Yonah Mountain’s name is really a Spanish word! OMG!
“Everybody” knows that Yonah Mountain means Bear in Cherokee and the Cherokees lived in Georgia for thousands of years. NOT!
While the Nacoochee Valley was occupied by Native Americans, official Georgia State maps labeled Yonah Mountain as Mt. Noccosee, which is the Anglicization of the Creek and Chickasaw word for bear, nokose. The most southerly range of mountains in Georgia was labeled the Yeonaha Range. The Native occupants of the Nacoochee Valley sold their lands to a group of families from Burke County, NC in 1822. Most took their share of the money and moved to the Creek Nation in Alabama. The 1828 Georgia State Survey labeled the range of mountains around Mt. Yonah as the Yeona Mountains. A US Government gold mining map in 1830 labeled Yonah Mountain as Mt. Yeona and the whole gold-bearing range of low mountains, the Yeoha Mountains. In 1833, Baldwin Craddock’s Map of Georgia, changed the spelling to Mt. Yonah. In the middle 1800s, tourist guides began explaining the meaning of Yonah as “meaning bear in Cherokee.”
None of the Native place names in NE Georgia are ethnic Cherokee words other than perhaps being proper nouns in the Cherokee language. They are either Creek, Uchee or Arawak words. However, most residents of this region assume that all the Native place names are Cherokee . . . merely because they are “Indian words.” in fact, both rivers flowing through the North Carolina Cherokee Reservation are Creek words that have no meaning in Cherokee. This is the reason that when I merely quote archaeological texts and dictionaries, those who are on the dole of the Eastern Band of Cherokees casino profits can sometimes get away with labeling me “controversial” or a “radical subversive, seeking to undermine our true, God-given history.” It seems that nobody ever looked up the word, yona, in a real Cherokee dictionary. It means “Rocky Mountain Grizzly Bear” and is a loan word from Plains Indian languages. The Cherokee word for a Eastern Black Bear is entirely different.
Ever since having several long conversations with Dr. Brett Kennedy of Wise, Virginia between 2003 and 2005, I became increasingly convinced that there had been a significant colonization of the Southern Appalachians by non-English-speaking peoples in the late 1500s and 1600s. You might remember Brett as the man, who brought the attention of the Melungeons to the world. It was Brett that first exposed me to the many eyewitness accounts of these anonymous settlers in colonial archives, which had been erased from the American History textbooks. He was convinced that many Sephardic Jewish mining settlements in North Carolina had been wiped out in the late 1600s by the Cherokees. He had found considerable evidence that the Cherokees killed all the Jewish males, who typically were married to Creek or Shawnee women, then kept their youth and children as slaves, concubines or adopted children. However, there was at least one band of mixed blood Jews in North Carolina, who were allowed to join the Cherokee Alliance. They were described by James Adair in his 1775 book, A History of the American Indians.
The last time that I chatted with Brent on the phone, he had just discovered that most of the Cherokee words describing female relationships such as mother, sister, grandmother, etc. were identical or very similar to their counterparts in the languages spoken in eastern Turkey and Armenia. Also, the Cherokee prefix for tribe or nation, ani, meant the same in those languages. This got him a free vacation in Turkey, where the Turks trumpeted to the world that the Cherokees were originally Muslim Turks, who had been forced to convert to Christianity.
Brent returned home to a legion of anonymous death threats from self-described Cherokees. Shortly afterward, he had a massive stroke immediately after dining at a banquet in his honor. He almost died, but lost much of his mental capacity and ability to use his hands and legs. I have always suspected that this was an assassination attempt.
Later on I did some research and was surprised to learn that the eastern half of Turkey was predominantly Christian until the late 1600s. Turkish Muslims killed, enslaved or exiled around 6 million Christians from that region between 1500 AD and 1700 AD. Over a million other Christians were enslaved from the coastal villages of Ireland, France, Spain and Portugal. All of the galley slaves, sailors and infantrymen used in the repeated invasions of Europe by the Ottoman Empire during this era were Christians. The Turkish leaders found joy in the fact that whether they won or lost a battle with the nations of Europe, many Christians would be killed. When Spanish and Italian forces captured Christian combatants of the Ottoman Empire, they were typically freed, but not normally repatriated. Thus, vast numbers of nation-less Anatolian Christians were wandering the world, just as the same time that Caucasian colonists were appearing in the Southern Appalachians.
The conflict between folklore and archaeology
Archeologist Robert Wauchope spent a year studying the Nacoochee Valley. He specifically stated in his 1966 book, The Archaeology of North Georgia, that the entire time he looked for a Cherokee village or Cherokee artifacts in the Nacoochee Valley, but could find neither. On the other hand, he found large quantities of 17th century European artifacts. What he found instead of Cherokee artifacts was a very dense occupation of the valley by people making Lamar Culture (Creek) artifacts, a sudden cessation of the appearance of Lamar Culture artifacts then a sterile layer followed by a layer containing a few 18th century European artifacts.
George Heye and his associates excavated the Nacoochee Mound in 1915. He stated in his report that the artifacts that they unearthed were pretty much identical to those found around Macon, Georgia. Nevertheless, in 1955, the Georgia Historical Commission erected a marker in front of the Nacoochee Mound, stated that the mound was built by the Cherokees and was the Cherokee village of Guaxule, visited by De Soto.
Between 1986 and 2006, Georgia archaeologists were under pressure to label any Late Mississippian or Colonial Period artifacts that they unearthed in North Georgia as being “Cherokee.” The reason was that the Boss Hoggs thought that this would enable them to erect Cherokee gambling casinos in Helen (Nacoochee Valley), Blairsville (Track Rock Gap) and Cartersville (Etowah Mounds). A 2004 excavation of the village site around the Nacoochee Mound by the University of Georgia Department of Anthropology found NO Cherokee artifacts.
An OMG moment
This morning it was drizzling so I didn’t feel inclined to haul fieldstones for my new rock walls. There were at least 15 languages in Iberia in the 1500s. Most, however, used the same Roman letters for sounds, but their alphabets had different sounds than the English alphabet. Just our of curiosity, I googled the most common Iberian spellings of Yeona and Yeoha. That would be Lleona and Lleoja. They were Asturian words that meant Lioness and Lion-like (originally lion’s den or “place of the lion”). So, while the Creeks thought that Yonah Mountain looked like a crouching bear, the Asturian gold miners thought it looked like a crouching lioness!
Asturia is located on the northwestern corner of Spain, facing the Atlantic Ocean. The DNA test markers of Asturians and Portuguese are pretty much the same. Lleoja (Asturian) or Leoja (Portuguese) is a common first and last name in western Iberia and Brazil. The Bronze Age petroglyphs of Asturia, the Gold Belt of Southwestern Ireland and the Etowah River Valley within Gold Belt of northern Georgia are identical.
On a hunch, I then googled Asturia – gold. Bingo! From the Bronze Age until the early 1500s, Asturia was one of Europe’s most productive sources of gold . . . especially during the Roman Empire’s reign. The article said that Asturian gold miners played a critical role in finding and mining gold in Spain’s American colonies. However, in the New World the Asturians were usually the mine owners, while in Spain they were merely miners.
A couple of months ago, I visited the farmers market around the corner on Amy’s Creek to find out the exact location of the Alec Mountain Stone Circle. We got to chatting. Several of the local people, working at the market, mentioned that their family had always thought that their dark hair and brown eyes meant that they were part Cherokee. However, when they had DNA tests done, they had no Native American DNA but a high level of Portuguese DNA or else a mixture of Portuguese and Jewish DNA. Methinks that their Iberian ancestors were actually Asturian gold miners.
Now you know!
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