Tennessee River Tribes

We have had occasion to notice several tribes or portions of tribes in the valley of the Tennessee or even farther north whose history is in some way bound up with that of the better-known peoples of the Creek Confederacy. Thus the Tamahita came from the upper Tennessee or one of its branches, part of the Koasati and part of the Tuskegee were on the Tennessee, and there are indications that the same was true of part of the Tamali. Perhaps another case of the kind is furnished by the Oconee. Still another people divided into a northern and southern band were the Yuchi, whose principal residence was Savannah River, but part of whom were on the Tennessee. There were, however, two tribes in the north not certainly represented among the southern Muskhogeans and not certainly Muskhogean, but of sufficient importance in connection with the general problem of southern tribes to receive notice here.

Tali Tribe

One of these was the Tali, a tribe which appears first in the De Soto narratives. It is not mentioned by Biedma or Garcilasso, and Elvas gives it but scant attention, 1 but from what Ranjel says it was evidently of some importance. His account is as follows:

Friday, July 9 [1540], the commander and his army departed from Coste and crossed the other branch of the river and passed the night on its banks. And on the other side was Tali, and since the river flows near it and is large, they were not able to cross it. And the Indians, believing that they would cross, sent canoes and in them their wives and sons and clothes from the other side; but they were all taken suddenly, and as they were going with the current, the governor forced them all to turn back, which was the reason that this chief came in peace and took them across to the other side in his canoes, and gave the Christians what they had need of. And he did this also in his own land as they passed through it afterwards, and they set out Sunday and passed the night in the open country.

Monday they crossed a river and slept in the open country. Tuesday they crossed another river and slept at Tasqui. During all the days of their march from Tali the chief of Tali had corn and mazamorras and cooked beans, and everything that could be brought from his villages bordering the way. 2

The Tali now disappear from sight and are not heard of again until late in the seventeenth century, when they are found in approximately the same position as 150 years earlier. 3 Daniel Coxe gives them as one of four small nations occupying as many islands in the Tennessee River. 4 He represents them as the nation farthest up-stream. In the summer of 1701 five Canadians ascended the Tennessee and reached South Carolina, and from one of these Sauvolle, Iberville’s brother, who had been left in command of the French fort at Biloxi, obtained considerable information regarding the tribes then settled along that river. He embodied it in an official letter dated at Biloxi, August 4, 1701. From this it appears that the Canadians first came upon a Chickasaw town “about 140 leagues” from the mouth of the Ohio, then upon the “Taougalé,” a band of Yuchi, an unspecified distance higher up, and “after that the Talé, where an Englishman is established to purchase slaves, as they make war with many other nations.” 5

On the maps of the latter part of the seventeenth and early part of the eighteenth centuries this name is persistent. The tribe is generally placed above the Tahogale, now known to have been a band of Yuchi, and below the Kaskinampo and Shawnee. The name of the Tennessee band of Koasati rarely appears. In another set of maps we find a different group of towns, one of which is called Taligui, and in still another, from the French, a set in which a town Talicouet is in evidence. There can be no doubt that Talicouet is the Cherokee town Tellico, since the maps show it in the proper position, and of the three other towns one, Aiouache, is evidently Hiwassee or Ayuhwa‛si; while another, Amobi, is the Cherokee town Amoye which appears on some maps. The fourth, Tongeria, is the Tahogale of other cartographers. Taligui is evidently intended for the same town as Talicouet. These two forms combined with a well-known Algonquian suffix would produce a name almost identical with that of the Talligewi of Delaware tradition. Mr. Mooney believes that the Talligewi were the Cherokee, 6 and this would tend to confirm the identification, since the whole tribe may have received its name from the Tellico towns. This is a matter which does not, however, concern us here. The important question is, were the Tali, Taligui, and Talicouet identical? If so, then the Tali are at once established as Cherokee. That the Cherokee country extended in later times as far as the great bend of the Tennessee is well known, but this fact necessarily tends to cast doubt upon any earlier tradition of such an extension, since it assumes an intervening period of abandonment. Still it is interesting to know that there was such a tradition. In an article on “The Indians of Marshall County, Alabama” by Mr. O. D. Street, of Guntersville, Alabama, we read:

The late Gen. S. K. Raybum, who came to this country many years before the removal of the Cherokees to the West and was intimately acquainted with many of them, told the writer that he had been informed by intelligent Cherokees that, many thousand moons before, their people had occupied all the country westward to Bear Creek and Duck River, but that on account of constant wars with the Chickasaws they had sought quiet by withdrawing into the eastern mountains, though they had never renounced their title to the country. 7

Our investigation has now brought out the following facts. On early maps four or five small tribes appear on the middle course of Tennessee River. One of these, Tali, bears the same name as a tribe found by De Soto near the big bend of the same stream. Maps of a somewhat later date show the same number of towns, but they are not all identical. Three are, however, evidently Cherokee towns, and one, Taligui or Talicouet, is certainly the Cherokee town of Tellico (Talikwa) . We also have traditional evidence that the Cherokee were in possession at an early date of that region where the Tali lived. If the Taligui and Talicouet of later maps are the same as the Tali of earlier ones the identification is complete; if there was merely a chance resemblance between the names they were, of course, distinct. The chances, in my opinion, are very much in favor of the identification.

Kaskinampo Tribe

The name of another problematical tribe is spelled variously Kaskinampo, Caskinampo, Kaskin8ba, Caskemampo, Cakinonpa, Kakinonba, Karkinonpols, Kasquinanipo. It is applied also to the Tennessee River. Coxe speaks of the Tennessee as a river “some call Kasqui, so named from a nation inhabiting a little above its mouth.” 8 This spelling serves to connect the tribe with one mentioned by De Soto, and called in the writings of his expedition Casqui, 9 Icasqui, 10 or Casquin. 11 The Spaniards reached the principal town of Casqui about a week after they had crossed the Mississippi, while moving north. The Casqui were at that time engaged in war with another province or tribe known as Pacaha. In the principal town of Casqui near the chiefs house was an artificial mound on which De Soto had a cross set. Ranjel says, “It was Saturday when they entered his village, and it had very good cabins and in the principal one, over the door, were many heads of very fierce bulls, just as in Spain noblemen who are sportsmen mount the heads of wild boars or bears. There the Christians planted the cross on a mound, and they received it and adored it with much devotion, and the blind and lame came to seek to be healed.” 12

Afterwards De Soto went on to Pacaha and finally made peace between the two, a peace which we may surmise did not last much longer than the presence of De Soto insured it. While at Pacaha the Spaniards learned of a province to the north called Caluça 13 or Caluç. 14 This would seem to be the Choctaw or Chickasaw Oka lusa, “black water,” from which we may possibly infer the Muskhogean connection of Casquin, but, on the other hand, the name may have been obtained from interpreters secured east of the Mississippi, and may be nothing more than a translation of the original into Chickasaw. After this sudden and rather dramatic appearance of the tribe we are studying upon the page of history, they disappear into the dark, and all that is preserved to us from a later period is the reference of Coxe, two or three other short notices, and the persistent clinging of their name in its ancient form to the Tennessee; but scarcely anything is known regarding them, either as to their affinities or ultimate fate. A French description of the province of Louisiana dated about 1712 states that the “Caskinanpau” were then living upon the river now called the Tennessee, but that the Cumberland was known as “the River of the Caskinanpau” because they had formerly lived there. 15 In the letter of Sauvolle, already quoted, the “Cassoty” and “Casquinonpa” are represented as “on an island which the river forms, on the two extremities of which are situated these two nations.” 16 On very many maps they appear associated with the Shawnee, and on several a trail is laid down from the Tennessee to St. Augustine, with a legend to the effect that “by this trail the Shawnee and Kasquinampos go to trade with the Spaniards.”

Besides these well-defined, though unidentified, tribes we find a few names on early maps which are perhaps synonyms for some of those already considered. One is “Sabanghiharea, ” placed on Tennessee River and perhaps identical with the “Wabano” of La Salle. It contains the Algonquian word for “east.” On the same map and on the same river is “Matahale,” perhaps the “Matohah” of Joliet’s map.Citations:

  1. Bourne, Narr. of De Soto, pp. 80-81.[]
  2. Bourne, Narr. of De Soto, II, pp. 111-112.[]
  3. Here, as throughout the present paper, I accept that theory of De Soto’s route which carries him as far north as the Tennessee.[]
  4. French, Hist. Colls. La., 1850, p. 230.[]
  5. MS. in Library of the La. Hist. Soc.; Louisiane, Correspondence Générale, 1678-1706, pp. 403-404; cf. French, Hist. Colls. La., 1851, p. 238. In French the name Talé has been miscopied “Calés.”[]
  6. 19th Ann. Rept. Bur. Amer. Ethn., pp. 184-185.[]
  7. Trans. Ala. Hist. Soc., IV, p. 195.[]
  8. Coxe in French, Hist. Colls. La., 1850, p. 229.[]
  9. Bourne, Narr. of De Soto, I, p. 128; II, p. 138.[]
  10. Bourne, Narr. of De Soto, II, p. 26.[]
  11. Shipp, De Soto and Fla., p. 408.[]
  12. Bourne, Narr. of De Soto, II, pp. 138-139.[]
  13. Bourne, Narr. of De Soto, I, p. 128.[]
  14. Bourne, Narr. of De Soto, II, p. 30.[]
  15. French Transcription, Lib. Cong.[]
  16. MS. in Lib. La. Hist. Soc., Louisiane, Correspondence Générale, pp. 403-404.[]

Swanton, John Reed. Early History of the Creek Indians and Their Neighbors. US Government Printing Office. 1902.

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