Origin of the Cherokee - Part 3 of 5

Saturday, September 20, 2014 - by Chuck Hamilton

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 merged with other Siouan language 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 fifteenth century through the early sixteenth 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 on the Savannah River 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.  Where the peoples of Hampton Place, David Davis, and Williams Island later went, no one knows, or has even hazarded a guess as far as I know.

 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 last 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 Susquehanna 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 1620’s 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 theie 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 Susquehannock, 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 1660’s, 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.

 Chuck Hamilton <natty4bumpo@gmail.com>

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