by Richard L. Thornton, Architect & City Planner
My book on the great Cherokee leader, Charles Renatus Hicks, is almost ready for publishing. This is the first book ever written on Hicks. I became interested in the man, while living in Pine Log, GA and being the consulting Architect for the restoration of Charles Hicks’ first home in Pine Log. It has taken me 23 years to dig up an accurate biography of the man. He essentially was the Father of the Cherokee Renaissance, but most of what you read about him on Wikipedia and in genealogical websites is inaccurate. He lived most of his life in Georgia and his white father lived in eastern Georgia. His older brother elected to live as a white man and established a plantation near Dublin, GA on the Lower Oconee River. His maternal grandfather was an Itsate Creek chief, who lived on the Flint River in Southwest Georgia.
Cherokee and non-Cherokee readers alike will be fascinated what Hicks wrote in his History of the Cherokee People in 1826. In Letter Two, he provided a description of the priesthood, who dominated the tribe until overthrown and banished. Their name, Kutani or Kitani is an Alabama Indian word, which originally meant the priest who ignited and maintained the sacred fire in a temple. The word was derived from the Alabama verb, meaning “to start a fire.” In Alabama, kitani now means, “a sorcerer.” Evidently, at some time in their past wanderings, the Cherokees came in contact with the Alabama . . . or else the Alabama once lived much farther north than their location in southern Alabama in the early 1700s. Note that these priests claimed to be descended from extraterrestrials.
He wrote: “ The Auh, ne, coo, tauh, nies (Ani-kutawni), or Proud,— professed themselves, as is stated by traditioners, to be teachers of Heavenly Knowledge from the Creation; and the manner of their introduction to the assembled people is represented to have been usually at night times and when he approached near them, the lights of their fires were extinguished, as it was well known to them when he came near, by frequently repeating the words Caul, lungh, luy, tee Tauk, che, lo, eh, (I am from above).”
Hicks was not sure exactly how the Ani-Kitani were removed from Cherokee Society. Some elders said they were banished. Others said that they were all killed. Hicks suspected that at least some of these priests survived and became a separate tribe.