The Rickohockens . . . organized crime on the Southern Frontier

by Richard L. Thornton, Architect & City Planner

From Virginia to Georgia, several “Native American” place names can be translated with a Late Medieval Duets (Dutch) dictionary! In 1682, René-Robert Cavelier, sieur de La Salle was shocked to discover that for decades white traders, who were neither French, English nor Spanish had been selling European manufactured goods, even fire arms, to the Indians as far west as the Mississippi River.  Clearly, something was missing from the American History books we were given in high school.

Research for this article began while I was practicing architecture in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley about 25 years ago.  I couldn’t figure out what had happened to the advanced indigenous civilization in the valley.  The effort culminated in the publication of “William Berkeley the Butcher” in Bacon’s Rebellion Magazine 2007.  This magazine was then devoted to research into Virginia’s early history, but the online version now is mostly targeted toward contemporary politics.

The year is 1646. England was being torn apart by a civil war between Parliament and supporters of King Charles I.  The elderly leader of the Powhatan Confederacy, Opechancanough, launched a blitzkrieg like assault on the farmsteads and plantations of coastal Virginia. Someone had told the Native American leader that no reinforcements would come from England because of the Civil War.  What few people knew then was that Opechancanough could speak, read and write several languages. He received the best education possible in Spain and Mexico. The Sephardic Jewish traders, based in Nieuw Nederland, certainly knew how to speak Spanish.

As a child, Opechancanough had been abducted by Spaniards with the specific intent of training him to be a priest’s assistant and translator.  The Spanish re-named him Don Luis.  In 1570, Don Luis was sent along with eleven Jesuit missionaries and a teenage boy name Aloncito to found a mission on the Chesapeake Bay. Don Luis immediately escaped as soon as he got on land.  In February 1571, Opechancanough killed three priests, who approached his village, wanting food.  He then led a war party to the mission, where all the priests and lay brothers were killed.  Aloncito, a fellow victim like Don Luis, was spared and adopted by the village chief.  You see . . .

Also, left out of the standard history books was the practice back in the 1500s and 1600s of furnishing Spanish friars in remote missions with teenage boys. The responsibilities of these teenage boys, such as Don Luis and Aloncito went far beyond cleaning up the dishes after mass . . . if you get my gist.  Many a Spanish priest was “martyred” after he took the same liberties with Native American youth.

Getting back to 1646

After the Powhatan warriors and colonists had fought to a draw, 400 warriors of a tribe that no one had ever heard of marched down the James River valley, devastating almost everything in their path, except the large plantation of the Governor William Berkeley, and a few plantations of his closest friends. These seemingly invincible warriors were called the Rickohockens.  Like Sherman marching to Savannah, the Rickohockens burned their way almost to the walls of the capital of Virginia, Jamestown.  With total victory in their grasp, the Rickohockens sued for peace, because supposedly they had run out of arrows!

“Cut and paste” histories, that duplicate themselves across the internet, will all tell you the same story.  The Rickohockens defeated the Pamunkey warriors and Virginia militia in 1656 when they attacked one of the Rickohocken towns. Late 18th century maps show the Rickohockens controlling a region that included SW Virginia, SE Kentucky, NE Tennessee and NW North Carolina.  Shortly thereafter, the Rickohockens disappeared from history and probably were the real name for the Cherokees; at least that is what the “cut and paste” histories say.

Many ”cut and paste” websites sites quote varying opinions from professors living 500 or more miles away from the Rickohocken’s stronghold in Virginia, who speculate that the Rickohockens were originally Erie, Lenape, Cherokee, Algonquin, Yamasee or Yuchi Indians. However, no anthropologist has been able to find a Native American language that translates the word, Rickohocken.

The Rickohockens were actually known to have at least three names. In Virginia they were called either Rickohocken or a word similar to Recherren. In South Carolina they were called Recherren, the Weste by Creek Indians and Westo by coastal planters. The word, weste, is now used as pejorative adjective by Creek Indians to describe an ill-kept person with long, scraggly hair.

Surviving colonial lore about the Rickohockens states that their capital was named Otari and that it was located high in the Virginia Mountains near the Peaks of the Otter. That location is near Bedford, VA. Supposedly either the word Otari or the word, Rickohocken, meant “high place.”

There may be something to that Creek usage of the word, Weste.  Spanish friars, whose parishioners on the coast of Georgia were repeatedly victims of Rickohocken slave raids, called them the Chichimecas in their reports to Spain. Historians have generally been disdainful of this label, because the word Chichimec is an Aztec word used to describe the wild tribes of northern Mexico.  The Chichimecs DID have long, scraggly hair, however.

The Chichimec version of the Stomp Dance.


What else “cut and paste” histories don’t tell their readers

There are some other things that “cut and paste” histories don’t generally tell their readers about early Virginia. As soon as Neiuw Amsterdam was founded in 1610, perhaps earlier, Dutch traders, most of them Sephardic immigrants from Spain, began trading journeys down the Great Appalachian Valley, which runs from New York to Georgia. In the early and mid-1500s, the Netherlands were ruled by Spain.  As such, Christian Dutch merchant ships would have been able to trade with and explore Spanish-claimed territories. 

During that period, the Sephardic Jewish ships captains primarily were associated with the French Huguenots in France and the Calvinists in Scotland. Both in Scotland and France, the Jewish families altered their family names to appear more “local.”  Both Daniel Boone and David Crockett were of Sephardic ancestry.  We recently learned that Elvis Pressley was also primarily Sephardic and Choctaw.  The “French Huguenot” Morel family, who owned Ossabaw, Wassaw and St. Catherines Islands on the Georgia Coast, were originally the Jewish Morelos Family of Spain.

In 1646, Europeans thought that the Pacific Ocean was on the west side of the Virginia Mountains, but already Berkeley was obtaining slaves there.

Late in 1646, after the big Rickohocken raid down the James Valley, Governor Berkeley signed a contract between his trading company and the Rickohockens.  His company would buy all the Native American slaves the Rickohockens could deliver. He would also buy any furs or skins that the Rickohockens could trap or steal from other tribes. The Native American slave trade was born.

At the same time, Governor Berkeley and his Royalist buddies were buying up the lands of massacred owners along the James River, plus the forfeited tracts of the defeated Indians. Berkeley despised democracy, middle class folks, yeomen farmers, Puritans, Quakers, Presbyterians, Anabaptists and anyone else, who was not a rich, white, Royalist Anglican. He later wrote in his memoir:

“I thank God, there are no free schools, nor printing in Virginia; and I hope we shall not have these for a hundred years; for learning has brought disobedience, and heresy, and sects into the world, and printing has divulged them, and libels against the best government. God keep us from both.”

There is more.  The English Commonwealth fired Berkeley in 1652 and replaced him with a supporter of Oliver Cromwell.  Berkeley did just fine without his governor’s salary . . . living off the profits from his fur and slave trade.  At the time of the 1656 attack on the fortified Rickohocken town, the Rickohockens were the primary contractors for Berkeley’s trading company. They had complained to Berkeley because white settlers were locating ever closer to the mountains. 

Berkeley saw the situation as an opportunity to “kill two birds with one stone.”  Establishing a fortified Rickohocken town, where Richmond is now located would stop western settlements and create a perceived “terrorist threat.”  He pressured the Commonwealth leaders to attack the town. Berkeley then forward intel about the planned attack to his Rickohocken business partners.  The humiliating defeat of the Virginia Militia made a colonial government, run by “commoners,” seem ineffective in combating terrorism.  Some things never change, do they?

After the Restoration of King Charles II in 1661, Berkeley was reinstated.  Up until 1661, Native American and African servants were not legally slaves, but bond-servants.  Their time of servitude was supposedly limited to a certain number of years.  Their children were born free.

Between 1661 and 1665 Governor Berkeley pushed through a series of laws that institutionalized slavery, declared the children of slaves to be slaves in perpetuity, forbade citizenship for Native Americans, Africans and mixed-heritage offspring, plus made sexual intercourse between a white woman and a Native American or African man a felony. That last law was on the books in Virginia until the late 20th century.  Of course, exactly 200 years after the institutionalization of slavery, the soil of Virginia would be covered in blood in a Civil War that ended the curse of slavery.

South Carolina in 1696

In 1665, plans were formalized for a new colony south of Virginia to be called Carolina. Charles II used the scheme to pay off debts to those, who had financed his restoration to the throne.  William Berkeley was one of the colony’s eight Proprietors.  There was a problem, though.  The region was densely populated by Native American provinces, particularly in what is now South Carolina and Georgia.  The government of Virginia fixed that problem by cutting a deal with the Rickohockens.  The Rickohockens would be furnished with fire arms, munitions, hatchets and knives, if they would supply Virginia with an unlimited number of Native American slaves.

The Rickohockens swept down through the Southern Appalachians and Piedmont.  Many smaller tribes were helpless against the firearms.  Typically, the Rickohockens killed anybody, who was not capable of walking back to Virginia, while being bound.  This ruthless strategy resulted in vast areas of the Lower Southeast being depopulated.  So when Charlestowne was founded in 1670, the surviving indigenous peoples were too weak to put up much resistance and often welcomed the arrival of British colonists to protect them from the Rickohockens.

During the 1660s, many Rickohockens relocated to what is now Augusta, GA.  Their principal town was called Rickohocken, but once settlement began on the South Carolina coast, these southern slave raiders were generally known as Weste by the Creeks, Westebo by the Panoan-speaking coastal tribes and Westo by British colonists. “Bo” means “place of” or “living place” in Panoan.  It is does not mean “river” as you read in articles by South Carolina academicians.

Initially, the Colony of South Carolina had the same contract with the Westos as Virginia had with the Rickohockens.  However, by 1680 this had proved to be a problem.  The Westos were hated by all the other tribes.  This inhibited trade between the other tribes and the Carolina colonists.  Secondly, the Westos occasionally raided plantations to steal their slaves then resold them to other plantations.  To solve the “Westo problem” Carolina officials cut a deal with the Savanos, a southern Shawnee tribe.  The Savano were armed and then persuaded to attack the Westos en masse.   Many Westos were either killed or sold into slavery.  The survivors fled to the Chattahoochee River and eventually joined the Creek Confederacy.

The word, Rickohocken, was not mentioned in the records of the Virginia House of Burgesses after 1684. The few remaining northern Rickohockens apparently were either killed by the Iroquois or became the Long Hair Clan of the emerging Cherokee Alliance.  Virginia state history texts teach that the word Cherokee was just a new name for the Rickohockens.  This may or may not be true.

1650 map of North America

A mysterious period in American history

Researchers have found many things odd about the official history of the Rickohockens.  British maps show the Rickohockens controlling all of SW Virginia, SE Kentucky, NE Tennessee and NW North Carolina until around 1784.  However, James Needham and Gabriel Arthur went on an expedition that traveled through the heart of Rickohocken country; from Petersburg, VA to the capital of the Tamahiti in northeastern Tennessee (or perhaps even NW Georgia) in 1673.  They never saw a Rickohocken village or mentioned the word, Cherokee, but did mention seeing many Spaniards & Portuguese*, a brick town with an Armenian Christian church and a wood-framed town occupied by Northern Africans. *More likely, they were Spanish and Portuguese-speaking Sephardim.

Cut and paste histories state that Needham and Arthur traveled to the capital of the Cherokees at Chota on the Tennessee River. In actuality, the words Cherokee, Chota and Tennessee are never mentioned in the original text about Needham and Arthur’s expedition.  In 1991, a history professor at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill (not Virginia!) created an “edited” version of that text, which was intended to make it appear that the Cherokees were aboriginal to eastern Tennessee. He substituted “Cherokee” for “Tomahitan,” “Chota” for “Tomahitan’s capital” and deleted references to the non-indigenous towns, Christians, Spanish and Africans.

  • The Tamahiti (Tomahitan in Algonquin) were a Creek tribe that returned to their ancestral home in southeast Georgia in the 1720s because of the Creek-Cherokee War. Their mother town was Tama, which was visited by de Soto. Tamahiti means “Merchant People” in Itza Maya.
  • Virtually all families in Northeast Georgia, who have long claimed to be Cherokee descendants find that they have little or no Native American DNA, but high levels of Portuguese and Semitic DNA.  
  • In 1580, Portugal was merged with Spain.  Almost immediately the Spanish crown began dispatching the Inquisition to Portugal and Andalusia.  Many, many thousands of Jews were forced to flee to Scotland, the Netherlands and the Americas. 
  • Many of the crypto-Jewish families initially congregated in Cartagena, Colombia, the Bahama Islands, Jamaica or the northern frontier of Mexico, which is now New Mexico, Texas, Durango, Zacatecas, Chihuahua and Coahuila. Dutch Jewish ship captains, based in the Bahamas provided transit to the mainland of North America, plus delivered contraband to Spanish colonies in the Caribbean Basin.  Especially in Cartagena and northern Mexico, the Crypto-Jewish families became very wealthy from involvement with gold mining and the slave trade.  These were two of the only three areas in Spanish Empire in which slavery was permitted.  
  • Cryto-Jewish families in northeastern Mexico recruited fierce, long haired Chichimeca warriors as private armies to raid sedentary Indian villages for slaves and Spanish missions for food, gold and silver.  When pressured by the Spanish army, these private armies moved northward and evolved into the Comancheros.
  • In 1600, Spanish authorities in St. Augustine received reports of a band of over 100 white men on horseback crossing eastward over what is now the Georgia Piedmont.
  • In 1610, the Inquisition showed up without warning at Cartagena.  In a matter of weeks, over 3,000 Jews left Cartagena on Dutch Jewish ships, headed to parts unknown.
  • Most of the mining timbers in the ancient gold and silver mines of northern Georgia and western North Carolina have been dated to the period between 1585 and 1620.  Archaeologists have noted a sudden abandonment of large indigenous towns in northwest Georgia around 1585.
The 1701 Map of North America labels western North Carolina, “The Shawnee Nation.” Cherokee does not appear anywhere.

Linguistic analysis

It could well be that the original core of the Rickohockens were Chichimacas imported from Mexico.  Over time, they probably recruited men from other tribes.  However, with so little linguistic evidence, it is difficult to assign a specific ethnic origin for the Rickohockens.

Hopefully, the reader is sitting down at this point.   All three words . . . Rickohocken, Rikcherren and Westo are Archaic Nederlandische (Dutch)!  In Late Medieval Duets, the words would be spelled Rijkehoogen, Rijkeherren and Woeste.  They mean “High or lofty kingdom”, “Nobility” and “Wild or Savage.”  These Dutch words are actually pronounced very similar to how the Rickohocken’s names were spelled in English.

The Bohurons of Northeast Georgia appear to have also originated as Dutch cronies. By the mid-1700s they were a multi-ethnic division of the Creek Confederacy, known for its horsemanship.  Bohuron is the Moorish and Jewish Ladino word for “nobility.”  Within the Bohuron territory is a dormant mud volcano within a dried-up swamp. Its name is Nodoroc.  That is a Late Medieval Duets word, meaning “Swamp Smoking.”

The Rickohockens were an artificial Native American tribe originally created by Dutch investors to capture Native American slaves and squelch the expansion of Virginia. Sephardic Jewish traders were the main agents of this plan. There is also circumstantial evidence that unbeknownst to their kings, wealthy Spaniards, Sephardic Jews and Englishmen were probably also involved with this scheme. Now you know! 


  1. You know Richard I was reading an article about the early Dutch settlements in New York not long ago. It is something I wasn’t taught much about in history. I did not realize how much their influence and words are around still after hundreds of years. Wall Street came from those Dutch, who knew. We surely don’t know our history

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  2. Richard, Cherokees as well as many Creeks are connected to the Mediterranean Sea area but so long ago…they only remember that they arrived from the Rising Sun land. Ani-Yun-Wiya is most likely a connection to “Yun-ya” and his Sister Queen “Mutem-wiya” of 14 century Egypt /Mi-tani. Copper mining tools of Wisconsin agree: sprocket Tools arrive at 1500 BC. P.S wish I could zoom these maps…Thanks for the articles.

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    1. Genealogical research led me years ago to my ancestor who took part in Bacon’s Rebellion and was condemned to hang. I had never heard of this event, but have come to understand why they rose and burned Jamestown.
      Just a linguistic note: Otari means mountain or high place in the extinct Lower Cherokee or Coastal dialect. In Overhill, it’s Atali, which is has the same meaning in Berber (Atlas in Greek). How much of the language and culture were directly imported from Mexico and the Mediterranean?
      And yes, it goes a long way to explain why so many with a family lore of “Cherokee” ancestry test out to zero or slight Native DNA but high levels of Iberian, Sephardic, and North African DNA matches (so do many enrolled Cherokee, but that’s snake pit for another time!)
      I remember families whose tradition stated they came to America from “Carthage”. Whether that was Cartagena, Colombia, Cartagena, Spain, or Carthgo in Tunisia remains to be seen.
      Thank you for another thought-provoking article. Sharing!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Would you believe that with my Infrared Camera, I found an Iberian or Carthagenian Sun Temple under two Maya-Creek mounds on Amys Creek? Look for the latest article on the Fritchey Mound.


  3. The Elders in Oklahoma told me that the name for the Long-Hair Clan, Gilohi, simply means “somebody”, with the implication of “stranger”. They came into the community as an intact group, and kept their hair style.
    Oral tradition says the Wild Potato Clan also arrived by sea from elsewhere, and some believe they were a branch of the Narraganset or possibly from South America. This, along with Nahualisms in the language, fit with your conjecture that the Cherokees were really an amalgam of disparate groups, arriving separately, as the oral tradition of seven group arrivals by boat confirms.

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