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Trade Words

The glossary emailed in the last newsletter is just a beginning. There are many more borrowed words in the Southeastern indigenous languages that provide evidence of regional trade. They do not need to be from outside North America, but rather merely reflect cultural exchanges between indigenous ethnic groups. I have a long list of Maya and Totonac words in Itsate, Mvskoke and Koasati that will be added in the near future. I had to finish construction of the terrace for winter squash in my experimental biochar garden this Memorial Day Weekend and was pushed for time.

Tunica, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Alabama and Natchez members of POOF have emailed us such words in the past, but now we have a web site to store that knowledge for future generations. The Shawnee and Yuchi were major players in the trade network. We can be certain that there are certain words in their languages, which reflect trading activities. Deborah “Amichel” Clinton, you are probably the leading expert on the Chitimacha and a brilliant linguist. We KNOW that you can help us. Joseph Creel, you have been working on-site this year in the land of the Biloxi and Chatot. Lend us your expertise. If there are any POOF readers, with special expertise in the Timucua and Calusa languages, we desperately need your help, too.

The search for the Apalache and Yama language

In fact, the information from the Gulf Coast region, where Joseph Creel has been working on an archaeological site, is probably a key link. Biloxi is the Anglicized French word for a hybrid people that called themselves the Palache or Apalache. Eighteenth century Creeks called them the Palachikola (Palache People). The small village that the French called Biloxi was just a tiny outpost. They also had a village in the Florida Panhandle, whose name, the Spanish extended to all of the Muskogean mound builders in NW Florida. “Now, you know,” as Tulsa’s favorite son, Paul Harvey, would say.

The main territory of the Apalache was right here in the Georgia Gold Fields. I live about a mile from the headwaters of the Etowah River, two miles from Amicalola Falls, and about 200 yards from a large Apalache village site. The Apalache’s territory ran from Amicalola Falls and the Etowah River’s source, southeastward along the Lakota Trail to the head of navigation of the Oconee River near Athens, GA. Unfortunately, since Robert Wauchope’s initial survey in the 1930s, Georgia archaeologists have not shown any interest in the cluster of Apalache villages in the Dahlonega area, where gold is so abundant.

By the time Savannah was settled in 1733, at least part of the Palachikola had migrated from the Blue Ridge Mountains and Foothills to southeast Georgia. They formerly had been in the Yamasee Alliance, but with its downfall, joined the Creek Confederacy. Presumably, they spoke the Mobilian Trade Jargon, which was called Yama. The word, Yama, is Totonac. In 1733, Chikoli, the Palachikola war chief, was one of the most influential members of the Creek Confederacy. He became a friend of General James Oglethorpe. Interestingly, the most prominent family of among the Snowbird Cherokees in Graham County, NC is the Chikolelee Family. The word means “Chikoli’s People” in SE Georgia Creek, but has no meaning in Cherokee.

Meanwhile, the new Native American archaeological museum in Dahlonega is called the Yahoola Cherokee Museum. It labels all artifacts, no matter what age, as Cherokee. Its sponsors told the Dahlonega Nugget newspaper that they wanted to use an “authentic” Cherokee name for the museum, since the Cherokees always lived here and Yahoola Creek flows through Dahlonega. The Cherokee Nation owned the area around Dahlonega from 1794 to 1824. Okay, all you folks in Okmulgee, OK can now stop rolling in the floor laughing.

Thank you for your help.

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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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