“Indian Territory”

The former director of Reinhardt’s Funk Heritage Center, Joe Kitchens, has penned an interesting post on Longleaf Journal:

Most of us have a tendency to “conflate” what we learn about specific periods of history so that we often fix in our own minds that Native Peoples of the eighteenth or nineteenth century lived as they had lived in the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries, when, in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Native Peoples experienced dramatic changes in their ways of living and even in their locations. European arrival and colonization had a transformative effect on Native Americans as it did on the Europeans’ lives and practices. Communicable diseases brought by Europeans devastated Native American populations. Some researchers have concluded that losses amounted to more than 90% of native populations.

There are many common misconceptions about the Southeastern Indians, especially the Cherokees and Creeks whose history has become conflated into a minor subtext in school books -especially in Georgia. One is the assumption that their areas of occupation were static, that Native Peoples had lived in these locales where Europeans first encountered them for eons of time. Areas occupied by Native Americans typically had few clear boundaries and once the European invasions began, many village sites relocated out of fear or a desire to relocate to places that offered easier avenues of trade with the newcomers, or at safe distances from negative influences.

Boundaries became much more important after European settlers began to arrive in greater numbers and the pressure for new settlement areas for whites arose. For example, when South Carolina was settled in the late seventeenth century, several southern and a few non-southern Native American entities established a trading presence on the Savannah River by movinging villages there. This was to establish proximity to the trade paths used by the Carolina traders and to be certain they could serve as the middle men in any exchanges over the horizon. This included Creeks, Cherokees, Shawnees, and Chickasaws among others. In general, Native Peoples desired trade with the Europeans whose steel weapons, woven clothes and muskets were eagerly sought. The medium of exchange was-in the deep south-essentially deerskins. An epidemic among cattle herds in the British Isles in the early eighteenth century meant the demand for American hides was intense for several decades.

Read the whole thing

Another One

This historical marker stands in Athens, Tennessee. I took the photo in 2006 when we stopped there on our way north for a wedding (I discovered it just now in my photo library). I post it here as a followup to a recent post about romantic Indian legends. 

More detail:

It all started at a place called Fort Loudoun in the days when the French claimed the majority of the land that was to become Tennessee.

In 1754 war broke out between the French and English in a battle over the ownership of the Ohio Valley. Each side attempted to win aid from the various Indian tribes.

The Cherokee Nation, because of an agreement made with George II in 1730, first sided with the English. Actually it didn’t mean a thing to them whom they fought for or against. War, to the Cherokee, was a kind of vocation – an intrinsic part of their lifestyle that they enjoyed. They loved fighting and would go off on the warpath at the drop of a feather.

In the meantime, other tribes sided with the French. Some of these tribes were the very ones the Cherokee had fought throughout the years, and they harbored bitter feelings of revenge. Cherokee villages were raided by rival tribes loyal to the French while Cherokee warriors were out fighting for the English.

The raids caused the Overhill Cherokees to demand that the English build a fort to protect their women and children while the braves were out fighting. In 1757 the English from the South Carolina colony built Fort Loudoun, located at the mouth of the Tellico River, on the south bank of the Little Tennessee.

In the meantime the war was going badly for the French, and in desperation they began telling the Cherokee that the English, if they were the victors, planned to settle Indian land, build forts and cabins, and drive out all the game. The French, on the other hand, reassured the Indians that they only wanted to trade and were not interested in settlement.

In 1759 the panicky Cherokee raided English settlements, killing and scalping settlers. Then the Indians laid siege to Fort Loudoun and starved the English garrisoned there into surrender.

When the English soldiers attempted to leave the fort, they were ambushed by the Indians.

One wounded officer staggered into an Indian village. The chief took pity on him, and the old man’s daughter, Nocatula, nursed him back to health. Why the officer, given the belligerent mood of the Indians at the time toward the English, was given sanctuary is anyone’s guess. Nevertheless, the officer was given the Indian name of “Connestoga” and accepted into the tribe.

Patients often fall in love with their nurses, and Connestoga was no exception. With the old chief’s blessings, the white convert married Nocatula.

But the marriage was star-crossed from the beginning. Much ill feeling still existed among certain Indians toward the white man. War chiefs like Dragging Canoe were whipping up frenzied hatred among the tribes, and the new bridegroom was regarded with more than passing suspicion.

One warrior decided that he would solve the problem of the white man himself. Not only did he hate the whites, but he, too, was in love with Nocatula. By ridding himself of his rival, he would kill two birds with one stone.

The jealous man saw his chance one day and plunged a knife deep into Connestoga’s chest. Then he fled.

As Connestoga lay dying, Nocatula declared her undying love for her husband. Then she took her own knife and plunged it into her own breast.

The old chief was deeply saddened at the loss of his daughter and son-in-law. Luckily, the murderer had not escaped the village, and when he was returned – and according to the Cherokee right of blood revenge – the old chief killed the man himself.

Then the chief buried his daughter and her husband. In Connestoga’s hand he placed an acorn. In his daughter’s, he placed a hackberry.

Fed by the bodies beneath the ground, these two seeds grew into healthy trees and thrived for over 150 years. But as all living things do, they eventually died.

Two more trees were planted over the graves to replace them. But then something odd happened. The two substitutes died a short time later for no reason. The legend is told that the spirits of Connestoga and Nocatula rejected the surrogates as unworthy, and killed them both.

Today only stumps of the original oak and hackberry remain, planted over two centuries ago by a sad old Indian chief who wanted to symbolize the everlasting love between his daughter and the white man she loved enough to die for.

I confess that I find this story increasingly difficult to believe as I read through it….

The Florida Panhandle

Enjoyed a weekend on the Florida Panhandle, with its fine white sand, Spanish moss, palm trees, marine wildlife… and fascinating history!

One interesting site is San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park in Wakulla County. The museum is great, although not much remains of the fort itself. San Marcos was built at the confluence of the Wakulla and St. Marks Rivers, about five miles inland from Apalachee Bay. The fort was held successively by four powers: Spain, Britain, the United States, and the Confederacy, thus the historic flags that greet you as you walk in (all of which were flying at half-pole for Memorial Day). But one flag not flying is that of the State of Muskogee, whose representatives briefly seized the fort in 1791. 

I had never heard of this effort but it is one of a number of short-lived, self-declared states in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century America, such as the Republic of West Florida, the Trans-Oconee Republic, or the Republic of Fredonia. The State of Muskogee was the project of one William Augustus Bowles (1763-1805), a former Loyalist who, with British backing, set himself up as “Director General of the Muskogee Nation” and fought against the Spanish. But he was captured and starved himself to death in Havana in 1805. 

Who doesn’t love a good lighthouse? The one at the top is St. Marks Light, located within the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge on Apalachee Bay, and it still functions. The one at the bottom is the Cape St. George Light, and it exists more as a statement of civic pride than anything. Originally situated at the western end of St. George Island, it was decommissioned in 1994 and toppled by erosion 2005. The locals then salvaged as much of it as possible and reconstructed it in 2008 so that it welcomes you to St. George Island as you drive in on the causeway. 

We had seen the Florida State Capitol before, but I was happy to get this photograph as we were driving through Tallahassee, showing both the Old Capitol (1845) in the foreground and the New Capitol (1977) in the background. 

Lost Mountain

I have discovered that Lost Mountain, an unincorporated part of western Cobb county, has applied for city status in order to preserve its semi-rural nature. The place had a role to play in the Atlanta Campaign, and is famous for its old country store, which has been in continuous operation since 1881. Plus, like Waleska and the Stone Pile near Dahlonega, it has a romantic Cherokee legend associated with it. According to one version of the story, the Cherokee chief Nickajack had a daughter named Oolalee, whom he had betrothed to the young brave Chickoee. However, Oolalee’s heart belonged to another brave named Sawnee, of whom her father did not approve – and with whom she eloped, never to be seen again. 

In later years, the story says, old Nickajack used to sit by the door of his wigwam and looking away to the northwest would murmur, in his native tongue, the syllable “lost!” His tribesmen, hearing his constant murmur of “lost, lost,” when he looked toward the mountain, called it “Lost Mountain.” 

I would be interested to know more about why white people enjoyed these sorts of stories, told in this sort of sentimental, figurative, “moonshiney” diction. Here’s another example from Rock City, a tourist trap in Chattanooga, Tenn., complete with manufactured waterfall and manufactured Indian Legend to go along with it.

I assume that work has been done on this question….

Blue Beads in Alaska

From Gizmodo (hat tip: Robert Black):

Found in Alaska, These Blue Beads Could Be the Oldest Evidence of European Goods in North America

 
European-crafted glass beads found at three different indigenous sites in northern Alaska date back to the pre-colonial period of North America, in what is an intriguing archaeological discovery.

Somehow, these blueberry-sized beads made their way from what is now Venice, Italy, to the Brooks Range mountains of Alaska at some point during the mid-to-late 15th century, according to new research published in American Antiquity.

The authors of the paper, archaeologists Michael Kunz from the University of Alaska Museum of the North and Robin Mills from the Bureau of Land Management, suspect the beads were trade goods that, after passing through China’s Silk Road, eventually made their way through Siberia and eventually into Alaska via the Bering Strait. If confirmed, it would be “the first documented instance of the presence of indubitable European materials in prehistoric sites in the Western Hemisphere as the result of overland transport across the Eurasian continent,” the authors wrote in their study.

No biggie, right? In other words, indigenous North Americans had their hands on Renaissance jewelry prior to the arrival of European colonists, if this interpretation is correct. Mind blown.

These glass beads, with regional names like “Early Blue” and “Ichtucknee Plain” and scientifically known as the “IIa40” variety, have been found in North America before, including the Caribbean, the eastern coast of Central and North America, and the eastern Great Lakes region, but those finds date back to between 1550 and 1750. In case you flunked grade 2 history, Christopher Columbus reached the Americas in 1492. Dating these beads to the pre-colonial era is thus very significant.

Read the whole thing

The Stone Pile

A former student of mine shares a Facebook post of local historical interest:

The Georgia Photography Fanatic.

The accompanying text:

Ten miles north of Dahlonega, GA, at the intersection of US 19 and State Road 60, you’ll come up to a roundabout with something odd in the middle: a big stone pile inside a triangle! It’s known as the Stone Pile Gap & it has quite a history!

The historical marker reads:

“This pile of stones marks the grave of a Cherokee princess, Trahlyta. According to legend her tribe, living on Cedar Mountain north of here knew the secret of the magic springs of eternal youth from the Witch of Cedar Mountain.

Trahlyta, kidnapped by a rejected suitor, Wahsega, was taken far away and lost her beauty. As she was dying, Wahsega promised to bury her here near her home and the magic springs. Custom arose among the Indians and later the Whites to drop stones, one for each passerby, on her grave for good fortune. The magic springs, now known as Porter Springs, lie 4 miles northeast of here.”

According to lore, the Georgia Department of Transportation has tried to remove the stones on more than one occasion during road construction. Supposedly each time it happened, at least one person died in accidents while moving the pile, leading many to believe that removing a stone from the pile will bring the curse of the witch of Cedar Mountain upon the thief, so only recently they decided to do the next best thing; build a roundabout around the stone pile!

The Georgia Photography Fanatic.

The historical marker is quoted accurately (although according to the GHS website the maker is currently “down”):

Georgia Historical Society.

Of course I would need to do more research on this question before coming up with a definitive answer (who exactly were these people who died?), but my hunch is that this entire thing – both the original story and the story of the subsequently immovable pile – is B.S. If nothing else, the Cherokee did not have “princesses,” and any story that refers to one should be taken with a grain of salt. 

Aztec Death Whistles

Something I did not know about (posted on Free Republic): 

Aztec Death Whistles Sound like Human Screams and May Have Been Used as Psychological Warfare

When odd, skull-shaped grave items were found by archaeologists decades ago at an Aztec temple in Mexico, they were assumed to be mere toys or ornaments, and were catalogued and stored in warehouses. However, years later, experts discovered they were creepy ‘death whistles’ that made piercing noises resembling a human scream, which the ancient Aztecs may have used during ceremonies, sacrifices, or during battles to strike fear into their enemies.

The Aztec Death Whistles were Not Common Instruments

Two skull-shaped, hollow whistles were found 20 years ago at the temple of the wind god Ehecatl, in the hands of a sacrificed male skeleton. When the whistles were finally blown, the sounds created were described as terrifying. The whistles make the sounds of “humans howling in pain, spooky gusts of whistling wind or the ‘scream of a thousand corpses” writes MailOnline.

Roberto Velázquez Cabrera, a mechanical engineer and founder of the Mexico-based Instituto Virtual de Investigación Tlapitzcalzin, has spent years recreating the instruments of the pre-Columbians to examine the sounds they make. He writes in MexicoLore that the death whistle in particular was not a common instrument, and was possibly reserved for sacrifices – blown just before a victim was killed in order to guide souls to the afterlife – or for use in battle.

There’s more (including pictures) at the link. You can watch a demonstration of one of these death whistles on YouTube (hat tip: Dan Franke). 

Pine Log Creek

Enjoyed a hike today at Pine Log Creek Trail, on GA-140 east of Rydal. There are two loops for a total distance of 4.5 miles. The highlight is the CCC quarry that you arrive at at the top of the second loop, which is now filled with water. 

The trail is maintained by Bartow County. I appreciate their bridges, and it’s nice to see inspirational graffiti on them!

I thought some of the tree labels could have been slightly better done, however.

Not too far away is a historical marker from the elusive Pine Log Historical Society, which contains interesting information about the Pine Log Indian Town.

It’s nice how large the sign is, and how the authors make use of both sides. I thought the bibliography could havre been better formatted, though. 

The graphic at the top is an emblem of the Seven Clans

Clovis Not First Anymore

A recent and significant find, as reported by Tom Metcalfe for NBC News (hat tip: Paul Halsall):

Ancient stone tools suggest first people arrived in America earlier than thought

Three deliberately-shaped pieces of limestone — a pointed stone and two cutting flakes — may be the oldest human tools yet found in the Americas.

Pieces of limestone from a cave in Mexico may be the oldest human tools ever found in the Americas, and suggest people first entered the continent up to 33,000 years ago – much earlier than previously thought.

The findings, published Wednesday in two papers in the journal Nature, which include the discovery of the stone tools, challenge the idea that people first entered North America on a land bridge between Siberia and Alaska and an ice-free corridor to the interior of the continent.

Precise archaeological dating of early human sites throughout North America, including the cave in Mexico, suggests instead that they may have entered along the Pacific coast, according to the research.

Ciprian Ardelean, an archaeologist with the Autonomous University of Zacatecas in Mexico, the lead author of one of the papers, said the finds were the result of years of careful digging at the Chiquihuite Cave in north-central Mexico.

The steeply-inclined cave is high on a mountainside and filled with crumbling layers of gravel: “The deeper you go, the higher the risk for the walls to collapse,” he said.

The excavations paid off with the discovery of three deliberately-shaped pieces of limestone — a pointed stone and two cutting flakes — that may be the oldest human tools yet found in the Americas.

They date from a time when the continent seems to have been occupied by only a few groups of early humans – perhaps “lost migrations” that left little trace on the landscape and in the genetic record, Ardelean said.

More at the link. UPDATE: More at Nature.

Gene Flow in the Pacific

From the Guardian (hat tip: Paul Halsall), something I’ve always wondered about:

Indigenous Americans had contact with Polynesians 800 years ago, DNA reveals

Indigenous Americans and Polynesians bridged vast expanses of open ocean around the year 1200 and mingled, leaving incontrovertible proof of their encounter in the DNA of present-day populations, new studies have revealed.

Whether peoples from what is today Colombia or Ecuador drifted thousands of kilometres to tiny islands in the middle of the Pacific, or whether seafaring Polynesians sailed upwind to South America and then back again, is still unknown.

But what is certain, according to a study in Nature, is that it took place hundreds of years before Europeans set foot in either region, and left individuals scattered across what became French Polynesia with signature traces of the New World in their DNA.

“These findings change our understanding of one of the most unknown chapters in the history of our species’ great continental expansions,” the senior author Andreas Moreno-Estrada, principal investigator at Mexico’s National Laboratory of Genomics for biodiversity, told AFP.

Read the whole thing.