroline or its Indian neighbors in Florida is because Fort Carolina was at the mouth of the Altamaha River.  All European maps say so. From 1566 until around 1600, there was a bloody war between the Spanish and the densely populated indigenous peoples of the Georgia Coast.  At that time, the ethnic group that contemporary archaeologists call the Guale, lived immediately south of the Savannah River.   What few indigenous people that were left alive by the Spanish farther south, moved inland . . . either westward or northward.   By the mid-1700s, the Tamakua, who formerly lived about 21 miles north of Fort Caroline, now were living in Jackson County.  Their version of saying “Yama People” would be Yamakua.  The Apalache-te neighbors added their Maya suffix for people to Yamakoa and came up with Yamakua-te.   Early white settlers on the Georgia frontier Anglicized that to Yamacutah.

According to The Early History of Jackson County, Georgia,  the Yamacutah Shrine marked the location where a man (or deity), who had taught the Creeks the concepts of a monotheistic religion, advanced mathematics and social norms, which would enable them to live in harmony . . . disappeared before their eyes.  White actually said that it was God, who walked among the Apalache Creeks.  However, this may be an early 19th century fairytale.

A statute was carved out of a soft stone, portrayed the man looking up into the sky.  Stone statues with similar postures have been found in Guatemala, Easter Island and New Zealand.   The statues in New Zealand are associated with a red haired of large statue, who arrived in New Zealand many centuries before the arrival of the Maori Polynesians.  The descendants of the red haired aboriginal people of New Zealand still today compose a distinct Maori Clan . . . and they still have red or blond hair.   Their DNA has been traced to the southeastern tip of Iran, next to the Indus River Valley.   This location is also where half the DNA of the Aracara chicken of the Andes has been traced.  The other half of its DNA is from an indigenous, tail-less chicken-like bird in the Andes Mountains. 


The Yamapa (now Jamapa) River figured prominently in the Creek Migration Legends. It flows eastward from the Orizaba Volcano into the Gulf.

Yama in the State of Vera Cruz, Mexico

In the Totonac language of northern Vera Cruz and formerly, Tula (Teothuacan),  yama means an agricultural clearing in a dense forest where a multiplicity of plants are grown together in order to enrich the soil.  The better known Nahua (Aztec) version of this word is milpa.  This meaning of Yama may well be the root word of many place names in the Southeastern United States . . . perhaps not.

Without doubt, the “Bloody River” that flowed off a tall volcano, which stood alone, was the Yamapa River.   It is alternatively known as the Rio de Sangre  (Blood River) because the iron oxide on the slopes of the volcano stains the water red.   The Itza Maya word, Yamapa, means “Place where the Yama live,” so in this situation Yama was an ethnic group. 

The Yamapa River was the northern edge of the Olmec Civilization, but is where the civilization began. According to Zoque tradition, around 1200 BC, three flotillas of canoes arrived near the mouth of the Yamapa River, after paddling across the Gulf of Mexico . . . bringing advanced concepts of living.  The region didn’t even have pottery.  Remember pottery was being made along the Savannah River in Yamacora (Yamacraw) as early as 2,350 BC.   The Olmec Civilization would not have pottery until around 900 BC.   So . . . the Yama People first lived in the Southeastern United States or Cuba before at least some of their people paddled to Mexico.


The approximate date of 1,200 BC and the word, Yama, have extreme significance in Southern Scandinavia.  During the Late Iron Age and Viking Eras,   Yama was the name of one of the red haired frost giants, who lived in Scandinavia before the Norse people arrived.

During the Bronze Age,  Yama was the name of one of the two sun gods, worshiped by southern Scandinavians.   He was the god of the cold months and represented by the glyph on the far left.  The Sun Goddess of the warm months was symbolized by the glyph from Bormholm Island, shown above.  That glyph also represented the High Priests or High Kings of those peoples.  The same symbol 2,200 years later represented the Great Suns (High Priests or High Kings) of both the ancestors of the Creek Indians and the Mayas!

During the past year, the Genetic Laboratory at the University of København (Copenhagen) discovered that the genes, which cause modern day Scandinavians to have blond or red hair and blue or gray eyes originated in the extreme southeastern tip of Iran . . . the exact location where the Aracara chicken’s partial ancestors and the original New Zealanders lived.

The Sun Goddess of the Highland Apalache in Georgia. plus the Bronze Age peoples of western Spain, western France and pre-Gaelic Ireland was named Amana.  She was symbolized by a spiral or the symbol seen on the Boulder 6 at Track Rock Gap.  With exception of the area along the Savannah and Ogeechee Rivers, the Sun God of the peoples living in the coastal plains of Georgia and South Carolina was named Atoya.  He was also the original god of the Andes Mountains.


The boats engraved on Georgia’s Tugaloo Stone are identical to Bronze Age Scandinavian boats and very similar to those in the Indus River Valley.


Southeast Iran,  the Indus River Valley and Eastern Asia

Yama was the name of a semi-mythological, great king, who ruled over a kingdom of the same name at the southeastern tip of Iran and possibly the Indus River Valley.   He was said to be a red-haired or blond giant.   His home kingdom was known for its great mariners.   Whereas most of the city states were known for their merchants, they were also landlubbers.  On the other hand, the ships of the Kingdom of Yama plowed the waters of the Indian ocean, the sub-continent of India and even Southeast Asia . . . bringing rare commodities to the Indus Valley from far, far away.

In the Hindu religion, which developed after the collapse of the Indus Valley Civilization,  Yama changed from a semi-mythological god-king to the horned Lord of Death.  A deity named Yama or Yemi can be found in virtually all the cultures of southern and eastern Asia.  In some countries, he is the Sun God.  In others, he is a fertility god or perhaps a demon, like among the Arawaks.  Yama was originally the word in Japanese for a mountain god, but now just means mountain.  Some of the red-haired mariners from southeastern Iran sailed as far as New Zealand and colonized it.  However, the word, yama, does not appear as a place name in New Zealand.

The progenitors of the first civilization in Peru, had red hair and were extremely tall.  We know that they called themselves the Paracusi and that this was also the name of the elite classes among the peoples of the Southeast, who were to become the Creek Indians.  The remains of the Paracusi-ti are the seven feet long skeletons found in many proto-Creek royal burials.  When and how the migration of the Paracusi-ti  occurred . . . we do not know.

It is clear that the Bronze Age peoples of southern Scandinavia and southeastern Iran had an extraordinary cultural impact on many parts of the world.  However, the reader should avoid definitive interpretations of the appearance of the word, yama, in most continents.  There is still so much that we don’t understand about the ancient past of the Americas.






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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.



    Etymology of YAMA
    An alternate etymology of YAMA, with about the same meaning as MILPA, is Finnish:
    YAMA < yhä maa meaning 'kept land'.
    whre maa has the additional meaning of 'earth, soil, ground'. Together they mean 'cultivated land'.


    Richard T.

    Yet another great post. The similarities between the petroglyphs and the Bronze Age Scandinavian Fertility God at first sight isn’t that noticible until one takes a good closer look. It is an amazing find.
    The three circles in the face of the petroglyphs seem to be three eyes. Since it is believed that the redhaired people are connected to the Bronze Age people and some of the natives in the Americas ‘ve done some research and found that in Tibet Yama is the lord of death and the statues and paintings of Yama is depicted with 3 (three) eyes.

    Source Links:

    Yama (in Tibet) lord of death – statue:

    Yama (in Tibet) lord of death – painting:


    Interestingly, I found a strange presence of Neolithic / Bronze Age DNA in South American indigenous people.
    Y Haplogroup T is usually associated with the Neolithic populating of riverways and megalith sites in Europe.
    It is also present in 20 to 27% of Panchos, Quechuas, and Movimas of South America.
    This is significant, because the mainstream wants to say the haplogroup came here during colonial times…but the only European group to have that high of a percentage of Haplogroup T did not come to America during colonization, and are an extremely small, isolated population.

    Only an idiot would try to pass that off as genetic drift or founder effect!

    If you listen to the mainstream, y haplogroup Q is the only indigenous Y Haplogroup of the Americas. But dig a little deeper and you’ll find we also have plenty of C (Anasazi, Eskimo, and several South/ Central American groups), lots of R and P, mainly in the North-West, and the Y Hap T (which is usually associated with Neolithic master mariners of the Aegan).


      Y Hap T is also often associated with the “Sea Peoples” of Europe. Kind of a similar name to the “Water People” of SE Georgia named in the Creek origin legend.


    Interesting, another place named Yamacraw was located in Pearl river Co., MS west of Picayune, MS. on the east bank of the Pearl River. In one of his many books (( published in 1965) on that area S. Grady Thigpen says it was an Indian name indicating Yamacraw Indians lived there once, and their ancestral home was near the mouth of the Savannah River in Georgia. It was changed to Pine Grove, but my maternal Grannie who lived near there as a child always called it Yamacraw. There were many Choctaw living in that area in north Pearl River County before removal when some went to Oklahoma & others hid in the swamps. Some of my ancestors on that side of the family married, lived amongst & helped their relatives & friends avoid going west. A bit of a different story of how the Creeks in GA were treated. I guess swampy, heavily forested land wasn’t so good for growing cotton in that area as it was elsewhere. During the Civil War this same area was a hideout for Confederate soldiers avoiding both armies, who had in the last year of the war decided they would stay home to save their endangered & starving families & were inspired by Newt Knight of the Free State of Jones. In Hancock & Pearl River & nearby Louisiana there were over 250 men who took to the swamps like some of their Choctaw ancestors had about 30 years earlier.


    Hey Richard,
    Is it funny how all the evidence circles back on its self. The evidence for Bronze age contacts all over the world seem to lead to many peoples moving all over the globe for extended periods of time.
    I have been looking but cannot find any updated material on Yamacutha, the latest was from 2016. Have you heard anything since? It seems Yamacutha has disappeared again. I seem to remember you were staying away from this because the “Mayan in Georgia” thing was still hot and you did not want that to distract from the study of the site.
    I find it fascinating that you and other readers use language to trace people back to there homelands. It seems to me that many of the important names, like gods, Kings, the names of the people, certain geographic features and many everyday items do not change much over the centuries.
    Thanks again for a wonderful article!

    • Hey Wayne
      I have heard nothing about Yamacutah since then either. They told me that the county had hired the same South African archaeologist, who worked at Track Rock and that he had found the ruins of the shrine . . . but Jackson County cut off all communications with me at that time. More weird Dixie politics.



        Johann Loubser!!!! LOLOLOLOLOL!!!!
        They really want the truth I see ! The blind man said to this deaf son before he hit the wall. Best laugh today!


          When I inquired about my own family genealogy I was shown a family on the shores of coastal Georgia, in a dream. The elder copper-colored man walked me from the waters onto the sand to his home along the beach. There was a huge oversized turtle he told me was very sacred and he shared much with me. What was the most strange about this dream was there were no other races on the planet but those who looked like him and yet he told me he was Indigenous to the land. When I awoke I was very perplexed because of how strange it all felt. He never spoke with words or by mouth but in a way I understood completely. Up until then I believed the myth of the Native American story indoctrinated and planted into our memories (subconscious mind). It was then I realized there were aboriginals ancient to this land we call America. I’ve had many strange dreams that I later confirmed with scholarship. When I did my ancestry, I saw distant cousins who had Native American DNA like me but were classified as having “Andean Native American” which again perplexed and confused me since they were from South Carolina and North Carolina regions! One distant cousin looked EXACTLY like the bearded man I saw in my dream! So right now I’m watching “Lost Treasures of the Maya” and the new “discovery” of the Snake Kings of Guatemala and what does the narrator say? The Turtle Lords were the noble. Amazing facts I find in our historic mythology and history everyday.


    Richard, Another Great article!!! The Olmec’s as they are mostly called, created a calendar of 260 days and one more calendar that was a much longer count starting at 3114 BC. The carbon date found in the mud of the Great pyramid of Giza used to fill in some flaws at the top is dated to 3100 BC as well. Perhaps a connection? These very tall red haired people are noted to have lived in Mexico before the Aztecs.
    The ancient city noted in the Torah called “Assur” is carbon dated to 2600 BC. So these Red haired people who lived around the middle East from Libya to the Indus valley were the seafaring Amorites and some of which married Hittites women and became the “Hebrews” of the Torah. The Earth wobbles a little as it rotates and that cycle takes 26,000 year for one cycle to complete and perhaps a possible connection of the Olmec’s base 260 day calendar. Among these people were the “Nephilim” or “the men of renown” who had a brain that was bigger and had advanced mathematical understandings for that time. The Paracussis nobles of North Georgia could have been the same based on your findings of alignments of ancient cities for hundreds of miles. “Teotihuacan”: Nahuatl scholar Thelma D. Sullivan interprets the name as “place of those who have the road of the gods” and the Paracussis did state that they had created a road into Mexico long ago from Georgia.


    The Mobile people called themselves ” yama”. This is attested to not only in historical records, but also in Mobile Trade Jargon.

    • Yama means “yes” in the Mobilian trade jargon. It was used by some tribes as a name for the trade jargon, but Mobile Indians called themselves Mapile. I have a Mobilian dictionary. Name me a map which as Yama Indians on the location of the Mobile.


        I’m going by translated accounts only. Please excuse my ignorance. Once I get home , I will link you that 1770’s map , and will search for that reference to mobile = yama.

        • Well, as I said, I have the Mobile dictionary. In the frontispiece the book says that several other tribes used the word Yama for the Mobilian Trade Jargon, but no one knows why because that was not the name that the tribe called themselves. Yama is the Mobile word for “yes.” You have to watch out on secondary references, because folks that don’t really do their homework will equate a language . . . which was actually not spoken by the Mobile as the equivalence to their tribal name.


    I keep noticing references to red haired Creek people, as if to suggest they were caucasians or white Europeans. Is that what is being implied because you never come right out and say it? I ask because I’m of Creek descent and, if that is what is being implied, please share your evidence to support such a claim.

    Besides the fact that red hair is not exclusive to Europeans, even still it would necessarily be a recessive trait. Yet, for some strange reason it seems to be one of the very few physical traits of these people being focused on. Seems like a bit of cherry picking (or strawberry), honestly. After all, red and blond hair occurs in my family but not one of them would be confused for being caucasian.

    There seems to be an attempt at to connect these people to Europe, and wights by proxy, at every turn. If I didn’t know any better, I would suspect a form of reconstruction is taking place on this site, a very subtle attempt, at least. I say this because neither De Soto, nor anyone providing first-hand accounts, said anything about running into European looking people as they were sizing up the place for plunder. Then again, maybe it slipped their minds.

    Help me out. Are these the same Creek people whose farms, land and even identities taken (Indian-ness removed) and enslaved by colonizers? I realize various tribes enslaved each other but records indicate it was a very different phenomenon to the chattel variety imposed by Europeans. Were any of the red haired Creek people slaves or were they they the Paracusi elite?

    I have read a plenty first hand accounts by historians living amongst the Creek but never any mention of them looking Scandinavian. Nor I have ever read any such ridiculousness in records by Bueau of American Ethnology either–hell, any official records for that matter.

    What are you trying to suggest, Mr. Thornton? I’m trying to see where you’re going but having troube with these confusing accounts.

    • You need to read a whole series of articles to understand how fast our research train is moving. A good place to start is our Youtube Channel and in particular the five videos on the petroglyphs in

      A brief reading of one article probably would be confusing, if all you knew about the Creeks came from Wikipedia or a state history textbook. The Creek Confederacy was an alliance of many ethnic groups, almost all of whom were the products of many ethnic groups mixing together, who originated in several parts of the Americas. One of the most important divisions of the Creek Confederacy was the Uchee, who have always claimed to have crossed the Atlantic Ocean from the “home of the sun” and landed at the mouth of the Savannah River. So there is no such thing as “pure-blooded Creek Indian.” The same is true in a lesser degree for most other Southeastern tribes, especially the Cherokees. Nevertheless, never talked about red-haired Creeks. What we do discuss is a very tall red-haired people, who originated at the southern tip of Iran, but seemed to have traveled all over the world. They were the first inhabitants of New Zealand, for example. They are now called the Red Haired Maori, but were not originally Polynesians.

      The ancestors of most people today in Scandinavia did not arrive in that region until the Late Bronze Age or Iron Age. The inhabitants of Scandinavia during the Neolithic, Early Bronze Age and Late Bronze Age had dark complexions, black or dark brown hair and brown eyes. The Creek Languages contain a few words that were also used by the Bronze Age peoples of Ireland and Scandinavia.

      Here is the URL for Part one of the series on the petroglyphs.


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