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What is the difference between Coweta, Cohutta and Kaweta?

What is the difference between Coweta, Cohutta and Kaweta?

 

People of One Fire’s Editor is up on a ladder, nailing new siding to replace the rotten ones, but I wanted to give a quick response to this question that came from a long time subscriber.  LOL   She gets her answer during lunch break.

Coweta

It is one of the most widely recognized Creek place names, but it went through several forms prior to that spelling.  In fact, I strongly suspect that the word represents the merging of two different indigenous peoples into the Creek Confederacy.  Even though he spent several months in present day Georgia during 1653,  English explorer, Richard Briggstock, never used a word similar to Coweta.  He called the Creeks, the Apalache or Apalache-te and placed their main concentration in the southern Appalachian Mountains and Georgia Piedmont.  The Creeks were still calling themselves Palache in 1733, when Georgia was founded, but the British were calling them Creek Indians by that time.

Coweetee was the tribal name for an Itsate-Creek people living in the Upper Little Tennessee River Valley of the Blue Ridge and Nantahala Mountains near Franklin, NC.   Their capital was written on maps as Cowee.  In 1696, most were killed by a Smallpox epidemic.   The survivors either moved southward . . . eventually becoming Seminoles . . . or joined the Cherokee Alliance.  The word is the Anglicization of Kowi-te, which means “Mountain Lion People.”   The place name survives as Cowee and Coweeta Creeks in Macon County, NC.  Cherokee scholars, wannabe Cherokee scholars and anthropology professors defined these words as “ancient Cherokee words, whose meanings have been lost.

Wooden eagle at the main plaza or the town of Kusa.

Kvwetv (pronounced roughly Kawetaw) was the way that the word was typically written by the Muskogee-speaking Creeks.  This Muskogee word was derived from the Itsate-Creek and Maya word for Eagle People, Kaw-te.  It is also the preferred name today of the Kansa People in Oklahoma, who originally lived in Northeast Alabama and Northwest Georgia.  They call themselves the Kaw Nation and are composed of two Eagle Clans.  However, the Kansa are not aware that their name is Maya. 

Although Muskogee Creeks assume that the Creek Square or Choko Rakko (House Big) is an ancient Creek tradition, it is not.  It is descended from a large building constructed by the Kansa to hold community meetings and ceremonies. Archaeologists have not found any Creek Squares constructed before the 1700s.  The Itsate Creeks never built Creek Squares, while the Apalache Creeks constructed oval plazas.  This suggests that the Kawetas may have been a different tribe that the Kowete.   Their earliest ancestors may well have been Kansa or Kaw People.

Caouita was the original name used by late 17th and early 18th century French mapmakers for an indigenous people, who occupied much of Georgia, western South Carolina and eastern Tennessee.  Proto-Creeks in southeastern Tennessee, western North Carolina and northwestern Georgia were originally called Cusatee’s . . . by both the French and the British. Itsate-speaking Creeks were called Echete’s, Oconee’s, Chiahas, Apalaches or Tamasees.

By the 1730s, the spelling of the French word had become Cohuita and applied to all Creeks Indians.  Until just before the American Revolution, British colonists used the label Creek Indians or Cowetas interchangeably.  The label, Muskogee, made a sudden appearance about that time and by the end of the Revolution, was used interchangeably with Creek, while Coweta became the name of the capital town.

Cohutta Mountains

The French knew Alabama and northern Georgia far better than British officials in Charleston and Savannah.  Until after 1763,  French maps showed Northwest Georgia occupied by the Conchake (Apalachicola) and Cusate (Upper Creeks).  North Central Georgia was labeled “Les Cohuitas” or “The Creek Indians.” Their maps showed Northeast Georgia being occupied by the Uchee, Chickasaw, Apalache-te and Savano.

After Great Britain defeated France in 1763, British mapmakers knew little about the Georgia Mountains and Northwest Georgia. Where the French mapmakers had placed, Les Cohuitas, the British mapmakers put “The Cohuttas” and “the Upper Creeks.”  In 1784,  northwest Georgia was given to the Cherokees as hunting grounds, but there was only a trickle of Cherokee immigration into the region until the Chickamauga War ended in 1794.  By that time, the majority of Georgians, living away from the coast, had moved there from other parts of the new United States.  The newcomers saw Cherokees living in the region and assumed that they had always lived there.   The Cohuttas was assumed to be the name of a mountain range, not a tribe. By the late Twentieth Century, Cherokees and wannabe Cherokees were trying to find Cherokee words that sounded like Cohutta. 

And now you know!

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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.

5 Comments

  1. charles@elberton.net'

    On a non related story a Mr. Clyde Sewell Thornton aged 83 died June 10 in Elberton.

    Was he one of your relatives?

    Reply
    • We were distantly related, but on my mother’s (Bone) side. There were once a whole bunch of Creek and Uchee families, living north of Elberton in Ruckersville and Dewey Rose, but most have moved away in the last few decades

      Reply
  2. neil.mcgahee@comcast.net'

    Re: What is the difference between Coweta, Cohutta and Kaweta? Very informative story. Acccording to family history, my gggg-grandfather, Nkoso Humka, was chief of the Line Creek band of the Cowetas. After his cousin Taskanugi Hatke (William McIntosh) was killed by Upper Creek chief Menawa, Nkoso Humka took the name McGahee, from a Savannah missionary named Benjamin McGahee. And now you know!

    Reply
    • Is that the same Line Creek that is in eastern Coweta County and western Fayette County?

      Reply
      • neil.mcgahee@comcast.net'

        Yes, in fact my grandparents lived on Line Creek Road in Haralson

        Reply

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