by Richard L. Thornton, Architect and City Planner
The name of the Yamasee “capital” in South Carolina was also a tribe in northern West Virginia!
It’s an arduous task that should have been done long ago, but it also changes our understanding of North America’s past. I am getting up each morning at 6 AM to face a stack of 18 indigenous American dictionaries and armed with a big mug of Earl Gray tea. What I am finding is a swath of tribes with Caribbean and South American names that covers almost all of Florida, the eastern third of Georgia then much of South Carolina, northeastern Tennessee, eastern Kentucky, western West Virginia and the western edge of Virginia.
These names are prominent on 17th century maps, but disappeared in the years between 1660 and 1763. Most names, such as the powerful Highland Apalache or the Calicoa farther north, disappeared by 1700. Dozens of Uchee tribes also disappeared during this period. In their place on modern maps we see “Traditional territory of the Cherokee.” Yet, I also have maps in my library that place the Cherokee in Quebec until at least 1650 . . . and not living in Tennessee until after 1700.
The evidence was there all along
Long, long ago in a land faraway, known as the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, I was a very busy architect. I was working through a waiting list of clients, who wanted to restore their Colonial or Federal Period farmhouses. One of my earliest projects in Virginia was the study of a 1790 farmhouse on the Shenandoah River, just purchased by newlyweds. Jay Monahan was a successful lawyer in Downtown Washington. His perky wife, Katie Couric, was a weekend reporter for Channel 4 in Washington.
I found painted potsherds in the old garden there, which looked like they belonged in Mexico. Jay let me keep some, because we both suspected that they were merely broken souvenirs that some soldier in the Mexican-American War had brought home. They were too fancy to be from North America.
As I did more and more projects in the Seven Bends section of the Shenandoah Valley, I saw more and more artifacts that seemed to belong to an indigenous civilization, not the hunters and gatherers that Virginia archaeologists claimed were the only inhabitants of the Valley. Then while supervising the restoration of the two-story log house, purchased by political consultants James Carville and Mary Matalin, a “Ditch Witch” tractor spit out some mighty strange things out of the black bottomland soil of a field that separated their house from the Monahan-Couric property. We were installing a new septic tank and drain field.
There were stone lined sarcophagi with ancient skeletons in them, stone griddles for tortillias or casava cakes and stone metates. All of these things belonged to Mexico, I thought, and they definitely could not have come to the Commonwealth of Virginia in a soldier’s back pack!
Thunderbird Archaeological Associates were neighbors of my architecture office in Woodstock, VA. If the name sounds familiar . . . that’s the firm of the famous archaeologist Bill Gardner, which discovered a village on the Shenandoah River of at least 800-1000 houses, dating from around 8300 BC! Funny how archaeological facts like that one, are conveniently left out of the textbooks. The Flint Run Complex is in Wikipedia, however.
Bill looked at samples of the artifacts and said that they had to be either Hopewell or Mississippian Culture. The Carville-Matalan farm was fairly close to a large town site on another bend in the Shenandoah with ramps, mounds and plazas that Bill had examined for another client of mine the previous year. He said that his specialty was Paleo-American and Archaic Cultures. He recommended that I take the artifacts to the Department of Anthropology at the University of Virginia, which was about a 1 ½ hour drive away.
Batted zero! I never got beyond the secretary, who answered the phone. She flagged down a professor passing through the office and told him what I had found. He told her to tell me that I was not qualified to evaluate artifacts. I told her that I had studied in Mexico. After she told him that, he laughed, shouted “Mexico” and walked away.
Only about seven years ago, I discovered the book, A History of the Valley of Virginia by Samuel Kercheval (1833). Kercheval settled in the Shenandoah Valley in the early 1800s. In his book, he wrote, “Along all our water courses evidences of Indian dwellings are yet to be seen. The valley once contained large, complex earthworks, stone walls and thick wattle and daub houses in their towns.”
Kercheval further stated that elderly residents of the Shenandoah Valley, still living when he arrived, told him that there were many Indian mounds visible when they arrived. Farmers constantly unearthed stone-lined burials, stone griddles and metates, which were used for construction or lawn decorations. Many of the mounds contained burials and artifacts, which were looted and sold to collectors.
The largest mound was an earthen pyramid about 25 feet high at the base of Rudes Hill near Mt. Jackson, VA in Shenandoah County. In Kercheval’s time, the mound was still about 15 feet tall. It was destroyed during the Civil War. That was also the fate of the Hopewell Culture mound on my farm. It became a Confederate artillery redan during the Battle of Toms Brook.
Kercheval stated that the real name of the Tobacco Indians, who occupied the northern Shenandoah Valley until around 1700 or 1710, was the Petun Indians. You are not told that in history and anthropological texts today. He said that they were called the Tobacco Indians by Englishmen, because they grew and exported exceptionally sweet tobacco like that produced in the Spanish colonies in the tropics. I looked up the word Petun. Yes, it is the word for tobacco in the Tupi language of Brazil!
Now . . . how could all the historians and anthropologists in Virginia ignore such eyewitness statements from a highly respected author, who wrote an extremely popular book? The book is available online and as a reprint. It is no “big secret.”
The culture that I assumed was from Mexico, apparently was from South America. However, it is also likely that they were in contact with the Tamahiti from Georgia, who had established towns with mounds in Southwestern Virginia. Virginia historians call them Tomohitans. The official Commonwealth of Virginia Timeline, produced by archaeologists and history professors, does not even have a category for either Hopewell or Shenandoah Valley mound builders. They describe the Shenandoah Valley and the mountains to the west of there as an almost uninhabited “hunting ground” for several tribes.
A Patchwork Quilt of peoples
In going through the colonial archives and maps from the 1600s, I have found a patchwork quilt of many small tribes in Florida, Georgia’s Coastal Plain, South Carolina, eastern Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia – representing many ethnic groups. The only exceptions in West Virginia were the Calicoa on the upper Ohio River and the Xuale, on the Kanawha River Valley of north-central West Virginia. They were politically powerful, mound builders and apparently the descendants of the Hopewell Culture. They maintained colonies in the Lower Southeast, recorded with such names as Suale, Xuale, Sara, Talli, Talicoa and Pocotalico. The Calico and Xuale were first weakened by European plagues then decimated by slave raids from the Iroquois and Rickohockens then finally destroyed by Cherokee slave raids.
There were dozens of Uchee, Muskogean, Arawak, Tupi, Panoan and Taino tribes, which have been mislabeled as being “Iroquoian” or “Algonquian” by Midwestern, Tennessee, West Virginia and Virginia academicians because they know nothing about their languages of these peoples. There were several tribes with Taino names in South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia! The name Tennessee is derived from the Itsate Creek name for them . . . Taenasi . . . which means, “Descendants of the Taino.” All descriptions of these peoples admit that their tribal names can’t be translated by Algonquian or Iroquois dictionaries, but explain that “the meanings of the words have been lost.”
For example, the charismatic leader of the Neutral Nation alliance is called Souharisson in most historical texts. The Neutral Nation is described as an alliance of several Iroquoian tribes. I looked at the names of the member tribes. A couple did have Iroquoian names. However, other names were Uchee, Arawak and Panoan. I found one paper by a West Virginia professor that revealed the real name of Souharisson was actually Tso-uriwa-si and that “it was said to mean Child of the Sun.”
Wo! Tso-uriwa-si is a political title that appears among some tribes in Georgia’s Coastal Plain near Savannah. It is in a hybrid language, also spoke by the Guale (actually Wahale) which mixed Uchee, Panoan from Peru and Muskogean grammar. Tso-uriwa-si means “Sun-King-Offspring of.” There was a direct cultural connection between the Georgia Coast and the region around eastern Ohio, western Pennsylvania and northwestern West Virginia.
Another example is the Chiska, which are recorded by the chroniclers of the De Soto and Pardo Expeditions as Chisca. Anthropological texts tell us that “The Chisca were a tribe of Yuchi Native Americans living in eastern Tennessee and southwestern Virginia in the 16th century. They later merged with the Shawnee, and became extinct as a tribe during the 18th century.”
Well . . . no. Chisca is also the name of a warlike Panoan tribe in Peru, which in the past dressed in an identical manner to the Chisca in Tennessee. The word, Chisca, means “bird” in Panoan. There is no doubt that they were the same people. Some Chisca survivors joined the Cherokees and became their Ani-Chiskwa or Bird Clan. Some Chisca survivors joined the Creek Confederacy and became the Chiska-ke Tribal Town. It was located on the Chattahoochee River.
In most modern Cherokee dialects, tsikwa is also one of the words for a bird. There are quite a few Panoan words in the Creek and Cherokee languages, but are different words. Chiska words in Cherokee tend to be verbs or adjectives. Those in Creek include the nouns for the Sacred Black Drink, canoe, beans, sweet potato, a village chief (orato) and a provincial king (uriwa). Actually, the clothing and hat of a Seminole mikko or Keeper are identical to the clothing worn by Panoan chiefs and healers.
In 1682, Robert Cavelier La Salle encountered a band of Chisca refugees in central Tennessee, who said that their villages had been ravaged by white slave raiders from the south, who spoke Spanish. Dixie academicians have discounted the story, because the presence of Spanish-speaking, either Sephardic or Asturian miners in Georgia, NE Tennessee and western North Carolina, have been left out of the history books. These 17th century colonists, redacted from the history books, seemed to have done an ethnic cleansing on the Southern Appalachians, leaving the door open for the Cherokees.
There is much more to this unfolding book. As I make continued progress in the translations, the readers will be kept informed. I also now have a certified photocopy of The History of the Cherokee People, which is composed of eight handwritten chapters, prepared by Principal Chief Charles Hicks in 1826 for the newly elected President of the Cherokee National Council. The contents have never been published in a printed book. It is not available anywhere in the Southeast, because the documents totally refute the “official Cherokee history” now being told the public. I used my sleuth skills to obtain the photocopies from a source far to the north of Washington, DC . . . if you get my gist. I plan to transcribe the handwriting and publish the booklet through my publisher in North Carolina.