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The South American origin of the words Satilla (River), Santee (River), Satipo, Salicoa, Sutalee, Satikoa, Stecoah, Citigo and Santeetlah

The South American origin of the words Satilla (River), Santee (River), Satipo, Salicoa, Sutalee, Satikoa, Stecoah, Citigo and Santeetlah

Part Two . . . Southeast Georgia and the world of Pernell Roberts

A member of the People of One Fire from Waycross, Georgia’s plea in 2007 for help in unraveling the secrets of South Atlantic Coast ultimately resulted in a radical new understanding of the Southeast’s Pre-Columbian history.  However, you will probably not see that more accurate history in textbooks or Wikipedia anytime soon as long as occult  politics determine what is “the truth.”

The People of One Fire was formed late in the summer of 2006.   The immediate impetus for “email pen pals” becoming more formally associated was a press release issued by the Georgia Department of Transportation, which then was modified by the staff of the Museum of the Cherokee Indian then distributed as a press release to newsrooms throughout the world.  The Cherokee press release stated that archaeologists, contracted by the GDOT, were about to prove that Etowah Mounds was built by the Cherokees!   Well, the GDOT press release only stated that these archaeologists were going to prove that a town site near Ball Ground, GA on the Etowah River was built by the Cherokees and that the Cherokees had lived in Georgia for 1000 years.  That was bad enough.  The town contained the same type artifacts as found at Etowah Mounds!

In early 2007,  Michael Jacobs, the Historic Preservation Planner for the Southeast Georgia Regional Development Commission in Waycross, called me one day.   He introduced himself as a historian, who had been doing serious research on the early history of the Georgia Coast.  Michael asked if it would be possible for the People of One Fire to focus its research on the South Atlantic Coast for awhile.  By the way,  I proud to say that for several years, Michael has been SENIOR PLANNER of the consolidated South Georgia Regional Commission.  So he is much more than an historian! 

By late 2006,  Michael had become convinced that the history of Georgia’s Golden Isles was much more complex than was being painted by orthodox historians and archaeologists.  Many 16th century French and Spanish artifacts had been found along the Georgia Coast, whereas they were almost non-existent around Jacksonville, FL, were Fort Caroline National Memorial was located.  Michael had also identified the ruins of several large Native towns, visited by William Bartram in the 1770s,  which had somehow been missed by 20th century archaeologists.  What little archaeological work had been done on the coast at indigenous settlement sites tended to define these people by pottery styles with English names.

I told Michael that in fact, I had been born in Waycross.  My family had lived first in a garage apartment on the estate of the William’s Mansion then bought a house in Cherokee Heights.  My father had owned a short order restaurant on Oak Street, specializing in the new technological marvel, instant soft ice cream.  It was across the street from the old Waycross Auditorium and shared a party wall with the insurance office owned by actor Pernell Roberts’ father.  On many a weekend we had gone crabbing in the Altamaha River Delta with friends from Darien or fishing on the north beach at Jeykyll Island.  I had also spent over two weeks with two fraternity brothers from Georgia Tech as castaways from a hurricane on an uninhabited Cumberland Island.    Thus, with such intimate ties,  he could count on me taking a personal interest in the heritage of the Golden Isles.

Unfortunately,  we were at that time up to our necks in alligators . . . political alligators. POOF could not immediately help Michael Jacobs.  By that time, we had figured out that prior to the 2006 state elections, a feminist cult that in most parts of the nation is still associated with the Democratic Party, had cut a deal with the Republicans and organized crime in return for changing their political allegiance.  The effect was to give the Republicans virtual control of the state. After the elections, numerous women were placed in key state administrative positions. Quite a few of them were from families, associated with organized crime, in other parts of the United States.  They had miraculously been found to be more qualified than candidates from within Georgia or the Southeast. Almost immediately these women began concerted campaigns to erase Georgia’s Creek & Uchee heritage in order to replace it with a phony Cherokee history.

Why would a first priority in a wide range of state agencies be the creation of false Native American history?   The only explanation that we could find was that the Eastern Band of Cherokees in North Carolina had purchased a large tract of land on the south side of Yonah Mountain in White County with the intent of building a casino.  Simultaneously,  real estate agents, employed by the EBC, had attempted to  buy all the privately owned Indian mounds in the nearby Nacoochee Valley.  When that didn’t succeed, they were able to purchase several other Uchee or Creek mounds in the region . . . immediately declaring them Cherokee Sacred Heritage Sites.

While serving on the state history curriculum committee in the 1980s and early 1990s, my mother had repeatedly complained about a group of affluent, bisexual white women, who believed that they were reincarnated Cherokee princesses.  They had been successful in using their positions in state administrative positions and various commissions to alter the curriculum.  The state history syllabus originally had five pages on the Creeks and one on the Cherokees.  That was changed to a half page on the Creeks and six pages on the Cherokees . . . even though Creeks, Uchees and Chickasaws had occupied most of the state’s territory until after the American Revolution.

The new changes to history were much more severe – affecting the signs and exhibits in state-owned museums.  The annual Creek Celebration at Sweetwater Creek State Park was banned . . . with the excuse that the park was not associated with Native American history. The new generation of newspaper and TV reporters were publishing whatever these people said, without fact-checking.  Actually, the park’s lake and museum were BUILT on top of designated Native American village sites and the famous Sweetwater Creek Stela had been found on the park’s grounds.  It is on display at the museum. In addition,  some new archaeological consulting firms, capitalized with laundered drug money, were suddenly getting the lion’s share of state contracts.

Well . . . all of us involved with POOF were non-political.  Through the years, we had avoided involvement with partisan politics, Native American political organizations and public demonstrations.  As a result, we were initially powerless in stopping the efforts of these occult women.  The situation seemed hopeless.

Mission San Catalina de Guale changes everything

A couple of months after Michael’s call, I received another memorable telephone message.  An archaeologist with the American Museum of Natural History in New York City asked me to prepare architectural drawings based on the archaeological reports from their archaeologists’ work on St. Catherine’s Island.  Acceptance of the commission required my agreement to go through and study a large box of Spanish colonial archives in addition to all the paperwork created by the archaeologists.  I agreed.

I was simultaneously studying the few available archaeological reports on Etowah Mounds, in order to build a large model of the site for the Muscogee-Creek Nation.   That period of learning drastically changed my attitude toward official history.  The friars at Santa Catalina talked about being only a morning’s canoe ride away from the ruins of Fort Caroline on the Rio Secco (Altamaha River).  Fort Caroline could not have possibly been on the St. Johns River.  They also talked about large Indian towns with mounds and plazas being nearby.  None of those sites were now known to the public or mentioned in history texts.  Most the Coastal Native American words that archaeologists called “Creek words” were not Creek at all . . . but what language or languages were they from?  Michael was right.   The history of the South Atlantic Coast was an unfinished book that didn’t even have an accurate introduction.

My campsite on Lake Santeetlah (propane kiln on the right).  The kiln was stolen in March 2012 during the Mayas-In-Georgia controversy.

Over the years, one thing led to another. I spent most of the winter and early spring of 2010 in a campsite or a cabin in beautiful Graham County, NC – home of the Snowbird Cherokees.  While there, I made Creek and Mesoamerican pottery in order to pay for food and gasoline.  The Stecoah Community Center became interested in my work, because it was so different than that of any of the other potters, including the Cherokees.  The brochure from Stecoah stated that it was a Cherokee word, meaning “where the honey locust grows.”  (Okay!)  The only problem was that Stecoah was an English word.  The original Native American word for the community was Satikoa.  According to historians, the earliest name for the village was Satipo.   So the “honey locust” etymology couldn’t possibly be true.

I told this to the director.  She smiled just like other Graham County residents smiled when I told them that the Talula Highway there had a Creek name.  The next week, the director made a point of introducing me to Barbara Duncan, who is the Education Director/Grantwriter for the Cherokee Museum and the source for the “honey locust” explanation.   If her name sounds familiar,  she was the one on the PBS documentary, who stated that the Cherokees originally occupied all of the Americas, were the first people to cultivate corn, squash and beans, plus were the ancestors of the Aztecs and Mayas.  Duncan became quite upset when I explained the real names for the town site.  She said that outsiders should not try to make up Cherokee history.   The only result of the confrontation was that Duncan demanded that my pottery be removed from the museum exhibit, since I was not a Cherokee.  However, 95% of the other pieces on display were by white potters – many of whom merely had a vacation cabin in the county.

My pottery that was on display at the Stecoah Community Center gallery

Highland Apalache in Northeast Georgia

When in 2013 Marilyn Rae and I were studying the 1658 book,  l’Histoire Naturelle et Morale des isles Antilles de l’Amérique by Charles de Rochefort, we were astounded that he described the Natives in Northeast Georgia as having mostly Peruvian cultural traits and that they spoke a language that mixed Itza Maya, Muskogean and some unknown tongue.  Their high king was entitled a paracusa-te.  Paracusa were the people who made the Nazca fieldstone effigies, while “te” is the Itza word for people.  De Rochefort also claimed that the bodies of the Highland Apalache were mummified, put on display for awhile then buried in mountaintop tombs.  It was the only aspect of the book that we found faulty.  A Peruvian presence in Georgia seemed ludicrous.  Peru was over 3,000 miles away and surrounded by the massive peaks of the Andes.

While doing research in 2014 for a book on Fort Caroline,  I noticed many Native American towns with “South American-sounding” names.  In particular,  there was the repeating root word, sati.  What language was it from and what did it mean?  The capital of a Native province, immediately south of Fort Caroline was called Satipo.  All historians and archaeologists named the tribe, the Satiuriwa or Satouriona.    HOWEVER, in 1567, Spanish explorer, Juan Pardo, had visited a town, named Satipo, on the Little Tennessee River near the the border of North Carolina and Tennessee.  Satipo was the original name for Satikoa . . . the word that evolved into Stecoah. 

Trying to find more info on the Satipo, visited by Juan Pardo,  I Googled “Satipo.”    To my shock,  I saw an article in the Spanish language Wikipedia on a Satipo, Peru.   It was the name of a province and provincial capital in Peru.  The indigenous word was Satibo.  It was a Panoan word that meant “Colonists – Place of.”   Some of the Panoan languages also used the word sante, which meant the same.  Sante? . . . that’s the same as the Santee River in South Carolina!

Again . . . one discovery led to another.   I eventually figured out that much of what Creeks consider to be their unique cultural traditions, such as the Swift Creek Pottery, Stomp Dance and Sacred Black Drink ceremony,  actually originated among the Panoan Peoples of Eastern Peru.  In fact,  many basic Creek words such as those for village chief, High King, beans, tobacco, sweet potato, canoe, ceramic bowl, Sacred Black Drink and Yaupon holly are Panoan words . . . not Muskogean or Itza.  

Here are two more classic booboos caused by the refusal of Southeastern anthropologists to learn the region’s indigenous languages.  (1) Remember the word, Satiuriwa, above?  It was NOT the name of the tribe or province.  Sati Uriwa  means “Colonists – King” in the Panoan languages of Peru.   The name of the province was Satile  (Colonists Kingdom) from which the Satilla River gets its name.  (2)  The Spanish coined the pseudo-tribal name, Timucua, from a tribe on the Lower Altamaha River in Georgia, named the Tamakoa.  In the 1700s, the Tamakoa had moved upstream to what is now Jackson County in NE Metro Atlanta!

A couple of more years of following the evidence, wherever it led me, and I came to the astonishing conclusion that at the time of first contact with French and Spanish explorers, most of the Lower Southeast was occupied by peoples from South America.   The major exceptions were in the Macon, GA area, North Georgia Mountains, the area around Charleston, SC, plus the Pee Dee River Basin, western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee . . . which were occupied by peoples of mixed Mesoamerican-Muskogean ancestry. 

At that time the Muskogee-speakers were concentrated along the Tuckaseegee River and Sapphire Valley in North Carolina.  Apparently, the Little Ice Age caused the Muskogee-speakers to soon move farther south, where the climate was more suitable for growing corn and beans.  They were militarily aggressive and by the early 1700s dominated all the branches of the Creeks and Uchees.

The South Americans in Dixie were not just Panoans.  The Apalache of Northeast and Middle Georgia were a hybrid mixture of Panoans, Uchee, Muskogeans and Itza Mayas.  The region between the Altamaha and Ogeechee Rivers in Georgia was Tupi.  Port Royal Sound and much of Southeast Georgia was Panoan, but there also Southern Arawaks north of the Okefenokee Swamp.   The Florida Apalachee did not call themselves that name.   They were actually Southern Arawaks.   Taino (Taena-se in Creek) were in eastern Tennessee and Upstate South Carolina.  Toa Arawaks were in eastern Alabama and western Georgia.  Virtually, all the indigenous peoples in Florida originated in South America or the Caribbean Basin.  The so-called Timucua were Middle Arawaks from the Orinoco River Basin in Venezuela and Suriname.  According to Charles de Rochefort, there were also some Arawaks in western North Carolina, but in earlier times they had been much more numerous there.

By the time that Charleston was settled in 1670,  stark changes had occurred in the ethnic and political landscape of the Lower Southeast. Most of the Arawak tribes were either extinct, in minuscule numbers or had become associated with the Proto-Creek Apalache Confederacy.   However, a catastrophic smallpox plague so decimated its numbers that the survivors concentrated at lower elevations.   The Cherokee Alliance soon moved southward to fill the empty spaces.  Nevertheless, the place names associated with a remnant South American populations survived.   These include . . .

Sante became the Santee River in South Carolina and Santeetlah Creek in extreme western North Carolina.

Satile became the Satilla River in Southeast Georgia and Sutalee Creek in North Metro Atlanta

Satile-koa became Salicoa Creek in Gordon County, GA.

Satipo became Satikoa then Setikoa then Stikoa then Stecoah in western North Carolina.

Citigo (Creek), Tennessee is a frontier Anglo-American pronunciation of Setikoa!

Ase-bo Island (Yaupon Holly-Place of) became Ossabaw Island, Georgia.

Toa-se became Towasee and Towasa.

Taena-se became Tanasee Creek, NC and the name of the Tennessee River, plus of course, the State of Tennessee!

Apalache became the Apalachee River in Northeast Georgia.

Apalache means “From sea or Amazon River* – descendants of.”  The word “Para” means “ocean” in some Peruvian languages.   In others, it means “river”  and others it means the entire Amazon River Basin.   Today,  Para’ State in Brazil includes much of the Amazon Basin.

The plural of ApalacheApalachen, became the Appalachian Mountains.

In the Youtube music video below,  the song, “Satipo,”  begins with a scene in which a young couple is wearing the exact same clothes that Charles de Rochefort stated were worn by the Apalache of Northeast Georgia . . . and most likely the Satile of Southeast Georgia.  You will see that the landscape of Satipo is quite similar to that of the Southern Highlands of the United States.  The province is particularly noted for its waterfalls and whitewater rivers.








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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.



    Richard, You are a smart man that has put some of the South’s history puzzle together. But you might look towards the East for some name and sounds connections all the way to the Luwian speaking people of the Mediterranean. As the Native elders have stated many nations arrived from the land of the rising Sun.

    • I have looked east . . . but ended up in Northwest Europe. There are Pre-Gaelic Irish and Pre-Germanic Swedish words in the Uchee and Creek languages. They date from the Bronze Age.


    Could the Towasa,Sawokli ( and Sabacola) of Northwest Florida also have come from there?

    • Tawasa is from Toasi – Cuban and Puerto Rican Arawaks
      Sawokli are the Soque from NE Georgia – also known as the Raccoon Clan – from southern Mexico
      Sabacola were from Sapalo Island, GA at the mouth of the Altamaha River – also probably from South America


    Too bad about your experience with the Director of the Stecoah Valley Center. Just know you’re not the only one to experience that sort of thing there.

    Also, I don’t get how the Cherokee “history” has evolved through the years. As a schoolkid in central NC we were always taught that the Cherokee were an Iroquoisian people who migrated down the lee side of the Appalachians from what is now the northeastern US in the 16th and 17th centuries. Now apparently they wrote the Book of Genesis and Sumerian texts to boot……..

    • Actually, when I was a consultant to the Qualla Cherokee Housing Authority, that is what was said in the tourist brochures given out at Cherokee, NC. The brochures said that the Cherokees did not build any of the mounds in the Southeast, but they made use of some of them as platforms for their council houses . . . which is true.


    awesome!! feels so great to know my heritage!!


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We are now celebrating the 11th year of the People of One Fire. In that time, we have seen a radical change in the way people receive information. The magazine industry has almost died. Printed newspapers are on life support. Ezines, such as POOF, replaced printed books as the primary means to present new knowledge. Now the media is shifting to videos, animated films of ancient towns, Youtube and three dimensional holograph images.

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