The meaning of the word, Muskogee

There is NO Muskogee Migration Legend. The word, Maskoke (Muskogee), did not exist until the late 1740s. It was “coined” by the ruling elite of the Creek Confederacy, who themselves had Sephardic Jewish family name.

Origins of the Chickasaw & Creek Peoples – Part Three

by Richard L. Thornton, Architect & City Planner

In his speech before the leaders of Savannah, Georgia on June 6, 1735, Chikili, High King of what the British called the Creek Confederacy, stated that they called themselves either Apalache* or Kawite. He said either was correct. In other words, he was telling them not to label his people, Creek. Nowhere in the speech did Chikili mention a word, similar to Muskogee.

*The “Apalache” in Florida never called themselves that name, until the Spanish told them that was their name. The Spanish got that word from a trading colony that the Apalache established on the Great White Path in the Florida Panhandle, named Apalachen, which is the plural of Apalache. Kawite is an Itza Maya proper noun, which means “Principal Eagle People.” Apalachicola is the Anglicization of the proper noun, Aparachikora, which means “Apalache People” in the Apalache language. Apalache, itself, is a Panoan word from Peru, which means “Descendants from the Sea . . . or alternatively, the Upper Amazon Basin, which was pronounced, Para’.

The high point of his speech was a translation of a painted bison calf skin, which in the Apalachete writing system described the Migration Legend of the Kaushete (Cusseta in English) who composed one branch of the Upper Creeks. It was the history of a Tekesta (Toltec) tribe that originally lived on the slopes of the Orizaba Volcano in southwestern Veracruz. After many tribulations they migrated along the edge of the Gulf of Mexico then followed the Alabama-Coosa River System to the province of Kvshe (Coosa) were they lived for many generations until a drought struck. One band then migrated up the Little Tennessee River into North Carolina and then southward through the Georgia Mountains, where the Apalache allowed them settle in their realm.

Kvsapvnakesa* (Mary Musgrove) translated his speech into English. Georgia Colonial Secretary, Thomas Christie, transcribed Mary’s words with an early form of shorthand. Later, Kusapvnakesa worked with Thomas Christie to produce formal transcripts, which were placed on a ship, bound for London, on July 7, 1735. Identical handwritten copies of the transcript were delivered to HRH King George II, Archbishop of Canterbury William Wake and the Board of Trustees for the Province of Georgia.

*All references state that she was born in the Creek town of Coweta. Coweta was a tribe, not a single town. These references give various fanciful meanings for her name. Her name actually means “Little Coosa Valley Girl.” It is unlikely that she was born in a Coweta tribal town.

These transcripts were accompanied by a cover letter from Thomas Christie to Archbishop Wake, plus a letter written by Supervising Trustee, James Edward Oglethorpe, to the king. Oglethorpe stated that because of they had a writing system and a knowledge of their history and advanced mathematics, the Creek Indians were unlike any tribe previously encountered by the British in North America. It was obvious that they were the descendants of an ancient civilization. Oglethorpe went on to state that the Creeks were equal to or superior to Englishmen in intelligence. He urged that the British Crown treat them as equals in all matters so that both peoples could prosper due to commerce between them.

The Apalachete (Creek) Writing system seems to be derived from the earliest known writing system in the Americas, which is found in southern Veracruz and eastern Morelos States, Mexico. This stone tablet, found by archaeologist Robert Wauchope in the Nacoochee Valley of Georgia, shares many symbols with the Cascajal Stone Tablet, found in southern Veracruz.

The Kaushete Migration Legend and Buffalo Calf vellum created quite a stir in London. An excerpt from the speech was published in the American Gazetteer Newspaper. That article was eventually included in a book published in Germany. That excerpt was translated back into English by Swiss-American ethnologist, Albert S. Gatschet. He then translated the English into 19th century Muskogee-Creek and labeled the two documents, “A Migration of the Creek Indians.” In the book, Gatschet stated that several groups of American scholars had tried to find the original complete speech by Chikili, but it was undoubtedly long lost. He was wrong.

It would have been impossible for me to find the original copy of Chikili’s Speech without the assistance of HRH Prince Charles and Dr. Grahame Davies, his assistant Private Secretary. For that assistance, I will always be grateful. British bureaucrats in the UK National Archives were refusing to cooperate with me or even let me browse their inventory lists. Dr. Davies determined what happened to the reports by Thomas Christie and which building they were stored. “Encouraging words” by the Prince insured that the employees in that building would be enthusiastically cooperative. The rest is history.

Detail of 1703 map – Mexique et La Floridie by Guillaume De L’isle

Unraveling the etymology of the word, Maskoke

Muskogee (Maskoke, Mvskoke) – This is a relatively new term that first appeared in the late 1740s, during the reign of High King Malachi (Malatchi) Bemarin. Bemarin was the name of an Apalache Province in central Georgia as early as 1653, but is also a Sephardic family name. British officials shortened the word to Brim.

The suffix ge/ke/yi was easy to translate. It is a pre-Indo-European word from northwestern and northern Europe, which means “people or tribe.” It can be seen in many place names in that region including the actual name of Norway, Norge . . . which means “Northern People.” This suffix is also used in several modern languages such as Irish Gaelic, Scottish Gaelic, Galician, Asturian, Maori, Iroquoian, Algonquian, Cherokee, Shawnee and Muskogee-Creek . . . but not the other Creek languages.

I knew there was a name used in the 1500s and 1600s only for the tribes that spoke Muskogee-Creek. It was Cofake or Cofache, which means “Mixed People.” Cofitachequi,, a Muskogean town in South Carolina, visited by Hernando de Soto, was a derivative of that word.

The etymology of Maskoke was not obvious, because masko is not in the Muskogee-Creek dictionary. For years, I searched indigenous dictionaries from all over the Americas in hope of finding masko . . . no success.

Then I speculated. If the royal family of the Creek Confederacy had a Jewish Sephardic family name, perhaps they still knew the Ladino language, spoken by Iberian Jews. Indeed, there it was in the Ladino dictionary. “Masko” was the Ladino word for “mixed” and was particularly applied when someone’s parents were from different religions, ethnic groups or races. The Bemarins coined a new word for a tribe, created from the remnants of many tribes, which only Sephardic Jews would understand . . . Masko – ke.

Now you you know!


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