by Richard L. Thornton, Architect & City Planner
Because they have consistently replicated the speculations of 20th century “authority figures” rather than thoroughly studying eyewitness accounts, academicians have completely missed the complex ethnic history of the Southeastern United States. Instead, a simplistic “model of the past” has been fabricated, based on the modern, federally-recognized Native American tribes. We will give you a hint. The Native American name for the Savannah River was the Chiskahatchee River!
As I continue to research the true meanings of Native American words in the Southeastern United States, I am running into one discovery after another. These are facts that have been left out of the textbooks and online references. I am passing them on to the readers to “ruminate” on . . . in the same format that they appear in the book-in-progress.
Chisca (TN & GA) – The Chisca are mentioned in both the chronicles of the De Soto and Juan Pardo expeditions. They are described as a warlike, culturally advanced people, but there are no descriptions of their architecture. We are told that some of the soldiers in Juan Pardo’s company departed their fort and assisted Muskogean towns in the North Carolina Mountains attack the Chiska.
Somewhat later reports by the Spanish stated that the Chisca knew how to make copper from copper ore, like the peoples of Peru, and used metal weapons. They did not build mounds or live in formally planned towns like the Muskogeans. Most of their houses were man-made caves in the sides of hills and mountains. Very few, if any, Chisca villages have been discovered because they were burrowed into the natural landscape.
In 1682, Robert Cavelier La Salle encountered a band of Chisca refugees in central Tennessee, who said that their villages had been ravaged by Spanish-speaking raiders from the south. Most likely, these were either gem miners from North Carolina or gold miners from Georgia.
The last mention of the Chisca on a European document is the 1684 map of North America by Jean Baptist de Franquelin. He showed the Chisca living on the Holston River in extreme northeastern Tennessee near their allies, the Apeke, Catalaw and Chakata. To escape the Cherokees, these three peoples moved southward to western Georgia and northeastern Alabama. Initially, the Catalaw were in present-day Catoosa County, GA but later they moved to present-day Harris County, GA. Chakata moved to present-day Taladega County, AL.
Now here are two astonishing facts that are apparently unknown to contemporary anthropologists in the Southeast. A significant number of Chisca from Tennessee settled on the Chattahoochee River near the Catalaw and joined the Creek Confederacy. The chief United States Agent to the Southeastern Indians, Benjamin Hawkins, wrote that they established a tribal town named Chiska Talufa in present-day Chattahoochee County, GA near where Fort Benning is today. Hawkins had an even bigger surprise for us, though.
The traditional Creek name for the Savannah River was the Chiskahatchee . . . the Chiska River. That’s right. Apparently, the majority of Chiscas were originally in Georgia and South Carolina, not Tennessee. Because they were not consummate mound-builders, their town sites have been missed by archaeologists. One other important fact was told by Hawkins, but missed by 20th century scholars.
The Creek name for the Broad River in Northeast Georgia was the Sokee River. The Sokee did not just live in the 28-mile long Soque River Basin in extreme northeast Georgia was not their only homeland. Soque territory actually stretched southeastward over a hundred miles to Rembert Mounds near Elberton, GA on the Savannah River. Hawkins stated that the Soque’s territory was chosen as a buffer zone between the Cherokees and the Creeks, because the Sokee’s spoke a dialect of the Itsate Creek language, but were generally on friendly terms with the Cherokees and the Creeks.
Etymology – Chiska (or Chisca in Spanish) means “bird” in the Panoan language family of Peru. There is no doubt that the Chiscas in the Southeast were the same people as the Chisca in Peru. The Cherokee Bird Clan in the modern Cherokee language is called Ani-tsiskwa. In English phonetics, pronounced as Ani-Chiskwa.
The Bird Clan believed that birds were the messengers to Creator. This is a Panoan belief from Peru, which was also the belief of the Apalache-te of Northeast Georgia, whose ancestors were also from Peru. As you can now see, it is ludicrous to define the Pre-Columbian past in Eastern North America in terms of today’s federally recognized tribes.
Oh . . . and in how many museums and archaeology books have you seen Southeastern Native American warriors, wearing conical split-cane helmets? These helmets are shown in their art, but were ignored. Guess indigenous men, wearing conical hats wouldn’t look like Hollywood Injuns . . . and that would confuse people.