Did castaways on the South Atlantic Coast become the Arawak People?

Arawaks definitely were some of the ancestors of the Cherokees and Creeks

Part 15 of the Mesolithic Period in eastern North America

by Richard L Thornton, Architect and City Planner

A late 17th French natural scientist knew far more about the peopling of Southeastern North America than professors teaching anthropology today.  His very popular book is still a primary reference in European university classrooms, yet is virtually unknown on the western shores of the Atlantic.  You will be amused as to why many contemporary Gringo academicians have gotten it SO WRONG.

A profession brainwashed by regional prejudices

Do you remember the opening scene of the online book,  The Shenandoah Chronicles?  It was the 1990 Christmas Party for the Senior Staff at the Smithsonian Institute.  Also invited were their counterparts at the National Geographic Society and the Library of Congress, plus several ambassadors, archaeologists and senior anthropology professors from universities in Washington, DC.   I was there officially to sample the goat cheese from my federally-licensed creamery, Shenandoah Chevre, plus unofficially, to meet potential architecture clients.  

The party’s hostess added something else to the agenda.  She was trying to persuade me to get out of a toxic, unfaithful, loveless marriage by inviting a smörgasbård of attractive, available Washington professional women to the party. That scheme would be dismantled by a mysterious French lady at the party, who looked like a Latin American princessa.

The middle-aged host and hostess had Ph.D.’s in American History from respectively the University of Virginia and William and Mary College.  They worked in the basement of the National Museum of American History and were extremely proud of their Southern heritage and Virginia accents.  Also, at the party were Roger and Francis Kennedy. He was Director of that museum.  Twenty years later, he would be subsidizing my field research in the Southern Highlands, when I stumbled upon the Track Rock Terrace Complex.

Living in the X-files: Two years later, the lives of the party’s host and hostess, would be very loosely portrayed by David Duchovny as Fox Mulder and Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully in the hit TV series, the X-files.  On the night of December 15, 1990,  I didn’t know that . . . nor  did I realize that within a few months my life would be turned upside down by real life events that would be later adapted for shows on the X-files. 

For example, the real “evil oligarch C.G.B. Spender” (Cigarette Man) played by actor William B. Davis, was an international mining tycoon, who lived in a spooky mansion on Massanutten Mountain, overlooking the Shenandoah Valley. He actually chain-smoked cigars.  The walls of the house were filled with animal heads.  The most frightened I have ever been, was the evening I was interviewed by this oligarch in his home in August 1992. I felt that I was in the presence of pure evil . . . and not so mentally tough as I am today.

I was there to talk about architectural services, but instead he repeatedly accused me of being a “counter-insurgency agent.” The real agent was my exact age, height and part-Cherokee. I was part Creek. He had arrived from East Tennessee, the same month that I arrived in Shenandoah County. He was murdered down the Old Back Road from my farm on December 12, 1992. 

My apprehensions were justified.  A few days later, on August 27, 1992  a group of Virginia State Police Officers, headed by the local Commonwealth’s Attorney, would try to murder me at my farm, but my life was saved by an African-American U.S. Marshall, wearing a Hawaiian shirt!  White state and local cops in northern Virginia were involved in a drug ring with White state and local cops in northern Georgia and southern Florida to finance an overthrow of the national government to create a fascist police state.  They planned to seize the National Capitol when Congress was in session . . . yes, really.

The party started out rather grim.  A any moment, the United States and several European nations would be involved in the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq.  That war was projected to cause at least 100,000 deaths to NATO combatants.  The host, who I call Bob Danby,  pulled out two copies of A Forest of Kings by anthropologist Linda Schele.   It was the first published translations of the Maya writing system, primarily from inscriptions at the Highland Maya city of Palenque in Chiapas.  In August 1970, Linda, her architect-husband David and I had toured Palenque together for the first time.  

Sara Danby then drew the party-goers to her attention for her to give a speech.  She first announced that the translation of the Maya writing system was one of the greatest achievements ever in anthropology . . . and that all of the key people involved were Southerners and graduates of Southern universities.  David and Linda were from Mobile, Alabama.  David Stuart, son of the famous National Geographic archaeologists from South Carolina, George and Gene Stuart, graduated from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.  Gene had become interested in archaeology, while teaching school in Cartersville, GA and living near Etowah Mounds.   As a teenager, George had worked on the famous Kelly-Larson dig at Etowah Mounds.

Sara went on to say that the South was still cursed by the evils of the slavery days and continued to be a bipolar society.  The Boss Hogs still manipulated the minds of blue-collar Southerners to control the “Libruls.”   Yet, some of the brightest minds in science, anthropology and literature had come from the South.  Meanwhile,  Northeastern academicians, Hollywood directors and TV programs used the evil deeds of the Boss Hoggs to ostracize free thinkers from the South and even create a “dumbed down” history of the South . . . starting with the advanced cultures of the Southern Indians.  

Nothing has really changed much among academicians and the media since 1990.  Note that the  happily-married, extremely well-educated Southerners . . . high up in the FBI pecking order  . . . the real X-files couple . . . were changed into a much younger Fox Mulder from Massachusetts and Dana Scully . . . a Navy brat from San Diego.

Since many, if not most of the people at the party were historians, anthropologists or at least well- traveled, the two books instantly stimulated energized conversation.  People forgot that the world seemed to be going to hell in a hand basket! . . . as we say here in the South.

Banishment of an eyewitness account of the Creek Indians

An original copy of 1658 book that is described in the next section was in the library of 19th century book collector,  John Carter Brown.  He obtained it while traveling in Europe in 1822 in search of European books on the Americas.  After he died in 1874, his entire library was donated to Brown University, which was named after his father.

The books were reviewed by a faculty committee to determine, which were suitable for the Brown University Library.  It was banned from use as a text book or being placed on general circulation in the library.  The only reason that it was not dumped in the garbage was its age.

Remember, it was only nine years since the Civil War. The book was banned because of the 10 chapters in the book on what is now the State of Georgia.  Specifically,  these chapters described an advanced Native American society with roots in Mexico and Peru, which built large, planned towns and large earthen pyramids. 

The professors agreed that since it was known that the whites in the South were less intelligent and culturally backward,  therefore, the Indians, who preceded them, were obviously, also slovenly and less advanced than those in the North.   The book was placed in the Fantasy and Utopia bin, where it had three readers prior to 2013.

Charles de Rochefort’s origin for the Arawaks

During the 1550s, the Protestant community of La Rochelle, France maintained the Rev. Charles de Rochefort as the principal chaplain of French Huguenots and Scottish Presbyterians in the Caribbean Basin.  De Rochefort carried with him the egalitarian principals of French Protestants, but also an extensive education in the natural sciences.  He became the first researcher to view Caribbean Natives as fully human and of equal value to God as Europeans.  In addition, to the revolutionary studies of Native peoples,  De Rochefort prepared comprehensive lists and drawings of the Caribbean’s animals and plants.

In 1657,  while still living in the Caribbean Basin,  De Rochefort anonymously published L’Histoire naturelle et morale des îles Antilles de l’Amérique. It was a capital crime for a French Protestant to publish a book or even print the Bible! He was risking his life just to promote scientific understanding of the Americas. In this book, he uses the generic term, Carib, for what we now call the Arawaks, Tainos and Caribs.  The terms Arawak and Taino really were not used much until the 20th century. 

After receiving death threats from Roman Catholic authorities in the French Caribbean colonies,  De Rochefort moved to the Netherlands.  The book’s second edition was published in 1658 in Rotterdam by Arnout Leers.   De Rochefort added ten chapters on what is now the State of Georgia to this edition.  They were based on the eyewitness accounts and sketches of British explorer, Richard Brigstock, who lived in the Kingdom of Apalache most of 1653. 

Contemporary archaeologists call the Kingdom of Apalache, the “Lamar Culture” . . . named after a prominent plantation family of slave owners in Middle Georgia, who hated Indians.   Leers included numerous engravings of the flora, fauna and scenes of the Kingdom of Apalache in the second and subsequent editions.  During the next thirty years, the book was published in several languages and republished six times.

Both the original book and the expanded 1658 edition stated that the Caribs originated on the coast of Florida Française near the former site of Fort Caroline as castaways from some natural disaster far away.  Their coastal settlements initially spread northward and southward from the mouth of the Altamaha River.

Florida Française was what the French called Georgia and South Carolina.  De Rochfort specifically equated the Altamaha River in Georgia with the May River, on whose banks, Fort Caroline stood.  The French NEVER claimed any land south of the St. Mary’s River, which is now the border between Georgia and Florida. 

The Caribs soon developed a culture more advanced than most in North America.  They introduced the making of pottery to other tribes. De Rochefort also stated that the ancient, often massive shell structures on the South Atlantic Coast were built by the ancestors of the Caribs.

As the Carib population increased,  tribes and bands of peoples began to spread outward from Atlantic Coast.  Initially, there was one band that headed northward, while the other looked southward. 

This is interesting.  De Rochefort stated that at one time, the Caribs were the dominant population of the Apalachen Mountains.  That is what the mountains of Georgia and western North Carolina were called in the 1600s and 1700s.  Apalachen is the plural of Apalache . . . as in the Kingdom of Apalache.

The mountain band of Caribs divided into two bands.  One stayed put, while the other headed north.  When the Apalachete (Itza Mayas) arrived from Mexico, they pushed out most of the Caribs.  However, in 1653, some Caribs still remain in the more northerly of the Apalachen Mountains (western North Carolina).

The Northern Band eventually settled in Canada, where they endured a cold climate and a rocky land, unsuitable for agriculture. In 1650, they began migrating southward.  In 16538, they now live near the northern edge of the Kingdom of Apalache – West Virginia. Obviously, they were either the Shawnee or Cherokee.

The largest portion of the population drifted southward into the Florida Peninsula then into Cuba and other islands of the Caribbean Basin.  Populations steadily grew, so that bands continued moving southward until they reached Peru.   Then some of these Arawak peoples started heading north again.  They settled islands throughout the Caribbean until they reached Florida.  They eventually reached Florida Française, where they became members of the Kingdom of Apalache (original Creek Confederacy.) There they live today (1658).

De Rochefort stated that the Florida Apalache did not call themselves Apalache, but another name.  The Florida Apalache were actually Southern Arawaks from Peru.  However, the real Apalache, (northern Georgia) had established a colony among them and built a road from the mountains to the Florida Gulf Coast.

Fact-checking Charles de Rochefort

Marilyn Rae grew up in Front Royal, Virginia . . . in the Shenandoah Valley.  She graduated with degrees in Romance Languages and Renaissance History from Boston University.  She is a direct descendant of Cherokee Principal Chief Pathkiller, but was shocked to find out that her only Native American DNA was labeled Florida Apalache . . . which is actually Southern Arawak. Otherwise, she had twice as much Jewish DNA as her Sephardic Jewish husband!  She may well be descended from the Proto-Arawak tribes, who remained in the Southeast.

In 2013, Marilyn contacted me after coming across an interesting French language book in the Fantasy and Utopia bin at the J. Carter Brown Library.  Ten chapters described an advanced Native American civilization in the mountains of Georgia, which she thought might be the people, who built the Track Rock Terrace Complex.   

When I first looked at the 10 chapters on Georgia, I also thought it was a fantasy.  The book described the Creek Indians as originally being a mixture of immigrants from southern Mexico and Peru.  The elite maintained many Panoan Indian traditions from Peru.   Then, I came to the chapter on architecture.  De Rochefort knew minute details of the construction of Creek domestic, public and military structures that archaeologists would not learn until the late 20th century.  Eventually, everything that he wrote about the real cultural practices of the Creek Indians checked out. 

Marilyn and I published a book, containing the annotated English translation of those ten chapters.  It is entitled, The Apalache Chronicles, and may be purchased from the publisher,  Ancient Cypress Press, or from Amazon.com.

Fact checking what De Rochefort said about the Arawaks

There was no gradual development of shell rings on the Georgia Coast and none older elsewhere in North America. There is little to no evidence of significant human occupation in the coastal zone of the Southeastern United States, before shell rings appeared.  They suddenly were being constructed around 2300 BC.   The construction of shell rings in Georgia stopped around 1800 BC, as if the people moved away.

  • The 20 years of non-stop rainfall in Ireland and southern England ended around 2325 BC.  Late Neolithic peoples in Ireland built earthen rings to about 2400 BC or a little later – but no known shell rings.
  • The oldest shell rings in Georgia are near the mouth of the Altamaha River, near the real location of Fort Caroline.
  • One sees a progression of shell rings of younger age as one moves down the Atlantic Coast and down into South America.
  • Most of the surviving names of Florida Apalachee villages can be translated with a Peruvian Southern Arawak dictionary.
  • Cuban archaeologists are now convinced that the earliest humans on their island came from Florida.
  • A comprehensive ground radar study of the Ocmulgee Acropolis in 2012, by Dr. Daniel Bigman, revealed that from around 900 AD to 1000 AD, its residents lived in large round houses, typical of the Arawaks in Venezuela and eastern Colombia.
  • Arawak-style stone sculptures and shrines, typical of the Toa People in Cuba can be found along the Chattahoochee River in SW Metro Atlanta.
  • Hernando de Soto visited a Toa Province on the Ocmulgee River in March 1540.
  • There is a Native American population in Towns County, GA (Northeast Georgia Mountains) who carry up to 25% Southern Arawak DNA.
  • Early maps of western North Carolina show several village names that end in “coa” or  “o”.  Both these grammatical features are Arawak.
  • The Nantahala River in North Carolina and Amicalola Falls in Georgia have Arawak names.

Conclusion . . . there is a lot of evidence to back up Charles de Rochefort’s version of history!


  1. This is very interesting. It’s like a big puzzle with many pieces extended over a long period of time and in different places because of migration. All the pieces have to be looked at to understand the big picture. I am sure that anthropologists/ archeologists would come to the same conclusion as De Rochefort if they were truly willing to look at all the puzzle pieces, all the evidence that is available, even if it goes against what text books and their academic peers accept as correct. I found it interesting and was shocked how some of the Florida tribes like the the Calusas had some similarities with the Taino/ Caribbean Arawaks. As their masks or guaizas , their shell middens, the term Kasike when referring to their chief and many more similarities that I think not many have bothered to look into. Where can De Rochefort”s Origin of The Arawaks be purchased and is it available in English as my French is not enough to read a book. Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hey, all that is in English and in our book, “The Appalachian Chronicles.” Marilyn translated the text then I wrote articles after each section that translated the Itsate Creek words, mentioned by De Rochefort and explained the connections to Creek cultural traditions. What convinced me that De Rochefort was trustworthy is that the Apalache in north Georgia spoke Itsate, not Muskogee Creek. De Rochfort had the correct spelling and meaning for the words. Even someone, who was fluent in Muskogee Creek, would have not known the meanings of those words!

      Liked by 3 people

  2. I will definitely be purchasing the book. Something that also got my attention in this article is the Toa rivers. There is one also in Cuba named Toa.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, I mentioned that in the article. The cultural practices of the Toa in Cuba and the Toa are in Georgia were identical. Both Toa People held owls to be sacred. Both carved large boulders into the shape of owls. Both put owl motifs on their pottery. One of the Toa Bands formed a neighborhood of the great town on the Ocmulgee River, and mass-produced owl motif pottery. That Toa band then established a colony on Hiwassee Island, Tennessee. That town was name Taenasi – giving the name to both the river and ultimately, the state.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. OK! Sent for the Apalache Chronicles. When editing and writing, I’ll use it for a reference with notation to where that came from. Mind, while I get good ‘marks’ for writing skills, knowledge, and storytelling, I am not in shape to run around the country to sign books. So, not too many publisher want my work LOL.

    Liked by 1 person

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