Who were the “Giants” of the Appalachians?
Part Five of “The Forgotten Peoples of the Southern Highlands”
by Richard L. Thornton, Architect and City Planner
Unlike the Tokah-re, which were discussed in Part Four of our series, the internet and published literature is filled with discussions and interpretations of the words Currahee, Cullawhee and Judaculla . . . all of them 100% wrong. All the authors assume that these are “ancient Cherokee words, whose meanings have been lost,” or worse still, parrot someone else’s speculation of their meanings in the Cherokee language.
My favorite fable is the one, which is repeated ad nauseum about the Judaculla, being the name of a giant, who lived on the Tuckaseegee River in the North Carolina Mountains, when the Cherokees arrived there. The same book, published by the University of North Carolina Press, earlier tells us that the Cherokees were the first humans in the Americas and have lived in western North Carolina for 12,000 years. So . . . how could you arrive at a place where you were the first people and always lived?
What I have found over and over again is that almost all the original Cherokee settlements in Western North Carolina maintained the name of the non-Cherokee town, which preceded them. Within a generation or two . . . and especially after perhaps 2/3 of the Cherokees were killed by a series of smallpox plagues and chronic warfare . . . the Cherokees forgot the existence of previous peoples and the meanings of town names. Subsequent generations made up stories to explain words that had no meaning in their language. In some cases, they would use Cherokee words, which were similar in sound to the original word, to explain a village name.
A humor break
Before getting into some serious anthropology and just for laughs, we will pass on to you what Wikipedia says these words mean. Keep in mind that there is no mention of the Cherokees being in the Southern Appalachians on any map, drawn before 1715.
Currahee – Currahee is a mountain in Stephens County, GA near the city of Toccoa. It is a Cherokee word that means, “We stand alone together.” Currahee was the motto of the 506th Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne. There is also Currahee Mountain in Georgia, from which the 506th got the motto. Hint . . . the actual Cherokee words for this phrase take up a full line of text, bear no resemblance to Currahee and there is no “r” sound in Cherokee.
Cullowhee – is a town in Jackson County, NC, which is the home of Western Carolina University. The name was long thought to mean “Valley of the Lilies.” In fact, it is derived from the Cherokee phrase joolth-cullah-wee, which translates as “Judacullah’s Place.” Well, that is a little better in that it is getting closer to who actually built the mounds in Cullowhee, NC.
Cullasaja – is a river in Macon County, NC. Cullasaja comes from a Cherokee word meaning “honey locust place.” It is a variant spelling of the Cherokee town name “Kulsetsi”. Wait a minute! Wikipedia and the University of North Carolina-published book also tells us that Hiwassee (River) means “honey locust place.” Wait a minute . . . the Cherokee sound “tsi” is the way that Cherokees pronounce the Muskogean suffix “si” (pronounced like she by Creeks). It means “descendants of” not “place of.” The Cherokee suffix for “place of” is “yi.”
Judaculla – The Judaculla Rock is a soapstone boulder, covered with ancient petroglyphs in Jackson County, NC. The name Judaculla derives from the Cherokee word Tsul`kälû´which is the name of a giant who was said to inhabit the area prior to the Cherokee Indians. Tsul`kälû´translates to ‘he has them slanting.’ The slanting referring to his eyes. Tsul`kälû´(or Judaculla) was said to be 7ft. tall, with 14 fingers and toes.
Looking at the maps and the Creek dictionary
There is another problem to the traditional interpretation of Cullasaja – earlier spelled Cullasiye. On early maps of Georgia, we find a Creek town, about one days walk south of Cullasaja, spelled variously as Cullasee, Collasee or Corrase. The Corrasee or Colassee were members of the Creek Confederacy, but later migrated to Southeast Georgia, where they were founding members of the Seminole Alliance. The origin of Cullasaja is a combination of the Creek tribal name Cullasee, with the Cherokee locative suffix, “yi.”
As stated in earlier articles of this series, the Creeks rolled their R’s so hard that English-speakers often recorded an R sound as an L. The early Cherokees could not pronounce either an English R sound or the Muskogee R, so used a sound similar to that symbolized by the letter L.
Other pronunciation tips . . . (1) Itsate Creeks, Itza Mayas and Miccosukees typically pronounce as English S at the beginning of a word as a “jzh” sound. (2) Muskogee Creeks and Cherokees pronounce a “T” with a sound that appears to be a “D” to English speakers. (3) Itsate Creeks, Itza Mayas and Chontal Mayas have both an English “t” and “th” as T sounds. (4) The members of the Cherokee alliance living in the region around Franklin, NC did not speak the Cherokee language used today.
British envoys brought four translators with them so different branches of the Cherokee Alliance could communicate with each other. It is ridiculous for contemporary authors to be using a contemporary Cherokee dictionaries to interpret 18th century place names near Franklin.
Currahee – This is a mountain in Stephens County, GA. The name of the mountain is an Anglicization of the Cherokee pronunciation of a proto-Creek proper noun, Corra-hi, which means “Corra People – Place of.”
Cullowhee – This city name is an Anglicization of the Cherokee pronunciation of a proto-Creek proper noun, Corra-hi, which means “Corra People – Place of.”
Collasee – This was a tribe that joined the Creek Confederacy that latter moved to southeastern Georgia, where they were known as Seminoles. Collasee is the Anglicization of Corrasi, which means “offspring of Corra.”
Cullasaja – This is a river in Macon County, NC. It is the Anglicization of the Cherokee pronunciation of a proto-Creek Indian word, Corrasi (Cullasee) combined with the Cherokee dialect suffix meaning “place of.” Thus, the place name means “Corra People – colony of – place of.”
Judaculla – This is a boulder in Jackson County, NC, a few miles from Cullowhee, NC, which is covered with petroglyphs. Judaculla is the Anglicization of the Cherokee pronunciation of the Muskogee-Creek words, suta korra (jzhu : ta kor : ra) which mean “the sky over Corra.”
Corra – An ancient province in northern Ireland and southwestern Scotland, where the Scots originally lived. Corra was traditionally remembered as being founded by “freckled, red-haired giants, who arrived in boats and introduced the Long-haired Highland Cattle to the region.” Although seeming to be a fable, geneticists in recent years have confirmed that a tall, brawny, red-haired people from southern Ukraine did introduce the gene for red or blonde hair to Scandinavia, Scotland and Ireland. The percentage of red hair in modern populations of the British Isles corresponds to where the “Red Haired Giants” traditionally arrived by sea.
Many people are not aware that both the aboriginal people of Ireland had bronze complexions, pronounced cheek bones, brown eyes and black or dark hair. When I did the program three years ago with RTE (Irish Television Network) I was surprised to learn that many people in the remote mountainous regions of SW Ireland are showing up with American Indian DNA. One lady joked that when she visited the United States, people asked her what Indian tribe, she was descended from.
The Gaels came from Galicia in northwestern Spain. They had brown eyes, tan skin and pronounced cheek bones. The very same petroglyphs can be found in Galicia, southwestern Ireland, the Etowah River Valley of Georgia and the mountains near Tepoztlan, Morelos, Mexico.
Several modern family and first names are derived from the Province of Corra or Corra-reigh. These include Corra, Cora, Curry, McCurry, McCrory and Corrigan.
Apparently, what happened is that bands of immigrants from Northwestern Europe reached the gold, silver and gem-rich regions of the Southern Appalachians during the Bronze Age. Very soon thereafter, they began intermarrying with indigenous American Indians and the Uchee. Over time, they looked more and more like full-blood American Indians, but kept some of their words and cultural traditions. Long before Spanish and French explorers reached the region, they had essentially become Indian tribes that would have looked like full-blood Indians to Europeans.
Translating the Judaculla Rock
The symbols on the Judaculla Rock can be found in the Apalache Creek writing system and on several petroglyphs in the Georgia Mountains – particularly in the Upper Chattahoochee River region. Therefore, I am now able to translate most of the Judaculla symbols. Those symbols can also be found in petroglyphs in the original Soque writing system of southern Veracruz (first Olmec Civilization writing system), Petersborough, Ontario – Cuba/Puerto Rico/Dominica in the Caribbean Basin – Parawan Gap, Utah – northern Sweden and Finland – southern Ukraine and the section of extreme western China, where red/blonde haired Caucasians still live.
The Judaculla Rock appears to be a map of the sky over the Southern Appalachians with a map of the towns and rivers in the region around Cullowhee, NC, Bryson City, NC and Clayton, GA. Each town is symbolized by what appears to be a sunflower . . . but yet the same symbol is found in the other regions, where the red-haired “giants” lived.
And now you know!