Our Creek ancestors were far more democratic and egalitarian than the Europeans, who craved their land.

by Richard L. Thornton, Architect and City Planner

(Photo Above) Throughout much the 1700s, leaders of Georgia and the Creek Confederacy encouraged intermarriage between their peoples as a means of cementing good relations and permanent peace. Creek Mikko (Chief) William McIntosh was the first cousin of Georgia Governor George Troup. That proved to be a problem after the University of Georgia was constructed in 1785 on the site of the recently relocated Creek town of Talasee. Only the Oconee River separated the campus from territory of the Creek Confederacy.

As soon as the young men arrived on campus, Creek gals began skinny dipping in the Oconee River with the expressed intent of snagging themselves an educated, wealthy white boy. When they spotted particularly handsome young men, they would yell out “Why don’t y’all come on over and party!” Creek women regularly used herbal birth control methods from puberty onward, while young white women tended to be quite odoriferous due to lack of personal hygiene and bathing . . . plus rather unskilled in the arts of love. The aggressive Creek girls proved to be such a distraction to “Christian education and values” that the State of Georgia literally purchased a strip of land to keep them away from the longing eyes of University of Georgia students. Conversely, single white mothers often sought out eligible Creek men because they were taller and much cleaner, plus generally, much more skilled at farming and putting meat on the dinner table than the white immigrants pouring in from Europe.

In 1737, the Rev. John Wesley and the Rev. Charles Wesley were dispatched to the new Province of Georgia as missionaries for its Creek and Uchee Indians. That was a disaster. The Wesley brothers quickly despised the people, whom they were supposed to convert to the Church of England’s way of worshiping God. The Creek men were a foot taller than the Wesley Brothers and “not properly submissive.” It was the Creek women, however, who were living proof to the Wesley’s that the Devil dwelt among these heathens. The women had the right to vote and hold any Creek political office, except Commanding General. The women owned all domestic and agricultural real estate, plus could easily divorce their husbands by informing the circuit court judge and throwing his belongings out in the street. Furthermore, the women went topless in the summer, dated around for as long as 10 years before marrying and used herbal birth control, made from indigenous sweet potato plants. Did you know that the birth control pills used today, were originally made from wild sweet potatoes?

Opening statement of High King Chikili on June 7, 1735 to the leaders of Savannah . . . as translated by Mary Musgrove

When I found the original copies of the Creek Migration Legends at Lambath Palace in 2015 that had been lost for 285 years, I quickly observed something very odd. All of the translations had been done by Kvsapvnakesa (aka Mary Musgrove) but nowhere in the documents did Georgia’s Colonial Secretary, Thomas Christie, mention her name. In fact, from reading all of his reports about Georgia’s indigenous peoples . . . the Uchee, Creeks and Chickasaws . . . you would hardly know that the female gender existed. There were perhaps a couple of mentions that some Native American official was accompanied by his wife . . . but her name was not recorded. It was very clear that the British officials considered women to be chattel.

Tama chokopa in southwest Georgia.

Unlike most indigenous tribes in North America, the branches of the Creek People . . . Mvskoke, Itsate, Koasati, Seminole and Miccosukee . . . have many “social” dances in which men and women hold hands or are in physical contact. There is a reason for this. Creek towns held weekly sock hops. If the weather was bad, they dances would be held in a round chokopa (“warm place” in Itza Maya). Some dances were for everybody, but others were especially designed for singles to mix and mingle.

For generations, anthropologists brain-washed students

While at Georgia Tech, just prior to going to Mexico on the Barrett Fellowship, I was required to take a three-hour introductory course, labeled Anthropology 101 . . . taught by the famous archaeologist of Etowah Mounds, Lewis Larsen. 

About the only thing that I remember specifically from the course is that Dr. Larsen constantly talked about chiefdoms.  Most of the lectures were a blur of Kodachrome slides of potsherds, stone points and degenerated skeletons.  Dr. Larsen was a very likable, jovial man, but it was obvious that there was no spiritual connection between him and the people, who made those artifacts. I was probably the only Creek Indian, he ever had a conversation with and I never told him that I had American Indian ancestry. His perception of the Creek’s ancestors made them seem so primitive, compared to the cultures of Mexico, that I had little interest in Southeastern indigenous cultures until 1996.  That was the year that I found myself, suddenly single, back in Georgia and living in a rental townhouse near Etowah Mounds.

The term, chiefdom, had originally been dreamed up by British anthropologists to describe the tribes in Sub-Saharan Africa.  They obviously wanted to erase the memory of the many Iron Age kingdoms in Africa.  New England anthropologists then applied the term to their Woodland Culture Indian tribes.  Finally, Southeastern academicians applied the term to their mound builders.

As the term was originally concocted, a “mound-builder” society was a primitive chiefdom. Chiefdom was defined as a single ethnic group or regional cluster of communities of the same ethnic group, ruled by a “big man,” who ruled as a benevolent tyrant for life and passed on that power to his eldest son. Dr. Larsen said that chiefdoms were inherently unstable and rarely lasted longer than the lifespan of the chief or principal chief.  He taught that trade among the “mound-builders” consisted mostly of the exchange of “prestige goods,” which were passed from the elite of one chiefdom to the elite of another chiefdom.  There was no long-distance transportation of bulk commodities, because North American Indians did not have draft animals or wheeled vehicles.

The term, chiefdom, continues to be a mainstay of Southeastern Anthropological Religion, but I began noticing intermittent, subtle changes in the definition.  The truth was that the original definition could not explain the scale and complexity of many Native American towns in the Mississippi River Basin and Southeast . . . especially such places at Roods Creek Mounds, Ocmulgee Mounds and Cahokia Mounds.  Well, there was also the problem that the official definition did not match at all the eyewitness accounts of the Creek Confederacy in the early 1700s, but the academicians rarely let facts get in the way of their religious beliefs.

The following is an excerpt from the Wikipedia article on “chiefdoms.”   If you are really interested in the topic, I urge you to read the whole article.  It is clearly the private domain of some academician, who wants to use his or her intellectual property to take stabs at anyone, who has a different opinion.

Simple Chiefdom: “Chiefdoms are characterized by centralization of authority and pervasive inequality. At least two inherited social classes (elite and commoner) are present. (The ancient Hawaiian chiefdoms had as many as four social classes.) An individual might change social class during a lifetime by extraordinary behavior. A single lineage/family of the elite class becomes the ruling elite of the chiefdom, with the greatest influence, power, and prestige. Kinship is typically an organizing principle, while marriage, age, and sex can affect one’s social status and role.”

“A single simple chiefdom is generally composed of a central community surrounded by or near a number of smaller subsidiary communities. All of the communities recognize the authority of a single kin group or individual with hereditary centralized power, dwelling in the primary community. Each community will have its own leaders, which are usually in a tributary and/or subservient relationship to the ruling elite of the primary community.”

Complex Chiefdom: “A complex chiefdom is a group of simple chiefdoms controlled by a single paramount center, and ruled by a paramount chief. Complex chiefdoms have two or even three tiers of political hierarchy. Nobles are clearly distinct from commoners and do not usually engage in any form of agricultural production. The higher members of society consume most of the goods that are passed up the hierarchy as a tribute.”

Apparently, the author of this Wikipedia article was not required to take a Political Science or Urban History class in college.  I had to take several in my post-graduate curriculum at Georgia State University.  The political system that is now used as a definition of a Southeastern Chiefdom is exactly the same as FEUDALISM.   Why would such a political arrangement be feudalism for white Europeans, but be called “Chiefdom” for Southeastern indigenous peoples?   However, what the Wikipedia articles describes is not at all what 16th and 17th century European explorers observed.

Creek town of Nokose in the Nacoochee Valley

What eyewitness accounts and scientific studies actually tell us

Archaeologist Robert Wauchope’s study of Northern Georgia (1939): Wauchope discovered continuous chains of settlements on the Upper Chattahoochee and the Etowah Rivers. They were closely spaced, relatively small, but several had been almost continuous occupied from about 1000 BC to 1700 AD.  While the same styles of Proto-Creek pottery was found throughout the region, there was considerable variation in the domestic architecture of villages, literally within hundreds of feet between them.  He found villages with houses typical of the Chickasaw, Itsate-Creeks, Highland Apalache, Soque, Uchee, Etowah Mounds and Upper Creeks.  The chains of small villages were punctuated by mound centers (towns) of varying size, which had been occupied for many, many centuries.

Wauchope found one village on the Etowah River in Cherokee County, GA, which only contained skeletons with super-sized, cone-shaped skulls, typical of the Paracusa in Peru.  This village was fully excavated by Arthur Kelly and Joseph Caldwell in 1948.  Their phenomenal discoveries were mentioned by the Red and Black Newspaper of the University of Georgia, but redacted from all standard archeological publications.  Kelly and Caldwell theorized that the entire village suffered from congenital hydrocephalus or “water on the brain.”

The acropolis at Ocmulgee National Historic Park

Archaeologist Daniel Bigman’s study of Ocmulgee Mounds:  In is 2011-2012 study of Ocmulgee Mounds, using remote sensing and ceramic analysis, Dr. Bigman discovered that multiple ethnic groups lived in Ocmulgee and that the site had been occupied prior to construction of the current mounds.  Each neighborhood and satellite town displayed distinctive differences in architecture and pottery styles. Pottery with owl motifs was primarily fabricated at a village on Brown’s Mount – six miles to the south.

An earlier archaeological study by the Lamar Institute discovered a large town downstream on the Ocmulgee, near Warner-Robbins, which was occupied by the Otasee.  It contained at least 28 mounds.  Its domestic buildings were earth-bermed structures identical to those built later on the plains by the Oto, Kansa, Mandan and Arikara Peoples . . . all of whom have migration legends originating in the Deep South.

Hernando de Soto Chronicles:  The chroniclers stated that while passing through the region that is now SW/Central/Northern Georgia and Alabama, they never lost sight of houses or cultivated fields.  The towns were large and well-planned with streets, plazas, residential blocks, temples and warehouses. The people wore brightly colored, ornate, woven clothing.  Each province had its own, permanent capital town.  Several provinces used the Itza Maya grammatical format of putting an “I” sound in front of the province’s name to denote a capital.  For example, the capital of Chiaha (Salvia River in Itza) was Ichiaha.

The province of Chiaha cultivated vast fields of salvia (chia) along its rivers.  The people kept honey bees which produced bountiful amounts of honey.  Both the honey and the chia seeds were exported to other regions.

The capital of the Province of Coça (Kawshe in Creek/Kansa ~ Coosa in English) consisted of a dual town with seven suburban villages.  The town of the elite and permanent standing army was on the south side of Talking Rock Creek.  A much older town composed of Kansa “commoners” were on the north side of Talking Rock Creek.  The names of the suburban villages suggest that several ethnic groups lived in the burbs.

The Apalache-Creeks in NE Georgia wore conical hats.

Kingdom of Apalache:  In the ten chapters of his 1658 book, devoted to what is now Georgia, but then was called Florida Française, Charles de Rochefort wrote that at its maximum size the Kingdom of Apalache covered a vast territory from southwestern Virginia to southwestern Georgia. It was divided up into provinces, which contained many distinct ethnic groups. The Apalache in their Northeast Georgia homeland lived apart from the other ethnic groups with very different domestic architecture.  The Apalache clearly were from South America, but also had many Itza Maya words in their language.  De Rochefort described a “Commoner Town” in the Apalache Capital, which was located in the Nacoochee Valley.  His detailed description of the Commoner architecture matches exactly that of the Creeks when in first contact with the British settlers of South Carolina. Both the Apalache and their vassals farmed, but at different locations.  He said that the people in Florida, who the Spanish named the Apalache, did not call themselves Apalache.   The modern, annotated English translation of Charles de Rochefort’s ten chapters on Georgia may be found in The Apalache Chronicles [2013] by Marilyn Rae and Richard Thornton.

The Paracusa or High King/High Queen of Apalache were descended from a special ethnic group, which was very tall and had large heads.  This elite was called the Paracusate or “Strong People from the Ocean [or Upper Amazon Basin, depending on the accent].” They worshiped an invisible Sun Goddess, called Amana, who lived on top of a high mountain in Mexico.  Most of the priests came from the Uchee communities in Apalache, however.

The real Fort Caroline was 12 times the size of what you see in Jacksonville.

All Spanish, French, English, Dutch and German maps labeled the Altamaha River in Georgia the May River until 1722. Afterward, it was called the Coweta or Altamaha River.  South Carolina colonial records also labeled the Altamaha River as the May River until that year.  In 1721, Colonel John Barnwell prepared a map of South Carolina, while commanding the garrison of Fort King Georgia in present day Darien, GA .  He intentionally renamed the nearby river to “Altamaha or St. George” River to obscure the claims by France to Georgia and South Carolina, which French maps still labeled “Florida Française.”  In 1776, William Bartram visited and described “the ruins of a French or Spanish fort” at the exact same location where the 1721 English map places Fort Caroline.  

Three Voyages [1975] by Florida Congressman Charles E. Bennett, claims to be an accurate translation of the original French language memoirs of Fort Caroline’s commander, Captain René de Laudonnière.  That was a bald-faced lie.  I found proof that someone, perhaps Bennett’s ghost writer, had merely modernized the English of an inaccurate translation by Richard Hakluyt in 1584.  It contains the same mistakes in translating Late Medieval French as Hakluyt, PLUS deleted all passages that would make a Florida location for the fort impossible . . .  most notably the one where De Laudonnière provided the latitude of Fort Caroline (which matches that of the mouth of the Altamaha River) and then stated that the May River flowed generally southeastward from a source at the foot of the Appalachian Mountains! The St. Johns River flows northward from central Florida then turns eastward at Jacksonville. In 1950, Bennett pushed through Congress a resolution in which about 50 acres donated by Jacksonville, which has no 16th century artifacts or ruins on it, would be declared the site of Fort Caroline and a National Monument!

Trade:  In his memoirs, Captain René de Laudonnière, went into detail to describe the extensive trade of commodities between the southern Appalachian Mountains and the coasts of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico.  He said that each province specialized in the production of a commodity or crop, which could be traded to other provinces to obtain commodities unavailable at home.  He furthermore stated that most of the wars between commodities were not so much over territory as for control of key trade routes and commodity acquisition. For example, while Lt. La Roche Ferrière was on a six month trade mission to northern Georgia and the Appalachian Mountains, the king of Ustanauli suggested to him that the French and his province could form an alliance to attack the Kingdom of Apalache, which controlled the gold and greenstone trade.

A salt convoy on the Altamaha River

Here are some examples of commodity specializations:

  • Coastal tribes traded sea shells, salt and dried fish to inland tribes to obtain mica, crystals and flint.
  • The Apalache in the Lower Georgia Mountains had grown rich from their exports, which were highly desired in other parts of North America. They included (1) a special type of greenstone, which was the best material for making wedges and axes (2) sheet and flaked mica, and (3) gold foil and chains.
  • The province of Kawshe (Coosa) exported hickory nut oil, hickory nut butter, black chert and flint.
  • The Itsate in the high mountains exported beans, gems, crystals, honey, silver, bear skins and chia seeds.
  • Provinces near the Fall Line traded white clay and other colored pottery clays to tribes all over North America.
  • The people on the Lower Etowah River Valley exported marble, plus yellow ochre, red ochre, brown umber and black manganese pigments.
  • The province of the Alecmani specialized in the production of cinchona (quinine bark) and other semi-tropical medicines.  Their medicines were traded all over North America.
  • The capital of Chicora, located 16 miles up the Savannah River, where downtown Savannah is today, controlled the salt trade, because the Savannah River was the shortest water route to key trade routes in the mountains.
  • The Satile Province, located near the mouths of the Altamaha and Satilla Rivers and the Mayas, located in the Bottoms of the Ocmulgee River, had soils suitable for growing large crops of corn, squash and pumpkins.  They traded this corn for other commodities.

Traditional organization of a Creek Province

In the early 1730s, Georgia’s Colonial Secretary, Thomas Christie with the help of Kvsapvnakesa (Mary Musgrove) interviewed leaders and scholars of the Creek Confederacy to learn more about their history, political organization and religion.  Kvsapvnakesa told Christie that the political organization of the Creek Confederacy went back to ancient times.

  • Elder and Clan Mother: Each extended family elected male elder and female clan mother.
  • Orataw: Each village and neighborhood within a larger town elected an orataw, or minor chief.  The provincial leaders also appointed orataws to supervise special construction projects.  The word was borrowed from the Panoan language of Peru.  Actually, it was carried from Peru by Woodland Period immigrants.
  • Tula (Itza Maya & Itzate Creek) or Talwa (Mvskoke) – A tribal town, which consisted of a principal administrative town, plus smaller towns, villages and extended family farmsteads.
  • Talula (Itzate) or Talufa (Mskoke) – A district administrative town with one mound
  • Etula (Itza Maya and Itzate Creek) & Etalwa (Mvskoke Creek) – Principal town or capital.
  • Awliketv or Council: Each village or neighborhood elected an informal council.
  • Tula-Mako (Itzate) or Talwa-Mikko (Mvskoke):  Each large town (Tribal Town)within a cluster of smaller towns and satellite villages elected a mako/meko as its CEO and representative for tribal bodies.  Mako means “minor king” in Itza maya.
  • Tula-Awlikete (Itzate) or Talwa-Awliketaw (Mvskoke) – A town council was elected for tribal town, which would include the district administrative center, smaller towns, villages and farmsteads.
  • Tvstvnvke – Adult warrior, influential male citizen. All male and female adults in good standing had the right to vote and hold political offices.
  • Tvstvnvke-rakko – Big Warrior, member of the tribal town’s House of Warriors.  This group had complete authority over management of forests, hunting lands and fishing areas.
  • Hene-hoktuce, I-hoktuce, Tama-hoktuce – Special Girl or Trade Girl – These were young women, who were chosen by a vote of the community to embark on a life, somewhat comparable to a Geisha Girl, but with much more political power and personal wealth involved.  They were considered the most beautiful and intelligent young women in a town.  They were given extensive classes in geography, math, foreign languages, sexual pleasuring and public speaking.  While single, they would often be assigned to visiting dignitaries from other tribes or peoples.  When ready to marry, they could either become the wife of a high king or be married to a man from another tribe to cement a political alliance.  It is quite likely that Mary Musgrove was one of these Special Girls.
  • Yahola or Speaker:  Each tribal town and most smaller towns would elect a man to be Speaker of the Town Council and supervisor of the brewing of ase, the Sacred Black Drink.  Ase-Yahola was merely the title of the Seminole Man known to history as Osceola.
  • Vfustetv-[Este or Hotke] – Keeper or a priestly scholar, who specialized in some particular responsibility or science.  They could be keepers of the sacred fire, conventional priests, historians, astronomers, agricultural experts or herbal medicine experts.  The astronomers and firekeepers often were Uchee.
  • Mvhvla/Mahala – A professional teacher, who could be a man or a woman.  However, one especially bright girl in each generation of a family was chosen as a Mahala.  My grandmother’s first name was Mahala.
  • Talliya – an architect-surveyor, who specialized in the construction of buildings, the design of buildings, the planning of towns and the laying out each spring of agricultural fields.
  • Joana – High priest of a tribal town or of the nation.  He or she was assisted by Keepers.
  • Em vliketaw or Council of Clan Mothers were often elected for towns and larger villages. These were composed only of women. Women had complete ownership of all cultivated lands.  They also had veto powers over any decision to go to war or signing of a peace treaty.
  • Tvstvnvkvlke-Encuko– Member of the National House of Warriors.  This was the Upper House of the Bicameral legislative system.  It could include women.
  • Vilketaw-Encuko – Member of the House of Clans or House of Towns. This was the Lower House of the Bicameral legislative system.  It included both men and women.
  • Henehaw – Originally, these people were siblings of the High King, but later they were appointed by the National Council.  The word is Maya and means “Sun Lord.”   They functioned as circuit judges, who went around the province hearing criminal and civil cases.  Female henehaws typically were assigned to settle disagreements between women or about farm allotments assigned to each family.
  • Henehaw–Awlikete – This was the advisory council for the High King.  The equivalent in England would be the Privy Council. 
  • Emarv/Emaraw/Emathla – A person designated as the High King’s or High Queen’s personal representative, whose commands were equivalent to that of his or her boss. The word is from the Itza Maya language.
  • Henemako (Itza Maya and Itzate), Parakusa (Apalache, Kusabo, Kusate) or Etalwamikko (Mvskoke) – This was the Great Sun or High King or High Queen . . . but he or she was not an absolute monarch in the European sense.   The person was Head of State like a constitutional monarch, but was elected, not necessarily given the position because of being the offspring of a deceased or deposed High King. 

The election of a new High King was not necessarily for life.  Chikili retired from the position when General James Edward Oglethorpe left Savannah and returned to England.  He was replaced by Malatchi. The position seems to have been more in the realm of High Priest, since the Henemako was responsible for greeting the sun each morning, when it rose over the horizon.  The High King could take no action without consensus approval of both Upper and Lower Houses.  He could not shed blood and therefore, did not accompany troops into battle.  The Great Sun could be impeached by unanimous vote of the Lower and Upper Houses of elected representatives.

Obviously, the social and political structure of Muskogean kingdoms and provinces were something quite different than the Wikipedia definition of a chiefdom. 

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