Early Slave Raid Period 1657-1684

In 1567 Captain Juan Pardo explored an extensive area of what is now the Carolina Piedmont & Highlands. He probably also traveled through sections of the upper Tennessee Valley and northeastern Georgia – possibly even SW Virginia. Licenciado (attorney) Juan de la Bandero recorded names of indigenous communities that he visited and gave some geographical descriptions of certain important towns; but gave incomplete information as to the locations of these communities. All but one of the political titles that Bandero recorded, are words in Muskogee or Hitchiti. Scholars are not aware of any other detailed accounts of the region for another 100 years. By that time the ethnic characteristics of the region had changed starkly.
The archaeological records of most major towns in the Chattahoochee, Etowah and the Coosa River Basins suddenly end between 1585 and 1600. Many of the towns in the Highlands also apparently were abandoned, but there were exceptions. Tugaloo, at the headwaters of the Savannah was occupied by “somebody” continuously until after the Revolutionary War.

The Spanish definitely continued to explore the region after 1567. There is much evidence of their visits, but currently no known chronicles describing the expeditions. This spring, the editor reported the discovery of a 1615 Spanish land claim high on a rock face in the Smoky Mountains. Spanish mining claims were carved into rocks along Nickajack Creek in Cobb County, GA (NW Metro Atlanta.) In 1690 a British Army expedition reported seeing a Spanish mining colony in the Nacoochee Valley of NE Georgia. Until the 1740s, both Spanish and French maps showed Spain owning all of the Chattahoochee River Basin to its source near the Nacoochee Valley. Early Spanish artifacts have been found in extreme western North Carolina and northern Georgia. There is much archaeological work left to be done!

Another puzzling riddle of Native American history is the oral tradition among South Carolina Indians, that at some time in the recent past, armies of the Creek Confederacy invaded their region, but were pushed partially back, No record of such a war has been found in English colonial records, while several Muskogean tribes in South Carolina such as the Kusapa, Kusa, Sawakee and Ilape (Hilabee~Pee Dee) were early members of the Creek Confederacy. Perhaps this invasion actually occurred during the Mississippian Culture Period, and the invaders were the pre-Creek Muskogeans of South Carolina.

The vague memory of a war between the Muskogee-Creeks and the South Carolina Creeks might also be modified nightmare from the era when every ethnic group was raiding every other ethnic group to obtain slaves in order to trade them for firearms, powder, iron kettles and metal tools. It is known that the Creeks of Georgia and the Savanao & Westo of the Savannah River Valley did raid each other.

Early Slave-Raiding Period (1657-1684)

We chose the date of 1660 as the official starting point for this report because in 1660, Virginia’s Governor William Berkeley pushed through laws, which officially recognized the institution of slavery and codified laws removing any legal rights from slaves. From that point until 1752, any captured Indian was condemned to a life of slavery, as were all their offspring.

Who were the Rickohockens?

(many spelling variations)

They were a powerful, warlike ethnic group that in the 1600s controlled a territory in modern day SW Virginia, SE Kentucky, NW North Carolina and NE Tennessee They began supplying furs and Native American slaves to William Berkeley’s plantation on the James River in the late 1640s, and quickly made him a very wealthy man. They spoke a hybrid Algonquian-Iroquoian language and apparently had originally been based in the Shenandoah Valley until pushed southwestward by Iroquoian raids. The Shenandoah Valley was almost uninhabited when the first English explorers arrived there in the mid-1600s. Its few Native inhabitants, the Shenandoah, spoke a hybrid Algonquian-Iroquoian language that apparently was similar or the same as Rickohocken.

There three divisions of the tribe. The principal town of the eastern most band was the Twin Peaks of the Otter near modern day Bedford, VA. Its name was Otari, which means “high place” in Rickohocken and several dialects of Cherokee. Juan Pardo visited a town named Otari, but it may not be the same place (or language) as the Otari in 17th century Virginia.

Who were the Westo?

The Westo were a band of Rickohockens, who settled on the east side of Savannah River near modern day Augusta some time between 1657 and 1674, Most cookie cutter history texts call them Yuchi. They were not. Dr, Henry Woodward reported that the principal town of the Westo in 1674 was named Hickauhauga (his spelling.) Rickauhauga contained Algonquian style long houses that were randomly scattered around the chief’s long house. Early Yuchi towns contained only round buildings and were formally arranged on the periphery of a round plaza. It also should be noted that the “auga” suffix is common in the Cherokee village names that are not of Muskogean origin.

The English name of Westo was probably derived from the Hitchiti-Creek word, Weste, which means “people with long, unkempt hair.” Both male and female Muskogeans were neatly groomed so the label implied that the Westo’s were culturally less advanced, even if they did strike terror into the agricultural peoples. The coastal Carolina peoples believed that the Westos ate children, because the Westos would typically grab children and teenagers in their raids. The captives would never been seen again. Of course, the youthful prisoners were being immediately marched to plantations and slave markets in Virginia!

Who were the Chiska?

Chiska is the original name of the Chickasaws for themselves. In their tradition, the brothers Chiska and Chahta founded the Chickasaw and Choctaw peoples. Chickasaw is the Muskogee word for them. The Chiska were once numerous and occupied most of Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau north of the Tennessee River. They lived in small villages, did not maintain large cultivated fields, and built few mounds during the Late Mississippian Period. What mounds they did build during this era were very modest. During the 1500s they were known for their military prowess. Chickasaws continued to be known for their fierceness in battle until the late 1700s.

Who were the Chikamawka’s?

The Chikamawka’s were a Chickasaw speaking people based in the area around Lookout Mountain in TN and GA. The word means “place to look out” in Chickasaw. They were known as the Chicameca’s by the Spanish, because of the similarity of the name to the Nahuatl word for barbarian. At some point in the 17th century, the Chikamawka’s became raiders. Their name survives in its Cherokee form as Chickamauga. Renegade Cherokees took refuge among the Chikamawka’s during the American Revolution.

Who were the Apike’s?

The Apike’s were an advanced Muskogee-speaking ethnic group in northeastern Tennessee. The name means “Cornstalk People.” Juan Pardo made contact with them, but we know very little about them since minimal archaeological work has been done northeast of Knoxville. In response to raids by the Rickohockens, the surviving Apike migrated to what is now northern Alabama. The French called them the Abeika because European speakers typically changed a Muskogean P to a B. By the late 1700s, the Abeika (or Abikara) had become the dominant province of the Upper Creeks. They did extensive damage to central Tennessee as allies of the Chickamauga Cherokees.

Who were the Savano?

The Savano were Shawnees, who were living on the Savannah River in the 1600s and first half of the 1700s. They spoke a highly aberrant type of Algonquian language. Most standard history texts state that they were recent arrivals, when the English settled South Carolina.

Recent archaeological work in East Augusta, SC suggests that they arrived on the Savannah River around 1600 AD. Cherokee history books state that they were small bands of refugees that the Cherokees took in during the late 1600s and early 1700s. The Savano, themselves, may or may not have been recent refugees, but Shawnee bands were scattered all over the east-central United States.

Ancestors of Shawnee were probably living in the Southern Highlands during the Woodland Period and were associated with the Hopewell Culture. Their presence in that region probably predates the Muskogeans, and definitely predates the Cherokees. French maps show them occupying the heart of the Carolina Mountains in the late 1600s while the Charakees were then located in NE Tennessee, SE Kentucky and SW Virginia. The Swannanoa River near Asheville, NC gets its name from the Muskogee words, “Suwanee Owa” or Shawnee Water. The ancestors of Shawnee and Creeks were ancient trading partners, and thus during colonial times the two ethnic groups tended to be on the same side in warfare. However, the Savano villages were an exception to this general pattern, probably because of the general collapse of integrity created by the Native American slave trade.
French maps show several Savano villages on the Tennessee River near the concentration of Caskenampo (Koasati for “many warriors”) villages in the early 1700s. When that region was taken over by the Cherokees, the Savano villages disappeared. They may have joined the Creek Confederacy.

Who were the Cusseta?

(or Coushetta in French) – The Cusseta’s were the descendants of the people of the great province of Kusa in the 1500s. The word comes from their Hitchiti name, Kusa-te, for Kusa People = Koushe-te. Hitchiti has three “s” sounds – S” ~ “sh” ~ “jzh.”.At some unknown point in time, the Cusseta shifted to speaking Muskogee.

Who were the Tomahitan’s?

They were a Native American group on the west side of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the late 1600s. Contact was made with them in 1673 by explorers James Needham and Gabriel Arthur from Virginia. A pantheon of history books and web sites describe the journey as the first contact with the Cherokees and the name of the town as Chota. Neither the word Cherokee nor Chota are mentioned by the men’s journal. In fact there is too little information to link this people with any specific geographical location. The proximity to the Oconaneechi Tribe suggests that the Tamatitans lived on the New River, but the description of their society and political organization suggest that they were Muskogeans. This tribe may, in fact, be one that began as a Tamatli elite and Algonquian commoners.

The Tomahitan’s told the explorers that they were eight days upstream from a settlement of white men, who wore clothing and long beards. These Europeans built brick structures. Another odd thing about the Tomahitan’s was that they were armed with arquebuses that were very different than the ones used by the English. This information suggests that the white men were either Spanish or Melungeons. Melungeons were Spanish Jews, who migrated into the Appalachians to escape the Inquisition.

Who were the Chorakee?

The word is Muskogee and can be translated as either “Splinter Groups” or “People Who Take Scalps.” Splinter Groups is the most likely translation, since the town names are a mixture of Hitchiti, Muskogee, Siouan, Shawnee and Yuchi words. The Chorakee towns were located in a triangular region bounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains on the north, the Chattooga-Tugaloo Rivers on the west and the Keowee River on the east. They were described as being military allies of the Cussetas (Creeks) and Chickasaws in 1674 – both are Muskogean ethnic groups. It is highly likely that the original Chorakees (or Lower Cherokees) spoke a hybrid Muskogean dialect that mixed Hitchiti, Muskogee, Catawba and Yuchi – and did not use any “Cherokee” words.

The earliest map to denote their towns from the 1690s, states that the Chorakees were also allies of un-named peoples living in the North Carolina Mountains. Many of the Chorakee villages bore the name of Muskogean peoples who lived much closer to the coast in the 1500s, such as the Tamatli and the Edisto. Apparently, none of the Chorakee settlements were very large. The combined military strength of the 10 towns was only 300 men in 1715.

1657-1684 Timeline

1657 – The Colony of Virginia provided arquebusses (precessors to the musket) to the Rickohockens with the provision that they capture Native American slaves for the tobacco plantations of Virginia. They were the only indigenous peoples fully armed with firearms. Raiding parties usually went south because the population densities were higher and the people were sedentary farmers.

1658 – While the eastern Rickohocken’s decimated the Siouans of North Carolina, the western Rickohockens attacked their immediate neighbors to the south, the Chiska. Next in line were the Apike, in the vicinity of modern day Knoxville. The Chiska were particularly vulnerable since they lived in small villages, with minimal fortifications. Apparently, the Chiska were completely driven out of eastern Tennessee at this time. The survivors probably took refuge in the Smoky Mountains, moved west or took refuge among the Muskogeans of the Chattahoochee Basin. There were Chickasaw villages in SW Georgia in the 1700s.

1659 – An army of 1000 Rickohocken warriors and some white men (all armed with arquebusess) attacked without warning the powerful Tama Province on the Altamaha and lower Ocmulgee Rivers. The province was annihilated. The Tamatli were the branch of the Creeks with many Maya cultural traits.

By this time the Rickohocken slave raids had produced a shock wave of horror across the Southeast. The Rickohockens killed all male adults and toddlers too young to walk back to Virginia. Most severely affected were the many small Siouan ethnic groups in south-central Virginia and the Carolina Piedmont. Many of these ethnic groups soon ceased to exist.

1661 – On June 20, 1661 (Gregorian Calendar) Chikamauka raiders destroyed the Mission Santo Domingo de Talaje at the mouth of the Altamaha River near modern day Darien, GA.

1669 – First settlement of the Carolina Colony was founded at Albemarle Sound.

1670 – Charlestowne was founded at the bay where the Ashley and Cooper Rivers meet.

1673 – Trade delegations journeyed to the Kusa on the Ashley and Cooper Rivers, plus the Catawba farther north. The southerly location of the Kusa suggests that the town of Kofitachiki was also farther south that is typically assumed. Cartographer d’Lisle placed It on the upper reaches of the Santee River.

1673 – James Needham and Gabriel Arthur pass through the Oconanechee territory, cross over the Blue Ridge Mountains and then spend some time with the Tomahitans.

1674 – Dr, Henry Woodward journeyed to the principal town of the Westo’s to negotiate with them. He also made contact with Savano (Southern Shawnee) village across the Savannah River, who warned the Westo’s that they were about to be attacked by the Cusseta’s, Chickasaws and Chorakees. Woodward’s warning to the Westo’s put him in good graces with them. He was subsequently able to establish trade relations with them.

1674 – Woodward wrote the first report to the Lord Proprietors which mentions the ethnic name, Chorakee. He had not made any direct contact with them, but only knew that they were enemies of the Westo, who occupied towns near the headwaters of the Savannah River.

1675 – Dr. Henry Woodward made his first journey to the Middle Chattahoochee River Basin to meet the leaders of towns that would soon form the People of One Fire or Creek Confederacy. He returned the next year and often, again until his death in 1690. Woodward had 12 partners from Charlestowne, who provided a variety of English goods to the ancestors of the Creeks and encouraged them to remain independent of Spain.

1679 – Robert Holder traveled from Charleston, passed over the Blue Ridge Mountains and then had trade talks with the native peoples of the Upper Tennessee River. At that time, the largest ethnic group of the Upper Tennessee region were the Koasati, who called their province, Caskenampo. The word means “many warriors” in Koasati.
Holder used Muskogean guides for the journey because at that time the peoples along the entire route spoke Muskogean dialects. The dominant province in southeastern Tennessee at that time was the Tanasi. The South Carolina Muskogean guides called them the Tenesaw and their province Tenesi. When the expedition returned to Charleston, the mapmaker recorded the name of the region as being Tenesee.

1680 – Three hundred Westo raiders attacked and destroyed the principal Spanish mission in Guale, Santa Catalina de Guale. It was defended by a newly built stone fort, 6 Spanish soldiers and 40 Wahale (Guale) militiamen. Nearby missions soon were sacked by either Westos, Chikamaukas or Yamasees.

1680 – The Westo slave-raiders had become an increasing nuisance to the young colony of South Carolina after they ran out of small Native American tribes to decimate. Small bands of Westo had been raiding plantations to steal slaves to sell to other plantations. Sometimes in the process, English colonists were killed. The Lord Proprietors wanted to end the slave raids and let their desires be known that the Westos were no longer to be treated with special deference. However, the Indian traders were growing wealthy from the slave trade and were reluctant to completely forego its profits.

In this year, the Westo lost their trade concession with a group of middlemen, known as the Goose Creek men. The Goose Creek men then traded arquebuses to the Savano and assisted them in attacking Westo settlements. By 1683 most of the Westo villages had been destroyed. The surviving Westo fled west and joined the new Creek Confederacy. There was a Creek village named Westo until the Indian Removal Period (1830s.)

1680-1690 – During this decade the Savano replaced the Westo as the “most favored nation” among South Carolina traders. The Savano were given special treatment by the colonial government while the slave traders bought all the slaves that the Savano could capture. Most of the slaves were Muskogean from eastern Georgia. However, the Muskogean increasingly took slaves from their attackers as their confederacy strengthened. By the end of the decade, the Savano had been decimated by Muskogean attacks. The surviving Savanos moved north into the Tennessee River Valley or even migrated to the Middle Atlantic region.

1683 – English pirates raided several of the Spanish missions in the Province of Guale (now Georgia.)

Special Note: The probable meaning of the Creek town name, Taliwa – Taliwa was ancient Muskogean town on the Upper Etowah River that was occupied from at least 800 AD until it was destroyed by the Overhills Cherokees in 1755. The word means “singers or choir” in contemporary Oklahoma Mvkoke, but that doesn’t quite make sense. However, there are a whole bunch of Creek town and place names (both in Oklahoma and in the Southeast, that are not words in Oklahoma Mvskoke. The late scholar John Swanton unknowingly gave us the answer, In his book, The Early History of the Creek Indians and their Neighbors, Swanton mentioned that William Bartram visited an Apalachicola community which he recorded as Taloowah Thlocco – which means “Town Big” in the Apalachicola language. Apalachicola is a mixture of Hitchiti, Gulf Coast Choctaw and Archaic Mvskoke. We have already mentioned in previous newsletters that the French maps showed the Apalachicola occupying what is now NW Georgia until 1763. The fact that Taliwa is the Cherokee way of pronouncing the Apalachicola word for town, is very strong evidence that indeed the Apalachicola or Lower Creeks, were in the NW Georgia mountains in the 1700s. Swanton’s books is a must read for all Creek scholars. The type style of this book is very small, but there is a massive amount of archival information in Swanton’s masterpiece, which gives a much more complex perspective on Creek history than is typical of 20th century history books.


Thornton, Richard. People of One Fire. Web. Georgia. 2010-2013. Digital Rights Copyright 2010-2013 by AccessGenealogy.com.

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