Richard Thornton | Jun 3, 2017 | 15
Yamacutah, the Place Where God Came Down to Earth
During recent decades, revisionist authors and film makers have sought to define Western Plains Indians as human beings with souls and a beautiful way of life. The same cannot be said of the far more numerous Southeastern Indians. Three movies filmed between 1951 and 1953 presented factually inaccurate caricatures of the Seminoles. Walt Disney portrayed near naked Red Stick Creeks, wearing Mohawk haircuts, being frightened away by the sudden appearance of Davy Crockett . . . and that’s it. During the filming of “Deliverance” in 1969, Burt Reynolds wore a Creek longshirt in between filming of white water canoeing scenes. His original character of a suburban Native American getting back to nature was deleted in the final cut.
The world described by 18th century eyewitness accounts of William Bartram, James Adair, James Oglethorpe and John Sevier has been replaced by sterile historical highlights, manipulated to conform to presumptions of the past. The activities of a few Native “big-shots” have become the history of the Native peoples as a whole. Government agencies have magnified the importance of contemporary federally-recognized tribes and erased the existence of such people as the Yuchi, Itsate Creeks, Chickasaw, Shawnee and Koasati.
We take you back to a time when more people spoke Itsate (Hitchiti) within the present boundaries of Georgia than any other language. English was second. Muskogee was third. Yuchi was fourth and Spanish-Jewish-Arabic Creole was fifth. The articles contain excerpts from the newly published book, “Nodoroc and the Bohurons,” from Ancient Cypress Books of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
The year is 1783. For seven years a band of Tory bushwhackers, based in the Georgia Mountains have been raiding and murdering pro-Patriot families on the South Carolina and Georgia frontier, 100-150 miles away. The raiders took advantage of the fact that most of the Creek Indian men of military age in northeast Georgia were elsewhere; fighting Chickamauga Cherokees in what would become Tennessee or British rangers and their Indian allies along the Florida-Georgia frontier. The raiders could slip through Creek territory to attack Anglo-American isolated farmsteads, whose young men were also away fighting the British. Many non-combatant families were massacred or burned out by the bushwhackers.
The Revolution in Georgia involved complex, brutal, guerilla warfare. The Creek Indians greatly outnumbered European settlers. Although the Creek provinces in northeast Georgia were pro-Patriot, Creek towns in other parts of the Southeast could be pro-Patriot, pro-British, hostile to all Europeans, or Neutrals. From 1779 to 1783, the British controlled the counties along the coast, were where most of the Europeans lived. One never knew, if the group of armed men ahead on the trail represented friend or foe.
In what was probably the last military action of the American Revolution, a combined force of South Carolina and Georgia militiamen, under the command of Col. Andrew Pickens and Lt. Col. Elijah Clarke traveled northwestward to the mountains to eradicate the predators. There were only three small Native American hamlets in the northeast Georgia Mountains at that time, with a total population of perhaps 200. At one of these hamlets was the base of the bushwhackers. Two of their names were Tugaloo and Naguchee. The name of a third village on Long Swamp Creek in present day Pickens County, GA is not known. It does not appear on maps of the Cherokee Nation in Georgia.
Although 20th century history texts label Naguchee and Long Swamp as Cherokee villages, recent research strongly suggests that at that time, most occupants of the Georgia Mountains were mestizos, who spoke a Creole language which mixed Spanish, Hebrew, Portuguese, Arabic, Turkish, Itsate Creek, French and Dutch words together. They were the descendants of 17th century European gold miners and colonists.
There were no Tories at Tugaloo and Naguchee. The militiamen did find evidence that the bushwhackers were based in the third village. Perhaps they had women there. The Patriots surrounded and attacked the cluster of log cabins. Greatly outnumbered, the occupants quickly surrendered. They told the Patriots where the bushwhackers were hiding. Voluntarily, the “chief” of the village presented Colonel Pickens with a “peace treaty.” The treaty gave away all the Creek Indian lands in northeast Georgia, but no Cherokee lands. Of course, the Creeks in northeast Georgia were allies of Pickens militia unit. The headman of hamlet in the boonies had no authority to negotiate a treaty for any Indian nation, whether it be Cherokee or Creek. The two senior officers of a roughly two companies of militiamen, had no authority to co-sign any treaty.
The American Revolution soon ended. Taking advantage of the weak central government created by the Articles of Confederation, Georgia’s new General Assembly quickly ratified the bogus treaty and began distributing tracts of land to veterans in lieu of back wages owed. Land hungry settlers rushed into the region. Responding to protests from the powerful Creek Confederacy, Congress declared the treaty to be invalid. In one of the first assertions of state’s rights, Georgia countered that it was sovereign within its boundaries and that the Native American tribes were subject to Georgia laws. The Supreme Court ruled otherwise.
Tribal politics came into play. Alexander McGillivray, a well-educated ¼ Creek son of a Scottish born Tory propelled his position of being chief of the Talasee Creeks in the future state of Alabama to representing himself as the principal chief of all the Creeks. The Talasee Creeks in Alabama were pro-British. The Talasee Creeks in Georgia were pro-Patriot. Ceding the Talasee land in Georgia would force their chief to relocate to Alabama, where he would be subsidiary to McGillivray. The leaders of the Creek Confederacy were persuaded to cede the Talasee and Oconee lands to Georgia, plus all of the mountains in northern Georgia to the Cherokees. The Cherokee tract was initially designated hunting lands, but in 1794, would become the new home of the Cherokee Nation.
Surprisingly, relations between the Talasee Creeks and their new neighbors were quite good, since they had often fought together in the Revolution. Farther south, there were many altercations as local Oconee Creek and Yuchi villages tried to use force to drive out the squatters. Nevertheless, for many decades the Talasee and Anglo-Americans lived in harmony. Even after the land was no longer owned by the Creek Confederacy, many Creeks remained, because as Revolutionary War Patriots, they could claim veteran reserves.
A Mysterious Shrine
When white traders and later, settlers, entered what is now Jackson County, GA they encountered a massive shrine that was still in use. It was 450 feet diameter ceremonial ground that was defined by carved stone monuments, crossed paths that were paved with white sand and native grass that was kept mowed at about 18 inches tall.
On the carved stones were the strange letters of an unknown language, plus many abstract symbols. The most prominent symbols were of a sunrise and various combinations of crescent moons. At each cardinal direct were a different combination of carved rectangular stones, covered with writing and symbols.
Creek families living near the shrine told visitors that this place was the most sacred location in all North America. It was here that God had appeared one day. By God the Creek families really meant their sun god, whose description closely matched the invisible creator God of the ancient Hebrews. For a period of time he taught the ancestors of the Creeks mathematics, astronomy, surveying and how to maintain a perfectly accurate calendar.
Then one day, the extraterrestrial visitor disappeared before their eyes. Where he last stood was now a small conical mound, on top of which was a white stone statue of a man looking up to the stars. It was surrounded by a complex shrine that marked the locations of planets and distant galaxies in the sky, plus the days and months of the solar calendar that he introduced. It began on the Summer Solstice, contained leap days and was equally as accurate as the one we use today. The entire shrine was designed as a target or beacon that could be seen from heavens, so the sun god would know where to return.
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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.
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