Why Whites gave fanciful names to streams with Native American names

by Richard L. Thornton, Architect & City Planner

When paddling in Quitman and Randolph Counties, Georgia be careful what stream you slide you canoe or kayak into. You might end up in that proverbial creek, which we all dread and without a paddle.

Work is continuing on the scientific etymology of Native American place names in the Southeastern United States. At least 90% of Wikipedia’s meanings of Native American geographical place names in the Southeast are wrong. The reason is that someone long ago made up a meaning that “seemed nice at the time,” but was bogus. Multiple generations of “Meanings of Place Names” book authors copied what a previous author had said without “fact-checking” the source because it took less time. They figured that their readers would assume that each word had been seriously researched. Such things will have you, sooner or later, up that proverbial creek without a paddle.

Holanna Creek – This is a stream in Quitman and Randolph Counties, Georgia.  It is a tributary of Pataula Creek, which flows into the Chattahoochee River. Alternative spellings are “Holana Creek” and “Holanee Creek”

  • Dubious etymology – [Kenneth Krakow and William Bright] “Holanna” is a name derived from Muskogean language meaning “yellow potato” * RLT – Yellow potato in Muskogee Creek is aho oklane.  Not even close!
  • Etymology – Holanna is the Anglicization of the Creek word holvne (holane) which means “excrement.”

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