How to use Cherokee Place Names

We suggest that you click on the Index button above.  That will open up a useful starting place with partial lists of the many place names in the blog.  There are links to specific sections containing a given group of names so that you can quickly locate information about each one. Note that there is also a “Search” function on the upper left of this and other pages.  You can use it to search this site for any word you wish.  [Unfortunately, for the mobile version, one must scroll all the way to the bottom of a section to find the search function.  The search function on the mobile version can be most quickly located by going to the Index section or the About section.  They are much shorter than the Home section, and you will be able to scroll very quickly to the bottom of each of them to find the search button.  Any search button you find anywhere on the site will search the entire site.]

You may also find the About section worth browsing.  It contains links to a number of interesting external sites, including spoken Cherokee samples  and Amazing Grace sung in Cherokee. Your comments are always welcome. We send a special greeting to the Rabun County [GA] Historical Society.  They seem to have one of the best organized county historical websites in the old Cherokee country.

To make the content of this blog more widely available, the materials in it have been reorganized, extended, and provided with more illustrations and maps to create a Kindle version, which can be read on any tablet or computer with an installed Kindle reader.  The e-book has a table of contents with hyperlinks to the chapters and a list of illustrations, also with links.  There are a few internal links for cross-references, and there are external links for additional reading and research. There is an extensive index, but the items in the index do not have links because many items occur in more than one place.  Searching from the index can be done with the normal Kindle or other reader’s  search function.   The illustrations are in full color when a color-enabled e-reader is used. The book, now in its second expanded and enlarged edition [as of 23 February 2013], can be found at this link on Amazon.  It is speech-enabled, and I am impressed with how much that technology has advanced.  The voices are no longer robot-like and they generally pronounce English words and  sentences quite well.   However, the pronunciation of Cherokee words is less than perfect, as would be expected.   [Note that the Eastern Cherokee Treaty Signers pages are not included in the book.] [The price has been set at $2.99.] Thank you for your interest in Cherokee Place Names.

Eastern Cherokee Treaty Signers

It is useful to see the names of the Cherokee men who signed the various treaties made specifically with the Cherokee by the United States, beginning in 1785.  The names of some of the signers have become place names in the southeastern United States.

So that we can look at the signers’ names, I have arranged the treaties chronologically, and I have listed the signers for each treaty alphabetically by the first word of each name.   For perhaps obvious reasons, I have chosen to omit the Treaty of New Echota [1835], because this false treaty was signed by a group of Cherokee who were not authorized representatives of the tribe, and which formed the spurious legal basis for the Removal [“Trail of Tears”].  See this page for details of the Removal.

Because this list is long, please note the page numbers at the bottom of each page.   Click on the next page number to continue.

The majority of the Cherokee signers were not literate in English and the Cherokee had no written language until the early 1820s.  Signing was usually done by “his mark,” normally an “X.”   Because the name of the signer had to be written down beside his mark, it was mostly white people who had the task of creating some reasonable spelling of the Cherokee names.  The results were often quite strange, variable, and difficult to decipher even by one who knows a great deal about the Cherokee language.  Different transcribers often had quite different spellings and some of the transcribers—in my opinion—probably were very poor spellers in English, with distorted notions of how sounds should be written.  We all tend to hear sounds of some foreign language differently anyway. [Hobson-Jobsonism: altering foreign words or expressions to fit the speech and spelling patterns of another language, in this case, English.] Moreover, perhaps some of the transcribers may have been Cherokee or other Indians who also served as witnesses or even as signers and whose command of written English was less than perfect.

A good example of variability comes with the name Wyuka on the Treaty of Hopewell.  The same chief appears as Skyuka on the Treaty of Holston [1792] and the Treaty of Philadelphia [1791].  His name in Cherokee was probably Kiyuga, which retains its meaning as chipmunk, which we in the mountains call “ground squirrel” in English.

In a future post, I will provide more information about the meanings of some of the names of the signers, but, for now I will avoid making any notes directly in this list.

Treaty of Hard Labour, 1768





Mankiller of Chote

Otacite of Quaratrie


Raven of Newcassie

Raven of Tugaloo


The Wolf of Keowee


Tuckassie Keowee


Warrior of Cowie



Treaty of Lochaber, 1770



Chinista Watoga






Otacite of Higwassie






Uka Youla

Wolf of Keowee


Treaty of Hopewell, 1785

Akonoluchta, the Cabin

Amokontakona, Kutcloa

Cheanoka, of Kawetakac

Chescoonwho, Bird in Close of Tomotlug

Chesecotetona, or Yellow Bird of the Pine Log

Chesetoa, or the Rabbit of Tlacoa

Chokasatahe, Chickasaw Killer Tasonta

Chonosta, of Cowe

John, of Little Tallico

Keukuck, Talcoa

Kolakusta, or Prince of Noth

Konatota, or the Rising Fawn of Highwassay

Kostayeak, or Sharp Fellow Wataga

Kowetatahee, in Frog Town

Lach’n McIntosh Koatohee, or Corn Tassel of Toquo

Necatee, of Sawta

Newota, or the Gritzs of Chicamaga

Onanoota, of Koosoate

Ookoseta, or Sower Mush of Kooloque

Ooskwha, or Abraham of Chilkowa

Scholauetta, or Hanging Man of Chota


Sketaloska, Second Man of Tillico

Tatliusta, or Porpoise of Tilassi

Toostaka, or the Waker of Oostanawa

Tuckasee, or Terrapin of Hightowa

Tuckasee, or Young Terrapin of Allajoy

Tulatiska, of Chaway

Tulco, or Tom of Chatuga

Tuskegatahu, or Long Fellow of Chistohoe

Umatooetha, the Water Hunter Choikamawga

Unsuokanail, Buffalo White Calf New Cussee

Untoola, or Gun Rod of Seteco

Will, of Akoha

Wooaluka, the Waylayer, Chota

Wyuka, of Lookout Mountain

Yellow Bird

Cherokee counties . . .

There are eight Cherokee counties in the United States.  Seven of them have historical connections with the Cherokee people. As found in hundreds or thousands of business names, personal names, automobile models, and much more, the name “Cherokee” is greatly overused, more or less indiscriminately.  If it were possible for them to collect royalties on such usage, the three recognized Cherokee tribes would together be one of the wealthiest entities on the planet.  The Cherokee are probably the best-known worldwide of all American Indian tribes. I am going to refrain–wisely, I think–from commenting on the enormous number of Americans who insist that they have Cherokee ancestors.  And, I will have nothing to say here about the 212 groups, at last count, who declare that they are unrecognized Cherokee tribes and remnants. In modern Cherokee, the word is Tsalagi.  In the now extinct Lower Cherokee dialect, it was Tsaragi, and it was from this dialect that the name was anglicized to “Cherokee.” Although Tsalagi is not a Cherokee word, it is now the self-designation of the members of the tribes.  Its origin is uncertain, but I am inclined to agree with those who believe it may have come from Choctaw, probably from a term meaning either “people who live in the mountains” or “people who live in cave country.” Here are those eight counties, alphabetically by state name, with a brief explanation of how each one acquired its name. Cherokee County, Alabama, was formed from Cherokee lands soon after the Treaty of New Echota was signed, more than two years before the Trail of Tears. Cherokee County, Georgia. Originally, most of northwest Georgia, which then belonged to the Cherokee, was simply designated late in 1831 as that state’s Cherokee County.  Within a year, it was carved into nine new counties, and, toward the end of 1832, the Cherokee lands were distributed by lottery to white people.  Some of the Cherokee were already being forcibly removed by Georgia in 1831, years before the falsely promulgated Treaty of New Echota.  The remnant after the other nine counties were created—and a part of it used to form Milton County in 1857—is the present Cherokee County.  To be historically blunt, the State of Georgia was the most brutal of all states toward the Cherokee. Here are maps of the Cherokee lands in Georgia in 1822 and in 1834. Cherokee County, Iowa, lies in the northwestern part of the state.  It was one of many formed from “Indian Treaty Lands” in 1851.  The name seems to have been chosen because the Cherokee had no connection at all with the area.  More details about the historic and prehistoric Indians of Iowa can be found in the Wikipedia article Indians of Iowa.

Cherokee County, Kansas, is the extreme southeastern county of Kansas, bordering Craig County, Oklahoma.  Craig County was formed from a part of the Cherokee Nation when the Indian Territory became a state in 1907.   Some Cherokee people lived in that part of Kansas beginning in the 1830’s.

Cherokee County, North Carolina, is the westernmost county of the state.  It is near the heart of Tsalaguwetiyi [ᎠᎳᎫᏪᏘᏱ], the old Cherokee lands.  There are tracts of the Eastern Cherokee trust lands  [the Qualla Boundary and non-contiguous parcels] in the county, and it has a significant modern Cherokee population.  I would rate it as the most deserving of all the counties bearing the name. [The main part of the Eastern Cherokee trust lands is located in Swain and Jackson counties, with outlying parcels in Cherokee, Graham, and Haywood counties.  The Qualla Boundary is sometimes called a “reservation,” but that is not a correct designation.]

Cherokee County, Oklahoma, is at the heart of the Western Cherokee country, formed from a part of the Cherokee Indian Nation, Indian Territory, shortly before Oklahoma became a state.  The county seat, Tahlequah, is the capital of the Western Cherokee Nation today.  A little more than one-third of the population of the county are American Indians.

Cherokee County, South Carolina.  There were some Cherokee [and Catawba and other Indians] using the lands in this area when the white people moved in and pushed them away beginning in the middle of the 18th Century.

Cherokee County, Texas, adjoins the northeastern line of Houston County.  It has a complex and sad history of Cherokee settlers and their unfulfilled hopes.  You can find more details of that history here.

How Did Sequatchie Valley Get Its Name?

Please note:  The following entry is highly tentative and is subject to substantial revision as more research is completed.  After it was written, I have discovered a very old map which shows a town “Sequache.” [John Herbert’s map of 1744] [A new mapp of his maiestys flourishing province of South Carolina : shewing ye settlements of y[e] English, French and Indian nation / Jn. Herbert]  Here below is that map, and following the map is an enlarged section of the map showing Sequache a little to the right and slightly below the center.  [Enlarge either map for better viewing by left-clicking on it.]

Herbert Map 1744 Full

Herbert Map1744 enlarged

Google Earth reveals a remarkable and prominently visible valley, some 150 miles long, almost unnaturally straight, only three to five miles wide, extending from west of Knoxville southwestward to Blount County, Alabama.  The part in Tennessee is called the Sequatchie Valley; the Alabama portion is known as Brown’s Valley.  The satellite photo here is one made by NASA.


The Sequatchie River originates in southern Cumberland County, Tennessee, and meanders from side to side within the valley for a good part of the valley’s length, until it empties into the Tennessee River just west of Chattanooga.  Were the river stretched out straight, it would likely extend for well over 200 miles, but, because of its tortuosities, it traverses not quite the entire Valley within Tennessee and none at all in Alabama, of course.  Officially, it is reported to be 116 miles long, but even that figure incorporates most of the major meanders in its determination.

Before the Valley had been studied more authoritatively, it was believed to be a rift valley, which would have made it all the more remarkable.  Geologists have long since determined that it is actually an eroded anticline.  Either case would have explained the sometimes very steep escarpments on either side of the Valley.  As so often happens with other errors in every field, the designation as a rift valley [“one of only two on the planet”] has been copied into succeeding works and is still found in many references today.

Our interest lies in the word Sequatchie.  How came the Valley and the River to have this name?   And, therein we find other problems.

Mooney declares that the River—and therefore, the Valley—takes its name from a traditional Cherokee settlement on the south bank of the French Broad River, near the point at which the French Broad joins the Holston to form the Tennessee River.  In this case, I think by “traditional” he means that there must have been some memories of stories of such a place among older Cherokee people in the late 19th Century.  To this date, I have not been able to find any old maps or other historical sources to verify its precise location, and I have examined dozens of them.  He says that the name of the ancient town was Sigwetsi.  A map showing Frankliniana [eastern Tennessee] in 1813 shows no sign of the settlement or even of the large Valley.  An 1814 map has at least some hints of the Valley, but no name is applied to it, and a 1756 map seems to show it, also without a name.  One 1775 map shows a river corresponding to the location of the Sequatchie River; it is labeled the “Salecook” River.  [Salecook is probably an English attempt at “saligugi,” the Cherokee word for the common snapping turtle and the alligator snapping turtle of the Southeastern US.]

Chambers of commerce and historical sites in the region say the Valley was named for the Cherokee “chief” Sequachee or Sequatchie, who “signed the Turkeytown Treaty” of 1817, or who “signed a treaty with colonial South Carolina.”  I have found no such signer for any treaty involving the Cherokee.  If he signed any treaty, it must have been a very obscure one; however, I am continuing the research, and I will report the error if I am wrong.  Personally, I doubt that there was ever a “Chief Sequachee” who signed any treaty.  If I prove to be wrong, I will own up to it.

In the 1835 Henderson Roll, the last census of the Cherokee in the East before the Trail of Tears, there does appear one Sequahchee, who lived in Georgia.  He had no traceable connection with the Valley, and I feel quite sure that it was not named for him or his family.  He probably was removed to Oklahoma during the Trail of Tears.

[On that same roll, we find the name Sequegee, at least some of whose family survived the Trail of Tears, and whose modern descendants are the Sequichie family of Oklahoma.  Joyce Sequichie Hifler is a well-known author and columnist who has written nine inspirational books with Cherokee themes.]

Let’s see if I can assemble what I have learned from some intensive research into a plausible whole.  The following is much more speculative than is my usual practice, and it is subject to argument and correction if later research proves it highly unlikely.

The Knoxville area was first settled by whites in the 1780s.  Cherokee people living there knew about the old village of Sigwetsi, and perhaps some of it even remained intact.  I suspect that the town did not come into being until after the Spanish explorers passed through.  I will explain that reasoning shortly.

From the vicinity of old Sigwetsi, a trail developed to the west through what is now Kingston to the head of Sequatchie Valley.  The route came to be called informally “the Sequatchie road.”  English speakers spelled it more or less that way in letters and documents, some written in the early 1800s.  Because the Sequatchie road led to the Valley, it was only natural for the Valley to become the Sequatchie Valley.  I can’t prove all of this, but there are enough indications from old letters and documents to provide some support for my conclusions.

Now, having settled that, let us see what the meaning of Sigwetsi was likely to have been.

The Cherokee had never seen hogs before the Spanish explorers came, so they used the word for opossum (si’qua) as a name for them. That left them with the necessity to distinguish ‘possums from pigs, so the ‘possum came to be called “siqua utsetsidi,” the “grinning pig,” a short form of which is “siqua-utsets.” Nowadays, only the grin is left, and the possum is just “utsetsidi” [pronounced roughly “oo-chets’-dee,” depending on the dialect].  Sigwetsi is merely a shortened form of “siqua utsetsidi.”  Such shortenings are common in Cherokee.  The shortened form would have been accented on the –qua- element, becoming roughly “siQUAchets.”   And that became Sequatchie in the white man’s pronunciation.

Sigwetsi, then, was Mooney’s best approximation of the name of the settlement, and the village name is likely to have meant “Opossum Place” to the Cherokee who lived there.  That’s ” ‘Possum Town” to you and me.

You may be sure that my research into the origin of Sequatchie will continue.

The Turkeytown Treaty

From 1721 through 1868, the Cherokee people had more than forty treaties with the white people, at first with the British and colonists and later with the American government.  So far as I can tell, all of them seem to have been broken.

One that is of interest to us here in dealing with place names of Cherokee origin is the Treaty of 1817, also called the Treaty of the Cherokee Agency.  There had been, in 1816, two other treaties which, as usual, required the Cherokee to cede more lands.  In March of that year, they had ceded all remaining lands in South Carolina,  a small section in and around what is now Oconee County.  In September, the tribe in a general meeting at Turkeytown [Alabama] had ratified the Treaty of the Chickasaw Council House, ceding most of their lands in Alabama and nearby border areas, some 3,500 square miles.

On 8 July 1817, the Treaty of the Cherokee Agency was signed by 31 Cherokee leaders from North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama, and by 15 Arkansas Cherokee chiefs, as well as by Major General Andrew Jackson—he did not become President until 1829—and by Governor McMinn of Tennessee.  It is often somewhat erroneously called the Turkeytown Treaty.  Including the Arkansas chiefs constituted the first formal recognition of the Western Cherokee.  Most of the Cherokee bitterly opposed this treaty and that of 1819.

Together with the Treaty of Washington in 1819, the Cherokee Nation ceded almost all their remaining lands in the East, except for northwest Georgia and some adjacent lands in Tennessee, Alabama, and the extreme western part of North Carolina.  The details of the cessions can be found in the map at this link.

A key provision of the Treaty of 1817 that came to affect some place names was Section 8:

“And to each and every head of any Indian family residing on the east side of the Mississippi river, on the lands that are now or may hereafter be surrendered to the United States, who may wish to become citizens of the United States, the United States do agree to give a reservation of six hundred and forty acres of land in a square to include their improvements which are to be as near the centre thereof as practicable, in which they will have a life estate with a reversion in fee simple to their children reserving to the widow her dower, the register of whose names is to be filed in the office of the Cherokee agent, which shall be kept open until the census is taken as stipulated in the third article of this treaty [June 1818]. Provided, That if any of the heads of families, for whom reservations may be made, should remove therefrom, then, in that case the right to revert to the United States. And provided further, That the land which may be reserved under this article, be deducted from the amount which has been ceded under the first and second articles of this treaty.”

The treaty promised a square mile of land to every Indian family east of the Mississippi River living on the lands that were ceded to the government if they would become citizens of the United States and give up their status as Cherokee [or other] Indians.  Six hundred forty acres for their very own, with their present home as nearly as possible to the center of that acreage–that was the promise.  All they had to do was file a request with the Indian Agent within almost a year.  Very few of the people had ever owned any land, and the concept was somewhat foreign to them.  Perhaps the main attraction for becoming “citizen Indians” may have been staying in the East, on familiar lands.  Only about 311 Cherokee people applied for the land.  A few of those actually got some land, usually less than the promised amount, and almost all of them lost what they did get.  Still, for a time, some of them remained among the white settlers.

Without going into historical details about the frustrations and thwarting of the allotments, we can see what effects some of these citizen Cherokees had on local place names.  [If you would like to examine some of the efforts by the states to deprive the Cherokee of the promised allotments, you could read the efforts of the state of Tennessee, which were probably typical of most of the states involved, possibly excepting North Carolina.  Georgians were especially inimical to the Cherokee, as later events would prove.]  You can find more depth on Cherokee history at this link.

Cherokee people who applied included The Cat, who lived near Sugartown [Cullasaja].  The creek he lived on is now called Cat Creek.  His name was probably a translation of Gvhe, wildcat, or  it may have been a translation of Tlvdatsi, the mountain lion, which the white settlers called “painter” [panther”].  Wesa was merely a Cherokee attempt at the English word “Puss,” the word used for a domestic cat.

One applicant, Little Betty, lived near the whites a little longer than most.  She was a widow with several children, we are told.  Her reserve was to be at Eastertoy, which later became Dillard, Georgia.  Betty’s Creek is named for her.  I am surprised to see its name showing up with increasing frequency as Betty Creek, an example of the gradual erosion and changing of place names as outsiders move into the mountains of Georgia and North Carolina.  Among people who grew up near Dillard, the name is always pronounced as if it were “Bettis Creek.”

Near Betty’s Creek is Betty Whitecloud Street.  As of now, I do not know if there is any connection with Little Betty, and I am inclined to doubt that there is.

Another applicant was Old Mouse, who lived “below Cowee,” that is, downstream from Cowee [NC].  He is remembered in the names of Old Mouse Creek and Mouse Mountain.  His name is a translation of the Cherokee word talasgewi [or possibly tsisdetsi or tsistetsi], with “Old” having apparently been appended in English.

The reservee listed in application documents as Musk Rat was living on Cartoogechaye Creek [on Ca-tur-as-joy Creek, the document says].  Muskrat Creek, Muskrat Valley, and Muskrat Road are named for him. His English name was a translation of salaquisgi [or salagisgi or selagisgi].

Otter Creek, about halfway between Franklin and Robbinsville, in the Nantahala Community, takes its name from citizen Cherokee Otter.  His name is a translation of Tsiyu.  His neighbor to the northwest was one Taylor Eldridge, white husband of Pathkiller’s daughter Ailcey.  Pathkiller himself had applied for his reserve about 2½ miles above the mouth of Sweetwater Creek, further to the northwest in the same general area.  Otter’s daughter Jane, while working for some of the white settlers, is said to have been killed by a panther [tlvdatsi, mountain lion].  Her name was given to Jane Otter Creek, a tributary of Otter Creek.

In 1818, Eu-chu-lah of Cowee applied for his 640-acre reserve just west of the Cowee Mound, and it seems to have been granted.  In old documents, it is recorded as the Euchella Farm.  It seems to have been taken over by the state of North Carolina almost immediately, whether by sale or by force.  In 1821, 299 acres of it was sold by the state to Joseph Welch.  The name survives in Euchella Cove, Euchella Church, and some other modern developments some miles to the west of the original farm.

About Turkeytown, Alabama:  The present community lies about halfway between Weiss Lake and Gadsden; the historical Cherokee town site, Gvna-digaduhvyi, is under the water of the lake.  The community, Little Turkey Road, and Turkeytown Gap are named for Gvna [or Gvnastee, Gvnusdi], the first Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation.  His name translates to Turkey [or Little Turkey].  John Ross was born at Gvna-digaduhvyi in 1790, and he was one of the people requesting a reserve under the “Turkeytown Treaty.”

The Curious Tale of Osenappa

For more than forty years, whenever I have had occasion to be in the area, I have lingered for a time at the Old Stone Church Cemetery in Clemson, South Carolina.  For a few years in the 1970’s, I lived not many miles away.  I last visited the cemetery in 2011.

It is strange how a cemetery can evolve over the years, even without considering the new graves that are filled. In the 1970’s, there was no “Cherokee Indian” named Osenappa buried at the Old Stone Church.  Or, at least, I saw no sign of such a thing back then.  Now, one finds these words, taken from the Historical Marker  at the Church and duly recorded in the Historical Marker Database:

“One of the oldest graves is that of Osenappa, a Cherokee, who died in 1794. In addition to the marker, a cairn (piled stones) identifies the grave. He is the only Native American buried here. His role in this South Carolina frontier remains undiscovered.”

And, there is a crudely inscribed stone marker, this one, at the end of a cairn:


As you can see, the marker does not appear to be ancient.  Of course, it may have been merely a home-made replacement for an earlier, vanished stone, made by some person of good will.  I do not know who made it or how it got there. But, it was a replacement for an earlier marker.

The catch is that Osenappa was very probably not a Cherokee Indian.  The Cherokee language does not have any [p] sound at all; it is not a Cherokee name.  My mildly educated guess is that the word is from one of the Muskogean languages, most likely Choctaw.

In January 1935, Mary Cherry Doyle, a descendant of the Reeses, wrote a brief history of the Old Stone Church and Cemetery, apparently for the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.  Among her descriptions of the graves and their occupants, we find this mention:

A small stone marks the grave of a child. Osenappa Reese, who was said to have been named in honor of an Indian chief, Osenappa, who was kind to the settlers in this vicinity. Here is that stone:


Osenappa Reese was the son of George Reese II, and, so far as we know, he was born late in 1829 and died on 4 June 1930 of diphtheria. He was named for the Indian Osenappa.

In the cemetery is buried Rev. Thomas Reese, pastor of the church from 1792 until his death in 1796. He is said to have been the first, or among the first people buried in the cemetery. Nearby is the grave of his brother George Reese, the grandfather of Osenappa Reese.

Little Osenappa, thus a grandnephew of Rev. Reese, was named for the Indian Osenappa. [Old records say that Osenappa was converted to Christianity by Rev. Reese, and that he lived for a time in the manse with the Reese family. Apparently, he died within a year or two of his conversion.]

Did the Indian Osenappa befriend the white settlers in the Pendleton District? Where did he come from, if he was not a Cherokee?

Was there an Alabama connection? A few miles to the south of West Point, on the Georgia-Alabama line, Osanippa Creek empties into the Chattahoochee River [or, rather, into the upper reaches of Lake Harding, formed by a dam on the Chattahoochee].   A coincidence of names?  Perhaps.  Perhaps not.  In older documents from the 19th Century, several of them, the creek’s name appears as Osenappa.   Is it the same name?  Is there a direct connection?  The creek’s name seems to have come from a Muskogean word meaning “moss up high,” perhaps indicating its banks were moss-covered, or it may simply have referred to a tree with a high moss cover.

Curiously, George and Mary Ann Reese, the parents of Osenappa Reese, celebrated their golden wedding anniversary in 1874 at the home of their son Milton E. Reese in West Point, Georgia. Their last residence was Bluffton (now called Lanett), in Chambers County, Alabama.

The Legend of Kanasta

Connestee Falls, NC, takes its name from the lost city of Kanasta.  Here is the legend, taken more or less directly from Mooney’s Myths of the Cherokee. Long ago, while people still lived in the old town of Kana’sta, on the French Broad, two strangers, who looked in no way different from other Cherokee, came into the settlement one day and made their way into the chief’s house. After the first greetings were over the chief asked them from what town they had come, thinking them from one of the western settlements, but they said, “We are of your people and our town is close at hand, but you have never seen it. Here you have wars and sickness, with enemies on every side, and after a while a stronger enemy will come to take your country from you, We are always happy, and we have come to invite you to live with us in our town over there,” and they pointed toward Tsuwa`tel’da [Pilot Mountain, in western Brevard County, North Carolina; altitude 5151 feet]. “We do not live forever, and do not always find game when we go for it, for the game belongs to Tsul`kalu’, who lives in Tsunegun’yi, but we have peace always and need not think of danger. We go now, but if your people will live with us let them fast seven days, and we shall come then to take them.” Then they went away toward the west. The chief called his people together into the townhouse and they held a council over the matter and decided at last to go with the strangers. They got all their property ready for moving, and then went again into the townhouse and began their fast. They fasted six days, and on the morning of the seventh, before yet the sun was high, they saw a great company coming along the trail from the west, led by the two men who had stopped with the chief. They seemed just like Cherokee from another settlement, and after a friendly meeting they took up a part of the goods to be carried, and the two parties started back together for Tsuwa`tel’da. There was one man from another town visiting at Kana’sta, and he went along with the rest. When they came to the mountain, the two guides led the way into a cave, which opened out like a great door in the side of the rock. Inside they found an open country and a town, with houses ranged in two long rows from east to west. The mountain people lived in the houses on the south side, and they had made ready the other houses for the new comers, but even after all the people of Kana’sta, with their children and belongings, had moved in, there were still a large number of houses waiting ready for the next who might come. The mountain people told them that there was another town, of a different people, above them in the same mountain, and still farther above, at the very top, lived the Ani’-Hyun’tikwala’ski (the Thunders). Now all the people of Kana’sta were settled in their new homes, but the man who had only been visiting with them wanted to go back to his own friends. Some of the mountain people wanted to prevent this, but the chief said, “No; let him go if he will, and when he tells his friends they may want to come, too. There is plenty of room for all.” Then he said to the man, “Go back and tell your friends that if they want to come and live with us and be always happy, there is a place here ready and waiting for them. Others of us live in Datsu’nalasgun’yi [see Track Rock] and in the high mountains all around, and if they would rather go to any of them it is all the same. We see you wherever you go and are with you in all your dances, but you can not see us unless you fast. If you want to see us, fast four days, and we will come and talk with you; and then if you want to live with us, fast again seven days, and we will come and take you.” Then the chief led the man through the cave to the outside of the mountain and left him there, but when the man looked back he saw no cave, but only the solid rock. The people of the lost settlement were never seen again, and they are still living in Tsuwa`tel’da. Strange things happen there, so that the Cherokee know the mountain is haunted and do not like to go near it. Only a few years ago a party of hunters camped there, and as they sat around their fire at supper time they talked of the story and made rough jokes about the people of old Kana’sta. That night they were aroused from sleep by a noise as of stones thrown at them from among the trees, but when they searched they could find nobody, and were so frightened that they gathered up their guns and pouches and left the place.