1591 Floridae Americae Provinciae Map

Mysterious Cherokee Raiders

The Early History of Jackson County, GA describes a Cherokee tribe in the region northeast of present day Metropolitan Atlanta, known as the Bohurons. 1 The book, created from the writings of a self-educated civic leader in the mid-1800s, contains many Bohuron personal names. None of them are Native American words. 2 They are Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, French and Dutch names. The name of the tribe means “Nobility” or “Nobles” in Arabic. The name of the chief’s horse, “Al Buraq” means “Lightning” in Arabic and was the name of the horse that took Mohammed to heaven from Jerusalem.

In 1770 the Bohurons were in territory controlled by the Creek Confederacy. They were defeated by their long time enemies the Talasee Creeks. Remember from an earlier section that the Talasee Creeks were the inhabitants of the Little Tennessee River until forced out by Cherokee invaders. The Talasees were looking for revenge. However, the Bohurons had made enemies elsewhere. Apparently, they raided Native American villages and frontier farmsteads on horseback. The real Cherokees were probably blamed on many occasions for their foul deeds.   Predatory mixed-blood bands, such as the Bohurons may have been the Chichimec raiders described by Spanish missionaries on the coast of Georgia.

1591 Floridae Americae Provinciae Map
1591 Floridae Americae Provinciae Map

In his 1664 book, Charles de Rochefort described a wandering Native people that preyed on other Native peoples.At the time, Apalache was the name used to describe the original Creek Confederacy. The capital of the Apalache was in the Georgia Mountains. He wrote:

The Apalache’s have a long continuance of peace; however they think it prudence to stand always upon their guard, and they have always Sentinels at the avenues of their Cities, to prevent the incursions of a certain savage and extremely cruel people, which hath no settled habitation, but wander up and down the Provinces with an incredible swiftness, making havock where-ever they come, especially where they find no resistance.” 3

Rochefort’s description of a wandering, predatory people came at the exact time that Virginia institutionalized slavery and armed the Rickohockens to carry out massive slave raids. However, since 1647 the Rickohockens had been dispatching slave raiders on a smaller scale. Little is known about the Rickohockens until they establish their slave-raiding base near Augusta, GA. However, the Cherokee slave raiders ranged from the shores of Lake Erie to southern Florida. They certainly match the description of the wandering raiders, described by Rochefort.

Several bands of wandering slave raiders may have developed from the demand by the English colonies in North America and the Caribbean for hundreds of thousands of Native American slaves. It is estimated that over 600,000 Southeastern Native Americans were captured to be slaves, and perhaps another 250,000 were killed in the slave raids. 4

Track Rock Terrace Complex

Track Rock Archaeological Site
Track Rock Archaeological Site

Immediately prior to the History Channel’s premier of “America Unearthed – The Mayas in Georgia” on December 21, 2012, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians issued a public proclamation in conjunction with the U. S. Forest Service that stated that they were the builders of the half square mile stone ruins. 5 Two of the 300+ stone structures in the archaeological zone were dated to around 1000 AD in the year 2001. There has never been a comprehensive archaeological study of the ruins.

The province around Brasstown Bald Mountain in Georgia was called Itsapa by the Itsate Creeks. It means “Place of the Itza Mayas” in both Itza Maya and Itsate Creek. To the south in the Nacoochee Valley was one of the towns named Itsate. The Cherokees always called that region, Itsayi, which means the same thing in their language. The Cherokees also continued to call the cluster of towns with mounds on the headwaters of the Little Tennessee River in northeast Georgia, Itsate. A great victory was won there over the British in 1757. The other name for the mountain gap was Echoe, which is the Itsate Creek word for “deer.”

Between 1567 and 1595 (at least) Spanish traders traveled to the Apalache Province to trade European goods for Georgia gold and precious stones. They called the town where the ruins now lay, Copal. 6 Charles Rochefort wrote that the priests of Apalache burned incense around their temples, so that is probably the origin of the name, Copal.

In contrast to the public statement made in December 2012, the Cherokees have a legend going back at least 200 years that they were the people who destroyed the capital town of Apalache. 7 The legend specifically describes the capital as a great town on the side of a high mountain. This destruction would have had to occur sometime between 1665 and 1701.

According to their tradition there was a three way war going on between the Cherokees, the Shawnee and the Creeks (then called Apalache.) Supposedly a Shawnee shaman told the Cherokees about a secret way to reach the temple at the top of the town. Two Cherokee warriors stole the ruby eyes of a great serpent idol in the temple and hid it a cave within Cherokee territory. Once in possession of the ruby serpent eyes, the Cherokee warriors were invincible. They sacked the capital of Apalache then defeated the Shawnee.

Of course, a legend is just that, but the generalities of the legend would explain the stark changes on European maps between 1701 and 1718. The Creek provinces, Apalache and the Shawnee disappeared from western North Carolina during those two decades. This is also the period when Georgia archaeologists, Joseph Caldwell, determined that the great Creek town of Ustanoli on the Tugaloo River was sacked. It was replaced in a few years by a Cherokee hamlet. Those two decades must have been a horrific time of terror and bloodshed when no agricultural Native American villagers knew when they might be suddenly killed or marched away in chains.

Consult Further:

Thornton, Richard. The Appalachian Colonists from the Mediterranean Basin. Digital Rights Copyright 2013 by AccessGenealogy.com.

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  1. White, W. E. (Editor) Wilson, Gustavus J. N. (Author) The Early History of Jackson County, GA, Atlanta: Foote & Davis Printers, 1914; pp. 17-19.[]
  2. Thornton, Richard. Mysterious Bohuron Tribe in North Georgia. People of One Fire. Native American Brain Food No. 25, February 25, 2013.[]
  3. Rochefort, Charles, History of the Caribby Islands (1665 in French, 1666 in English) Chapter 8, Paysage au Apalache p. 244.[]
  4. Gallay, Allan, Indian Slavery in the Americas, The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, 2012.[]
  5. Thornton, Richard. U.S. Forest Service Tries to Slam Dunk History Channel Before Broadcast. Examiner.com. December 22, 2012.[]
  6. Hakluyt, Richard, The Principall Navigations Voiages and Discoveries of the English Nation (Imprinted at London, 1589)  Volume 9, The Relation of Nicholas Burgoignon.[]
  7. Thornton, Richard. The Legend of the Ruby-Eyed Serpent Idol. Examiner.com. January 6 2013.[]

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