He is our Friend! We thought that the original manuscript of the Creek Migration Legend was lost somewhere in England in 1735. It described the journey of the Upper Creeks from the slopes of the Orizaba Volcano in southern Veracruz State, Mexico to the mountains of Georgia. Many scholars looked for it through the years and couldn’t find it. I would never have discovered it in 2015 without the direct assistance of HRH Prince Charles and his Asst. Private Secretary, Dr. Grahame Davies.
by Richard L. Thornton, Architect and City Planner
Although North Americans normally only saw the former HRH Prince Charles in ceremonial settings, actually he has devoted much of his life, at a professional level, to historic preservation, urban design, agriculture and archaeology.
Did you know that . . . ?
- He has been the developer and prepared the conceptual designs for some of the most livable planned communities on this planet. Had he not been heir to the British Crown, he probably would have become an architect or archaeologist.
- He is happiest when residing on one of his farms with his wife, Camille. King Charles’ agricultural experiments have raised the productivity of British agriculture. He is currently experimenting with homeopathic veterinary treatments for livestock that will eliminate the introduction of hormones and antibiotics into foods that humans eat.
- King Charles has personally funded the restoration of many historic and prehistoric structures. He is an avid supporter of the UK National Trust.
The critical role he played in Native American history
The real Creek Migration Legend is actually the transcript of a speech given to the leaders of Savannah on June 6, 1735 by Chikili, High King of the Creek Confederacy. Creek kings and queens were constitutional monarchs with limited powers of persuasion, just like King Charles III. They were elected from a body of people, supposedly descended from the Sun Goddess, Amana.
By the 1600s, the concept of Amana was virtually identical to that of the Hebrew, YHWH . . . except that Amama was feminine. Unlike their counterparts in England, all Creek women could vote and could be elected to any political office except commanding general of the army.
As part of the speech, Chikili presented a bison calf velum, on which was painted in the Creek writing system, the story of how the Upper Creeks migrated from southern Veracruz State, Mexico to lower Mississippi Basin then to eastern Tennessee and then to northern Georgia.
Creeks living in Oklahoma do not seem to understand that there is NO surviving migration legend for the Muskogee-speaking Creeks. The language seems to have developed from the mixing of Chickasaws and Itsate-Creeks with other peoples in the mountains of North Carolina . . . in the vicinity of Asheville, Franklin, Hendersonville and Brevard. All Native American place names in this region are Muskogee, not Cherokee.
Chikili’s speech was translated by Mary Musgrove (Kvsapvnakesa ~ Mischievous Little Coosa Girl). Georgia Colonial Secretary, Thomas Christie, initially recorded her translation with an early form of shorthand. Later, Musgrove and Christie worked out a refined version of the speech, which was drafted on July 6, 1735.
Excerpts of this document appeared in the American Gazetteer Newspaper during the late summer. It described the Creek writing system as being composed of “peculiar red and black characters, not pictures.” Maya manuscripts from the Post-Classic Period (900 AD-1500 AD) are often also written with red and black characters . . . but right now, we think that the symbols used by the Creeks, were typical of the Olmec Civilization, not Maya.
The American Gazetteer article was later translated into German and included in a book. A English language translation of the inaccurate German translation became the only source of information on Chikili’s speech. Because the excerpts primarily were sections of Chikili’s explanation of the velum, the excerpts became known as “The Creek Migration Legend.”
The original transcript disappeared from public view in late 1735. In the 280 years that followed, several expeditions of Ivy League university scholars traveled to England in search of the transcript. It became known as “The Lost Creek Migration Legend.”
The vellum was a gift to King George II. It was shipped in a crate along with the translation of Chikili’s speech on a ship headed to London on July 7, 1735. Until the end of the American Revolution, the mounted vellum hung on the wall of the Georgia Office in Westminster Palace.
The seven year search for the Migration Legend
I began looking for the Migration Legend over the internet in 2006, while much of my professional time was being funded by the Muscogee-Creek Nation. For the first two years I was able to legitimately say that I was a Creek architect, representing the the MCN, when contacting professors, historians, museums and archivists in England. This didn’t help at all. Most didn’t even respond to my inquiries.
I presumed that the General James Oglethorpe Museum in Goddalming, Surrey would be very interested in joining me in the search. He was the Supervising Trustee (Governor) of Georgia, during its first decade and the bison velum was first presented to him. Nope, they didn’t even seem interested in learning more about Oglethorpe’s activities in Georgia.
Then in late 2013, I received a post card, sold by the UK National Trust, which was mailed from the British embassy in Washington, DC. It was addressed to “Dr. Richard L. Thornton.” On the back was what I thought was the coat of arms of the British government and a brief congratulatory message on my discovery of the Track Rock Terrace Complex. (I didn’t really discover them. I just understood what they were and publicized them at time when few people, especially the Georgia archaeologists, even knew that they existed.)
At the end, the note invited me to make use of the resources of the British Museum and British universities in my future research. It was signed by Clarence House, who was evidently an administrator in the UK National Trust or UK National Archives.
I immediately contacted several archivists and administrators in the UK National Trust and mentioned that one of their administrators, Clarence House, had recommended that I seek their assistance in my research. I usually did not receive a response, but from a few I received a generic message that the National Trust will only provide services to residents of the United Kingdom or the Commonwealth countries. A photocopy of one’s passport must be included in a service request.
I then wrote some professors in major British universities, who specialized in 18th century colonial history. Only one responded, “Hey Yank! Clarence House is the residence of HRH Prince Charles. You have been hoaxed. Maybe you should write the prince and complain about being hoaxed by an imposter. “
Well, I did write a letter to the Prince . . . but not to complain. The Royal Coat of Arms was the one specifically used by Prince Charles and it was embossed, not applied with an ink jet printer, like the actual message. The note card was obviously legit.
I opened by suggesting that if he ever got tired of the Royal business, he should consider being a professional architect or urban planner. His planned communities were some of the best in the world. I then explained that I was not a celebrity, wealthy or politically powerful.
I did not tell him that at this particular time, I was a pauper, living in a rental rat-infested hovel. Instead, I included a photo-copy of a photo in a Washington Post article from the summer of 1992, when I was dressed almost identically to Prince William above and standing in a large herd of goats and sheep, with my beautiful (but unfortunately, former) Virginia Colonial Era house in the background.
I then explained the history and importance of the Creek Migration Legend. Finally, I closed with a request that one of his staff persuade someone at the UK National Archives to communicate with me.
Three weeks later, I received an email with “Clarence House” in the email address. OMG! It was from the famous Welsh historian and poet, Dr. Grahame Davies. He was Prince Charles’ Asst. Private Secretary. He informed me that Prince Charles had confirmed that the documents I described in my email were originally the property of the British Royal Family. Prince Charles had asked him to assist me in the hunt for the Original Creek Migration Legend until it was found. OMG!
Davies added that the Prince really enjoyed my letter. He said that most Americans think they have write letters in Shakespearian English, when communicating with the royal family and avoid any humor.
It took six months, but Dr. Davies was eventually figured out the history of the original transcripts by Mary Musgrove and Thomas Christie. King George II was very impressed, when he learned from General Oglethorpe that a very tall, civilized and intelligent tribe of Indians lived in his realm, who were related to the civilizations of Mexico.
The king forwarded the transcript and velum to Archbishop of Canterbury William Wake with instructions to create a Creek dictionary then both Creek and English language versions of the New Testament for distribution to the Creeks. Oglethorpe had informed the king that the Creeks were already monotheists, who practiced several Christian customs such as baptism and public forgiveness of sins. Unfortunately, Wake died before the project made much progress. The new Archbishop was not interested in supporting missionaries to the American Indians.
We hit many roadblocks along the way to discovering the actual wooden crate, which transported the reports by Christie on the Creek Indians. Most of the roadblocks were bureaucratic in nature. However, there was nothing like a quick telephone call from the future king of England to dislodge a British bureaucrat from their traditional state of lethargy and inflated self-importance!
I could not afford the thousands of dollars required for producing high resolution, archival photographs of the original transcript. Prince Charles picked up the tab with the condition that I sign a document, promising never to sell archival photos or mass-distribute them.
Where you can see the Migration Legend of the Creek People
Exactly identical archival copies are on display at the Ocmulgee National Historical Park Museum in Macon, GA. The Poarch Creek Tribe in SW Alabama, the Tama Tribal Town in SW Georgia and the Coweta Creek Tribe in northern Georgia also hold archival copies for viewing by their members.
- The Georgia Historical Society refused their copies of the transcripts because their staff said that these documents didn’t exist. Their historians assured management that the original copies of the Creek Migration Legend had been lost 280 years ago.
- The Muscogee-Creek Nation refused their copies, because (1) They never heard of Mary Musgrove, (2) Nevertheless, her translation of the Migration Legend was all wrong, and (3) They are tired of having white people like Mary Musgrove tell Creek people, what their history was. (Mary was a full-blooded Creek and a henehv (Sun Princess) of the royal family.)
- The Library of Congress demanded that I pay historians from three nationally recognized universities to determine the authenticity of the documents. I gave their copies to the National Park Service.