Wikipedia . . . Did you know that Tomochichi was a Cherokee chief?
The information wars go on.
The internet is a powerful research tool and such online references as Wikipedia have radically changed the availability of knowledge about our universe. The “Wiki” part of the word, Wikipedia, though, creates an ideal opportunity for propagandists. “Wiki” means that the text can be edited at any time by readers. The problem is much bigger than Wikipedia itself, however. There are hundreds, if not thousands of commercial web sites that copy some or most of the articles in Wikipedia then republish them with advertising. Thus a lie is almost instantaneously replicated into the “truth.”
The People of One Fire won a minor victory yesterday. After three years of fighting, Wikipedia finally changed the statements that “Tomochichi was the chief of the Yamacraws near Savannah, a division of the Cherokees” and that “James Edward Oglethorpe accompanied a delegation of Cherokee chiefs from Georgia to England in 1734.”
For three years, I had repeatedly wrote Wikipedia, listing their own articles, which refuted the statements above. There were very few Cherokees in Georgia until after the American Revolution and they played very little role in Georgia’s colonial era history. General Oglethorpe probably never even met a Cherokee.
Wikipedia’s Purple Gatekeepers still refuse to accept the addition to the article on Tomochichi, which states that his Creek name was Tvmvchichi (Tamachichi) and that the name is Itza Maya, meaning “Trade Dog” or “Itinerant Merchant.” The Purple Gatekeeper from Poland, who knows neither the Creek languages nor Maya, is the ultimate authority on this matter. Who am I know about Georgia’s Native American history? . . . I am just a Creek scholar from Georgia, who has white ancestors buried in Savannah’s Colonial Cemetery and whose Creek ancestors lived a few miles upstream from Savannah.
Wikipedia is funded by donations and mostly staffed by volunteers. Apparently, there are hundreds of people out there, who are willing to sit at their computer all day, without compensation, and monitor the changes made to certain categories of articles in Wikipedia. Given the financial restrictions of Wikipedia, that appears to be the only solution to the problem of information vandalism. However, these “purple gatekeepers” as they are called, are self-styled experts on certain subjects. What if THEY don’t know what they are talking about? To our astonishment, POOF learned that many of the American history articles . . . even local history at the county level . . . are being monitored by volunteers from Europe!
In 2012, someone or a group of people went through all the Wikipedia articles for individual counties in the northern half of Georgia. All references to the Creek, Yuchi and Chickasaw Peoples were deleted. For example, James Adair’s Chickasaw-Jewish wife was re-made into a full blood Cherokee, related to famous Tennessee Cherokee royalty. Despite repeated efforts from knowledgeable people in Georgia to return these 48 articles to their original wording, a Purple Gatekeeper in rural England has adopted the modified articles as historical orthodoxy and is obsessed with blocking any efforts to correct them.
In 2006, the Cartersville, GA Convention and Visitors Bureau had expanded the article on Bartow County to three paragraphs on Etowah Mounds, which were written by a professional archaeologist. One of the paragraphs specifically stated that Bartow County was occupied by Creek Indians or ancestors of the Creek Indians until after the American Revolution. This was in response to the extensive political efforts by the North Carolina Cherokees to have Etowah Mounds declared a Cherokee archaeological site. The 2012 revision to the Bartow article makes no mention of this very important tourist attraction and National Historic Landmark. Instead the history section of the Bartow County article begins today, “Bartow County was created from the Cherokee lands of the Cherokee County territory on December 3, 1832.“
Three times, with the blessings of the Cartersville Convention and Visitors Bureau, I inserted the deleted paragraphs that they had originally written. Each time, within a few hours, the corrected article was returned to its modified form by someone in England. After the third attempt, I got this message: “Please stop adding unsourced content. This contravenes Wikipedia’s policy on verifiability. If you continue to do so, you may be blocked from editing Wikipedia. Dougweller (talk) 17:45, 14 December 2012 (UTC)” Actually, I did reference the revision. They came straight from the brochure given out by the Cartersville Convention and Visitors Bureau and were written by an archaeologist, who worked at the Leake Mounds site, downstream from Etowah Mounds.
The De Soto Wars
Efforts to create a false history of the Southeast arose several years earlier. Beginning in 2008, anonymous persons revised all the Wikipedia articles on the Hernando de Soto Expedition to have him meeting Cherokees everywhere he went in North Carolina, Tennessee and Northwest Georgia. De Soto traveled through this region in 1540 AD.
No Cherokee words are mentioned in the De Soto Chronicles. Nevertheless, Professor Charles Hudson labeled several towns with Creek or Maya names, “Cherokee words, whose meanings have been lost.” Although an anthropology professor at the University of Georgia most of his adult life, Hudson never bothered to learn the languages of the indigenous peoples of Georgia, but instead relied on false information, he was taught at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. He would publicly humiliate any professor or archaeologist, who challenged his highly flawed statements about the past.
What particularly angered me was the Wikipedia article on Chiaha. It was revised by someone? to state authoritatively that the Cherokee town of Chiaha was located on Zimmerman Island, TN in the French Broad River. The article does not tell you that Zimmerman Island had been covered in water for decades, when Charles Hudson decided it was the location of Chiaha or that a brief survey of the island prior to the filling of Lake Douglas, found primarily Archaic, Woodland and Early Mississippian artifacts (3500 BC – 1200 AD). The Wikipedia article also stated that the meaning of the Cherokee word, Chiaha, had been lost.
In this case, I was an eyewitness to history. The self-appointed De Soto Expedition study group came to Asheville, while I was Executive Director of the Asheville-Buncombe Historic Resources Commission. They met in my office with two state archaeologists and myself. We told the professors that NO Mississippian Culture town sites were occupied on the French Broad River, during the mid-1500s, when Hernando de Soto and Juan Pardo were exploring the Southeast. That afternoon Hudson gave a press conference, where he stated that his team had obtained proof in that morning that “the ancient capital of the Cherokees, Guaxule, was (a Woodland Period mound, abandoned around 450 AD!) on the Biltmore Estate . . . and that the town of Chiaha was on Zimmerland Island in the French Broad River.”
I changed the article to state that the actual location of Chiaha had not been determined by professional archaeological studies, plus that “Chiaha was a major Hitchiti-speaking division of the Creek Confederacy in the 1700s and early 1800s. Chiaha is an Itza Maya word, which means Salvia River.” I then explained that the De Soto Chroniclers mentioned seeing large fields of salvia growing in the river valleys near this town.
In deleting my changes, the Wikipedia Purple Gatekeeper wrote, “Is it too much to ask for you to provide a single published source for the information you’re posting on the Chiaha article? Bms4880 (talk) 21:33, 15 February 2010 (UTC).” I cited the Itza Maya dictionary by Erik Boot and a list of Creek towns by the famous ethnologist, John Swanton . . . but I think that the Purple Gatekeeper just didn’t know his or her subject matter.
The Kenimer Mound
For the many newcomers to POOF, I will explain the significance of the Kenimer Mound. It is a very large five-sided mound within the former location of the town of Itsate in the Nacoochee Valley. Itsate means “Itza People” . . . both in Itza Maya and in Hitchiti-Creek. The ruins of a large stone temple were on top of the mound, until the 1970s, when the stones were removed by a Florida family to build chimneys and retaining walls at their summer home in the mountains. The mound was constructed some time between around 600 AD and 900 AD. It was sculptured from a hill, which is how the Itza and Kekchi Mayas built their five-sided mounds. The only place that one finds five-sided mounds are Georgia and the Chiapas Highlands of Mesoamerica.
According to a statement made to me personally by the owner of the Kenimer Mound at that time, the University of Georgia only had permission to survey the mound. They were forbidden in writing from digging in or near the mound and removing artifacts from the property. Instead the team of archaeologists and students dug numerous holes and took the artifacts back home with them. Both their reports on the Kenimer Mound and the Nacoochee Mound a mile to the west called Native Americans, “Indians,” and whites, “Americans.”
What particular riled me about the university’s report on the Kenimer Mound and the Wikipedia article, 15 years later, was the incredible lack of “homework.” Both texts stated that the Kenimer Mound “was a mystery, because it was built in isolation, with no villages or mounds nearby.” In fact, the University of Georgia’s first anthropology professor, Robert Wauchope, spent the better part of a year, excavating mounds and village sites that encircle Kenimer Hill like a necklace. How in the world could a UGA anthropology professor, who got his degrees at UGA and had taught at UGA for three decades, not know about Robert Wauchope’s famous work in the Nacoochee Valley?
This is what the Wikipedia Purple Gatekeeper wrote after redacting my additional two paragraphs: “Please do not add unreferenced or poorly referenced information, especially if controversial, to articles or any other page on Wikipedia about living persons, as you did to Kenimer Site. Thank you. Per this , Wikipedia is not the place to argue with the archaeologists nor the place to push your WP:FRINGE theories. When peer-reviewed archaeologists in WP:RELIABLE sources agree with this theory it can be presented. Heiro 00:54, 12 April 2012 (UTC)”
Hey Mr. Purple Gatekeeper, are we talking about peer review by the same archaeologists that didn’t even know that the founder of their anthropology program had spent a year digging up mounds and village sites around Kenimer Hill? . . . or how about the Georgia Council of Professional Archaeologists? They sent out a national press article, which stated that no evidence of Maya writing had ever been found in Georgia, but chose as the photograph to accompany the article, a boulder in North Georgia with four, easily translatable, Maya glyphs on it* . . . which means that no one in their august organization knew diddlysquat about the Mayas.
*Three of the glyphs were featured and discussed in detail in the PBS documentary, Cracking the Maya Code.
A Feller Jest Can’t Get No Respect!
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