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Virginia’s William Berkeley and the Creation of the Cherokee Indians: Part Four

Virginia’s William Berkeley and the Creation of the Cherokee Indians: Part Four

Unraveling Cherokee origins from 200 years of mythology

 The Cherokee are the offspring of the Lenape.  That is why we call them Grandmother. We once lived west of the Lenape, but were driven away by the Iroquois.  Our three bands became separated as they wandered across the landscape, living in caves and feeding ourselves by hunting and gathering nuts. We arrived at the mountains from the west about the time that the whites came to South Carolina.  Our first town was Big Tellico on the Tellico (Little Tennessee) River. When we entered the (North Carolina) mountains, we found that the mound builders there were weak because of a plague.  We killed or drove off the mound builders.  We burned the temples on their mounds and built our town houses there.

Cherokee Principal Chief Charles Hicks – 1826

The History of the Cherokee People . . . eight letters written by Hicks to Cherokee National Council President, John Ross


The Cherokee People have lived here on the Qualla Reservation for at least 10,000 years, maybe longer.  Our first town was Kituwah, which is on the southwest corner of the reservation. The Cherokees were the first people to live in the Americas and once occupied all of North and South America.  The Aztecs and Mayas were descendants of the Cherokees.  The Cherokees were the first people in the world to cultivate corn, beans and squash . . . the three sister crops.  We were also the first people in the Americas to make pottery 6,000 years ago. Cherokee Swift Creek pottery is considered the most beautiful pottery in the world.  We once lived in great towns across seven states in the Southeast and built most of the mounds in the Southeast.

*Documentary films:  “Legacy of the Cherokees” (2004) & “Spiral of Fire” (2006)

Exhibit: “People of One Fire . . . 6,000 years of Cherokee pottery in North Carolina”

 *Both films were broadcast nationally by PBS and are now shown to public school students throughout the Southeast as factual Native American history.


The outlandish statements made in the documentary films and in the North Carolina museum exhibit are obviously horse manure, but teachers around the nation are now teaching them as facts.  However, Colonial Era maps and archives support much of what Principal Chief Hicks stated . . . at least for some of the Cherokees’ ancestors.  Hicks’ letters do not explain why the Capital of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma, Tahlequah, has an Arawak name or why Cherokee contains so many words from non-Algonquian languages.

The earliest known pottery in North America is 4,200 years old and comes from the Lower Savannah River in Georgia. This pottery exhibit at the North Carolina State Museum in Raleigh stole its name from our organization and much of its pottery from Georgia. Examples of Stallings Island, Deptford, Swift Creek, Napier, Woodstock, Etowah Complicated Stamp and Lamar pottery from archaeological sites in Georgia were labeled as being Cherokee pottery from North Carolina. The excuse that a museum employee gave me was that “Everyone knows that the Cherokees originally lived all over Georgia.”

The legacy of Charles Hicks and Elias Boudinot

In 1826, provisional Principal Chief, Charles Hicks, wrote eight long letters to the new President of the Cherokee National Council, John Ross, which described the history of the Cherokee people and their cultural traditions.  Ross was at most 1/8th Cherokee . . . probably 1/16th or less . . . and really knew very little about them, but he had learned Cherokee while working at his father’s trading post.

Charles Hicks was one of the most learned Cherokees of his time and the guiding hand behind the Cherokee Renaissance in the early 1800s.  While hereditary principal chief Pathkiller was the nominal leader of the Cherokees from 1811 to 1827, from 1817 to 1827, Charles Hicks was the actual leader of the tribe.  It was Hicks, who supervised the planning and construction of the capital of New Echota, first supported Sequoyah’s efforts and invited Methodist missionaries after the Red Stick War to preach at a spring in Pine Log, GA, where the first Pine Log Methodist Church was soon built.

Hicks was the son of the Scottish owner of a trading post in Tamatli, near where the newest Cherokee casino was located.  His mother is listed in history books as being ½ Cherokee.  That is also highly doubtful.  For many centuries, Tamatli was a colony of the Tamatli Creeks in Southeast Georgia until captured by the Cherokees in the 1720s. Tamatli is also the location of one of the Sephardic gold mines that were dated to around 1600 AD by North Carolina geologists in the 1980s.

Pathkiller died on January 8, 1827.  Charles Hicks died on January 20, 1827.  John Ross was soon elected as his replacement. 

Within a few months, Elias Boudinot began publishing the Cherokee Phoenix. Its initial purpose was to unite the Cherokee People into a true nation, but as Andrew Jackson and Southern state governments began increasing pressure on the Cherokees to relocate to the Indian Territory, it became more of a propaganda medium, which was widely distributed in Washington, DC and New England.

Georgia’s legal position was that the Cherokees were squatters, who had never been invited to permanently live in their state.  The 1785 Treaty of Hopewell Plantation had set the southern boundary of the Cherokees as the North Carolina-Georgia Line and designated the Northwest and North Central Georgia Mountains as hunting lands only for the Cherokees.  The Creeks did not learn that their land had been given to the Cherokees until 1790 and then declared war on Georgia.  In its agreement with the United States in 1798,  Georgia ceded present day Alabama and Mississippi with the written promise that all Cherokees, who had moved into Georgia  since the American Revolution, within 10 years, would be relocated to Northeastern Alabama.  The United States government reneged on its promise, while at the same time the vast majority of Cherokees had “planted roots” in the territory that was supposed to be only hunting lands.

Boudinot began publishing an increasing volume of patent lies about history that directly conflicted with the statements written by Charles Hicks the previous year, plus many false legal documents. The purpose was to make New Englanders and Congressmen think that the Cherokees were indigenous to Georgia and had occupied the northern half of the state before the American Revolution.  His favorite ploy was to have yeoman Cherokees, who didn’t know English, sign English language legal affidavits that claimed that the Cherokees had been living in various parts of Georgia for over a century.

Boudinot’s perjurious propaganda became the state historical markers and history texts that students today around the Southeast are taught as factual history.  For example, there was never any Creek town name Taliwa and no Battle of Taliwa in 1754 in which the Cherokees conquered all of North Georgia.  In fact, the Cherokees catastrophically lost the 40 year long Creek-Cherokee War in 1754.  There is very little history from that era being taught students and appearing on national television documentaries that is factual.


The probable origins of the Cherokees

At this stage of research, the loose alliance of fourteen bands that British officials forged into a tribe, appears to be rooted in the Native American slave trade.  British officials in South Carolina had an increasingly enforced policy that no member of a tribe, allied with Great Britain, could be enslaved.  The Cherokees got around this rule by selling Creek, Uchee and Chickasaw captives in Virginia.  My gggg-grandmother was a Creek slave in Fredericksburg, VA until freed by King George in the 1750s.

Late 17th century maps show a cluster of towns with Peruvian and Arawak names in the northeastern tip of Tennessee.  Southeastern and East Central Tennessee contained the names of Creek tribal towns.  A 1701 French map (Guillaume De Lisle) shows nothing in NE Tennessee, but showed Western North Carolina occupied by Shawnee and Creek towns.  De Lisle’s 1717 map became the first European map to mention the “Charaqui” at the same location as where the Peruvian and Arawak towns had been. However, it still showed Muskogean towns on the Little Tennessee River.  An English map, produced in 1725, showed the Little Tennessee River then controlled by the Cherokees.  Apparently, with the firearms and added members gained during the Yamasee War through the alliance with Great Britain,  the Charakeys were able to drive out the Creek, Shawnee and Yuchi villages from Western North Carolina between 1717 and 1725.  Perhaps younger women were kept by the Cherokees, while the males were killed.  This would explain why the majority of pre-Revolutionary War Cherokee villages in North Carolina have Creek, Maya or Shawnee names . . .  YET . . . the architecture, site planning and pottery were very different than contemporary Creek towns nearby in the Georgia Mountains.   

This is an important point to emphasize. There was always a powerful, fortified Creek town at the confluence of the Nottely River and Coosa Creek in Union County, GA until at least the 1780s – name Coosata (actually Kusa-te). It was located just south of the North Carolina-Georgia line.  Although many of its descendants still live in Union and Fannin Counties, Georgia, some call themselves Cherokee, while other call themselves, Upper Creek.  In fact, they are all Upper Creeks.  Upper Creeks look very different than Cherokees.  They have long, thin raptor-like noses with very tall physiques and more oriental facial features.

One of those Tennessee towns, Chalaka, moved to Talladega County, AL while some of the other towns became Cherokee clans.  Apparently, some of the northeast Tennessee towns were either conquered or voluntarily became allied to Rickohocken invaders.  This was often seen in the Southeast during the Slave Raiding Period.  Small tribes and remnant villages had a choice of joining a large tribe, allied to a European nation, or else being exterminated by slave raiders. 

The Cherokees in the northwestern South Carolina are much more enigmatic. All eight Lower Cherokee villages had Creek names . . . mostly from mother provinces in Georgia. All surviving names of Lower Cherokee leaders are either Creek or English. There are no Algonquian names.  All but one of the Native American places names in northwestern South Carolina and adjacent regions of North Carolina are derived from Creek words that have no meaning in modern Cherokee.  That includes Etowah, Chattooga, Kowee, Cullawhee, Tugaloo, Jocassee, Keowee, Toxaway, Tallulah, Terrora and Chauga.

One likely explanation for Creek names, among people labeled Cherokee by the British is that these towns formed an alliance with the Rickohockens, in order avoid being enslaved.  Yet again, we have the problem that the huts built by these South Carolina “Cherokees” were round and crude . . . very much different than large rectangular Creek houses. That fact could only be explained by a process in which all Creek adult males (They designed and constructed the buildings) and adult females (They were the master pottery makers) were killed.  The adolescents and children would have produced pottery that was crude imitations of Creek Lamar Style pottery . . . which is exactly what Cherokee Qualla Style pottery looks like.  This is why the North Carolina State Museum used Creek pottery from Georgia and labeled in Cherokee.

Another riddle is in Northeastern Alabama.  The De Soto Chronicles mention several Native towns on the Upper Coosa River, whose names could also be found on the Georgia coast in the 1500s. These were Panoan and Southern Arawak words, typical of Eastern Peru.  However, when a European map next mentions specific ethnic groups and towns on the Coosa River (1701) all the towns and ethnic groups are different and are Creek (Muskogean) words.  Between then and around 1791, the region is labeled Upper Creek and Chickasaw.  After 1791, it is labeled Cherokee. What happened?

The first appearance of a word like Cherokee on a map was the 1715 Beresford map, which showed their 32 villages on the Holston, Nolichucky and Lower French Broad Rivers in extreme northeastern Tennessee and in eight villages in extreme northwestern South Carolina. The maps estimated that the Cherokees then had 1000 men of military age and 4,000 people total . . . not the 30,000 told to tourists.  There were no Cherokee villages shown in North Carolina by this map, except a few on the NC-SC line.

These allied villages, plus many more that appeared in North Carolina were shown on the new Herbert Map of South Carolina in 1725, after Colonel George Chicken met with fourteen bands of Native Americans in present day Franklin, NC and pressured them to from a single tribe that would fight the Native allies of France.

16th and 17th Century colonists in the Southern Appalachians

In 1673, Gabriel Arthur reported several encounters with “Portuguese” travelers on the trails of southwestern Virginia and northeastern Tennessee.  He also visited two non-indigenous towns near the confluence of the Holston and French Broad Rivers.  The larger town was built out of brick and occupied by what appears to have been Anatolian or Armenian Christians. He mentioned a massive bell, which was rung three times a day for prayers. This exactly matches the traditions of the Anatolian and Armenian Orthodox Churches.  He also mentioned a wooden town, which was occupied by Africans.  It is not clear if this latter town’s occupants were former African slaves from Virginia or North African colonists.

In 1783, Colonel John Tipton and John Sevier led a wagon train from Shenandoah County, VA to the same region visited by Arthur.   Sevier later wrote that they passed through several ancient villages, occupied by Spanish-speaking Jews. Sevier did not mention either a brick town occupied by Orthodox Christians or an African town.

During the late 1600s and first half of the 18th century, there were several accounts of Spanish-speaking Jewish villages in Western North Carolina and North Georgia.  When the Cherokees first entered the region around Sylva, NC on the Tuckasegee River in 1745, they encountered Spanish-speaking occupants with skin the color of Natives, but the men had long dark beards and “worshipped a book.”  The settlers lived in log houses with arched windows.  That sounds like some branch of Judaism.   James Adair mentioned in his 1775 book on the Indians of the Southern Colonies that there was a tribe of “Cherokees” in Western North Carolina, who spoke a Medieval form of Hebrew.


The 1715 Beresford Map is the first colonial document that mentions the Cherokees.  The vast majority of Cherokees, 32 villages, was located in the northeastern tip of Tennessee . . . exactly where Gabriel Arthur only mentioned two towns, occupied by peoples from the Old World in 1673 and John Sevier encountered Sephardic Jewish villages in 1783.  By 1783, virtually all the Cherokees lived much farther southward and were beginning to move into Georgia. 

Genetic research has identified high levels of Semitic, Iberian, North African, Egyptian, Levantine and Anatolian DNA test markers in Cherokees and Cherokee descendants.  There appears to be a connection between the unusual genetic profiles of Cherokees and the Old World peoples who lived in Tennessee and Western North Carolina before the Cherokees came into being.

How this blending of the Old and New World came about is still not clear.  The only research being done at this time is by former Georgian, Don Yates, who founded DNA Consultants, Inc. It is a forbidden subject among academicians in North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia.  To admit that the Cherokees are the result of mixing many ethnic groups together before they entered North Carolina, would completely discredit the current, high publicized mythology, which states that the Cherokees have lived on their reservation by a river with a Creek name for at least 10,000 years.

Obviously, research has not revealed what exactly was going on during the decades at the end of the 17th century and the beginning of the 18th.  All that really can be said now in full confidence is that it was definitely different than the fairy tales being told tourists these days by the Eastern Band of Cherokees and the academicians in their employment.

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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.

1 Comment


    thanks again. More things to pursue.

    Some local water trivia:

    The TVA Dam system has rendered many of those rivers nearly unrecognizable on a modern map.. here’s the dam system as it stands today.
    Bussel Island and Tellico Dam are the same location, approximately.

    But, up east, “Boone” river has shown back up after being buried under an artificial lake in 1952. The dam thing sprung a leak 60 years later.
    River’s around till approximately 2022, but given government, 2030.

    Further aside:
    After your comment about holograms in an earlier installment it inspired me to experimenting with several open-source (free/donation) mapping programs and so far it’s been working pretty good. Getting the old river routes mapped in will be an interesting challenge 🙂


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