Tennessee's Indians in the Historical Era - Part 2 of 5

Thursday, May 16, 2013 - by Chuck Hamilton

First Contact

 

The first Europeans to encounter the Indians of Tennessee, of course, were the Spanish would-be conquistadors of the 16th century.  The expedition of Hernando de Soto passed through both ends of Tennessee in 1540 and 1541.  That of Tristan de Luna came northwest in support of their allies from Coosa into the Chattanooga area.  Juan Pardo and his subordinates made at least three expeditions into the interior from the La Florida capital of Santa Elena on Parris Island, South Carolina, 1567-1569.  All three of the Pardo expeditions entered Tennessee, one planting two forts there that lasted eighteen months.

The overwhelming majority of the towns and peoples the Spanish encountered in Tennessee fell under the suzerainty of the paramount chiefdom at Coosa (Coosawattee, Georgia).  They were still in the Late Mississippi stage, dominated by chiefdoms with organized group agriculture, social classes, and the Southern Ceremonial Complex.  With a couple of exceptions, these people were all speakers of Muskogean languages, and part of what archaeologists call the Dallas Phase. 

The various peoples the Spanish encountered remained stable throughout most of the century, not moving until the massive dislocations provoked by increasingly cooler weather of the Little Ice Age that began around 1450, increasing contact with Europeans, the diseases imported with the new arrivals, and the chaotic Beaver Wars which plagued the north from 1609 to 1701.

The easiest way to list the towns and peoples then in East Tennessee is to list them as Spaniards would have encountered them along the routes they travelled from Santa Elena on Parris Island, South Carolina. 

The most important town to the Spanish in the interior was the one on Catawba River which they called Joara, or Xualla.  Though still subject to the paramount chiefdom of Cofitachequi, Joara was the dominant chiefdom for the Piedmont region of North Carolina, which informants to the Spanish called Chelaque, meaning speakers of a different language.  Its people were not those later called by the similar name, Cherokee, but the Siouan-speaking Catawba, specifically the division called Cheraw or Sara.  Pardo established Fort San Juan there in 1567.

 In the mountains of northwestern North Carolina, the Spanish encountered a people they knew as the Chisca, who are otherwise known as the Yuchi.  Their territory spread into Upper East Tennessee and Southwestern Virginia.  Among the towns of the Yuchi the Spanish came across in Upper East Tennessee were Guasili and Canasoga, aka Cauchi, as well as Guapere on the upper Watauga River which was destroyed along with Maniateque near Saltville, Virginia, by Spanish soldiers under Hernando Moyano in 1567.   Moyano built a small fort at Cauchi called Fort San Pablo.

 The next town/people to which they would have come is Tanasqui, which lay at the confluence of the French Broad and Pigeon Rivers.  Tanasqui, which ultimately gave its name to our state as Tennessee, sat at the northernmost limits of those subject to the paramount chiefdom of Coosa at Coosawattee, Georgia, now under Carters Lake.  Coosa took tribute from almost all of East Tennessee and Northwest Georgia and some of Northeast Alabama.

 At Zimmerman’s Island at the mouth of the French Broad River lay the major town of Chiaha, then the dominant chiefdom in East Tennessee, if still subject to Coosa.  The town on the island was also called Olamico.  Moyano built another fort here, called Fort San Pedro.  Both it and Fort San Pablo at Cauchi/Canasoga were destroyed in 1569.

 Below Chiaha in the Holston Valley, the town of Coste (Koasati) stood on Bussell’s Island at the mouth of the Little Tennessee River.  Upriver from there, along the Little Tennessee Valley, sat the towns of Satapo (Citico) and Chalahume (Chilhowee).

 Beyond the towns in the Little Tennessee Valley, there was the town of Tali, for which many sites in the 16th century have been suggested, including Tellico Plains, Tennessee, but there are also several sites known to have been occupied at the time along the Tennessee River, for example the Late Mississippi site on Hiwassee Island, or perhaps the one at Ledford Island upstream in the Hiwassee River.  If that is the case, Tali would have been the first town they encountered of the Mouse Creek Phase. 

 Although the Mouse Creek Phase was first identified along the Hiwassee Valley, it extends over

Southeast Tennessee.  Beyond doubt, for instance, is the fact that the towns of Olitifar (Opelika at Audobon Acres), Tasqui at the Citico site in downtown Chattanooga, and Tasquiqui (Tuskegee) at the Hampton Place site on Moccasin Point were all Mouse Creek Phase sites.

 {A note about the Citico site in downtown Chattanooga:  In the Middle Mississippi period of 1200-1400 and early in the Late Mississippi period 1400-1500 (though the period lasted itself until 1600), the remarkably large town at the mouth of the Citico Creek dominated all of East Tennessee and some of North Georgia.  Its apex of power and influence was contemporary with that of the town at the Etowah Mounds site.  The people of the latter had migrated several miles downriver by the time of the De Soto expedition, one of whose chroniclers called the site Talimuchisi.}

 These people (Olitifar, Tasqui, Tasquiqui) were the same as those called the Napochi by the chief of Coosa when he demanded of De Luna that he and his men accompany his warriors north to put the rebels in their place in 1559.  After the Spanish and their Coosa allies burned Opelika, its inhabitants never returned and very likely relocated to Tasquiqui.  Spelled Tuskegee in English, these people, although subject to the paramount chiefdom at Coosa, spoke a non-Muskogean language, though their occupation of the area may have gone back centuries.

 On the opposite end of Tennessee, the Spanish encountered the Quizquiz in the vicinity of present-day Memphis.  Upstream lived the Pacaha, whose chief town was in the vicinity of Turrell, Arkansas (Nodena site), but whose territory straddled the Mississippi River into West Tennessee.  The Pacaha (sometimes mistakenly identified as the Quapaw) were hostile to their neighbors, the Casqui, whose chief town was near Parkin, Arkansas.  The Quizquiz were subject to the paramount chiefdom at Pacaha.

 

Chuck Hamilton

<natty4bumpo@gmail.com>



John S. Elder Was Early Settler At Ooltewah

The Elders were among Tennessee's earliest pioneers and were well acquainted with Davy Crockett. John S. Elder and his nephew, Robert S. Elder, made their way to Hamilton County at an early date. The family traces back to Samuel Elder, who in April 1796 paid $200 for 150 acres in the "County of Greene Territory of the United States of America South ... (click for more)

Signal Mountain Genealogical Society To Meet Feb. 6 At Walden Town Hall

The Signal Mountain Genealogical Society will meet at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 6 at the Walden Town Hall, 1836 Taft Hwy. The meeting begins with refreshments, followed by a brief business meeting and program. In preparation for the Signal  Mountain Centennial, which takes place in 2019, Jim Douthat, a widely recognized historian and member of the Society, will deliver ... (click for more)

City Council Balks At Approving New $600,000, Two-Year Contract To Father To The Fatherless For VRI Program

The City Council on Tuesday night declined to approve a two-year $600,000 contract with a local non-profit group for the city's Violence Reduction Initiative. Father to the Fatherless previously had the contract and was seeking an extension. Kerry Hayes of the mayor's office asked for a one-week delay, saying the office wanted to make sure that all concerns of the council ... (click for more)

City's Top Traffic Reconstruction Expert: "Man, This Truck Just Creamed A Dozen Cars"

The Chattanooga Police Department's top traffic reconstruction expert testified Tuesday that when he first viewed the scene of an horrific crash at the Ooltewah exit he thought "Man, this truck just creamed a dozen cars." Officer Joe Warren told a jury from Nashville that, according to his calculations, Benjamin Scott Brewer was traveling at 81-82 miles per hour when he struck ... (click for more)

Dismal Educator Teaching At UTC - And Response

Roy Exum,  People are talking about the inability of UTC to turn out high quality teachers. Well, should any university be expected to turn a sow's ear into a silk purse? We all know how our school system students fail miserably on national scholastic aptitude tests as a whole.  Forget Tcap tests, those are teacher tests not meant for measuring student progress, but ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Man’s Need To ‘Jaw’

On the first day of every month, I’ve gotten into the habit of taking a stroll in “my garden.” I mix up the “orchids” (good stuff) and “onions” (bad stuff) that has idled in my brain from the month before and most people seem to like it. I know I do. One of the “onions” for this January read like this: “AN ONION to the disappointing realization Chattanooga no longer has Bill Kilbride ... (click for more)