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Using words to explore the peopling of the Southeast – Part One

Using words to explore the peopling of the Southeast – Part One



The Creek and Cherokee languages are hybrid tongues like Modern English that represent influence from many older cultures in the Americas and Northwestern Europe. Loan words from as far away as Peru and Sweden tell a fascinating story of people, who came to stay . . . long ago. 

As late as the 1750s, translators were needed at Cherokee political gatherings so the 14+ bands that composed the alliance could understand each other.  Muskogee was a diplomatic language that the majority of non-Muskogee-speaking provinces, were forced to use in political meetings, when they joined the last version of the Creek Confederacy (1717).  The Chickasaw dropped out of the Creek Confederacy in the mid-1720s because of this requirement to speak Muskogee.  However, the actual word, Mvskoke, was not used until the 1740s, when it was introduced by the new Principal Chief, Malachi.

Algonquian, Shawnee, Cherokee and Muscogee-Creek use the Irish Gaelic suffix, , for “people or tribe,” while the other three Creek languages use the Itza Maya suffix, , and the Uchee used the pre-Gaelic/Pre-Scandinavian suffix, (often written in English as lee or hi). What is even more intriguing is that the Uchee and Creeks pronounce the word, re,  like it is pronounced today in Ulster,  Western Scotland and the Orkney Islands, not like it is pronounced in most of Ireland and Scotland. There is something terribly wrong in the current anthropology and genetics orthodoxy, concerning the peopling of the Americas.

Dictionaries for Choctaw, Muskogee-Creek and Cherokee were published in the late 19th century by ethnologists at the Smithsonian Institute, Bureau ofAmerican Ethnology.  Authors included Albert S. Gatschet. Cyrus Byington and John R. Swanton. All three, particularly Swanton, had grave errors in their translations of words, especially tribal and town names.  In the late 20th century and early 21st century,  Pamela Munro (UCLA) and George Broadwell (U. Albany, NY ~U. FL) produced much more accurate Choctaw dictionaries.  Jack Martin and Margaret Mauldin (University of Oklahoma) accomplished the same accuracy for Muskogee-Creek.  However, Martin and Mauldin were practically clueless in trying to translate the old town and clan names in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Tennessee, because they were not from the Muskogee-Creek language.  They were from other Creek languages, which are not spoken in Oklahoma. 

All of these ethnologists and linguists held something in common.  They assumed that Muskogean and Cherokee languages evolved independently in the Southeastern United States with little influence from other languages. They assumed that most Creeks spoke the same language throughout a vast section of the Southeast. They also did not understand how English had affected the spelling of Creek words in Oklahoma.  The actual Creek sounds produced, which are symbolized by the English letters V, L and R, have no equivalent in English.  Also,  G and some K’s are actually a sound that is halfway between a G and K,  like the G in Irish Gaelic.

This assumption is especially surprising for George Broadwell, since his current bio emphasizes his interest in Mexican indigenous languages.  In the 1990s Broadwell used computer modeling techniques to simulate a “proto-Muskogean language” from which Choctaw, Chickasaw and the Creek languages sprang.  He found that fitting Muskogee, Itsate (Hitchiti) and Miccosukee into the model was difficult.  His model assumed that each branch of the Muskogean languages broke off from each other as they moved eastward and had little contact later on.  That was not the case at all.  In fact,  Chickasaw and Kusate Creek towns typically were built side by side. Oconee Creek and Uchee towns were also built side by side.  The elite of the great province of Kaushe (Coosa) spoke a language that mixed Muskogean, Itza Maya and Peruvian words, but the commoners were Kansa and Chickasaw . . . often in close proximity to elite villages.

All of these scholars assumed that the Alabama and Koasati were closely related peoples.  They were not.  The Alabama were in southern Alabama and the Koasati originally were in an Itsate-speaking Creek-Uchee province on the Upper Tennessee River.  During the late 1700s,  remnant Koasate fled southward and began living among the Alabama towns. Alabama and Koasati towns were contemporaneously deported westward.  Over time,  Koasati evolved to be more similar to Alabama.

There was another error.  Anthropologists think that the Florida Apalache spoke a “Southern Muskogean” language.  They didn’t.  They spoke southern Arawak from Peru.   What scholars are calling a glossary of Apalache words is actually the Itsate language spoken by a band of Tamale Creeks from the Upper Altamaha River Basin, who were expelled from their land after converting to Roman Catholicism.  Their language was very similar to modern day Hitchiti-Creek and Miccosukee.  They established a village around a mission,  whose priest wrote down their language.  All but one of the surviving Florida Apalachee village names cannot be translated by any Muskogean language, but can easily be translated by an Ashinanka-Arawak dictionary from Peru. We will talk more about the Apalachee in Part Two.

Broadwell’s computer model gave these dates for the appearance of various members of the Muskogean language family. He is unaware that most Creeks in Georgia spoke Itsate (Hitchiti) until the late 18th century.  Linguists got it all wrong,  The most northerly Creek language was Itsate, not Muskogee, and they completely left out Apalache (Apalachicola), which was spoken in North Georgia and in the Chattahoochee River Basin.

Pealing the multiple layers of a linguistic onion

Until 2006,  I assumed that if an anthropology professor from a major university published something, it must be true . . . and merely replicated what that person wrote in my architectural analyses.  However, I quickly noticed that houses in the first phase of Etula (Etowah Mounds) were identical those in the suburbs of Chichen Itza and those in the second phase were identical to Totonac houses.  I looked up “house” in Totonac and Itza then was shocked to learn that Totonac, Itza and Itsate-Creek all use chiki for house. Choctaw, Chickasaw, Alabama and Muskogee use the Itza word for warm, choko, for house.   Then I realized that Etula itself was a pure Itza word, which rooted in the early history of Mexico.  That discovery set me off into surrealistic linguistic journey into the past in which month by month, year by year,  the ethnic history of the Southeast became increasingly complex.

Among the hundreds of thousands of students and graduates in anthropology, linguistics and Native American history during the past 150 years, no one ever thought about picking up a Creek dictionary and comparing it to a dictionary of one of the indigenous Mexican languages.

A video will be produced in 2019, which integrates my interpolation of linguistics with cultural history and archaeological discoveries.  In this article, I will provide the readers with an overview of what appears to be the actual chronology of the Southeast’s cultural history.  As geneticists recently have finally admitted,  the aboriginal peoples of the Americas were highly mobile. Over time they moved their camps and villages over vast distances in the Americas.  In the process individual bands, tribes and ethnic groups mixed, producing new bands, tribes and ethnic groups.

Overview of the cultural history of the Southeastern United States

Home Erectus, a hominid that knew how to use stone tools and fire,  reached northeastern China 1.66 million years ago.  Primitive homo sapiens,  Neanderthal and Denisovan,  were in eastern Asia 300,000 years ago.  A primitive version of modern Homo Sapien apparently reached East Asia 140,000 years ago.  In the late 1990s,  underwater archaeologists, employed by the State of Georgia, found Neanderthal type tools at several camp sites on the ocean floor off Sapelo Island, Georgia.  They were terminated, when they announced their discoveries to archaeological societies and the artifacts disappeared. 

More recently,  stone tools and butchered animal bones, found near Los Angeles, CA have been dated to 130,000 BP.   The oldest artifacts at the Topper site on the Savannah River have been dated to 50,000 BP, but have not been fully accepted by anthropologists in other areas of the United States.  The University of Tennessee has resumed work at the Topper Site, so perhaps we will soon learn more about these ancient artifacts. The earliest solid radio-carbon date for definite stone tools and weapons at the Topper Site is 20,000-16,000 BP so that will be our starting point.

1. Paleo-American hunter-gatherers (c. 20,000-16,000 BP) – Small bands of humans hunted and fished in the Southeastern Coastal Plain and Coast during the Last Ice Age.

2.  Clovis Culture (13,000 BP-10,000 BP) – The Clovis Culture originated in the Southeastern Coastal Plain and then spread westward and northward.

3. Small game hunters and fishermen (10,000 BP – 4,000 BP – Small bands of indigenous peoples migrated seasonally across the landscape in search of food sources. They established permanent village sites with formal burials near the coast.  These people definitely knew how to weave textiles and nets.  They were culturally very advanced for their time.  Under water burials at the Windover Pond Archaeological Site in Florida have been dated to 6,990 to 8,120 years old

4. Pan Atlantic Culture (6,000 BP-4,400 BP ) – The Muskogee word for water, ue,  is the same as that used for water on the western edge of aboriginal France.  It’s  derivative in modern French is their word for water, eau.  Eastern and Middle Arawaks use the word ueni for water. It also seems related,  The aboriginal population of Muskogee speakers in the North Carolina Mountains, northeast of Franklin, NC were apparently descended from this ancient culture. All the other Muskogean languages use the word, oka, for water.  See the next time period.

“Something” was happening in the Americas that time.  The earliest known pyramids were being built in Peru.  Peruvians had been mummifying their dead since at least 6,000 BC.  Meanwhile the earliest known pottery in the Americas was being created in the Amazon Basin.  Some shell middens on the Gulf Coast of Florida are thought to date from around 4,000 BC. The Bilbo Mound in Savannah was begun c. 3545 BC.   The earliest stonehenges in Canada are dated to c. 3500 BC.   The Watson Brake earthen ring in northern Louisiana is dated to 3450 BC.  The oldest part of THE Stonehenge on the Salisbury Plain in southern England was constructed between 3,000-2,935 BC with bluestones hauled from Wales.  Stonehenges almost identical to those in Canada were constructed on the Irish Coast and in Wales slightly earlier.  This suggests that indigenous Americans somehow reached the northwest edge of Europe about that time.

5. Proto-Arawaks-Post Diluvial Culture (4,300 BP – 3,500 BP) – The Choctaw, Chickasaw, Alabama and Itsate word for water is oka.  It seems to be derived from the South American words for water aka, oeka and waka.  The Japanese word for water is aka.  The Ainu word for water is waka.  However,  aka is also very close to the Latin word for water, aqua

All but two of the petroglyphs on the six Track Rock Gap, GA petroglyphic boulders can be found at the Nyköping Petroglyphs site on the Baltic Coast of Sweden. The Nyköping Petroglyphs have been dated to 2000 BC.   These can be seen above in the composite photographs.

Archaeologists have recently discovered that around 2,350 BC,  there was about 20 years of continuous, torrential rainfall in the British Isles, which resulted in the virtual depopulation of Ireland and southern England. Skara Brae in the Orkney Islands of Scotland was abandoned.  The aboriginal people of Ireland almost disappeared.  Very little of their DNA remains in the current population of Ireland, except along the mountainous coast of western Ireland, which was above the flood waters . . . especially in County Kerry, which contains several petroglyphic boulder identical to the Reinhardt and Forsyth Petroglyphic Boulders in Georgia. County Kerry is also the principal center of gold mining in Ireland.  Almost all of the petroglyphs in Georgia are located in the Georgia Gold Belt.  These petroglyphs, however, may have been carved by the Uchee.  See below.

The aboriginal people of Ireland had black hair, brown eyes and bronze skin.  Their skulls suggest Asiatic facial features. At this point in time, no one knows for certain where they emigrated. There is another tidbit from the past that could affect one’s DNA in the United States.  St. Bede the Venerable (673 AD-705 AD) was one of the greatest teachers and writers of the Early Middle Ages and is considered by many historians to be the single most important scholar of antiquity for that period.  He wrote that the Picts, who occupied most of what is modern Scotland until overrun in the Early Middle Ages, originated in southern Sweden during the Bronze Age.  They were forced out by Germanic (modern Swedes) invaders with iron weapons and then settled in northern Scotland.  Over time, their language was affected by their Briton neighbors.  So the Picts could well have been cousins of the Sami, but scholars really know very little about the Picts.

At about this same time,  the oldest known pottery in North America appeared in the Savannah River Basin and the earliest shell rings appeared on the coastal islands between the Savannah and Altamaha Rivers.  In recent years,  archaeologists have determined that the Stallings Island People (as these pottery makers are called) were a different ethnic group than neighboring tribes.  Is there a connection to the Great Flood in the British Isles?  It sure seems so. 

French ethnologist, Charles de Rochefort, stated in his 1658 book that the Arawaks originated on the South Atlantic Coast and that the shell rings on the coast of Georgia were their work.  He stated that some unknown event caused them to migrate southward, leaving descendants all along the route,  until they reached Peru.   Then they turned around and migrated northward until some reached the Southern Appalachians.   He stated that at one time most of the peoples living in what is now the North Carolina Mountains, western Georgia and eastern Alabama were Arawaks.  They were pushed out by the ancestors of the Apalachete (Itza Mayas and Muskogeans).  However, some Arawaks were still living in western North Carolina and the North Georgia Mountains in 1653, when they were visited by Richard Briggstock. This story might seemed far-fetched, but indeed,  the Native American place names ending “coa” and “Toasi” on early Colonial Period maps do represent South American Arawak villages.


6. Uchee ~ Deptford Culture + later Uchee cultural phases  (c. 1200 BC – 200 AD) –  Uchee is the Anglicization of the Archaic Irish word for water, uisce.  They were also know to the Creeks as the Okate (Water People),  Okasi ~ Ogeechee (Offspring from water) and the Okani (Born on the water).  The Uchee told the leaders of the new colony at Savannah in 1734 that their ancestors had sailed across the Atlantic Ocean from the home of the sun.  They first settled where Savannah is today, but found no one living in the Lower Southeast.  Algonquians did live farther north, however. Along the South Atlantic coast,  they encountered many mounds and shell rings, but those people were nowhere around.

The Uchee pointed to a cluster of mounds that included the Deptford Mound in Savannah.  They claimed to have built these mounds, but not any of the shell structures. The Uchee also stated that their ancestors spread out from Savannah across the Lower Southeast.  The ancestral region that they described matches the region in which Deptford Culture artifacts are found. 

The concentric circles and sun wheels on European Bronze Age petroglyphs have become the most sacred symbols of both the Uchee and Creek Indians.  The Sun Wheel is called the Sacred Fire by the Uchees and Creeks.  It adorns the cloth kilts of priests and kings, buried at Etowah Mounds.

Although there is still no Uchee-English dictionary, there are several key words in the Uchee language, which point to an origin in northwestern Europe.  Tso is the Uchee word for the sun and sun god.  It was also a European Bronze Age word for the sun. Toa is the Uchee word for a clan, band of people or village. Tuath is a contemporary Gaelic word for a people or tribe and an archaic word for clan.  Re (reigh) is a pre-Gaelic word, still seen in place names in Ireland and Scotland, for a nation or kingdom.  In other words it was a group of people with a principal chief/king and government.  It is common suffix attached to the names of rivers and Native American tribes in Georgia, South Carolina, southern North Carolina, Alabama and northern Florida . . . the region occupied by the Deptford Culture. 

There is an interesting connection between the Uchee suffix, re , another common suffix for people or tribe in the Gulf Coast Basin . . . kola . . . and a specific ethnic group in the British Isles.  Kora was the name of the Gaelic, Celtic and pre-Germanic Scandinavian goddess of fertility.  It was also an archaic Gaelic word for spear, so Kora was also known as the Spear Goddess. The Correigh or Spear People were a tribe in southeastern Ireland.   Her equivalent  among the later Germanic Scandinavians was Easter.  

The Uchee and Creeks roll their R’s so hard that English and French speakers usually wrote the sound down as an L.   Thus, the suffixes re and cora are pronounced lē and kō : la.   Most Gaelic speakers in Ireland and Scotland would pronounce re and cora pretty much like English speakers, but in the former lands of the Scots . . . .  Ulster and the western Scottish Islands, they are pronounced exactly like Uchee and Creek would pronounce them . . . an R rolled so hard that it sounds like an L.  In fact,  the original name for the kingdom at northern tip of Ireland and the Hebrides Islands was Cora-reigh then Cora.  The modern names of Cora, Curry, Corry, McCura and McCrory are derived from the name of this province. This is powerful evidence that the Uchees were from the same region.

The Tokoh-re were a branch of the Uchee living in the exact same region where the Muskogee-Creek language originated,  the Tuckasegee River Basin in western North Carolina.  Tuckasegee is the Anglicization of the Muskogee-Creek words  Tokah-si-ge, which means “Descendants of the Tokah People.”  The Tocasee became the founders of Tuckabachee, plus formed a core group within the Seminole Alliance in Florida.  They were known for being very tall and brawny and having freckles on their skin.  Tokah is an archaic Irish word that means “best or elite.”   In modern Muskogee,  tokah-re or tokah-le means “freckled or spotted.”

Shippibo Girl

7.  Late Deptford,  Etowah Valley, Early Copena and Hopewell (c. 400 BC – 200 AD) – Diamond-check-stamped pottery appeared Late Deptford Culture and Cartersville Phase sites in Georgia, which strongly resembled older check stamped pottery on the northern Pacific Coast of Peru.  Diamond check-stamped eventually appeared in Ohio at Hopewell Culture sites.  Hopewell artisans continued to make check stamped pottery long after artisans in the Lower Southeast had shifted to other, more sophisticated styles.

This new pottery style seems to have been the result of a few Peruvian refugees settling among Chickasaws in northern Alabama and western Georgia, while others made it as far as Ohio.  The Late Deptford and Copena Culture peoples were mound builders and skilled copper craftsmen.  Copper pan flutes are frequently found in their mounds.    The Shippibo People in Peru share many cultural practices with the Creeks.  Their pottery, tattoos and clothing have traditionally been in diamond-checked patterns.  When the French mapped Tennessee in the 1680s, the Holston River was named the Shipi-sippi, which in Panoan means “Shipi River.”

Something really odd . . . the Panoan word for “living place” is bo.  Bo had the same meaning in Archaic Northern German – in particular, Swedish, Danish and Old English.  The Angles and Jutes immigrated to England from Denmark.  The English word borough is descended from the Old English word, bo-reigh,  which means “Living Place – government.” 

Part Two begins with the Swift Culture.  This Middle Woodland Period cultural phase received its name from a village site excavated by Archaeologist Arthur Kelly in the mid-1930s. It is about six miles south of the acropolis of Ocmulgee National Monument.  Swift Creek sites are characterized by sophisticated, highly crafted stamped pottery, accretional mounds and horseshoe shaped low earthworks for ball courts, which strongly resemble those of the Olmec Civilization.  As late as 1776,  William Bartram sketched horseshoe shaped ball courts in several thriving Creek towns.

From the mid-1930s to the early 1960s, visitors to Ocmulgee National Monument were told that the Swift Creek People immigrated to central Georgia from New England.  There is nothing in New England, which resembles the Swift Creek Culture.  By 1960, \Arthur Kelly theorized that the culture initially believed that the Swift Creek People came from Florida, but in 1959 he found the oldest known Swift Creek pottery at the Mandeville Site on the Lower Chattahoochee River just above where it is joined by the Flint River.  It was dated to around 100 AD and was more sophisticated than later Swift Creek pottery.  Initially, Swift Creek style represented about 1% of the pottery produced at Mandeville, but within a century characterized almost all the pottery at Mandeville.  The Swift Creek Culture was well established in Georgia before it was being made in Florida.

During the past 80 years, none of the experts on the Swift Creek Culture and Swift Creek pottery have noticed a very significant fact.  To this day the patterns and motifs  of the clothing worn by the Conibo People of Satipo Province, Peru are identical to the motifs on Swift Creek pottery.  There is a connection.


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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, Why have it taken so long for your Wisdom to arrive? Another Great article but a small note from the Parakusa the Chattahoochee river was called by them an ancient name “Hi-Tanachi” which may be a connection with the Hitchiti people or the Tanase people (Moon eyed people). These connections to 50,000 ago (Cuba/ Topper site) should not be over looked.

    • Hey Mark – Thank you as always . . . but you gotta watch those Anglicized place names. Hitchiti was really Itzate = Itza People. Tanase was really Taino-se = Taino People!


    Howdy, While helping a local lady found out she was Mic-Mak. One thing and another found out they dressed like the Sami’

    • That is a amazing. The Mic-Mak have a fascinating culture, including a writing system.


    With R1b from Iberia virtually replacing the local y-DNA gene pool in Ireland, Scotland and Wales around 2500 BC, one cannot help but wonder if it continued it’s voyage across the Atlantic along with it’s language(s) and culture at some point after that time. Perhaps it was following back the route of Superior copper that had already made it’s way to the North American Atlantic seaboard over 1,000 years before.

    Oppenheimer’s SH paper alludes to the high probability that Native American R1b STR’s are not likely to be of post-contact origin. The good news is that this should be an easy question for geneticists to solve with the tools and DNA samples they already have access to today.

    “The main problem with interpreting unusually high Y-R1 frequencies in Northeast Native Americans, is that the published SNP characterization is still too poorly resolved in all studies to differentiate ancient migration from post-Columbian introduced R1. STR (Short Tandem Repeats –more rapidly mutating, but less reliable than SNPs) characterization of R1, however, indicates a substantial proportion of derived, STR-haplotypes not shared with Europeans (Bolnick, Bolnick, and Smith 2006, Fig 6b; Zegura et al. 2004, Fig. 5). This would not be expected if those R1 STR types were all recent European introductions, and could be consistent with being derived from more ancient founders. ”

    • That article got it wrong. It was not genocide. It was a massive flood. Archaeologists last year found proof that it rained constantly in Ireland and England for over 20 years during the 24th century BC. Ireland was virtually depopulated, while much of western England was depopulated. It was not a case of genocide, but rather peoples re-settling a deserted landscape.


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