Part 16 of “The Americas Connected” series
by Richard L. Thornton, Architect and City Planner
None of the archaeologists, who excavated the major town sites in the Upper Coosa River Basin during the late 19th century and 20th century lived there. In fact, most of them were not even from the Southeastern United States. The academician, who published almost all the books and papers on Coosa was Charles Hudson. Hudson grew up in Kentucky . . . received all of his post-high school education at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, and as for as we can tell, never spent a single night in Northwest Georgia.
In addition, none of these archaeologists knew the languages spoken by the indigenous people, who lived there. They didn’t even bother to purchase Creek and Chickasaw dictionaries. The THREE Cherokee place names in northeast Georgia date from the 19th century. Two of them were coined by white settlers after the Cherokees were gone. For example, Yonah Mountain was called Noccosee Mountain on official Georgia state maps until 1840. The standard joke among Georgia Creeks is that University of Georgia anthropology professors label Creek place names in North Georgia . . . “Ancient Cherokee words, whose meanings have been lost.” LOL
No living archaeologist or anthropologist knows how to pronounce Coosa’s real name. It is written in Muskogee-Creek as Kvse and pronounced Käw : shë . In fact, the only anthropologist, who ever did know about the ethnic composition of this Native American province was Swiss ethnologist, Albert Samuel Gatschet (1832-1907). Gatschet figured out in the 1880s that the Kansa, and probably other “earth lodge” tribes were from the Lower Southeast, but even his colleagues at the Smithsonian’s Bureau of Ethnology, such as Cyrus Thomas, John Swanton and James Mooney didn’t read Gatchet’s report.
By the way, don’t believe statements in multiple anthropological references, including Wikipedia, that the original manuscript of the Creek Migration Legend has never been found and so the only version we have today is a partial section of the legend, which Gatschet translated from a German book. I found the complete original manuscript during 2015 in Lambeth Palace, England.
Knowing the geography
I lived in Northwest Georgia from April 1995 till December 2009. During that time, I, my dogs and often my girlfriends, explored all of Northeast Alabama and Northwest Georgia. My first residence was a townhouse in walking distance of Etowah Mounds, where I started buying books from the museum store. It quickly became evident that the archaeologists did not know the geography and ethnic history of the region. Because of this, they established false “facts” that we still can’t get out of the archaeological literature and websites.
When I was a student in graduate school, we were told by these geography-challenged academicians that a mysterious people called the “mound builders” had constructed the mounds in Northwest Georgia then vanished shortly after Hernando de Soto came through in 1540. Late 20th century archaeologists theorized that a plague had killed most of the “mound builders.” For 200 years, Northwest Georgia was supposedly uninhabited because the Cherokees thought it was cursed . . . then the Cherokees occupied the region. Then in the 1990s, when developers started wanting to build “Cherokee casinos” in northern Georgia, the story was changed by several archaeology professors to being that the Cherokees had captured Etowah and Coosa in 1585. Never mind that the word Cherokee or a word similar, did not appear on any Southeastern map until 1715.
These poorly researched beliefs were primarily based on a minuscule number of radiocarbon dates taken from mounds that had been intensely cultivated for the previous 250 years. The Cherokees intentionally planted corn on mounds because the soil was extremely fertile . . . plus enriched with many bones. Obviously, the newest levels of human occupation would have been eroded away by intense cultivation. Also, it was quite plausible that the people stopped building mounds, but continued to live in the region.
The second justification for these beliefs was a passage in the chronicles of the Tristan de Luna Expedition (1559-1561). In 1560, De Luna dispatched a 200 man expedition with orders to travel inland to the capital of Kusa in order to obtain food. Some of the soldiers were survivors of the Hernando de Soto Expedition. They had lived in the capital during the summer of 1540.
De Soto’s officers had counted over 3,000 houses at Kusa. The village where the company from the De Luna Expedition was quartered only had 30 houses. Veterans of the De Soto Expedition stated that they must have been bewitched to believe that the Kusa, they visited in 1540 was a large town. The academicians interpreted the housing figures to mean that the population of Northwest Georgia had declined by 99% in 20 years! That was engraved as a fact in all publications.
Then one weekend, I walked around the woods and fields around New Echota. I stood on the banks of the Oostanaula and realized that I was looking at the exact same view that members of the Tristan de Luna Expedition described in 1560. The small village, that the Spanish recorded as Coça was merely the original spot where the Kawshe (Kansa) settled after migrating from McKee’s Island on the Tennessee River. You see . . . Albert Gatschet specifically wrote that the original name of the Kansa was Kawshe (Descendants of the Eagle in Itsate and Apalachete). The “Coosa People” were earth lodge people. Only their elite, who lived in separate villages, were Muskogeans.
Ethnic composition of Kawshe (Coosa)
Late 17th century and early 18th century French maps show multiple indigenous peoples living in Northwest Georgia and Northeast Alabama. The Etowah River Valley was occupied by the Conchakee . . . also called the Apalachicola. Northeast Alabama and the bottomlands between the Coosawattee and Conasauga Rivers were occupied by the Chickasaw. The Cusate (Coosa or Kanasa People) occupied the south side of the Coosawattee, Oostanaula and Coosa Rivers. The Taskekgi (Tuskegee) occupied the Coosa River in the vicinity of Talladega. The Satile, originally a tribe on the Satilla River in SE Georgia, occupied what is now eastern Gordon County.
Now you know!