Why study the peoples of Mesoamerica, the Andes and Amazon Basin?
Again this month, the People of New Fire web site has added many new readers. The new subscribers are probably wondering why a research alliance, supposedly devoted the study of the Southeastern indigenous peoples, devotes so much attention on South America, Mesoamerica and the Caribbean Basin. There are several reasons.
It is quite common for Creeks, Seminoles, Miccosukees and Koasati’s to carry at least a trace of Mesoamerican DNA. In some individual families, Mesoamerican DNA is predominant. The “Mayas in Georgia thing” was NEVER a theory.
As commercial DNA labs became more sophisticated in their analysis of individual genetic samples, something totally unexpected was also appearing . . . DNA test markers from northwestern South America. Native American descendants from such widespread regions as South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky, western Virginia and southern Louisiana were showing up with substantial ancestry from ether the Andes Mountains or Amazon Basin.
There is a unique population of Native American descendants in one Georgia mountain county that was geographically isolated until paved highways were constructed over the mountain passes in the mid-20th century. It has exceptionally high percentage of Asiatic ancestry, about 500% higher than the median of BIA card-carrying Native American descendants in the North Carolina Cherokee Reservation, 50 miles to the north. When some of these people had their DNA tested, they were shocked to discover that their Asiatic DNA was 100% Peruvian, or a mixture of Peruvian, Maya and typical Creek DNA test markers. Keep in mind that even typical Muskogean test markers were originally from northern Mexico.
We have always known that Muskogee-Creek is the most aberrant Muskogean language and Cherokee is the most aberrant Algonquian language. There was something radically wrong in the orthodoxy that academicians had adopted to explain the origins of these languages. The Southern Shawnee, Muskogees and Cherokees share the same suffix (ki~gi) for “people or tribe.” “Ke” or “ki” is a suffix for “people or tribe” used by several Southern Arawak peoples in the Andes and northern Amazon Basin.
Other branches of the Creek Confederacy use different suffixes for “people or tribe.” The Itsate (Hitchiti) and Koasati use the Itza Maya suffix, “te.” The Tamale (Tamaule) used the suffixes from northeastern Mexico, “le” and “tli.” The Apalache (Apalachicola) of northeastern Georgia and the Chattahoochee River Basin used the Peruvian suffix “kora,” which Muskogees pronounce as “kola.” Apalache itself, is the Europeanization of the hybrid Peruvian-Muskogean word, Aparasi, which means “From – ocean – offspring of.” The Chickasaws and Choctaws use “okla” which appears to have evolved from okora~okola, and means “principal people” in eastern Peru.
Almost all the words associated with architecture, agriculture, trade, political offices and writing in the Itsate-Creek language are pure Itza Maya words. Itsate was the predominant language of much of Georgia, western North Carolina and Eastern Tennessee in 1540. Itsate is also what the Itza Mayas called themselves. Muskogee Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Alabama contain many of those words, but in slightly altered forms. For example, the Itza/Itsate words hene ahau (sun lord) is henehv (henehaw) in Muskogee-Creek and is now the official title of the Second Chief of the Muscogee-Creek Nation.
The Toasi were located on the Lower Ocmulgee River, when Hernando de Soto came through in 1540. Their capital was name Toa. A glossary of Toasi words from the 1700s survives. It is definitely a mixture of Arawak and Muskogean. However, the main body of Toasi were Ciboneys along the Toa River of central Cuba and in the Toa Province of north-central Puerto Rico.
Curious as to why the indigenous peoples of the Atlantic Coast in South Carolina and Georgia seemed to have practiced South American cultural traditions at the time of European contact, we closely examined their surviving words and town names. Most could be easily translated with either Panoan (Conabo-Shipibo-Kashibo) dictionaries from Peru or Tupi Language Family dictionaries from Brazil. A town named Satipo was located on the coast of Georgia and in the Tennessee section of the Smoky Mountains. Satipo is also an ancient city in eastern Peru. It means “Place of the Colonists” in Panoan – referring to Southern Arawak peoples, who fled there from northern Peru to escape the Incas.
Coming back to Muskogee-Creek and Cherokee . . . we found that each language contained other important words, borrowed from Peru. The Chisqua (Bird) Clan of the Cherokees obviously gets its name from the Chiska People, who lived in eastern Tennessee and eastern Peru. Chiska also means “bird” in the Panoan languages. The Muskogee words for a village chief or foreman, orata, is even today the Panoan word for a village chief. The Muskogee words for tobacco and Yaupon Holly~Sacred Black Drink are the same among the Panoans of Peru. Sacred Black Drink is still an important aspect of Panoan cultural practices. There are probably many other connections between Muskogee, Cherokee and Peru that we just have not discovered yet.
Pottery and artistic themes
A radically different style of pottery, along with the construction of pyramidal mounds suddenly appeared in Georgia about 1900 years ago. It was followed by Weeden Island pottery, which had a distinct Caribbean feel to it and finally, Napier pottery, which looked like Swift Creek pottery converted to angular geometric shapes. Then suddenly around 800 AD shell-tempered pottery identical to what Maya commoners made suddenly appeared in Georgia.
It never dawned on those archaeologists, who presented themselves as THE EXPERTS on the Woodland Period in the Southeast to look elsewhere for cultural influences. In fact, pyramidal earthen mounds identical to those at Kolomoki and the Chattahoochee and Etowah Rivers in Georgia, plus Nanih Waiya in Mississippi, were being built in Peru several centuries earlier and at the same time.
Well, there is something else. To this day, the clothing of the Conibo People in Peru looks like Swift Creek pottery, The clothing of the Shipibo People in Peru looks like Napier pottery. As POOF subscribers saw in a recent video, the dances done by the Shipibo today were painted by French and English painters, who visited the Southeast in the 1500s, 1600s and early 1700s.
Being that the Conibo’s and Shipibo’s were making Swift Creek pottery before it appeared in Georgia, there must be a connection. They were under severe attacks from the bloodthirsty Moche kingdoms at the very same time that Swift Creek pottery appeared in Georgia.
These discrepancies clearly point out the difference between a professional anthropologist and an archaeological technician . . . even if the latter has a PhD and perceives himself/herself as an intellectual giant. In my very first meeting with Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, Director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia de Mexico, at the start of a fellowship, I presented him with two books on the Native American archaeology in the Southeast. He knew virtually nothing about the Southeast, but after skimming through the books, he instantly recognized that most aspects of the “Mississippian Culture” could be traced to Mesoamerica, but he was puzzled by the stamped pottery styles, such as Swift Creek. “Ricardo, I think your ceramicas were from somewhere else, far away.”
The Choctaw continued their ancient architectural traditions, dating back to at least 3400 BC. However, almost all the domestic and public architecture produced by the ancestors of the Chickasaws, Alabamu, Creeks, Koasati, Seminoles and Miccosukee, after around 800 AD, is virtually identical to what can be found among the commoners and less advanced peoples in northeastern and southern Mexico at that time.
The archaeological profession has always been rather vague in its understanding of Woodland Period communities (1000 BC to 800 AD) in the Southeastern United States and Ohio Basin. Why do the Southeastern Woodland Period mounds look like the Formative Period in Peru, while the geometric earthworks of the Hopewell Culture look like what was being built in the Amazon Basin at that time?
As you can see above, the people of Amazon Basin are still building houses and outbuildings exactly as they did before Europeans arrived. The only difference is that they now have steel tools. I am studying videos and plans of these aboriginal buildings in order to better understand how Southeastern indigenous peoples constructed their buildings.
As you can see in the previous video, there are tribes in the Amazon Basin, who have never even entered the Stone Age. Many more live lifestyles akin to the Woodland Period in the Southeast. In general, the indigenous peoples of the eastern Andes and western Amazon Basin have maintained a cultural purity that has been lost in other areas of the Americas. By studying these primitive peoples we can have a clearer understanding of how the indigenous peoples of North America lived during the Archaic and Woodland Periods.
What we hope to accomplish in 2016 is development of a more solid understanding of the migrations of our Native American ancestors and the lifestyles that they lived. The information already obtained in 2014 and 2015, will be re-documented with the multiple references that academia demands in order to assume credibility. The timing and scale of these migrations remain major questions.
The POOF website tries to appeal to the broadest range possible of interests. If you, the reader would like to suggest other topics, please feel free to do so, by writing us at PeopleOfOneFire@aol.com.
Happy New Year!
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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.
Latest posts by Richard Thornton (see all)
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- The night from hell - March 21, 2017
- Do archaeologists own the artifacts obtained from your property? - March 21, 2017
- The Saga of Mahala Bone . . . her people in the Southeast and Oklahoma - March 20, 2017