National Geographic TV program on the Okefenokee Swamp
The article on Pernell Roberts and this video will be the lead-in for some articles on the Native Americans of the South Atlantic Coastal Plain.
While doing research for the architectural drawings of Mission Santa Catalina de Guale on St. Catherines Island, GA for the American Museum of Natural History, I ran across many orthodoxies maintained by the anthropologists and archaeologists, which just did not ring true. However, it would take me ten years of study to figure out, who the indigenous peoples of this region were and where they came from. Yes, they became some of the ancestors of the Creek and Seminole Tribes, but they were NOT Muskogeans.
Pernell Roberts unknowingly made two false statements in this film. Okefenokee does NOT mean “Land of the Trembling Earth.” It is derived from Oka-fenoke, a Itsate (Hitchiti) Creek word that means “Water Shaking.” Until the 1790s, more people spoke Itsate than English in Georgia. The third most spoken language until that time was Muskogee, but it was confined to west-central Georgia.
Secondly, Pernell stated that the Seminoles (Hitchiti Creeks) were driven out of the Okefenokee in the 1830s. Some warlike bands moved southward into Florida, but most of the Itsate Creeks were on better terms with their white neighbors they were with the Muskogees. That was certainly the case with my ancestors in Northeast Georgia.
The “Ware County Creeks” continued to live in and around the swamp until the 1890s, when they were driven out by Northern timber companies, who obtained quit claim deeds on the swamp in order to harvest its virgin cypress trees. After that time, the Ware County Creeks worked as foremen for the turpentine industry.
Whites in that racist era did not want to have direct contact with African-American laborers, so they used the local Creeks to supervise work gangs, who collected rosin from slash pines to be processed into turpentine.
As you might imagine, seeing this video brings back intense memories for both me and my French love of 30 years ago. After watching it, she started confessing all the things that she had done in the past that she regretted. That scene ultimately resulted later in the night into us sharing Christian Communion with very expensive French wine and Norwegian flatt brød crackers.
After I told Vivi in 2021 that “Realm of the Gator” was on Youtube, it took her several attempts to make it through the entire program, because of the repressed memories the film released. I think you will enjoy seeing what the natural environment of Southeast Georgia looked like 400 years ago.