Here we present Richard Thornton’s modern translation of the Migration Legend of the Creek People with extensive annotations. These annotations provide important historical references bringing the much famed Creek Legend into better understanding for researchers.
Letters and other Papers concerning the State of Ecclesiastical Matters in this Province
My Lord 1
I was honored to receive your letter, dated October 15, 1734. I shall be proud to serve your Lordship. If I can in any way contribute toward the promoting the Christian religion, I will be one of the happiest men in the World. The endowment, assigned to the Church of England, is improving daily and increasing in value. It is hoped that the legacy from my will with other contributions will be sufficient to hire a missionary for the Province of Georgia. I take this opportunity of enclosing to your Lordship a curious Indian speech, which I think that your Lordship will find interesting and beg leave for to present myself, as always.
Your most humble servant
Thomas Christie 2
Savannah, in the Province of Georgia
July the 6th 1735
Minutes of the conference held on June 7, 1735 in Savannah, Province of Georgia. It was taken from the speech of Chikili Mikko, who is the High King of the Upper and Lower Creeks. Others representing the Creek Confederacy included Antise, Head Warrior of Coweta town; Elase, mikko and Ousta, Head Warrior of the Kusa People; Tamachako, War King and Wali, War Captain of Palachikola; Pawpese Mikko and Tamachichi, Dog King from the Itsate; Mitakanyi, Head Warrior of the Oconees; Tuiwelisi, Mikko and Woyani, Head Warrior from the Chiaha’s and of the Highland Uchee People; Shimelacowesi, Micco of the Ogeechees; Opithle Mikko of the Sawacolas; Ewenawki Mikko and Taumolme, War Captain from the Ensantee; plus thirty nine other warriors and young men. 3
In the presence of Thomas Causton and Henry Parker; Thomas Christie Recorder; John Vatt Comifary to the Saltzburgers, and several gentlemen and freeholders of the said town and province of Georgia. 4
What Chikilli, the Principal Chief of the Upper and Lower Creeks said, in a talk held at Savannah, in the year1735, and which was handed over by the interpreter. It was written upon a buffalo skin and was, word for word, as follows:
Toward the west there is a massive hole in the ground 5, which is mouth of the earth. One day the ground opened and the Kawshete came out. They settled near the opening. The earth became angry and their children began dying, so they migrated westward.
The people divide in two
Part of the Kaushete moved back to the location where the people had originally lived, leaving the majority behind, because they thought it was the best thing to do. Soon their children were dying again, so, angry, they moved eastward. 6
Living beside two rivers
The Kaushete came to a thick, muddy river, where they camped, cooked and slept one night. On the next morning, they began migrating again and in one day came to a blood-red colored river. 7 They lived by this river and ate fish for two year. It was a low, swampy place. They did not like living there.
Discovery of the largest volcano
After migrating westward to the headwaters of the red-colored river, they heard a thundering sound. Curious, they moved closer to the thundering sound to determine where it was coming from. The first saw smoke coming from the mountain and heard a sound like a drum song. They climbed the mountains and saw a great fire erupting upward, which was making the rumbling sound. They called this mountain the King of All Mountains. This volcano thunders to this day and is great feared. 8
Temporarily coming together with three other nations
The Kaushete met with the people of three different nations. 9
They took fire from the great volcano and saved it. 10
While living in that place they gained the knowledge of medicinal herbs and many other things. 11
The sacred fire, shared at this place came from the land to the east. They did not like to use it for starting domestic fires. 12
Another portion of the fire came from the lands to the west, whose color was black. They did not like to use it either. 13
Another portion of the sacred fire came from the south. Its color was blue. 14
Another portion of the shared sacred fire came from the north. Its colors are red and yellow. This fire, they mixed with the fire from the great volcano. It is used to this day and sometimes makes a rumbling sound. 15
Origin of the Creek war club
On the side of the great volcano they found a stick that constantly shook and made a noise. No one knew how to make it still. After some time, they pushed a motherless baby against the stick and killed the baby. 16
The body of the sacrificed baby was carried by the warriors, wherever they go to war. The stick was in the shape of a wooden war club that is used to this day, and was composed of the same species of wood. 17
Discovery of medicinal herbs
At this place, they found all sorts herbs and roots, which sang. They discovered the powers of these herbs and roots. They included Pasaw, the rattlesnake root, and Micoweanochaw, meaning “out goes the king.” It is commonly called red root. There was Sowachko, which grows like wild fennel and Eschalapoochke, which is called small tobacco or rabbit tobacco.
They also used these herbs at Posketa, or the Green Corn Festival to purify themselves as is done by the chief medicine man. Pasaw and Sowachko are especially important for this purpose. The custom of Posketa is that they fast and make offerings of the first herbs to the Master of Life.
So that the men may know the powers of the herbs, the women make fires by themselves and burn them separately from those of the men at certain times of the year. If the men and women do not do this, they will spoil the powers of their medicinal herbs and will not be healthy. 18
A dispute over which nation should lead
A dispute arose over which of the four nations was the oldest and therefore have the dominant role. The leaders agreed that since they were four different ethnic groups, they would set up four timber poles and cover them with clay. The clay is yellow at first, but turns red after being burned. All four nations would go to war together. The nation which first covered its pole from top to bottom with the scalps of their enemies would be considered the elder nation. 19
All four tribes attempted to accomplish this feat, but the Kaushete covered their pole first, so the wood could not be seen. The leaders of the whole nation declared them to be eldest and to take the leadership role.
The Chickasaws covered their pole next. They were followed by the Alibamus. However, the Apikas could not raise their mass of scalps higher than the knee.
The blue predator bird and the red rat
About this time there was a large bird with bluish colored feathers. It had a long tail and was swifter than an eagle. It came to the Kaushete villages every day and at their people. 20
The Kaushete made an effigy of a woman and put it in the path of the bird. The bird took the effigy away and kept it a long time. However, he brought it back when he returned again. 21
The Kaushete did not disturb the effigy of a woman for awhile, expecting to birth something. After awhile, the statue delivered a red rat. The Kaushete believed that the bird was the father of the red rat. 22
The Kaushete consulted with rat how they might kill his father. The bird had bows and arrows. The rat cut his bow strings so the bird could not defend himself. The rat then grabbed the bows and arrows and ran off. The Kaushete then killed the bird. They called this bird, the King of Birds. Since then the Kaushete have allowed the eagle to be the king of birds and always carry eagle tail feathers when they go to either war or peace. 23
Red feathers are used for war and white feathers for peace. If an enemy comes with a white feather and a white mouth, plus makes the sound of an eagle, they cannot kill him. 24
The White Path
They left the place of the Blue Predator Bird and continued traveling until they encountered a road between two towns, which is called a White Path. All things, including the grass were white. 25
They also met a people, who had been on the road before they crossed it then went to sleep. Afterward, they continued on their journey for awhile and then returned to the White Path. They wanted to know exactly what the White Path was and which people had traveled it before.
They thought that it might be wise for them to follow the White Path. They followed the White Path until they came to a river named the Calusahatchee. It was given that name because it was foggy and rocky. They went over the river and traveled eastward until they came to a people, named the Kaushe (Coosaw.) They lived with the Kaushe for four years. 26
The Man-eating Mountain Lion
The Kaushe complained to the Kaushete that there was a creature in their province, which was devouring their people. They called it Man-eater. It was a Mountain Lion, which lived on a boulder. The Kaushe said that they had tried to kill the creature. They had made a net, dug a pit and then put the net over the pit. They made several Kowetas and Uchees to throw stones at the mountain lion so it would not pursue them. They went to the boulder where the mountain lion lived and threw a rattle to where he was laying. 27
The mountain lion followed them with ferocity as they ran through creeks and other places. Finally, they agreed that one of them should die rather than all.
So when they came to the pit, they took a motherless child and threw it into the path of the mountain lion. The mountain lion eagerly devoured the child. He tumbled into the pit. They then threw the net over him and killed with burning coals. They preserved the mountain lion’s bones and keep them unto this day. One side of the bones is red, while the other is blue. 28
Every seven days, the mountain lion would come to kill people. Therefore, after killing him, they remained at that place seven days. In remembrance of him, they now fast six days and go on to war on the seventh day. They carry the bones of the mountain lion to war and are successful in war as a result.
Further migrations in the mountains
They left the land of the Kaushe after four years and came to a river that they called the Nawhawpi, which is now called the Calusahatchee. There they stayed two years, but they had no corn seeds to plant. During this period they lived on edible roots and fish. They made bows and arrows then pointed their arrows with beaver teeth and flint stones. They used split canes for knives instead of stone. 29
They left this place and then came to a river, which hey called Wakulahawka-hatchee or Whooping Crane River, because of the great number of cranes living there. They slept at this river one night.
They then came to a river with a waterfall and called it the Owatuaka River. The next day, they came to a river and called it Afusafeskaw. 30
The great town on the high mountain
The next day, they crossed over this river and came to a high mountain, where people lived, who they thought had built the White Path. 31
They made white arrows and shot them to see if these people were good people. However, these people took the white arrows and painted them red then shot them back at the Kaushete. 32
The Kaushete warriors picked up the red arrows and carried them back to their king. The king told them that this was not good. If the arrows had returned white, they would have gone to the town and received food for their young, but the arrows were red, so they must not go to there.
However, some of the Kaushete wanted to see what sort of people was living in this region. They found that the town on a river had been vacated recently. They saw footprints that led into the river. They waded into the river to the other side and could not see footprints. Therefore, they assumed that the people of this town had stayed in the river. 33
At that locale is a high mountain called Motorelo. It makes a noise like the beating of a drum. The Kaushete suspected that the people lived on this mountain. Whenever they go to war, they hear this noise. 34
The Kausete went along the river until they came to another waterfall. They saw great rocks. There were bows laying on the rocks. The Kaushete suspected that the people, who made the White Path, had been there earlier. 35
Whenever the Kaushete migrated, they had two scouts, who went before the main body of the people. These scouts saw a mountain and they climbed it. They looked around and saw the town. The scouts shot two white arrows into the town, but the people in the town shot red arrows back at them. 36
The Kaushete were angry with the people in the town. The leaders of the tribe agreed to attack this town so that each family would have a house after it was taken. 37
The Kaushete threw stones into the river until it was so shallow that they could walk across it. 38
They saw that the enemy people had flattened foreheads. 39
The Kaushete captured the town. After entering the town, they killed all but two people there. They captured a white dog, which they killed also. 40
Arriving at the towns of the Palache
They pursued the two survivors until they came to the White Path again. They saw smoke rising from another town. The suspected that they had found the location of the two people, whom they had been pursuing. This was the present location of the Palache People, from whom Tamachichi is descended. 41
The Kaushete were always warlike, but the Palache People made them Yaupon holly tea as a token of friendship. The Palache told the Kaushete that their own hearts were peaceful and that the Kaushete should lay down their bloody war clubs and give their bodies in symbolic sacrifice so that they could become peaceful also. 42
The Kaushete had weapons, but by persuasion the Palache obtained these weapons and buried them under their houses. The Palache told the Kaushete that their kings were unified with their people on this act and then gave the Kaushete white feathers.
Ever since then the Kashite and the Palache have lived as neighbors and shall always live has neighbors, bearing remembrance of the past. Some went to one side of the river and some on the other side of the river. Those on one side are called the Kaushetaws and those on the other side are called the Kowetas, but they are one people. They are allowed to be the head towns of the Upper and Lower Creeks. 43
Nevertheless, they first saw red smoke and red fire and therefore created warlike towns. They cannot leave their red hearts, which are white on one side and red on the other. They still know that the path of peace is for their own good. 44
Although Tamachichi has been a stranger and not lived among the leaders of the Upper and Lower Creeks, they see that in his elder years, he has done himself and the Creek People good, because he went with Squire Oglethorpe to the Great King and heard his speech. Tamachichi brought back the words of the Great King to the Creek People. The people have heard those words and they believe them. 45
For that reason, the Creek People look upon Tamachichi as a father and his wife, Somauhi as the mother of them all. The leaders are resolved that when Tamachichi dies, we will look upon his nephew Toonahawi as chief of Tamachichi’s people in his stead. We hope that he will be a great man and do good, both for himself and his people. (All attending the conference gave a show of approval.) 46
Chikili’s closing statement
Our eyes have been shut, but now they are more open. We believe that the coming of the English to this place is for the good of our leaders and our children. We will always have honest hearts toward the English and hope that even though we were naked and helpless, we will have more good things done for us by the English. 47
I Chikili, the Joani of the West Town, was chosen to rule after the death of Emperor Bermarin. 48
I have a strong voice and will announce the resolution approved at this meeting to the rest of the nations and make them, no advise them that we are glad that the Squire carried some our friends to the Great King and his nation. 49
I never become tired of hearing what Tamachichi tells about his experiences. All of my people offer their great thanks to all of the Trustees for so great a favor. We always to our upmost endeavor to serve them and all the Great King’s people, whenever there shall be an occasion.
I am glad that I came down here and saw things as they are. We shall go home and tell the children and the nation about this great conference. We also tell them that Tamachichi has been with the Great King and will always remember the place at which we met and call it Georgia. 50
I am well aware that there is One, who has made us all. Some people have more knowledge, while others are great and strong, but in the end of our lives, all must become dirt again.
- The letter was addressed to William Wake, Archbishop of Canterbury, who resided in Lambeth Palace, Surrey, England. After reading the Migration Legend, he became extremely interested in establishing Christian missions among the Creeks. The Church of England, until that time, had never actively proselytized Native American tribes. Wake died in 1737 at Lambeth Palace.
- Thomas Christie (? – 1751) was the first Colonial Secretary of the Colony of Georgia. He was an employee of the Trustees of the Province of Georgia and reported directly to James Edward Oglethorpe, who held no title at this time other than being a member of the Board of Trustees, assigned to supervise the founding of the colony.
In the opening statement of the letter, Christie referred to an endowment, which he had personally funded to support the propagation of the Church of England in Georgia. Apparently, the endowment fund was invested in entrepreneurial activities and was growing handsomely.
This letter ultimately led to the creation of one of the largest Protestant denominations in the world. Anglican leaders in England were impressed by the sophistication of the Creek Indians. Christie’s endowment was utilized in October of 1735 by the Society for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts to hire two young priests of the Church of England, John and Charles Wesley, to be missionaries to the Indians in Georgia. Upon their arrival in Savannah in February 1736, Oglethorpe quickly assigned them to other tasks.
Unlike the trustees living in England, Oglethorpe was very much aware that the Creeks were monotheistic and strongly believed in a religion that was remarkably similar to early Hebrew beliefs. The Creeks even practiced the Judaic form of ritual baptism, as a symbolic washing away of sins prior to religious events. The trustees assumed that the Creeks were either pagans or animists, like most other tribes in North America. Oglethorpe wished to avoid probable irritation of Georgia’s valuable military allies, if clergymen were permitted to “talk down” to Creek leaders.
Charles Wesley (1707-1788) was appointed Secretary of Indian Affairs and then dispatched in March of 1736 by Oglethorpe to be the chaplain for the garrison town at Fort Frederica on St. Simons Island. This was a disaster because most of the residents of the town were Scottish Highlanders, and therefore, either Presbyterians or Roman Catholics. In July 1736, Oglethorpe then designated him to be the bearer of dispatches to England. Charles sailed for England in August 1736 and never returned to the Americas.
John Wesley (1703-1791) was initially appointed to be an assistant priest of the local parish and a part time missionary to the Creeks and Uchees, living near Savannah. He spent most of his time working at a personal level with small groups of colonists in prayer meetings and assisting with the construction of an Indian mission school on top of the Irene Mound, north of Savannah.
At this time in his ministry, John Wesley was a High Church Anglican. Emphasis on liturgy went over like a lead balloon among most of the colonists and all of the Creeks. The colonists were already evolving toward the American forms of Protestantism, even if most still considered themselves to be members of the Church of England.
Tamachichi repeatedly asked John Wesley to provide Christian education to the children of his village that was adjacent to Savannah. However, Wesley repeatedly equivocated. His friend, John Ingram, and the Moravian colonists did heed the request.
Wesley’s presentation of salvation via English liturgy to the leaders of the Creek Nation assembled at Palachicola, about 35 miles north of Savannah was a disaster. Sending someone as young as Wesley to promote a new religion was an insult to the Creek leaders. The Creeks were polite, because they respected James Oglethorpe, but few showed any interest in Anglicanism. They sent word to Oglethorpe to keep his boy, John Wesley, in Savannah.
John Wesley did substantially increase church attendance in Georgia. He also published the first Protestant hymn book in the Americas. However, he was not well liked by the English leaders of the colony. His time there was viewed by them as a failure.
In contrast to his relationship with Anglican leaders, Wesley was well liked by the Moravians, who established a commune on Irene Island, the original location of Palachicola. Several Moravians intentionally lived among the Creek Indians in order to learn their language and customs. Brother Peter Rose and his wife constructed a school house for the Creeks literally on top of the Irene Mound. While in Georgia, Wesley was able to mediate feuds between the Anglicans, Moravians and the Lutheran colony to the north in Ebenezer, because of his friendship with the Moravians.
John Wesley met Sophia Hopkey, the beautiful daughter of one of the colony’s most powerful citizens on the ship taking them to Savannah in late 1735. He gave her French lessons, while on board. The friendship continued to warm in Savannah as he paid her frequent social visits. Sophia, and most other residents of Savannah assumed that this friendship was leading to matrimony.
Just at the point, when most colonists expected to hear an engagement announcement, Wesley stopped having contact with her, without any explanation. He shunned her in public. Heartbroken Sophia fell into the arms of another man, whom she married the following spring. They couple were forced to elope to a town in South Carolina, because Wesley refused to marry them. For no obvious reason, Wesley then refused to give her communion several months after her marriage.
Wesley was charged with slandering her reputation in public in 1738. A hung jury prevented him being convicted of that charge, but Sophia’s relatives began to spread false rumors that she had repeatedly rejected his proposals and was secretly a Roman Catholic. Hearing a rumor that a lynch mob was coming to seize him, he fled Georgia at night in a row boat. Upon arrival in England, he was summoned to Westminster and fired by the Georgia Board of Trustees.
Their pride broken by the humiliation of their respective failures in Georgia, both Charles and John Wesley soon had religious conversions as a result of their association with a Moravian prayer group on Aldersgate in London. Charles went on to become one of the greatest hymn writers of all time.
George Whitefield, John Wesley, Charles Wesley and their associates founded the Methodist Society, which ministered to the working class, poor and disenfranchised around England. After his death, the Methodist Society became the Methodist Church. It was at the forefront in the fight to end slavery and poverty in the British Empire.
- The Creek dignitaries at this conference evidently constituted all or most of the National Council of the People of One Fire, the governing body of what is now called the Creek Confederacy. Most of the Creek leaders were from Georgia, but some Creek towns in the Savannah River Basin, on the South Carolina side, were also present. The letter does not mention any Creek women, but it is a authenticated fact that Kvsvponakesa (Mary Musgrove) was the official translator of the Province of Georgia and played a key role in this meeting.
Creek women enjoyed equality in all matters, including property ownership and voting in elections. This was a major point of contention between British colonial leaders and the Creeks from the beginning. When Mary Musgrove was granted Ossabaw, Wausau and St. Catherine’s Islands by the Creek Confederacy, the colonial government in Georgia refused to recognize her property title, because she was both a Creek Indian and an woman.
- The letter makes no mention that James Oglethorpe was at the meeting. This is odd, because discussions of the event in British newspapers assumed that the presentation by Chikili was made primarily to Oglethorpe. The omission of Oglethorpe’s name indicates that the same speech was given privately to Oglethorpe prior to the conference that contained colonial leaders.
Thomas Causton was the Chief Magistrate of the colony. Almost from the colony’s founding, he was an arch-enemy of James Oglethorpe. Causton eventually tried to get court-martialed for supposedly not providing for the defense of the colony. John Wesley, who by then was Oglethorpe’s secretary, gathered enough evidence to get Causton impeached.
After the War of Jenkins Ear, Causton organized an effort again to demand a court martial of Oglethorpe, because he failed to capture the fort at St. Augustine. Oglethorpe was forced to sail to England to defend his conduct before the Trustees of the Province of Georgia. Oglethorpe was completely absolved of blame by the Trustees and no formal military hearing was held. It was determined that the artillery provided to Oglethorpe was incapable of penetrating the coquina stone walls of Fort San Marcos.
- The hole in ground was interpreted by Samuel Gatschet and most scholars since then, as being a cave. It is more likely to have been either a cenote (large sink hole) or the mouth of an extinct volcano. The text says that the ground opened, not that an opening appeared in the side of a mountain, as would be the description of a typical cave. The phase, “the earth became angry” could be an earthquake, volcanic eruption, drought or plague.
- This paragraph suggests that there was something toxic about the location near the volcano.
- Tillan Tlapallan was a mythical blood colored river flowing down from the slopes of the Orizaba Volcano that flowed into a bay on the Gulf of Mexico. It came to mean the middle heaven of the Aztecs, where people, who were literate, lived. During the Post-Classic Period (900 AD – 1521 AD) both Maya and Aztec codices (leather books) were written primarily with red and black paint.
- Although Muskogee Creek elders in Oklahoma often assume that this volcano was in Southwestern United States, and that the “Bloody River” is the modern day Red River in Oklahoma, there is no active volcano in that region, which is relatively close to an ocean located to the east and that has a river flowing eastward off its slope.
The Kaushete Motherland can only have been Mexico – specifically the western edge of Vera Cruz State, near its border with Oaxaca. This was originally the home of Tekesta People, who where known as giants to the invading Nahuatl Peoples, but were driven out by the Aztecs around 1350 AD. There is only one freestanding volcano in Mexico that drains into the Gulf of Mexico. It is Orizaba, which is known as the “Star Mountain” in Nahuatl.
The Jamapa River flows eastward from Orizba to Boco del Rio, immediately south of Vera Cruz. This was the traditional location of Tillan Tlapallin, because the Jamapa River can be reddish brown after heavy rains wash iron oxide from the volcanic rocks into the water, but also be a classic “black water” river during dry weather.
- This section of the migration legend seems to jump out sync chronologically. It says that the four members of the original Creek Confederacy first came together in Mexico, which is highly unlikely.
- This passage means that all of the fires used by the Kaushete from their time in Mexico until 1735 were “descended” from the hot lava in the volcano.
- While the four tribes were living together for the first time, they learned which wild plants had medicinal powers.
- This probably passage refers to the sacred fire used by the Chickasaws, who in the Late Woodland Period were in Northeast Georgia and the northwestern edge of South Carolina. The colors of the fires are symbolic and were still being used during the Late Colonial Period.
- This passage probably refers to the sacred fire used by the Apike, who possibly were originally a tribe from the Southwestern United States.
- The blue color refers to Maya blue, the color that would have been associated with the Itsate. However, they are not mentioned as one of the four original tribes in the confederacy.
- The colors of red and yellow were associated with the colors of volcanic lava.
- This is a strange passage. Does it refer to a rattlesnake? Human sacrifice was not practiced by the Creeks, when they made contact with English colonists. Does the motherless child actually refer to a statue and not a mummified baby? It is known that the Apalache in the 17th century still mummified their royalty.
- This may be a tall tale that explained symbolically why Creek war clubs were curved like a saber.
- An earlier passage by Chikili stated that the place where the four tribes came together was also where they learned about medicinal herbs. This passage goes into more detail concerning the names of the herbs and their uses.
- This passage really states that the branch of the Creeks that was allowed to lead the others gained that honor by success in warfare.
- This passage may be a cultural memory of an ancient religion that utilized domesticated King Vultures to devoir the flesh of deceased loved ones. Vulture images are common on Hopewell culture art. This bird seems to symbolize an enemy, who worshiped a supernatural vulture.
- Numerous marble, sandstone, limestone and ceramic statues of women have been found in the Etowah Valley.
- This is perhaps the strangest passage in the Migration Legend. The only rat in the Southeast is the Hispid Cotton Rat. It is not significantly larger than a field mouse. This passage may refer to a muskrat, which was once quite common in the Southeast.
- The King Vulture was considered to be sacred by the various branches of the Creeks in Middle and South Georgia. However, it was not a sacred bird to the Upper Creeks.
- This is an interesting passage. It sets very clear protocol for behavior during war. The description of a warrior, who cannot be attacked is akin to an enemy soldier carrying a white flag.
- Apparently, in this location the road passed through highlands which were covered with snow. The main road between central Mexico and Texas gets snow in the winter. The army of Santa Ana had to march in snow for four days before reaching Texas.
- This passage could well be a misunderstanding by either the interpreter or Thomas Christie. The original name of the Coosa River was the Kusahatchee. The town of Kusa was located on a major tributary of the Coosa River.
- Although government agencies repeatedly state that the Mountain Lion is extinct in North Georgia, there are hundreds of reliable eyewitnesses, who have repeatedly seen Mountain Lions in the region. They were definitely endemic when white settlers arrived in the region.
This may have been originally an origin myth for the Koweta (Kowite). Their name means “Mountain Lion People.” The Koweta originally lived in Northeast Georgia and the Franklin Area of North Carolina, where the headwaters of the Little Tennessee River are located.
- Apparently, it was socially acceptable to use a newborn child, whose mother had died for such purposes. However, none of the divisions of the Creek Confederacy had a tradition of human sacrifice.
- This part of the legend is confusing. The original translation of the Migration Legend of the Creek People uses Muskogee place names. However, the Kaushete did not speak Muskogee. They spoke a dialect of Itsate, now called Hitchiti by English-speakers. So we really don’t know what names that they called the herbs and rivers mentioned in the text.
The main body of the Kaushete (Kusate) were still living in the Upper Tennessee Valley between present day Chattanooga and the confluence of the Little Tennessee and Tennessee Rivers in the late 1600s, when the French mapped the region. They continued to own Southeastern Tennessee and Northwestern Georgia until around 1785, when the Cherokees were given their territory by the United States. However, by this time, the majority of Kaushete were living in west-central Georgia and east-central Alabama.
This particular passage may describe a band of Kaushete that broke off and began wandering through the rugged mountains of eastern Tennessee, western North Carolina and ultimately, northern Georgia. There were Creek towns named Cusseta on the Savannah River and on the east side of the Chattahoochee River in present day Columbus, GA.
- Owatuaka is the archaic Muskogee word for waterfall. Ather form of the word has been Anglicized to Wetumka – the original name of a town that was formerly across the Chattahoochee River from Columbus, but then moved to the confluence of the Coosa and Tallapoosa Rivers after 1763.
- The high mountain is Brasstown Bald Mountain in extreme north-central Georgia. It dominates the landscape for many miles because there is a high plateau separating this north protrusion of the Blue Ridge Mountain Range from the Nantahala Mountains in North Carolina. There is extensive evidence that Brasstown Bald’s isolation from the main mountain ranges is due to a volcanic origin. Some extinct and dormant volcanic vent holes can still be seen in its vicinity.
White Path is both the Maya and Creek words for a major road connecting towns. The Great White Path began at Chiaha on the Little Tennessee River in the Great Smoky Mountains, near present day Bryson City, NC and ran southward past Brasstown Bald and Blood Mountains to the cluster of Apalache towns in northeast Georgia. It then continued southward, interconnecting Itsate-speaking towns to north-central Florida, then southward again to the mouth of the Suwannee River on the Florida Gulf Coast. This route is now the US 129 highway.
- The use of white and red arrows to determine the nature of strangers is an interesting custom that is not mentioned in other 18th century texts. However, it makes sense.
- This is one of the sections of the later versions of the Migration Legend that were mistranslated. The original version makes more sense than the later ones. The people of a satellite town of the capital fled into the river and hid.
The river mentioned is most likely the Hiwassee River. It begins at Unicoi Gap on the east side of Brasstown Bald Mountain and flows northward into North Carolina, then turns westward to flow past the western edge of the Nantahala Mountains and the southern edge of the Snowbird Mountains. It then cuts through the Unaka Mountains to flow across the Tennessee River Valley to join with the Tennessee River. At this confluence, Hiwassee Island was created by an old horseshoe bend in the Tennessee River.
The evacuated town was either one that was located where Murphy, NC is now situated or a site upstream five miles, which was called by archaeologists, the Peachtree Mound.
- Motorelo is not a Muskogean word. In fact, most Creeks could not even pronounce a European “r” sound until exposed to English. If the M is changed to an N, and the R is changed to an L, one gets Notole-lo. The Nottely River flows past the west flanks of Brasstown Bald Mountain.
The beating of a drum most likely refers to a signal station on top of Brasstown Bald. However, employees of the camping and outdoor supply store now located at the Walasyi Inn at Neels Gap on Blood Mountain insist that on several occasions they have heard the sounds of deep pitched drums beating on top of Brasstown Bald Mountain to the northeast.
- It makes no sense that the enemy warriors would leave their bows visible on a rock. This may have been a tall tale added in the past, by some anonymous sage.
- The only large town on the side of a mountain in either Georgia or North Carolina is the Track Rock Terrace Complex, east of Blairsville, GA. It is on the side of Buzzard’s Roost Mountain, an ancient collapsed caldera. The mountain extends about 800 feet above the top of the 600 feet high stone complex. So it would have been possible for the scouts to climb above the town’s citadel and shoot arrows into it. Again, the scouts sent a message of friendship, which was rejected by the townspeople.
- The Kaushete were homeless and hungry. With the occupants of the town showing only hostility, they had no qualms about making the town their own.
This passage does not seem to make any sense and probably was originally part of another story about an enemy town being attacked. Earlier, the Migration Legend said that the town on the river had been evacuated and that the capital town was on the side of a high mountain. Remember the scouts climbed the mountain above the town and shot white arrows into it. However, for a town to be only accessible by water meant that it was on an island.
- Forehead flattening was a common practice among the elite of many “Mississippian Culture” mound builder elites, the Mayas and some early cultures in western Peru.
- Inaccurate translations of the portion of the Migration Legend published in Germany state that “they killed everyone, but two people and a white dog.”
- The main territory of the Apalache was a region in present day Northeast Georgia, composed of the lower mountains and the Upper Piedmont. The Muskogee Creeks called the Apalache, the Palache, but elsewhere in the Migration Legend documents, states that the terms mean the same.
- The meaning of “Give their bodies in symbolic sacrifice” is not clear, but probably refers to a religious ceremony practiced by the Apalache.
- In 1735, Koweta and Kusseta were the leading towns of the Lower and Upper Creeks. The river referred to appears to be the Chattachoochee River. In northern Georgia, the Upper Creeks were on the west side of the Chattahoochee, while the Lower Creeks were on the east side. This passage claims that the Kowetas were the direct descendants of the Old Apalache Kingdom.
Despite the earlier statement that the Apalache were a peaceful people and that the Kaushete had agreed to be peaceful also, both Kusseta and Koweta were now Red Towns. This means that they were now warlike and were locations, where condemned prisoners could be executed.
- Tamachichi was formerly a leader of the Itsate Creeks, who had their own alliance before the Yamassee War. Its capital was Ichesi in Ocmulgee Bottoms. The warriors of Ichesi had burned the British trading post near them and been early participants in the Yamasee Uprising. Tamachichi was banished from the Koweta Confederacy, created by Emperor Brim in 1717 at the end of the Yamasee War.
When Tamachichi opened up direct communications with the British, via James Oglethorpe, it improved overall relations between the Creek Confederacy and the British government. Between 1715 and 1735 both parties distrusted each other, but the Creeks needed British manufactured goods and the British needed the Creeks as a barrier to Spanish and French territorial ambitions.
- Chikili gave Tamachichi and Samauhi the high honor of being Beloved Father and Beloved Mother of the Nation. Tamachichi evidently did not have a surviving son or daughter, and therefore had adopted his nephew as heir apparent.
- Chikili states that his people have not realized that they could benefit from closer political ties to the British. He was waxing poetic, when he described the powerful Creek Confederacy as being “naked and helpless.”
- A joani was an Apalache priest of the Master of Life. It is not clear which town was the west town. It might refer to the settlement on the west side of the Savannah River across from the main town of Palachicola. Alternatively, this may be a formal religious title having nothing to do with a specific town. Chikili was a senior war commander of Palachicola during the Yamasee War. After the Emperor Brim died in 1732, the National Council elected him to be High King.
- Chikili states that he is an excellent public speaker and that he will go to the provinces that compose the Creek Confederacy to tell them of what was accomplished in this diplomatic conference. He will add that the leaders of the council approve of a minor mikko or chief going to Great Britain as a representative of their confederacy. It is quite probable that Tamachichi broke protocol traditions by accepting the trip to visit with the leaders of Great Britain. Normally, only the High King, his seconds or National Council members could represent the entire confederacy.
- It is clear that the Creeks consider Georgia only to be the county-sized tract that Tamachichi sold to James Oglethorpe. Apparently, the Creek leadership authorized the British to establish a small colony at this location, but they probably assumed that it was merely going to be a fort like Fort King George, which was built on the north side of the Altamaha River in 1721.