Everything that you ever wanted to know about the word, YAHOO. . . but were afraid to ask!

by Richard L. Thornton, Architect & City Planner

The following is an excerpt from the soon-to-be-published book, The Native American Words of Georgia. These are a series of definitions and etymologies associated with the word, yahoo.

Y

Yahoo or Wahoo (SE) – (1) [Merriam-Websters Dictionary]  Yahoo, Inc. is an American web services provider headquartered in Sunnyvale, California, and owned by Verizon Media. The original Yahoo! company was founded by Jerry Yang and David Filo in January 1994 and was incorporated on March 2, 1995  (2)  A member of a race of brutes, having the form and all the vices of humans, who are subject to the Houyhnhnms. (lowercase) an uncultivated or boorish person; lout; philistine; yokel. (lowercase) a coarse or brutish person.  (3) [Dictionary.com] An exclamation used to express joy, excitement, etc.) (4) [Muskogee-Creek Dictionary]  Shout, imitating a wolf, made by participants in the Sacred Black Drink Ceremony, hence the reason that the master of the ceremony was called the Yahola. (4) Name of Native American mascot of the Cleveland Indians major league baseball team.

  • Dubious etymologies – (1) Coined by Jonathon Swift in Gulliver’s Travels in 1726, (2) Yahoo first appeared in popular American culture around 1974 or 1975.  *Malarkey,  the use of the exclamations, “yahoo” and “wahoo” can be found throughout the history of the United States and was especially common in Westerns or movies about the American frontier from the advent of “talking movies” onward.
  • Etymology – Yahoo is derived from the Creek Indian exclamation and verb, which means “to shout or call out.” A1  The Creek Indian verb is derived from the Creek word for wolf, yvhv, (pronounced yahoo) which is imitative of the wolf’s howl.  The yahoo (wolf) sound was adopted by many other Indian tribes on the North American frontier and eventually white settlers, as a way of signaling in the woods, especially at night.  British Redcoat officers and aristocrats used the word, yahoo, as a pejorative name for Native Americans, frontier settlers or both.  Jonathon Swift actually borrowed this existing colloquial word for certain characters in his 1726 book.

Yahoola Creek (GA) – Yahoola Creek is a stream in Lumpkin County, Georgia, which flows off the south slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains and southward through the City of Dahlonega, before joining the Chestatee River. Some of the richest gold deposits ever unearthed in North America, were discovered near the section of the creek in Dahlonega.  (See Dahlonega, GA)  Much of that area is now a municipal reservoir, but the scars of mining activities can still be seen on the mountainsides above the lake and creek.

In 1975, highly respected historian, John H. Goff, then a professor at Emory University near Atlanta, published a book, which contained irrefutable evidence that “Cherokee” heroine, Nancy Ward, was actually a mixed-blood non-Cherokee Indian, who was born on Yahoola Creek and spent most of her life in Northeast Georgia. None of her family were required to go on the Trail of Tears because they were mostly Caucasian and not Cherokees.  Goff specifically stated that “Ward Creek, near Dahlonega, GA was named after Nancy Ward’s family.  Many of her descendants still live in the region near there today.“   

Nancy never was married to a Cherokee man, but did, after moving to Tennessee teach Cherokee women how to weave and milk cows, plus encouraged the Cherokees to own African slaves as a way of becoming more acceptable to Southern whites.  Her plantation on the Ocoee River, introduced cattle raising to the Cherokees.

According to the History of Stephens County, GA, Nancy Ward lived in their county with her husband Bryant Ward (same name, but not blood related) during the American Revolution. She played a major role in persuading Cherokees and Creeks in Northeast Georgia from becoming hostiles on the side of the British Crown.  As an elderly lady living near the Georgia line in Tennessee, Nancy returned frequently to Northeast Georgia to visit her kin.

  • Dubious etymology – Yahoola is the name of a friendly Cherokee chief, who helped white settlers get established on former Cherokee land and taught them how to pan for gold. *Historian John H. Goff pointed out in his book, Place Names of Georgia, that there were many mixed-blood Native American families, living on Yahoola Creek, long before the Georgia Gold Rush began.  Many had such light complexions that they were not required to move to the Indian Territory.
  • Etymology – Yahoola is the Anglicization of the Creek word, Yvhola, which was an elected office both within the town and in the Creek Confederacy.   The Yahola was responsible for the preparation of the Sacred Black Drink and was Speaker of the village, town, provincial or national council.

Yahoola United Cherokee Museum and Educational Center, Inc. (GA) – This was a museum, located in downtown Dahlonega, GA, associated with the Georgia Tribe of Eastern Cherokee.  The museum closed in 2015, but the tribe has purchased land in the rural part of Lumpkin County, where it hopes to, sometime in the future, build a new museum in the shape of a Cherokee town house. The museum still maintains a Facebook website, where it is soliciting donations. Tribal leaders insist that Yahoola is really a Cherokee word, whose meaning has been lost, but which was “borrowed” by the Creek Indians.  The logo for the museum is a shell gorget, unearthed by archaeologists in the Creek capital town of Coweta, near Columbus, GA.

Yahvle or Euharlee (GA) Euharlee is an incorporated city in western Bartow County, Georgia. It is located on Euharlee Creek, near its confluence with the Etowah River. The original, Apalachicola-Creek name for this town was Yahvle, which means “Wolf Clan or People.” However, the municipal government claims, inaccurately, that Euharlee is a Cherokee word that means “She who runs.” (For the full article, see Euharlee.)

6 Comments

  1. Richard, I watched a T.V. show last night about the alignments of the Native sites of Mexico and Peru. The ones in Peru have a connection to the North pole site of 100,000 years ago…the Yucatec sites have a connection to the 50,000 North pole…and 5 sites of Central Mexico have a connection to the North Pole of 18,000 years ago. Someone found or knew of ancient works of Electro magnetic information.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Got many Gooch ancestors buried at Yahoo’s church…who lived in that neck of the woods…..very interesting article my friend……love your work……

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Generally, it was consumed like any other tea. Asian tea is a member of the Holly family. Sometimes, a purgative herb would be added if the ceremony involved completely moving everything from your system. That’s how Yaupon Holly got the scientific name Ilex vomatoria White botanists did not understand that the purgative black tea was not the typical way it was consumed.

      Liked by 1 person

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