Origin of the Cherokee - Part 5 of 5

Monday, September 29, 2014 - by Chuck Hamilton

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 the area at the time of first contact.

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).

* 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.

Chuck Hamilton <natty4bumpo@gmail.com>


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