28 August 2014

The True Origin of the Cherokee and the Prehistory of the Cherokee Country

The Cherokee ain’t from around here.  Well, the Iroquoian part of them aren’t, anyway. 

Until the twentieth century, this was a given, as was the truth that the Cherokee did not exist as “the Cherokee”, a defined people under that name, until the English colonial period.  Historians, ethnologists, anthropologists, and missionaries among them from the late eighteenth thru the end of the nineteenth centuries all noted this historical fact and remarked on the mixed origins of the Cherokee languages.  It wasn’t until after the turn into the twentieth century that anyone of note seriously claimed that the Cherokee nation as such originated in the South and as a people were of ancient origin.

The Six Civilized Nations of the Old Southwest

The Five Civilized Nations of the (former) Indian Territory are the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole ethnically-cleansed from the Old Southwest (the modern American Southeast) to the west of the Mississippi River in the nineteenth century.  They are so called because in the early decades of that century, they had adopted many features of white society and were therefore considered “civilized”.

As Booker T. Washington commented on American treatment of indigenous people, “No white American ever thinks that any other race is wholly civilized until he wears the white man’s clothes, eats the white man’s food, speaks the white man’s language, and professes the white man’s religion.”  The group which went the furthest in that regard were the Cherokee, who not only invented their own system of writing but adopted a formal written constitution and two-house legislature in a three-branch government.

Back in the home in the Old Southwest itself, there were actually Six “Civilized Nations”, the sixth being the Catawba.  The Catawba assimilated the most, took individual plots rather than remove, and thus were robbed of their lands by unscrupulous speculators and developers and all but extinguished as a distinct people by the early eighteenth century.  Such was their situation that Andy Jackson cited their example as the reason for striking out a clause from the Treaty of New Echota allowing Cherokee to follow the same course.

Of these Six Civilized Tribes, the only one which existed in any form remotely resembling its structure at the time of English contact was the Chickasaw.  The Spanish first encountered the Chickasaw on the De Soto expedition, dwelling in modern east central Mississippi just south of the Alabama, who subsequently lived around the head of the river named for them at the confluence of the Coosa and Tallapoosa Rivers.  As they moved northwest to their traditional home, the Chickasaw very likely absorbed the Quizquiz and other smaller groups.

The Choctaw sprang from a federation of three different peoples, two closely related (Eastern and Western divisions) and a third from elsewhere (Six Towns division) which originally spoke  a much different language. 

The Creek (or Muskogee) Confederacy began as a defensive alliance of towns descending from the old chiefdoms of the Mississippian era (900-1600 CE).  It was founded by its four “mother towns”:  Abihka, Coosa, Coweta, and Tuckabatchee.  Abihka and Coosa were in the Upper Towns on the Coosa River.  Tuckabatchee, the main settlement of the Middle Towns on the Tallapoosa River, was the seat of the Confederacy, but was originally made of “foreign-speaking” people from the north.  Coweta was the chief settlement of the Lower Towns on the Flint and Chattahoochee Rivers.  The Coosa, from the Coosawattee site in northern Murray County, Georgia, and frequent players in 16th century Spanish chronicles, later dwindled such that they merged with Abhika.  The Lower Town of Cusseta (Kasihta) then stepped into its place as one of the mother towns.

The Seminole previously made up part of the Creek Confederacy but migrated to what was then East Florida after the French and Indian War when it became British territory.  Though several tribes and bands contributed to its makeup, the two primary were the Oconee and the Chiaha.

The Catawba, as the English of the colonial period knew them, coalesced from the different Siouan-speaking tribes of the Carolinas.  Although one of the major nations at the time of the Revolutionary War, their numbers greatly dropped due to disease and intermarriage and they were not removed as were the others, so they are not usually included as one of the so-called “Five Civilized Tribes”.

The Cherokee did not exist as a people until after the mid-seventeenth century.  In fact, none of the other Iroquoian-speaking groups familiar to English colonists (Tuscarora, Meherrin, Nottoway) lived in the Southeast until the seventeenth century.

Indian confederacies

As complex as that may sound, it is, in fact, rather simplistic compared to the true situation, as some groups which became part of these confederations or coalitions retained their individual identity, as some do even today, like the Natchez and the Yuchi, both of which are represented among both the Cherokee and the Muscogee (Creek) Nations.

Confederacies of Indian nations and tribes were not unique to the South.  Nearly all of what we think of today as the nations and tribes at the time of contact were really amalgamations or confederations of different peoples, such as the Huron, or Wendat.  None were as explicitly organized as the League of the Iroquois, however. 

Speaking of which, and this is totally off subject, I just recently learned that there is another Iroquois confederacy, the Seven Confederate Nations in Canada made up of former Iroquois League towns and allies who supported France during the French and Indian War.  These Seven Confederate Nations are the Mohawk of Akwesasne, the Mohawk of Kahnawake, the Mohawk and Anishinaabeg (Nipissing and Algonkin) of Kanestake, the Abenaki of Odanak, the Abenaki of Wolinak, the Huron of Wendake, and the Onondaga of Oswegatchie.

It’s tempting to write these federations, confederacies, and alliances off as being provoked by wars over trade with Europeans, but in the North, they had already been at war for nearly a century before first contact.  The League of the Iroquois dates back to the 16th century, and they were still getting some of the kinks worked out in the next century.  The Powhatan Confederacy had only formed a generation or two before the English established Jamestown.  The changing climate at the beginning of the Little Ice Age was undoubtedly a contributing factor.

Languages in the Southeast

In the South, there was some warfare, but not nearly as much, certainly not on the scale of that in the Great Lakes-St. Laurence Valley region.  At least not in the 16th century; however, the wide diversity of languages in towns in proximity to each other as well as the broad dispersal of groups with linguistic similarity argue that the sort of warfare and displacement the French saw in the north may have already taken place earlier in the south.

In the interior of the Old Southwest, the dominant (though not exclusive) group of languages was the Muskogean.  Muskogean languages divide into four main families: Northern, the Muskogee language itself and closely related dialects; Southern, the Hitchiti language and its variants; Western, languages similar to Choctaw; and Coastal, those spoken by the Guale and their cousins.

Cultural anthropology of the pre- and proto-historic era

I’m going to be throwing around some terms that may not be familiar to some readers, so I’m providing this quick and very simplistic guide.

Paleolithic era

In North America, this covered the period from 18,000-8000 BCE.

Archaic era

In North America, this covered the period from 8000-1000 BCE.

Woodland era

The Woodland era is divided into three periods:  Early Woodland (1000 BCE-1 CE), Middle Woodland (1-500 CE), and Late Woodland (500-1000).

Mound complexes during the Woodland period served strictly ceremonial purposes and were almost never inhabited.  They were central to groups of hamlets and homesteads.  Hunting, gathering, and small-scale horticulture fed inhabitants. 

The greatest site of the entire Woodland era is the Pinson Mounds site in Madison County of West Tennessee.  Dating from the Middle Woodland period (1-500 CE), the site was purely ceremonial, without permanent habitation.  There are seventeen mounds and an earthen enclosure.  Saul’s Mound, the central feature of the entire complex, appears to have been a platform mound more for ceremonial purposes than burial.  It is the second highest aboriginal mound or pyramid in North America. 

Mississippi era

Anthropologists divide this Mississippi era (700-1730) into three periods:  Early Mississippian (900-1200), Classic Mississippian (1150-1450), and Late Mississippian (1450-1600), the latter including first contact with the Spanish conquistadors of La Florida.  These dates are general; the Middle Mississippian Culture began around 700 CE, while the Plaquemine Mississippian Culture survived in classic form until 1730.

During the Mississippi era, the population grew exponentially largely due to advances in agriculture, especially the introduction of maize.  Social structures became more complex and stratified.  Villages became towns which were palisaded.

In the Early Mississippian period, burial mounds still existed but were less important.  The newer, larger platform mounds, or pyramids, replaced them in importance and dominated each of the towns.  At this stage, there was never more than one large platform mound per town.  Burials were still done outside the bounds of the village.

In the Classic Mississippian period, platform mounds grew and housed not just a religious building but houses for the elite.  Burials of the elite occurred within the large mounds or around the central plaza, and commoners were buried elsewhere in the village.  Ceremonies and ritual objects became more elaborate, the powers of the priesthood grew.

In the Late Mississippian period, platform mounds became shorter and the only building atop them was a community building used for secular as well as religious purposes.  Overall societal organization downshifted to a more (though not entirely) egalitarian mode.

Southeastern Ceremonial Complex

The hereditary elite came to dominate the commoners through a religion based largely on the agricultural cycle, centered around maize production.  The high celebration of the year was the Green Corn Ceremony, or the Busk, which became so much a part of the culture of the tribes of the Old Southwest that it survived well into the nineteenth century past the adoption of white culture and Christian religion.

Besides the ceremonies and the mounds, a number of cult objects, statuary, decorative motifs, and jewelry such as gorgets were features of the cult.  Several motifs were shared across eastern North America, the three most prominent being the Birdman, Red Horn and his Sons, and the Great Serpent.  The latter, in many different forms throughout the region, bears some resemblance to the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl.   Some of these motifs, particularly the last, continued well into historical times.

It was through this Southeastern Ceremonial Cult and trade that the Mississippian cultures influenced the peripheral regions around it.  The accounts of the earliest French colonials in the Lower Mississippi Valley (what became Lower Louisiana) provide the best picture we have of this religious ceremonial complex and the society which produced it and which it in turn supported and upheld.

Culture regions of the Mississippian era

The Middle Mississippian Culture rose along the middle course of the Mississippi River covering southern Illinois, southern Indiana, Iowa, eastern Arkansas, West Tennessee and the Cumberland Basin in Middle Tennessee.

Cahokia with its numerous mounds site was the premier center of Mississippian culture.  Its central mound was over one hundred feet tall, and its central plaza alone spread across sixty-four acres.  Its core population was between ten and forty thousand, with numerous satellite towns and villages.  Besides its over eighty mounds, it contained two Woodhenges with astronomical accuracy equal to that of Stonehenge in England.

Moundville near Tuscaloosa, Alabama, was contemporary with Cahokia.

Angel and Kinkaid were later centers, as were Parkin and Nodena, which were even later and west of the Mississippi.

This culture region included the Middle Cumberland Basin and vicinity (sites like Mound Bottom, Castilian Springs, Old Town, Beasley Mounds, Boiling Springs, Averbuch, Noel Farm, Gordontown, etc., fifty in all), Chucalissa near Memphis, and the Shiloh Mounds, which almost rivaled Moundville in size.

The Caddoan Mississippian Culture lay in eastern Oklahoma, western Arkansas, northeastern Texas, and northwest Louisiana.  Its premier center was the Spiro Mounds site.

The Plaquemine Mississippian Culture covered southeastern Arkansas, eastern Louisiana, and southwestern Mississippi.  Its premier center was the Emerald Mound, the second tallest of the Misssissippian period.  Its people later moved to the Fatherland Mound site, where the French knew them as the Natchez.

The Southern Appalachian Mississippian Culture spread across a broad area, taking in East Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, northern Florida, South Carolina, and central and western North Carolina.

Some of the major sites in the region include Ocmulgee and Lamar, but the largest site was the town at Etowah Mounds, the central of which is the third highest platform mound at sixty-three feet.  It was occupied in three phases: 950-1200, 1250-1375, 1475-1539.

Other major sites in the Southern Appalachian zone were Citico in Chattanooga, Hiwassee Island, Toqua on the Little Tennessee River, and Long-Island-on-the-Tennessee.

In addition, the Mississippian culture as a whole influenced, primarily through trade, several other culture regions on the northern periphery.

The Oneota Culture was in northern Illinois, western Michigan, and Wisconsin.

The Fort Ancient Culture lay along the central Ohio River taking in the adjacent areas of northern and northeastern Kentucky, southern Ohio, southwestern West Virginia, and southeastern Indiana.

The Monogahela Culture existed in southwestern Pennsylvania, northern West Virginia, and a small area of eastern Ohio.

The Western Basin Culture covered the White River Basin of southern Indiana, northeast Indiana, northwest Ohio, and southwest Michigan.

The Appalachian Summit Culture was in Upper East Tennessee, western North Carolina, and Southwest Virginia.

Rise and fall of Mississippian paramount chiefdoms

In the Middle Mississippian Culture zone, Mississippian culture emerged around 700 CE, a couple of centuries before spilling over its periphery.  Elsewhere, emergent cultures appeared from 900-1000 CE.

The high point of Mississippian culture and the peak of the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex came during the Classic Mississippian period.  During the same period came the beginning of its decline, largely due to stress from an overtaxed environment combined with a disastrous drought and the beginning of the Little Ice Age.  The following are only the largest and more prominent examples, given to illustrate the waves of collapse.

In the early stage of the Mississippian era (1100-1200) in the southern Upper Tennessee Valley, the major centers politically and culturally were at Hiwassee Island, Sale Creek, Mouse Creek, and Upper Hampton in Rhea County, upstream from the mouth of the Hiwassee River.

In the Southern Appalachian Culture zone, Etowah’s first occupation collapsed completely in 1200, and the entire Etowah Valley remained vacant to fifty years.  The related centers in what is now the Chickamauga Basin collapsed too, though their entire region did not become vacant.

In the Caddoan Culture zone, the chiefdom at Spiro fell next, its population dispersing around 1250 into several smaller but nearby settlements which used its grounds as a ceremonial center.

The Early Mississippian period of the Middle Cumberland Basin dissipated at about the same time as Spiro (1250), giving way to the Classic Mississippian period, which saw the peak of the era in the local zone.

In the Middle Mississippi Culture zone, Moundville and Shiloh followed suit with Spiro in 1300, becoming uninhabited sites used for ceremonial and political purposes, much the same as ceremonial centers had been during the Woodland era.  In the southern Upper Tennessee Valley, the towns at the Hixon and Citico sites rose as the local powers, the latter probably becoming the most influential in all of East Tennessee.  Hiwassee Island was repopulated, Citico grew even bigger, and the former inhabitants of the Hixon site crossed back over the Tennessee River to establish the Dallas site where the town of Harrison used to be.

Cahokia’s collapse came a bit later then Spiro’s but also more suddenly and more completely.  It began about 1300 and the core site was deserted within a few years.  By 1350, the entire American Bottom lay vacant and remained so until the colonial period.  It was known as the Vacant Quarter.

Back in the Southern Appalachian zone, the reoccupied (in 1250) Etowah peaked in 1325 then entered a period of warfare ending in its destruction by fire in 1375.  After that, the site remained vacant for a century.  When reinhabited, it was far short of its former glory, never obtaining the same prestige or power, and by the time De Soto came through, the Itawa people had not been  living there for around two decades.  One of the main beneficiaries of its demise as a regional power was a town established in the Coosawattee Valley around 1400 called Coosa. 

Also around 1400, the Middle Cumberland Basin peoples abandoned that region as entirely at those of the American Bottom had done theirs previously, some heading east and southeast.  This mass exodus included the settlements along the Duck and Elk Rivers.  By 1450, their former lands joined the Vacant Quarter, remaining deserted until the Chillicothe and Kispokore bands of the Shawnee relocated there in the mid-1600’s.

Artifacts from the Middle Cumberland began to appear in the southern Upper Tennessee Valley at this time.  The major town at the Dallas site was burned to the ground, and it and its vicinity deserted until the eighteenth century.  At the same time, the towns of the Mouth Creek Phase (see below) first appeared in the lower Hiwassee Valley and vicinity.

The year 1450 marked the collapse, or at least final collapse, of some of the major chiefdoms and/or ceremonial sites in the overall Mississippian cultural region.  The Kincaid and the Angel sites in southern Illinois and southwestern Indiana collapsed about this time, which also witnessed the end of ceremonial use of the sites at Moundville, Shiloh, and Spiro.

By 1475, the chiefdom Coosa had asserted itself into a semblance of the position of power and influence held previously by Etowah, though in more decentralized form. 

For most of the Mississippian era, towns along the Savannah River dominated the region on either side.  At the beginning of the 1500s, however, the peoples living on its middle and lower courses deserted to the regions on either side.  The main beneficiaries, or perhaps victims, of this dispersal were the Piedmont towns, primarily Cofitachequi in the east and Ocute in the west.

With this, the polity and relationships of the towns and their people as the Spanish encountered in the sixteenth century had fallen into place.

Cherokee Country at Spanish contact

There were no Cherokee in “Cherokee Country” at Spanish contact, of course, since there were no Cherokee anywhere at the time because they did not exist as a people.  The area in which they later lived, the Appalachian Summit and the contiguous areas in the Carolina Piedmont and the Ridge and Valley region of East Tennessee, was inhabited mostly by Muskogean-,  Eastern Siouan-, and Yuchi-speaking people who were demonstrably not Cherokee.

Like all Mississippians, the dominant political structure of the Muskogeans was the chiefdom, governed by an “orata” from the mound center, with satellite hamlets and individual homesteads.  In many cases, these chiefdoms, in turn, paid homage to a paramount chiefdom, whose ruler was a mico.  This was the typical structure of the Late Mississippian period.  De Soto, De Luna, and Pardo encountered ten chiefdoms ruled by micos in our target area: Guale, Mocama, Orista, Escamacu, Cofitachequi, Guatari, Joara, Chiaha, Coosa, and Tascaluza.

Hernando de Soto ventured through the Carolinas, East Tennessee, North Georgia, and Northeast Alabama in 1540.  Tristan de Luna’s party visited North Georgia then Southeast Tennessee (specifically the Chattanooga area) from their colony on the Alabama River in 1560.  Juan Pardo’s troops traveled through the Carolinas and East Tennessee in 1567 and 1568 from the then capital of La Florida at Santa Elena on Parris Island, South Carolina.

The following is a brief sketch of the lay of the land as the Spanish encountered it in their entradas of the sixteenth century.  Information from the chroniclers of the various entradas plus brief sketches of archaeology, demonstrates that there was simply no room for the Cherokee in Cherokee Country in the sixteenth century.  The Spanish chroniclers mention numerous towns, or tribes, whom their leaders encountered.  More inland, in areas the Spanish brushed without entering, lay towns whose record is mostly archaeological.

One of the terms I’ll be using is “phase”, as in “Dallas Phase”.  An archaeological “phase” is the physical cultural complex within a defined region between two given points during a certain time period.  It does not necessarily correspond to ethnic group or language.

The central feature of these, like all Mississippian phases, were seats of central power with large platform mounds, of which thirty-three existed in the Dallas Phase region and fifty in the Middle Cumberland Basin.  Not all were simultaneous, of course, many of those close together were used sequentially and some sites were inhabited, abandoned, and reinhabited,

Coastal Plain at Spanish contact

Leaving Santa Elena, the Coastal Plain north of the Savannah River was dominated by two paramount chiefdoms: Orista (Edisto) and Escamacu.  The towns subject to them included Ahoya, Witcheough, Wimbe, Toupa, Mayon, Stalame, Combahee, Kussah, and Ashepo.  All of these are collectively referred to as the Cusabo, and they may have spoken forms of the Arawak languages of the Caribbean.

Across the Savannah, the Coastal Plain between the Savannah and the Timucua peoples in northern Florida fell under the paramount chiefdoms of Guale and Mocama, north and south of the Altamaha River respectively.

Carolina Piedmont at Spanish contact

Moving inland, you would first encounter Cofitachequi in the vicinity of modern Camden, South Carolina.  Pardo knew the town as Canos; its people later became the Cusseta, or Kasihta, of the Creek Confederacy.  At the time of De Soto’s expedition in 1540, Cofitachequi’s authority spread across most of South Carolina and a large part of North Carolina, held by a woman.  In archaeological parlance, Cofitachequi and its people and environs make up the Mulberry Phase.  Being that the Cofitachequians became the Cussetas, it’s safe to assume that most if not all within the Mulberry Phase spoke Eastern Muskogean languages.

Thirty miles due west of the western outskirts of Cofitachequi’s territory across the uninhabited stretch of the Savannah River Valley from its mid-course to its mouth lay the people whom De Soto encountered along the Oconee River known as Ocute before his entrada into Cofitachequi in 1540.  Ocute and its environs made up what archaeologists call the Dyar Phase.  Its descendants and successors were the Hitchiti, who spoke a Southern Muskogean language.

To the immediate north of Cofitachequi in the Piedmont region of North Carolina was the “province” of Chalaque, or Xalaque.  In the Mobilian trade language which was the lingua franca of the Southeast, “Chalaque” signified speakers of a different language.  De Soto’s recorders do not mention the name of the town here, but Pardo’s chroniclers called it Otari, while maps as late as the early eighteenth century refer to it by the first appellation. 

We can glean the identity of these “speakers of a foreign language” from the name of their dominant town, Xualla, which Pardo’s records call Joara.  Except for the “l” versus the “r”, the pronunciation is identical; one would surmise that De Soto’s informants were Muskogean-speaking while Pardo’s were Siouan-speaking.  The people at this town were the same later known to the English as the Siouan-speaking Sara or Cheraw.  Most Siouan-speaking groups in the area later coalesced as the Catawba.  In De Soto’s time, “Xualla” was subject to Cofitachequi but in Pardo’s time “Joara” was independent and a paramount chiefdom.  Joara was the center of what to archaeologists is the Burke Phase.

By Pardo’s later time, the eastern region north of Cofitachequi also formed a separate paramount chiefdom under the town of Guatari, whose mico in his time was a woman.  This name is even more clearly that of a Siouan-speaking people, those later known to the English as the Wateree, which held on to the most of its Mississippian culture as late as 1670.  Guatari dominated what archaeologists have named the Caraway Phase.

Remember that although so far every archaeological phase I have named has coincided with a mico’s territory that the two are not equivalent.  One is a cultural region, the other is a political entity, and sometimes the boundaries of the two overlap, as we shall see.

The lesser towns of the Carolina Piedmont, north and south, included Guiomae, Ylasi, Sanapa, Unuguaqua, Vora, Yssa, Catapa (Catawba), Vehidi, Otari, Uraca, Achini, Ayo, Canosca, Tagaya Major, Tagaya Minor, Suhere, Suya, Uniaca, Ohebere, Aracuchi, Chiquini (a subject town of Guatari whose orata was a woman), Quinahaqui, Uchiri, Guaqiri, Tocae, Uastique, Enuque, Enxuete, Xeneca, Atuqui, Sarati, Ohebere, Autqui, Osuguen, Aubesan, Pundahaque, Guanbuca, Ustehuque, Ansuhet, Guararuquet, Jueca, Qunaha, Vastu, and Dudca.

Having gone further north before turning west, De Soto and Pardo both missed the Tugalo Phase at the uppermost reaches of the Savannah River, which in the sixteenth century included the Chauga, Tugalo, and Estatoe sites.

Further directly west of the Tugalo Phase, on the headwaters of the Chattahoochee River sat the Nacoochee Phase, its two main sites being Nacoochee and Eastwood.  Beyond there to the west was deserted until the outskirts of the paramount chiefdom of Coosa.

Appalachian Summit at Spanish contact

On the opposite side of Xualla/Joara to the west sat the town of Cauchi, the most important in its immediate area though still in the orbit of its eastern neighbor.  Different historians have tried to equate it with either of two towns down the line, but neither really stands.  Cauchi was at the time the most important town in what to archaeologists is the Middle Qualla Phase.  This was in the eastern Appalachian Summit area of western North Carolina.

What is most interesting is the names of several towns whose oratas came to meet with Pardo here, later used by the Cherokee after their arrival and coalescence: Neguase (Nequasse), Estate (Estatoe), Tacoru (Tugaloo), Utaca (Watauga), and Quetua (Kituwa).  None of these can be translated into any of the three dialects of Cherokee, not unusual for Cherokee towns, such as Chickamauga, Chatanuga, Tellico, Chatuga, Echota, Tanase, Chilhowee, Citico, Tuskegee, and Hiwassee.  The opposite case, towns having names deriving from Cherokee, was the exception rather than the rule.

In the mountains of northwestern North Carolina, past the concentric spheres of influence of Cauchi and Joara, lived the Chisca, as named by De Soto’s guides, whom Pardo’s chroniclers called the Uchee.  Obviously, these are those who still call themselves Yuchi.  Their territory spread into Upper East Tennessee and Southwestern Virginia, and was roughly coextensive with the Late Pisgah Phase.  As for their language, the Yuchi are a linguistic isolate.

The towns of the Chisca/Uchee Pardo visited were Guasili and Canasoga in Upper East Tennessee (probably on the upper Nolichucky River).  Two others were Guapere on the Watauga River, probably the same site as the later Watauga Old Fields, and Maniateque near Saltville, Virginia, both of which were destroyed by Spanish soldiers under Hernando Moyano in 1567.  The latter has been demonstrated fairly conclusively by archaeology and by examination of historical record by Jim Glanville.

Ridge and Valley at Spanish first contact

Geographically, the first two locations in this section belong to the Appalachian Summit, but politically in the sixteenth century formed part of a Ridge and Valley based polity.

A fifth  town of the Yuchi people was the only one subject to outside control: Tanasqui, at the confluence of the French Broad and Pigeon Rivers.  Tanasqui at the time seemed to be subject to the chiefdom on its immediate south.

At Zimmerman’s Island near the modern Dandridge, Tennessee, on the French Broad lay the major town of Chiaha, then the dominant chiefdom in East Tennessee.  The town was also called Olamico, and now lies beneath Douglas Lake.  The people were later called the Chehaw.  The people of Chiaha spoke a Southern Muskogean language mutually intelligible with Hitchiti and Oconee. 

Most archaeologists and historians consider Chiaha’s subject town of Tanasqui the northernmost limits of the paramount chiefdom of Coosa.  I completely disagree with that idea, however, given that the chief of Chiaha was a mico in his own right according to all the annalists.

Both De Soto and Pardo stayed at Chiaha.  De Soto’s chroniclers mention no other towns in the vicinity, but Pardo met oratas from Cansoga, Utahaque, Anduque, Enjuete, Guannguaca, Tucahe, Guaruruquete, and Anxuete there.  Five leagues due west of there, he met the oratas of Otape, Jasire, and Fumica at his camp in the open.

At Chiaha, we begin the Dallas Phase, to which archaeologists have assigned almost all of East and Southeastern Tennessee, at least up to now.  Here the Spanish saw their first palisaded towns due to hostilities with Chisca.  Other archaeological townsites besides Zimmerman’s Island on the French Broad known to exist in the sixteenth century were Henderson 1, Fain Island, and Brakebill at its confluence with the Holston River.  McMahan and Henderson 2 in the Forks-of-the-Pigeon district in the vicinity.  Halfway between Brakebill and Coste on Bussell’s Island is another on Post Oak Island.

South of Chiaha in the Holston Valley, De Soto found the town of Coste (Coushatta) on Bussell’s Island at the mouth of the Little Tennessee River, later home to the Overhill Towns of the Cherokee.  Its people spoke a Western Muskogean language closely related to Alabama, Choctaw, and Chickasaw.

From Coste, De Soto traveled upriver and encamped his expedition on the riverbank across from the town of Tali on McKee Island which formed part of the Toqua site just south of where the Great Indian Warpath between Mobile and Newfoundland forded the Little Tennessee. 

Nearly thirty years later, Pardo came down the Little Tennessee from Chiaha through a rough pass through the mountains through Chalahume (Chilhowee) headed toward Coste, stopping for the night at Satapo (Citico).  Another sixteenth century town site lay upriver from Chalahume at Talasee, through or past which Pardo had to traverse but never mentioned.  Pardo turned went back to Chiaha via a much less arduous route to avoid an ambush.

De Soto, on the other hand, turned south at Tali headed toward Coosa along the Warriors Path, which bisected the Great Indian Warpath at Vonore, Tennessee, going north to the Ohio River and southwest to the Coosa Valley.

The next town De Soto and his troops encountered after their turn south was Tasqui, which from the accounts can only have been the Late Mississippian site at Great Tellico near modern Tellico Plains.  Here the Trading Path (aka Unicoi Turnpike) branched off toward the mountains in the east and the piedmont beyond.

From Tasqui, the next stop was Tasquiqui, whose people become known to the English and French as the Tuskegee.  The Tuskegee spoke a Western Muskogean language, so it is not unlikely that the other villages along the whole route from Coste to there did also.  The town of Tasquiqui can only have been at the later Great Hiwassee, now the site of Savannah Farm near Delano, Tennessee.

Tasquiqui was the last town of the Dallas Phase on the road De Soto’s road to Coosa.  De Soto’s chroniclers did not name it nor Tasqui, rather when Pardo stayed in Satapo contemplating the later aborted journey to Coosa, his informants named them.

Leaving Tasquiqui, De Soto arrived in Coosa two days later after staying the night at an unnamed village or town which was probably in the vicinity of Ellijay. Coosa was the most powerful town of its day, dominating the entire Coosawattee Valley, the upper Coosa Valley, and parts of Southeast Tennessee.  Though it was at its northeast extremity, Coosa was the center of the culture archaeologists call the Barnett Phase, lying at what they call the Little Egypt site at Coosawattee, now under Carters Lake in northern Murray County, Georgia.

The rest of the towns of the Barnett Phase from northeast to southwest the large abandoned townsite of Talimuchasi at the Etowah Indian Mounds; Itaba (Itawa), at the Leak site; Ulibahali (Hotliwahali), at the Coosa Country Club site in Rome, Georgia; Apica (Abihka), at the King site; Onachiqui; Tuasi (Tawasa); and, finally, Talisi (Tallassee), near modern Childersburg, Alabama, on the border with the paramount chiefdom of Tazcaluza

The towns in Coosa’s realm spoke dialects of Eastern Muskogean languages.  The last two towns tenuously under Coosa (Tuasi and Talisi) belonged to what archaeologists call the Kymulga Phase, while that of Tazcalusa covered roughly the same area as the Moundville III Phase.

Returning back to Coste at the mouth of the Little Tennessee River, had De Soto headed west and travelled down the Tennessee River instead of turning south, he would have encountered once sizable towns on Huffin Island, then at De Armond below it, perhaps also at Thief’s Neck peninsula below there.

Beyond that collection of towns lay the group of settlements in the Hiwassee Valley and its vicinity known as the Mouse Creek Phase, which were abandoned shortly before or shortly after De Soto’s entrada.  Ledford Island in the Hiwassee River was the largest, and there were also towns on North Mouse Creek, South Mouse Creek, the Rymer site on the south bank at Charleston Landing, the Ocoee site on Ocoee River just above its confluence with the Hiwassee, the Sale Creek site on the Tennessee, and the Upper Hampton site just north of Euchee Old Fields at Rhea Springs.

The Great Indian Warpath forded the Hiwassee at Charleston, Tennessee, near the Rymer site, intersecting the Black Fox Trail, between Black Fox Springs (Murfreesboro) and the southwest tip of North Carolina, at the Calhoun, Tennessee.

The next group of towns in the Tennessee Valley we learn about from both archaeology and from the chronicles of De Luna’s 1560 expedition north from the newly-established colony of Santa Cruz on the Alabama River to the town of Coosa in Northwest Georgia.  While he was there to secure food and supplies and more firmly establish the Coosa-Spain alliance, the mico of Coosa requested he and his men take part in an expedition to put down a revolt by one of his subject peoples.

From descriptions of the terrain of these people, the Napochi, and the route to get to them there is little doubt of their geographic area: Southeast Tennessee.  In this part of the sixteenth century, there were five towns Dallas Phase towns in the Chattanooga, Tennessee area.  From southeast to northwest, these were at the “Little Owl Village” at Audobon Acres; the David Davis site at Vulcan Recreation and FedEx Freight; the Citico site at the mouth of Citico Creek (not to be mistaken for the other Citico site on Little Tennessee River); the Hampton Place site on Moccasin Point; and the Talimico site on Williams Island.

The joint Coosa-New Spain force attacked the town at Audobon Acres, only to find it deserted, so they burned it to the ground.  They then followed the trail of the refugees to the Citico site on the Tennessee River.  Here had been an important town during most of the Hiwassee Phase and in the Early Dallas Phase before being abandoned around 1300.  In its heyday, it was the most important town in East Tennessee.  After being deserted for a century and a half, people returned, building a much smaller mound opposite the older, much bigger mound.

The two groups of refugees fled across the river, probably at Ross Shoals just above the head of Maclellan Island.  After some back and forth, the “rebels” agreed to pay tribute in food and goods three times a year.  Then the invaders returned to Coosa in triumph.  From Pardo’s informants we learn that the name of this town that was burned was Olitifar, a corruption of the Muskogee name Opelika.

(More on the Napochi and Opelika below.)

Several miles downstream from the Napochi towns, at the head of yet another Long Island, this one straddling the Tennessee-Alabama stateline, was the southwesternmost Dallas Phase town, one of the multi-mound variety. 

The Great Indian Warpath crossed the river at the foot of the island, then passed along the left bank until merging with the Cisca and St. Augustine Trail (between Nashville and Augusta and St. Augustine) until passing over the foot of Lookout Mountain in the east.  A branch of the Cisca and St. Augustine known as the Nickajack Trail split off at the mouth of Murphy’s Hollow, passing up it to Lookout Valley then over Lookout Mountain, rejoining its parent among the ridges of North Georgia.

Below Long Island, the Crow Creek Phase stretched down to the river’s westward bend at Guntersville, Alabama, with major townsites at Sauty at the mouth of North Sauty Creek, Crow Creek Island, and the Cox site four miles north of the latter and the most important of the three.

North and west of this lay the Vacant Quarter, comprised of the Middle Cumberland region, uninhabited since 1400, and the American Bottom, uninhabited since a century before that.

Central Mississippi Valley at Spanish contact

Though my main purpose with the foregoing discussion has been to demonstrate how full of other peoples the later Cherokee Country was in the sixteenth century, I need to include encounters from the other end of Tennessee because some of them will enter the picture in subsequent discussion.

After travelling through northern and central Alabama, a journey which included the Battle of Mauvilla, De Soto encountered the Chicaza and the Alibamu in eastern central Mississippi before traveling northwest to come out at the Mississippi River at the Chucalissa site, known to De Soto’s chroniclers as Quizquiz and to archaeologists as the Walls Phase, which straddled the big river.

On the far side of the big river, the Spaniards encountered Pacaha, or the Parkin Phase, and Casqui, or the Nodena Phase, who at the time were waging intensive war against each other.  The latter enter our target region later.  The next major “province” down the Mississippi was Quigualtam, to archaeologists the Wasp Lake Phase, the chiefdom of which was based at the Winterville site.  Ethnologists and archaeologist surmise that these three peoples spoke dialects of Tunican languages.

South of there was an unnamed chiefdom, undoubtedly the precursor to the contact period Natchez then based at the Emerald Mound site, center of the Emerald Phase.  The Natchez, of course, spoke the Natchez language.

Survival and dissolution of Mississippian societies

The politics and demography of the Carolina Piedmont remained remarkably stable from their configuration to the advent of English colonization.  Expeditions by Francisco Fernandez de Ecija in 1605 and 1609 and by Pedro de Torres in 1627 and 1628 reported Cofitachequi, Joara, and Guatari as the dominant towns in the region. 

The Virginian explorer James Lederer echoed those assessments in 1670, with Wateree being the most powerful and most Mississippian politically. 

With the advent of slave-raiding by the Occaneechi for the colony of Virginia and by the Westo on the Savannah River, these Mississippian remnants collapsed. 

The Cheraw and the Wateree migrated south to refuge with other Siouan-speakers such as the Yssa (Esaw), Catapa (Catawba), Gueca (Waxhaw), Uchiri (Ushery), and Suhere (Sugaree) to become the Catawba nation of the eighteenth century.  The Cusseta of Cofitachequi vacated the entire region for the lower Chattahoochee River to become one of the two leading Lower Towns of the Creek Confederacy.

The demographic landscape of the later Cherokee Country itself changed even more drastically after the Spanish abandoned Santa Elena and Carolina in 1587, withdrawing south of the Savannah and shifting their capital to San Agustin.  Some of these changes may have occurred as much as a decade prior to that benchmark.

The Yuchi moved out of Holstonia, the Appalachian Summit area of Upper East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, and northwestern North Carolina, from the end of the sixteenth century through the early seventeenth century.  Collating information from various maps, mostly made based on information of French voyageur traders from Canada, we find the Yuchi dispersed by bands across a broad landscape under many different monikers: Yuchi, Hogohegee, Tahogale, Tongoria, Chichimeca, Chisca, Ogeechee, and Westo. 

We can be certain the Yuchi diaspora included towns on the upper and probably middle Tennessee River, the Savannah River, the Chattahoochee River, and the Coosa River, and even on the Ohio River.  One band of Yuchi migrated all the way to La Florida and the dominion of New Spain, where they were known by the name Chisca.  Spanish authorities employed them to negotiate with the Yuchi-speaking Westo on the Savannah River.  The Westo established their town of Hickauhaugau there in 1656.

During the same time as the Yuchi began to disperse, the Chiaha moved to the headwaters of the Chattahoochee River, where they were still located in 1720.  The larger portion of them later moved downriver to join the Lower Towns of the Creek Confederacy, from which their greater portion moved into Florida to become one of the two main sources of the Seminole, along with the Oconee.

The Coushatta moved down the Tennessee River, at one point occupying a settlement in what is now Marion County, Tennessee, probably at the head of Long Island.  The Tali did the same, and that will be covered soon.  The fate of the Satapo and the Chalahume remains a mystery; they may merged with the Coushatta, or with another town/tribe, or may have stayed on location along the Little Tennessee. 

The Tamathli, a Southern Muskogean-speaking people, established a town on that river near the end of the sixteenth century and remained to become one of the Overhill Towns of the Cherokee, spelled Tomotley.  The lower Little Tennessee Valley was otherwise deserted after the first or second decade of the seventeenth century.  Swanton report another town at Tomotla on the Valley River, Cherokee County, North Carolina.

The people of the Mouse Creek Phase vacated the Hiwassee region within a decade of De Soto’s entrada.  Who they were, and where they went, is a mystery.  The layout of their towns was similar to those of the Napochi towns in the Chattanooga area, but their burials differed in being fully extended rather than flexed.  They share a feature with eighteenth century Cherokee towns in that domestic buildings were connected summer and winter abodes. 

Of the Napochi, we know that the towns at the Audobon Acres site and the Dallas occupation at the Citico site were abandoned after the De Luna entrada, with their residents probably relocating to the Hampton Place site.  In 1700, French trader Charles Levasseur listed a town of ‘Napaches’ among the Upper Creek in 1700, and Opelika was an Upper Creek town on the Coosa River in what is now Coosa County, Alabama.

The people of the Crow Creek Phase and the Dallas Phase town on Long Island and dependent hamlets probably joined the towns formerly of the upper Coosa Valley, as they were abandoned at about the same time.
By the end of the sixteenth century, all the towns of the Coosa paramount chiefdom removed southwestward.  They had already abandoned the upper Coosa Valley for the Weiss Basin by about 1575.  Before 1630, the town of Coosa stood on the present site of Gadsden, Alabama, with the towns of Abihka, Hotliwahali, Itawa, etc., in the vicinity.  Later, they moved even farther south into what is now Talladega County, where they became the foundation of the Upper Towns of the Creek Confederacy.

Tennessee River, seventeenth thru early eighteenth centuries

Cartographers bestowed a variety of names on the Tennessee River in the colonial period, the three most often seen on maps being Caskinampo, Hogohegee (one of the names for the Yuchi), and Cherokee, sometimes with different names for the upper and lower stretches.

From the second half of the seventeenth century, around 1660, explorers and traders from New France began to penetrate the interior more frequently and more deeply than before.  At first these voyageurs came from Canada, but later they came from both Upper and Lower Louisiana.  French cartographers converted their verbal accounts into maps.  These are very valuable for getting a picture of what the make-up of the interior was like in terms of population location, though they are hardly of modern GPS precision.

Most relevant for the area in question are a number of towns always pictures close together, most on or adjacent to islands in the river.  Different maps give different names, and different versions of names, and by sifting through all of them we can make a good guess as to which tribes they were and where these were during this period, seven in all. 

Bookending this collection of tribes are a “small town” of the Chickasaw and a town of the Shawnee.  The first town lower on the river can only be the settlement at what was later known as Chickasaw Old Fields in the vicinity of Guntersville, Alabama.  In between these two are the Yuchi (under various names), Kaskinampo (De Soto’s Casqui relocated eastward), Coushatta, Tali, and Tuskegee.  Other than the two bookends, there is little agreement on the relative position of the towns.

Several maps, especially later ones of this period, show two towns on the same island, the Coushatta at its head and usually the Kaskinampo at its foot, though at least one map names the Yuchi.  They also usually show a “French fort”, more likely a trading post, in the center of the island equidistant from the two towns.  One cartographer shows Coushatta and Kaskinampo, then a few years later in an update shows two towns of Coushatta, indicating that the former absorbed the latter.  This was most likely Long Island in Marion County, Tennessee and Jackson County, Alabama.  The towns and the outpost remained until after the French and Indian War, when the two towns of Coushatta merged into a single entity, with one portion moving to Larkin’s Landing just below Scottsboro, Alabama, while another went south to join their long lost Alabama cousins in the Middle Towns of the Creek Confederacy.

Because of the elimination of other possibilities, the Tali probably settled Burns Island in the Tennessee River Gorge, in the section known as the Narrows.

The Tuskegee probably occupied Williams Island given that the militant Cherokee who refused to make peace in 1776 named it that when they lived in the area.  These Tuskegee were the group who later moved southwest to the Creek Confederacy.  There was also a town on the Little Tennessee River founded by a portion of the Tuskegee, who became part of the Cherokee.

From Cherokee accounts, maps of an even later period, and local names, we know that the Yuchi, at least some of them, settled the mouth of the Hiwassee River, and perhaps the island there, as well as at least one other locale nearby, Euchee Old Fields in Rhea County, which is probably the Chestowee reported by Charles Hicks.

As the upriver bookend, the Shawnee town would have been upriver of that, perhaps in the Chattanooga area or maybe further upriver or east of that.  The ford at the former Great Hiwassee carries the curious name of “Savannah Ford” from the earliest days of white settlement, probably carried over from the Cherokee occupation when Savannah was a synonym for Shawnee.

From 1684 to at least 1705, French maps shows three distinct towns or tribes living on the headwaters of the Tennessee River.  With varying versions of the names, these were the Tchalaka, the Katugi, and the Taligui.  All three belong to the later Cherokee as a whole and correspond to their linguistic (and perhaps ethnic) division into Western, Middle, and Eastern.  These were the later Cherokee in a middle stage of coalescence of Iroquoian-speaking refugees from the north, sometimes amalgamating with remnants of decimated local tribes and bands.  And that is the rest of the story.

The last surviving Mississippian chiefdom

We cannot do justice to the survival of Mississippian culture without mentioning the Natchez of the appropriately-named Natchez Phase.  The Natchez Phase directly succeeded the Emerald Phase of the Plaquemine Culture.  When the French encountered the Natchez in 1682, their elite had recently moved from the Emerald Mounds site to the Fatherland Mounds site also known as the Grand Village.

In addition to practicing the Southern Ceremonial Complex in its classic form, the Natchez were ruled by Suns, as their chiefs were called, and their first chief was called the Great Sun, who had supreme authority of civil and religious affairs.  His chief assistant, the Tatooed Serpent, wielded authority of matters of diplomacy and war.  In terms of class, there were two overall categories with a few divisions each, but these were fluid.  Women of the Sun class were required to marry from the common class, for instance.

While cultures in the Cherokee Country zone in the Late Mississippian period had long ago abandoned temples atop mounds for community council houses atop mounds, the Natchez kept their temples and residences of the elite on top of their mounds.  When one of the great officials died, man of his family would sacrifice themselves in order to be buried with him, and mothers would even sacrifice their babies.

The division into Sun-class and commoner class echoes the Yuchi division into the Tsoyaha (“children of the sun”) and the Titdgo, their own commoners.  While in the Holstonia region of the Appalachian Summit at first contact, the Yuchi probably originally lived in the Middle Cumberland Basin before moving east after whatever disaster left it deserted.

The French and their Choctaw allies destroyed the Natchez in 1730 in the Third Natchez War, selling survivors into slavery in the Caribbean.  Survivors found refuge with the Chickasaw and with the Cherokee, and some probably with the Creek.

In the North

While Spain made its entradas into the South, France made entrees into the North.  The first three were made by Jacques Cartier.  In 1534, he “discovered” Newfoundland and the mouth of the St. Lawrence River.  It was his second trip, from 1535 to 1536, which proved the most useful, for he penetrated the interior via the St. Lawrence River and encountered several towns, or tribes, all of which were heavily fortified.  This was due to warfare with the Iroquoian-speakers to the south, the Haudenosaunee or Five Nations (Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk) of the nascent League of the Iroquois.

Cartier named several towns in his journals.  The two most prominent were Hochelaga (at Montreal) and Stadacona (at Quebec City).  The rest he named were Araste, Hagochenda, Hochelay, Satadin, Starnatan, Tailla, Teguenondahi, and Tutonaguay.  They were not just at war with the Haudenosaunee either.  Unlike their more astute cousins to the south, they engaged in war with each other also.

In Cartier’s third voyage in 1541, he was second chair to Jean Francois Roberval in an effort to establish a colony.  The colony, led by Roberval, collapsed two years later and the survivors returned to France.  The French turned their attentions elsewhere for several decades.

In 1562, the French made their first attempt at planting colonies in the lower Forty-Eight with Charlesfort on Parris Island and Fort Caroline at the mouth of the Altamaha River in Georgia.  The first lasted little more than a year and the second was destroyed by the Spanish fearing piracy who also exterminated its inhabitants in 1565.

When Cartier made his entrees into Canada in the first half of the sixteenth century, there were probably around 120,000 St. Lawrence Iroquoians, or Laurentians, living in an estimated twenty-five tribes.  By the time Samuel de Champlain established a much more successful colony in 1605 (following failed ventures in 1598 and 1600, the Laurentians had vanished and the St. Lawrence Valley was a land without people.

Historians, archaeologists, and demographers have offered widely disparate theories as to the cause of the Laurentians’ disappearance and their ultimate fate.  The earliest popular hypothesis was that they had been eradicated by warfare with the Haudenosaunee, with survivors adopted into the League and others by the Huron (Wyandot).  Later, others floated the idea that they had been killed off by disease or starved due to drastic weather changes.  The truth is probably a combination of these factors.

Beaver Wars

The Beaver Wars as such began with an attack on the Haudenosaunee by Champlain’s troops in alliance with the Huron in 1609.  Lasting nearly a century, the fighting ravaged the Great Lakes region, the Ohio Country, the Illinois Country, and Kentucky (from the Seneca word Kintake, “land of the prairies”), ending with a treaty in 1701. 

Fighting between the tribes of the north had been going on for at least a century before that, however.  For instance, the Huron had penetrated as far south as the Allegheny Mountains bordering West Virginia by the end of the sixteenth century, but the Haudenosaunee drove them out and back north.

Like the Haudenosaunee, the Huron of southern Ontario were a confederacy made up of five tribes: Attignawantan, Attigeneenongnahac, Arendarhonon, Tahontaenarut, and Ataronchronon.  The immediate cause of attack was the Huron eagerness to acquire French products, particularly firearms, but the longer cause was the warfare which had been continual since the beginning of the sixteenth century.  They and the French attacked the Haudenosaunee again in 1615.

Between 1610 and 1614, the Dutch established a series of seasonal trading posts, finally establishing Ft. Orange at the later Albany in 1618, which they replaced with Ft. Orange in 1624.  In 1628, the Haudenosaunee defeated the Mahican and gained a trade monopoly with the Dutch at Ft. Orange.  The Andaste (Susquehannock) had similarly defeated the Lenape who had the monopoly with New Amsterdam before going on to destroy the Honniasont as a political entity.

West of the Seneca, the westernmost of the Five Nations, lived the Iroquoian-speaking Wenroe, approximately the same size as the average of the Five Nations.  In 1638, the Haudenosaunee, having hunted out the Hudson Valley, turned on them for conquest and either absorption or eradication in order the acquire more land for the pursuit of the pelt.  Survivors fled to the Huron and to the Erie on their immediate west

In 1648, the Haudenosaunee, led by the Mohawk, ravished the territory of the Huron, adopting hundreds of survivors and dispersing the remainder, who fled southwest seeking safety near the Odawa and the Illinois.  Many of the refugees took shelter with the Haudenosaunee’s western neighbor (since the eradication of the Wenroe), the Erie. 

The Erie, or Riqueronon, a confederacy of tribes, controlled a vast area from the east of Lake Erie to the west of it, and most of the land south of it halfway to the Ohio River.  At first contact, their main towns were around the southeastern shore of Lake Erie.  After the wars began they moved several miles to the west.  During the 1620s they may have had settlements west of the Alleghenys near the colony of Virginia.  In 1641, they still lived on the lake, with the Wenroe to the east, the Attiwandaron (possibly a branch of the Chonnonton, possibly a different group entirely) to the south, and the Kickapoo to the west.

The Haudenosaunee overran and dispersed the Tionontati (who also called themselves Wyandot) in 1649, some of the survivors joining the refugee Huron. 

At the beginning of the seventeenth century, the Chonnonton (Neutrals, also Attiwandaron) were the largest political entity in the entire region, a twenty-tribe confederacy, governed by the Tsouharissen, or “Child of the Sun”.  They were on the verge of becoming a full-blown chiefdom before the Beaver Wars began.  That, and the death of the current Tsouharissen without a successor led to the social and political disintegration of the Chonnonton.  When attacked in 1650, they collapsed and were driven from their territory, some joining the Erie, some being absorbed into the ranks of their conquerors.

In 1652, the Haudenosaunee drove the Scahentoarrhonon from the Wyoming Valley in Pennsylvania, adopting those they captured and killing or dispersing the rest.

The Erie started a war with the Seneca in 1653.  The fighting between the two began in earnest the next year, but even though they lacked the firearms which the Haudenosaunee had in abundance, 1654 was not a good year for the League.  By mid-1656, however, the latter managed to destroy the two biggest towns of their enemies after protracted sieges, killing the inhabitants, after which the survivors dispersed.

Some Erie survivors they adopted.  Some fled to the Huron remnant in the west, some to the Andaste, where they became the core of the later Mingo, who were also known as the Black Mingo and closely affiliated with the Lenape and the Shawnee.  The largest group of Erie or Riqueronon survivors struck southeast.  One would imagine they took the Attiwandaron south of them (possibly a different group from the Chonnonton) along for the trip.

In the 1660s, the Haudenosaunee attacked the settlements of New France directly.  The Dutch lost a war and the colony of New Netherlands in 1664, so the League found their supplies cut off, and the French conquered part of their territory in 1666.  Then England took over where the Dutch left off, and even increased their support.  Warfare against France’s allies, then again with France itself, continued until the Great Peace of Montreal in 1701, by which time the Five Nations had cleared the Ohio Country and eastern Illinois Country, and made Kintake (Seneca for “prairie grounds”) their personal playground.


As mentioned above, the largest group of Riqueronon, or Erie, survivors crossed the Allegheny Mountains into Virginia, where they established a town “near the falls of the James River” of about six hundred warriors.  The sudden appearance in the neighborhood of so many Trans-Allegheny invaders greatly upset the Trans-Atlantic invaders in the English colony of Jamestown. 

Summoning their close allies formerly of the now dissolved Powhatan Confederacy, the English marched against the recent arrivals, known to them as the Richahecrians, in force.  The resulting encounter, known in colonial records as the Battle of Bloody Run, proved to be a decisive defeat for them and their Pamunkey allies.

The “Richahechrians” may have been following the footsteps of previous Iroquoian refugees from Haudenosaunee aggression.  The Iroquian-speaking Nottoway, Meherrin, and Tuscarora, perhaps descendants of the Laurentians or from recently defeated tribes or both, already had themselves well-established before Edward Bland’s exploration of “New Britain” in 1650.

Although they had just kicked ass rather spectacularly, the Riqueronon-Richahechrian had no real desire for any more continual conflict, as there is no further record of them in Virginia colonial records, indicating they left the area.

In 1823, John Haywood in his Natural and Aboriginal History of Tennessee to 1768 reported an account of Cherokee oral history regarding their migrations from the original homeland in the Alleghany/Upper Ohio Valley.  The story he relates from the Cherokee is that after fleeing the Beaver Wars in the North, they first settled on the Appomattox River in Virginia, one of the main tributaries of the James River.  The confluences of the two rivers is just above the Falls of the James.  After they had trouble with the English of Virginia, they removed again to the New River and the headwaters of the Holston River.


On his second trip into the interior in 1670, James Lederer ran across some of them encountered  a party of six Indians from in the town on Occaneechi Island visiting from west of the Appalachian Mountains to seek a trade agreement with the English.  He calls them Rickahockans.  They did not survive their visit; their hosts killed them for no reason apparent to Lederer, but one would suspect the Occaneechi wanted no rivals.  

The map Lederer crafted for the publication of his journal (1672) show the Rickahockans clearly inhabiting a region bordering the later Cherokee Country.  In his 1964 paper “Observations on Certain Ancient Tribes of the Northern Appalachian Province”, Bernard G. Hoffman states they were probably located on the New River (the easiest way to see this is to turn the map 90 degrees counter-clock-wise as the map is oriented with north to the right).  This is the same place to which Haywood reports the Cherokee moved after leaving Appomattox River.  Haywood next states that they left this place after trouble with “northern Indians”.

Batts and Fallam Expedition, 1671

In his account of the Batts and Fallam Expedition into the hinterland of Virginia in 1671, Fallam reported that after crossing the Appalachian Mountains to the New River, they saw the remains of a settlement destroyed recently enough that its cornfields were still standing, unharvested.  It lay on the right bank/west side of the river.  This was in New River Valley, which is separated from Kanawha River by the New River Gorge.

New River is the main tributary of the Kanawha River; in fact, the two are often referred to as one, the “New-Kanawha River”.  Thomas Jefferson called the combined rivers “the Great Kanhaway River” in his Notes on the State of Virginia (1781), and that designation for the two can be found on maps of that period.  On the other hand, some early accounts referring to the whole length of the two call it New River.

This above accounts also line up with Haywood’s statement that the Cherokee were driven out from their settlements on New River by troubles with the “northern Indians”.

In the next stage of their 1671 journey, Batts and Fallam encountered the Moneton on the Kanawha River, but by 1673, Gabriel Arthur found them in the vicinity of the later Charleston, West Virginia.  This lines up with Seneca oral traditions as reported by Mohawk leader John Norton in 1816 that they had drive out the “Cohnowaronons”, which echoes pronouncements by Iroquois leaders during treaty negotiations in 1722 and 1744 to the same effect.  All of which show that the Five Nations targeted the region during this time.

Cartographic evidence

The year 1682 saw the earliest map to name the Cherokee, although for a few decades all did so as if there were three distinct peoples, as mentioned above, in varying forms of Tchalaka in the west, Katugi in the middle, and Taligui in the east.  According to Swanton, this map was based on information dating to at least 1670

Treaty of 1684

The next contact after Lederer on record between the people who became the Cherokee and the Europeans is the treaty of trade in 1684 with the colony of Carolina signed by five leaders from Toxaway and three from Keowee.  Though the records do not mention the name “Cherokee”, we can be certain that by this time the people later known as Cherokee had coalesced.

Indian slave trade

American history books tends to ignore the fact, but the slave trade of Indians was booming business in Carolina (and later South Carolina), Virginia, Maryland, and Massachusetts in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.  Three times as many Indians slaves were trafficked outbound through the port at Charlestown than were African slaves during the years 1670-1730, the peak of the trade.  Ports of destination included several countries in Europe, the Caribbean, and New England.  The export trade from Jamestown and Baltimore targeted the same markets, while Boston also the same except switching Virginia and Carolina for New England.

While those so enslaved might object, it was not the Trans-Atlantic invaders who condemned them to servitude but their fellow Native Americans.  A few tribes or rather tribal confederacies secured monopolies in trade between the colonies and more inland peoples, each partnering with a different colony as these were all separate and often competing entities both politically and economically (with more stress on the latter).

The trade monopoly business is largely what provoked the Beaver Wars.  The Haudenosaunee trafficked slaves, but the main reason they took captives was to replace dead members.  Also, control of the supply source of beaver skins played a major role as more and more places were trapped out.  In the South, the corresponding animal product trade was in deerskins, a bit of a problem since deer were also the major source of dietary meat.

Remember that the opening scene of 1992’s “The Last of the Mohicans” where Hawkeye shoots the elk and then prays to it asking its forgiveness for killing it for food?  That was nothing but late twentieth century New Age Indian fantasy.

As indicated above, the Haudenosaunee displaced the Mahican to achieve the monopoly with Fort Orange of New Netherlands and later all of New York.  The Andaste defeated the Lenape to obtain the monopoly with New Amsterdam and Baltimore.  The Occaneechi were a confederacy that came into existence largely for the purpose of trade monopoly with Virginia.  For Carolina, the Westo monopolized the position of middle-man. 

Before their destruction as a power by the Haudenosaunee, the Huron served the same function with French Canada.  After the foundation of La Louisiane, the Choctaw and the Chickasaw competed with each other until the Third Natchez War in 1730, at which the Chickasaw began to trade with the English at Charlestown instead.  They even established a colony of their own on the Savannah River, where they were known as the Lower Chickasaw, that lasted until 1775.

The Spanish in La Florida had no slave trade of their own.  Instead they subjected the tribes in their domain to the encomienda and repartimiento systems, the latter replacing the former by the end of the sixteenth century.  In the former, local leaders were responsible for providing assessed tribute and labor.  In the latter, tribute labor was usually managed through the missions.

The favorite targets of slave raiders were the settlement Indians of rival colonies and the mission Indians of Spanish La Florida.  Settlement Indians came in seeking shelter from the local slavers only to find themselves easy prey for the slavers of a rival colonies partners.  For instance, the Occaneechi raided settlement Indians in Carolina but kept their hands off the settlement Indians of Virginia.  The situation reversed in the case of the Westo.

Although the Occaneechi did skirt the later Cherokee Country, the party most responsible to the collapse of remnant Mississippian society in the Carolina Piedmont was the Westo, especially with the jump in demand beginning in 1670.  In addition to the mission Indians of the La Florida provinces of Guale and Mocama and the settlement Indians of Virginia, the Westo harvested captives from the Cusseta, the Coweta, Chickasaw visiting for trade with Carolina, the Cherokee newcomers to the region, and even the Chisca, their fellow Yuchi living in La Florida.

After just a few years, neighbors, European and Native American, looked at these “middlemen” with increasing trepidation.  The Haudenosaunee even appealed to their erstwhile enemies in French Canada for support against the Andaste in 1672.  Three years later, 1675, they finally delivered a serious defeat, and the colony of Maryland gave them refuge.

Merely a year later, the Andaste found themselves embroiled in another war, this time with the colony of Maryland, a conflict instigated by the Doeg (a sub-tribe of the Nanticoke).  The conflict helped spark Bacon’s Rebellion in Virginia, and the two conflicts became intertwined for a period.  After Bacon and his men had killed sufficient number of their native enemies to quench their bloodlust, they turned on their Occaneechi allies. 

At the end of the rebellion, the Occaneechi who were left merged with the Tutelo and the Saponi.  The Andaste fled north, taking refuge with their erstwhile foes, the Haudenosaunee.

Around this same time, Carolina took aim at the Spanish settlements on the coastal plain south of the Savannah River.  These were dominated by mission networks among the formerly larger chiefdoms of Guale north of the Altamaha River and Mocama south of it.  Proceeding mainly through the proxies of the Westo and some of the Lower Creek, between 1675 and 1680, they had sent hundreds into Caribbean slavery and sent the rest fleeing.  Some reached the vicinity of San Agustin, others went west and merged with other remnants to become the Yamasee.

Fear of their growing power on the part of Carolina and resentment over the slave-raiding and trade monopoly on the part of all their neighbors led both parties to attack the Westo beginning in 1680.  The main native antagonists were the Hathewakela Shawnee on the Savannah River, who rendered unto the Westo as they had rendered unto so many others.  By 1682, the Westo were so reduced that they left for the Chattahoochee.  The Shawnee stepped into place as the main trading go-between.  Several tribes picked up the mantle of local slave catcher.

The Erie’s old foes the Seneca may have played a part also.  Around this same time (1680), they began slave-raiding among the Southern tribes, kicking off a war with the Catawba which lasted until a formal peace treaty in 1759.

The shattered remnant of the Westo moved to the Ocmulgee River and later merged with the Yuchi on the Chattahoochee.  The Occaneechi merged with other Siouan remnants of Virginia such as the Tutelo and the Saponi which eventually migrated north to the Six Nations.

Two years after the expulsion of the Westo, the leaders of Keowee and Toxaway made their first journey to the capital at Charlestown to establish a trade agreement.  While not identified as Cherokee at the time, by that year, 1684, they certainly were at least proto-Cherokee.

Nine years after that, in 1693, some twenty leaders of the Lower Towns on the Savannah, Keowee, and Tugaloo Rivers travelled to Charlestown again, this time seeking direct trade, especially for guns and ammo.  They also sought members of their towns taken by the Catawba, Shawnee, and Congaree for sell in the slave trade, but these unfortunates were already in New England and in the Caribbean.

A decade later, 1703, several members of the Carolina assembly were complaining the Cherokee were capturing too many of their settlement Indians to sell in Virginia.

Apparently the other members of the assembly decided the best way to deal with the problem was to trade trafficked humans of the native variety directly with the slavers because South Carolina's slave trade with the Cherokee did not end until 1748.

Coalescence of the Cherokee

In what may be the earliest known written use of the name “Cherokee” (spelled “Cherakees”), Daniel Coxe produced a map 1705 of Greater Carolina, in essence the Southeast, which replaced Tchalaka, Kitugi, and Taligui with that name for all three divisions.  An earlier map in 1701 by French cartographer Guillame de l’Isle had used the name “Tarachis”.

Regarding the first of those three names (Tchalaka, Kitugi, Taligui), it is interesting to note that between 1613 and 1633, Champlain used the name Charioquois (also Charioquet and Charakay) when referring to Huron.  Similarly, the Mohawk name for the Huron, Quatoghi, was used by Americans almost exclusively when referring to the Huron until the very early 20th century.  As for Taligui, that can be none other than another form of the Lenape name for the Erie, Talligewi, which is also one of their names for the Cherokee.

English colonists began to use the name “Cherokee” (in various spellings) when referring to these Iroquoian-speaking people about this time, although that name did not consistently appear on maps until around 1720.  This demonstrates that the Lower Towns were the point of contact in these early stages with the colonies for the Cherokee and with the Cherokee for the colonies.  Had it been one of the other major divisions, the name would be “Chelokee”.

William Bartram travelled throughout the Southeast in the mid 1770s, and became the first to describe the Cherokee as being divided into five geographic divisions: the Lower Towns on the headwaters of the Chattahoochee and Savannah Rivers; the Middle Towns on the upper Little Tennessee, upper French Broad, and  Nantahala Rivers; the Out Towns on the Tuckaseegee and Oconaluftee Rivers; the Valley Towns on the Valley, Cheowa, and upper Hiwassee Rivers; and the Overhill Towns on the lower Little Tennessee, Tellico, and lower Hiwassee Rivers.  His journal documents forty-three towns; there may have been as many as fifty or sixty.

This distribution changed radically during the Cherokee-American wars of the late eighteenth century as the Cherokee removed themselves progressively more westerly.

The Moravian missionaries living among the Cherokee over two centuries ago called the Cherokee language a mixed language with an Iroquoian structure and grammar and vocabulary from a variety of sources.  In this they saw no problem because they recognized that the Cherokee were an assimilationist people. 

The closest dialect to the northern Iroquoian, Mohawk for example, was the Eastern dialect spoken in the Lower Towns which retained the “R” sound which the other two lacked.  The Middle dialect (also called the Kituwa dialect) spoken in the Middle and Out Towns, replaced the “R” with the “L”, but mostly agreed with the Eastern dialect in grammar.  The furthest removed and most mixed dialect was the Western dialect, sharing the “L” with the Eastern dialect but deviating more in structure and vocabulary.

The Middle dialect is still spoken by members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.  The Western dialect is still spoken by some members of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians.  The Eastern dialect began a rapid decline once the former Lower Towns were lost early in the Cherokee-American wars and the people no longer lived in a separate geographic area.

You will be assimilated

Regarding the groups which contributed to the Cherokee melting pot, we know that the migrants from the north included Erie (Riqueronon, probably the largest group), Huron, Chonnonton, and Attiwandaron, and there were possibly others.  If the Moravians are correct, the Shawnee and Powhatan also contributed bloodlines. 

There can also be little doubt that the newcomers assimilated the remnant groups inhabiting the areas they settled as well as absorbing new refugees.  In the first category, we can be sure the Tamathli on the Little Tennessee River were one, and most likely a band of Tuskegee who took refuge on the same river.  Remnants of the Satapo and Chalahume may have been there when the “Rickohockans” arrived as well.

While the Cherokee destroyed the Yuchi town at Euchee Old Fields, there were also Yuchi living on Hiwassee Island as well as on Pinelog, Chickamauga, and Conasauga Creeks in Northwest Georgia.  There may have been other tribes west of the Appalachians and probably were. 

The Middle Towns clearly absorbed the people of the Middle Qualla Phase, represented in the name Katugi, or Kituwa (the contact era “Quetua”), the peoples whose center had formerly been at Cauchi (although there is an alternate explanation for the last name; see above).  They may also have assimilated Siouan-speaking refugees.  The name Katugi could also be a form of the Mohawk name for the Huron, Quatoghi.

The Iroquoians who settled the uppermost Chattahoochee and the Keowee, Tugaloo, and Chattooga Rivers most likely found those lands vacant, as they were able to preserve their language in a more pure form.

Among the more notable of the refugees the Cherokee absorbed were a good portion of the surviving Natchez.  Many of these fled to the main body of the Chickasaw centered on Tupelo, Mississippi, but the greater number wanted to get as far from the French and the Choctaw as possible.  These found a home with among the Cherokee at Notchy Creek in the Little Tennessee Valley, at Aquohee on the north bank of the Hiwassee River above the mouth of Peachtree Creek in Valley Towns area, and at Gulaniyi at the confluence of the Brasstown and Gumlong Creeks in the Hiwassee Basin, also in the Valley Towns area.

The Iroquoian newcomers seem to have adopted certain aspects of Mississippian society after their arrival, though in light of the polity of the Chonnonton, they may have brought it with them.  According to some sources, the Cherokee were ruled or governed by a chief priest assisted by a secular leader for diplomatic and war matters and a college of lesser priests.  These may be the class James Mooney refers to as the Ani-Kutani.  His informants told him that the Cherokee got fed up with their abuses and killed them all.

Not your DAR grandmother’s cuddly Cherokee

The Cherokee of the eighteenth century were not the peaceful, cuddly, warm and fuzzy civilized version as which they have often been mythologized.  They liked war.  If you doubt that, read some of the stories James Mooney collected for his book.  They were often brutal, cruel, vicious, and indiscriminate, but that was native warfare.  In their myths and legends, the Cherokee bragged about it.  Captives were often tortured to death for amusement, though captives who showed bravery in the face of horribly painful torment and certain death became legends still told more than a century later.

Colonial writers frequently noted the fondness of the Cherokee for war.  Some even questioned whether they took part in any other endeavor.  It’s not too surprising, therefore, that the Wolf clan, the one for warriors, was by far the largest of their seven (originally fourteen) clans.  A quick look at their activities in the eighteenth century confirms that assessment.

First, however, look back half a century at their Erie, or Riqueronon, predecessors.  They picked a fight with the Haudenosaunee.  The League wiped out or at least destroyed as an entity the Wenroe in 1638, the Huron in 1648, the Tionontati in 1649, the Chonnonton in 1651, and the Scahentoarrhonon
in 1652.  So the Erie, ruled at the time by a woman, declared war on the Seneca, one of the Haudenosaunee’s constituent tribes, in 1653.  We already know how that turned out, else we would not be reading about the Cherokee now.

In 1674, the Cherokee joined with the Cusseta and the Chickasaw in an attack against the town of Hickauhaugau on the Savannah River, the seat of the Westo tribe, which had a monopoly on trade with the Province of Carolina, including the Indian slave trade.

As the ranks of the Cherokee swelled from assimilation of new refugees from the north and local remnant populations and they began to spread out, the Creek towns, not yet a confederacy but in league, felt the threat and attacked in 1690, beginning the First Cherokee-Creek War.  The war lasted until around 1710.

Small groups of Cherokee began returning to the Upper Ohio River Valley in the late 1680s, and in time established a settlement centered on the appropriately named town of Allegheny at the confluence of the Kiskiminetas and Allegheny Rivers, what is now Schenley, Pennsylvania.  In 1698, the Iroquois permitted the Lenape to begin settling what is now western Pennsylvania with the provision that they drive out those who had come up from the South.  The Cherokee-Lenape War lasted until 1708, with the Cherokee drive back south.

Almost immediately on the heels of the Great Peace of Montreal in 1701, Seneca warriors began coming down the Warriors’ Path from the Ohio Valley to attack the Cherokee and capture live bodies for the slave trade.  No less perturbed than the Catawba, the Cherokee responded with counter-raids in the north.  The war with the Haudenosaunee lasted until the Treaty of Johnson Hall in 1768, meaning the war stretched across the years 1701-1768.

In 1708, the Cherokee invaded the Mobile Bay area along with the Alabama, Abihka, and Catawba with the intent of destroying the French capital of La Louisiane and Ft. Louis.  For some reason, the four thousand-strong force never made the attempt but contented themselves with destroying the nearby town of the Western Muskogean-speaking Mobile tribe.

Two years later, the Cherokee began a war against the Chillicothe and the Kispoko bands of Shawnee on the Cumberland River, fellow refugees from the Haudenosaunee armies, largely at the instigation of their Chickasaw co-belligerents.  The Chickasaw began to feel threatened after some of the Hathewakela Shawnee began to relocate there due to the fighting in the Savannah Basin.  The First Cumberland Valley War lasted 1710-1715.

The Cherokee took an active part in the Tuscarora War of 1711-1715 as allies of North Carolina and South Carolina.  The belligerent southern band of Tuscarora who started the war and their Algonquin-speaking allies faced the militias of both colonies and warriors of the Cherokee, Apalachee, Yamasee, southern band of Tuscarora, and many  others.

In 1714, the brief Cherokee-Yuchi War took place, encompassing solely the destruction of the Yuchi town in the Hiwassee Valley vicinity, often said to be Chestowee on the Hiwassee River near the mouth of North Mouse Creek but more likely Euchee Old Fields in Rhea County.  The attackers came from the Cherokee town of Great Hiwassee.

In 1715, the Cherokee joined the Yamasee, Catawba, and Lower Creek in the First Yamasee War, attacking South Carolina and the Catawba, only to switch sides the next year.  The Indian allies were heavily defeated by 1717, with the Yamasee reduced and driven out of the area to evolve into the Yamacraw after merging with some of the Lower Creek.

While in the middle of that conflict, around the time they switched sides, the Cherokee killed an entire delegation of Creek leaders in transit to Charlestown and staying in Tugaloo.  The resulting Second Cherokee-Creek War lasted 1716-1755, ending at the Battle of Taliwa, which the Cherokee won, an engagement noted for the participation of Nanyehi, later known as Nancy Ward.

In 1730, the Cherokee joined the Chickasaw in supporting the Natchez, Tunica, and Choctaw in the Third Natchez War (1729-1731), which resulted in the dispersal of the Natchez, some taking refuge with the Chickasaw, some with the Creek, some with the Cherokee.

Six years later, in 1736, the Cherokee allied with the Chickasaw, and the Natchez among them, to defeat twin attacks by the French allied with the 
Choctaw, Illini, and Quapaw.

During King George’s War (1744-1748), the Cherokee fought as allies of the British, mostly against Detroit and native allies of the French in Upper Louisiane.

Disagreements over trade and encroachment of settlers from North Carolina into Cherokee territory led to the Cherokee-North Carolina War (1755-1756).  Hostilities between the two ended when the Crown called the Cherokee to join the effort against the French and their Indian allies.

The Chickasaw-Cherokee War (1758-1769) began when the Cherokee attacked the Lower Chickasaw on the Savannah River (where they lived 1730-1775), largely over tensions begun when the Cherokee invited the Piqua band of Shawnee to settle on the Cumberland River.  The fighting ended after the Battle of Chickasaw Old Fields in the later Alabama, which was a bad loss for the Cherokee.

During the French and Indian War (1754-1763), the Cherokee fought alongside the English mostly on the Virginia frontier beginning in 1756.  In fact, the war with the French prompted the English to negotiate peace between them and the Creek.

In 1758, the Cherokee walked off the lines, so to speak, and returned home, where they launched their own war against the English, primarily of the Province of Virginia, in 1759.  The Anglo-Cherokee War lasted three years, with a contingent of Creek under Great Mortar at Coosawattee, the “Old Coosa Place”, as allies.

Individual Cherokee warriors took part in Lord Dunmore’s War alongside Shawnee, Lenape, and Mingo warriors in 1774.

The Cherokee-American Wars lasted 1775-1795 with constant fighting, and included their part in other conflicts such as the American Revolution in which they also fought as allies of the British, the Oconee War (1786-1794) as allies of the Creek, and the Northwest War (1786-1795) as charter members of the Western Confederacy.  Their foes were Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, the Overmountain settlements in East Tennessee, the Cumberland settlements in Middle Tennesee, and lastly the United States of America.

A few closing comments

I have looked at a godawful number of seventeenth and eighteenth century maps showing locations of various tribes and towns, etc., over the past twenty years, too many to list even if I could remember them all.

American writers often use the name Attiwandaron as the autonym for the confederacy also known as the Neutral Nation, and when writing of their defeat in the Beaver Wars almost always describe them as being destroyed.  The word Attiwandaron is a Huron word, not an autonym, and was also used for a separate group south of the Erie/Riqueronon as well as the Neutral Nation from which they were distinct.  The Neutrals were not destroyed, in fact; they still exist as a First Nation in Canada, where they are commonly called by their true autonym, Chonnonton, which is why I have used the name here.

The French applied the name Huron to a distinct group whose autonym was Wyandot or Wendat, and they called another group Petun, also known as the Tionantati or Tobacco Nation.  Since these later also used Wyandot as their autonym, I have adopted the French designations.

Some people have been putting out lately the mistaken idea that Xualla in De Soto and Joara in Pardo were completely different and widely separated entities.  James Lederer equated the two in his account of his journeys in discussing the actual people in the actual town he actually visited in 1670, so I take his word for it.

When first reimagining the route of DeSoto through our target area, Hudson, et al, identified an island roughly a day’s journey down the Tennessee River from Bussell’s Island, below its confluence with Clinch River, as Tali.  Sometime later Hudson wrote an article for Tennessee Anthropologist detailing his opinion change on that particular town to the Toqua site, about a day’s journey upriver on the Little Tennessee. Tali was clearly on an island and McKee Island is the only one in the vicinity with the correct archaeology.  At the height of the town at Toqua, the island was part of the town.

Thomas Lewis and Madelaine Kneberg equated the Mouse Creek Phase with the Yuchi largely because of the account of South Carolina traders Eleazar Wiggan and Alexander Long inciting the Cherokee of Great Hiwassee into exterminating the Yuchi of “Chestowee”.  That, however, was in the early eighteenth century after populations had shifted around quite a bit.  At the time when the Mouse Creek site were occupied, the Yuchi were in the Appalachian Summit.  Most anthropologists now recognize Mouse Creek as an in situ development out of Dallas.

Lynne Sullivan’s paper on the Chickamauga Basin chronology provided much helpful information about the Nickajack Basin on the Napochi towns.

The Napochi episode provides powerful evidence against the hypothesis that the authority, or at least power, of Coosa extended all the way up the Tennessee River to include Chiaha on the French Broad River.  At least not in the time of De Luna and certainly not in the time of Pardo when the ruler of Chiaha was called mico, the title for a paramount chief.  While Coosa’s power and authority may have at one time reached to the Little Tennessee and the French Broad, even to the time of De Soto, I submit that at the time of the later Spanish entradas, it did not, and that Chiaha had risen much the same way as Joara and Guatari.

Thanks to Michaelyn Harle’s research, we now know that the town at the David Davis site, while interacting with its close neighbors in terms of marriage, did most of its trading with Coosa and little with its neighbors.  It is quite possible that the Coosa-Spanish attack may have been directed against the wrong target, or that the attack may have been to reinforce the position of the David Davis site as Coosa’s local representative.

The Hampton Place site has produced more sixteenth century Spanish artifacts than any site north of the Rio Grande other than St. Augustine.  Amazing, considering that not only did none of the Spanish entradas stay there, they did not even visit.  The Napochi there could only have amassed the horde through trade.

Regarding my placement of a 17th century Yuchi town on the Ohio River, early 18th century French maps clearly show a town or settlement under the name Tongoria there along with a same-named town or group on and/or just below Hiwassee Island. 

Many, maybe even most, will object to my location of a Shawnee as the upper river bookend town on the Tennessee River, the argument probably that it is a mistake for the town on the Savannah.  However, the same maps that also show a town located on another river that is clearly the Savannah.  Given that Hiwassee Island is probably one of the islands inhabited at that period and that the Hiwassee could have been misconstrued as the upper part of the Tennessee, the townsite could have been at the later Cherokee townsite of Great Hiwassee which I identify here with sixteenth century Tasquiqui.  Which might explain “Savannah Ford”.

The Lenape, or Delaware, whom the Cherokee referred to as the “Grandfathers” referred to the Cherokee by the name Talligewi, or Alligewi, and still do to this day.  In the first form, the relation to the Cherokee before they coalesced as such should be obvious.  The name of the Allegheny Mountains and the Allegheny River derives from the second rendering of the name.  Demonstrating the breadth of Erie power, the Lenape referred to the whole basin of the Ohio River (“Alligewi Sipu” in Lenape) as “Alligewinengk”.

Nearly all credible historians equate the Rechahechrian with ancestors to the Cherokee as they became known in the eighteenth century, and that these were Erie refugees from the north.  A few erroneously identify them as a band of Yuchi.  Likewise, no one I can think of has ever suggested the Rickohockan of Lederer’s account were a different people than the Rechahechrian.

While many identify Lederer’s Rickohockan with Gabriel Arthur’s Tomahitan of 1673, the two accounts negate that identification of the Tomahitan.  The two encountered their respective groups just three years apart at the same town on Occaneechi Island.  Had they been the same people, the Occaneechi would have undoubtedly called them by the same name.  I also doubt the Rickohockan would have shown up again in 1673 to be murdered as they were in 1670.  Others suggest the Tomahitan were a band of Yuchi or else the group later assimilated into the Creek Confederacy as the Tamahita, either of which is more likely than the first assertion.

According to James Mooney, the year 1708 was when the last town of the Cherokee in the north was burned by the Lenape, though after the “Cherokee” had departed, not with them still inside it.  We can’t know if these people were remnant Erie, some other Iroquoians, or another tribe which ultimately sought refuge with the Cherokee in the south.  It could very well have been an outpost from the Cherokee of the south in the same way  during the Revolution and the Northwest Indian War there were Cherokee settlements in the Ohio Country.

It was on one of the Cherokee forays in the north during the wars with the Seneca in the eighteenth century that a young Nipissing child was taken south for adoption.  The Nipissing had once been allies of the Huron and suffered their fate.  That Nipissing child grew into a man named Attakullakulla, and he married a Natchez woman from the group along Notchy Creek, who gave birth to four sons along with several daughters. 

These sons, later known as Dragging Canoe, Little Owl, Badger, and Turtle-at-Home, were the greatest war leader the Cherokee (or Erie) ever knew and his warrior brothers.  Ironically, none would be eligible for membership in any of the three federally-recognized Cherokee tribes.  Neither would William Holland Thomas not John Rogers, second Principal Chief of the Eastern Band and last Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation West respectively.


Fairly simple and straightforward. 

First, there was no room for the Cherokee in the Appalachian Summit, Ridge and Valley region, and the Carolina Piedmont to have existed in the sixteenth century.

Second, the Cherokee were a multi-ethnic people descended from a core of former Erie or Riqueronon-Rechahecrian-Rickhockan who assimilated remnants of locals where they settled in the Old Southwest and refugee bands of other Southern tribes.

The idea of Cherokee origin in the South that began spreading at the cusp of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and maintained throughout the twentieth century even by normally diligent authorities such as Swanton and Hudson came about for a variety of reasons.  Part of it is and was love for historical myth rather than historical reality, part is political, and part is economic in terms of tourist industry.  To me, the truth is a hell of a lot more interesting.


* Alvord, Charles Walworth, and Lee Bidgwood, ed.  The First Explorations of the Trans-Allegheny Region by the Virginians.  (Cleveland: Arthur H. Clarke Co., 1912).

* Beahm, Emily Lynn.  “Mississippian Polities in the Middle Cumberland Region of Tennessee”. Doctoral Dissertation, Department of Anthropology, University of Georgia, 2013.

* Beck, Robin A.  “Catawba Coalescence and the Shattering of the Carolina Piedmont, 1540-1675”.  Mapping the Mississippian Shatter Zone: The Colonial Indian Slave Trade in the American South, Robbie Franklyn Ethridge and Sherri Marie Shuck-Hall, ed.  (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2009).

* Beck, Robin A. “From Joara to Chiaha: Spanish Exploration of the Appalachian Summit Area, 1540-1568”.  Southeastern Archaeology, Vol. 16, No. 2.  (Lawrence: Allen Press, Inc., 1997).

* Beck, Robin A.  Chiefdoms, Collapse, and Coalescence in the Early American South.  (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013).

* Blakely, Robert L., and David R. Matthews.  “Bioarchaeological Evidence for a Spanish-Native American Conflict in the Sixteenth-Century”.  American Antiquity, Vol. 55, No. 4.  (Washington: Society for American Archaeology, 1990).

* Brose, David.  “Penumbral Protohistory on Lake Erie’s South Shore”.  Societies in Eclipse: Arachaeology of the Eastern Woodlands Indians, 1400-1700.  David Brose, et al., ed.  (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2005).

* DePratter, Chester B, et al.  “The Route of Juan Pardo's Explorations in the Interior Southeast, 1566-1568”.  Notebook, Volume 19, Issue 1-4.  (Columbia: South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology, 1987).

* Eggiman, Gretchen.  “The Reconstruction of Middle Sixteenth Century Architechtural Patterns in Chattanooga, Tennessee: the David Davis Farm Site (40HA301).

* Evans, E. Raymond.  “Koasatis, Napochin, and Yuchis in the Eastern Tennessee Valley”. (InterTribal Land Trust).

* Evans, E. Raymond, and Vicky Karhu. “Williams Island: A Source of Significant Material in the Collections of the Museum of the Cherokee”. Journal of Cherokee Studies, Vol. 9, No. 1, pp. 10–34. (Cherokee: Museum of the Cherokee Indian, 1984).

* Gallay, Allen.  The Indian Slave Trade: The Rise of the English Empire in the American South, 1670-1717.  (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2002).

* Glanville, Jim.  “16th Century Spanish Invasions of Southwest Virginia”.  Journal, Vol. XVII, No. 1.  (Roanoke: Historical Society of Western Virginia, 2009).

* Glanville, Jim.  “Aboriginal and Remnant American Indians of Holstonia”.  Redbone Chronicles, Vol. II, No. 1.  (Crofton: Redbone heritage Foundation, 2008).

* Gregg, The Right Rev. Alexander.  History of the Old Cheraw.  (New York: Richardson and Co., 1867).

* Harle, Michaelyn S.  “Biological Affinities and the Construction of a Cultural Identity for the Proposed Coosa Chiefdom”.   Doctoral Dissertation, Graduate Program, Department of Antropology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, 2010.

* Heard, J. Norman. Handbook of the American Frontier, The Southeastern Woodlands: Four Centuries of Indian-White Relationships. (Metuchen: Scarecrow Press, 1993).

* Henderson, Archibald. The Conquest Of The Old Southwest: The Romantic Story Of The Early Pioneers Into Virginia, The Carolinas, Tennessee And Kentucky 1740 To 1790. (New York: The Century Co., 1920).

* Hodge, Frederick Webb, ed.  “Erie”.  Handbook of Indians North of Mexico, Vol. I, A-G. (Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1912).

* Hudson, Charles, et al.  “Coosa: A Chiefdom in the Sixteenth-Century Southeastern United States”.  American Antiquity, Vol. 50, No. 4, pp. 723-737.  (Washington: Society for American Archaeology, 1985).

* Hudson, Charles, et al.  “The Hernando De Soto Expedition: From Apalachee to Chiaha”.  Notebook, Volume 19, Issue 1-4.  (Columbia: South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology, 1987).

* Hudson, Charles.  “Juan Pardo’s Excursion Beyond Chiaha”.  Tennessee Anthropologist, Vol. XII, No.1.  (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Graphic Arts Service, 1987).

* Hudson, Charles.  The Juan Pardo Expeditions: Exploration of the Carolinas and Tennessee, 1566-1568.  (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2005).

* Hudson, Charles.  Knights of Spain, Warriors of the Sun: Hernando de Soto and the South's Ancient Chiefdoms. (Savannah: University of Georgia Press, 1997).

* Hudson, Charles.  “Spanish-Coosa Alliance in Sixteenth-Century North Georgia”.  (Savannah: Georgia Historical Society, 1988).

* King, Adam.  Etowah: the Political History of a Chiefdom Capital.  (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2003).

* Lauber, Almon Wheeler.  Indian Slavery in Colonial Times within the Present Limits of the United States.  (London: P.S. King and Son, 1913).

* McLoughlin, William G. Cherokee Renascence in the New Republic. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992).

* Marcoux, Jon Bernard.  Pox, Empire, Shackles, and Hides: The Townsend Site, 1670-1715.  (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2010).

* Mooney, James. Myths of the Cherokee and Sacred Formulas of the Cherokee. (Nashville: Charles and Randy Elder-Booksellers, 1982).

* Rodning, Christopher B.  “Cherokee Ethnogenesis in North Carolina”.  The Archaeology of North Carollina: Three Archaeological Symposia. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011).

* Royce, C.C. “The Cherokee Nation of Indians: A narrative of their official relations with the Colonial and Federal Governments”. Fifth Annual Report, Bureau of American Ethnology, 1883–1884. (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1889).

* Schroedl, Gerald F., et al.  “Explaining Mississippian Origins in East Tennessee”.  The Mississippian Emergence.  Bruce Smith, ed. (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2007).

* Schroedl, Gerald F.  “Mississippian Towns in the Eastern Tennessee Valley”.  Mississippian Towns and Sacred Spaces: Searching for an Architectural Grammar, R. Barry Lewis and Charles Stout, ed.  (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1998).

* Starr, Emmet. History of the Cherokee Indians, and their Legends and Folklore. (Fayetteville: Indian Heritage Assn., 1967).

* Sullivan, Lynne P.  “Mississippian Household and Community Organization in Eastern Tennessee”.  Mississipian Communities and Households, J. Daniel Rogers and Bruce D. Smith, ed.  (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1995).

* Sullivan, Lynne P.  “Reconfiguring the Chickamauga Basin”.  Frank H. McClung Museum, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, 2011.

* Swanton, John R.  “Identity of the Westo Indians”.  American Anthropologist, Vol. 21, No. 2.  (Washington: Society for American Archaeology, 1919).

* Swanton, John R.  Indian Tribes of North America.  (Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1952).

* Swanton, John R.  “The Kaskinampo Indians and Their Neighbors”.  American Anthropologist, Vol. 32, No. 3.  (Arlington: American Anthropological Association, 1930).

* Tooker, William Wallace.  “The Problem of the Rechahecrian Indians of Virginia”.  American Anthropologist, Vol. 11, No. 9.  (Arlington: American Anthropological Association, 1898).

* Williams, Samuel Cole.  Early Travels in the Tennessee Country, 1540–1800. (Johnson City: Watauga Press, 1928).

* Worth, John E.  “An Ethnohistorical Synthesis of Southeastern Chiefdoms: How does Coosa compare?”.  Paper, 60th Southeastern Archaeological Conference symposium “Coosa: Twenty Years Later”, 2003.


John Rudmin said...

If the Cherokee didn't exist before the mid-17th century, where does their language come from?Certainly it cannot have evolved from Northern Iroquoian within one generation. Who was speaking it (or its immediate ancestral language) in, say, 1600?

Chuck Hamilton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chuck Hamilton said...

The Yuchi occupied all of what was later known as the Cherokee Country before 1600, and some parts thereof even until the early 1700s.

Missionaries who lived among the Cherokee in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, especially the Moravian Brethren, described Cherokee as a mixed language of Erie, Huron, Shawnee, and Powhatan, with elements of Catawba and Creek (Loskiel gives the most information). That and not lengthy centuries-long separation is the reason the language diverged so widely from its northern cousins.

To historians, missionaries, anthropologists, etc. through the early 20th century, the northern origin of the Cherokee in the recent past was a given.