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.
This page is in process; some revisions may be made later. I have also posted the legend of Kanasta [ from which Connestee takes its name], above.
I see that Tellico Village, Tennessee, also has street names of Cherokee origin.
Connestee Falls is a large housing development near Brevard, North Carolina. It occupies some 3900 acres, with about 1300 homes. I understand that about half of those homes belong to year-round residents. There are some 50 miles of paved streets in the community. Some historical information on the area is found at this link; however, for correct translations of the street names, you should look below on this site. Those on the otherwise excellent historical site are not always very good. You might also want to read the comments following my translations here.
What makes Connestee Falls of some interest to us? Almost all of its streets bear Cherokee names.
I have never visited the community, but I have exchanged information with some local people about it, and I have spent a good deal of time studying the map of its streets.
The street names are taken from the names of historical Cherokee towns or places, plants, animals, birds, and famous Cherokee leaders.
Here, I am going to list the names of all the streets. For each one, I will give a phonetic spelling that could be used by Connestee residents to help with pronunciation. The pronunciation is intended to preserve at least the flavor of the Cherokee sounds, but it will be one that can be spoken by modern English speakers; it is not intended to be a perfect Cherokee pronunciation. As often as possible, I try to use some rough approximation of the Giduwa [Eastern Cherokee] Dialect as a starting point, because that is the major surviving dialect in North Carolina. However, Giduwa is a more conservative form than the somewhat homogenized Western Dialect of Oklahoma and its sounds are sometimes much more difficult for English speakers [and for me to represent here], so, in several cases, the pronunciation given here is closer to the Western speech.
I hope this will be a helpful guide for Connestee Falls residents and visitors.
In many words, the “v” is best pronounced as “un.” I have chosen to suggest “ch” as a pronunciation of those syllables beginning with “ts”; some speakers actually pronounce the “ts” sound, but most pronounce as “j” or “ch” or even “z.” Syllables beginning with “tl” or “dl” are most correctly pronounced with a sound best represented by “hl,” but this combination is not always easy for English speakers, so I have usually suggested some similar sound. [The “correct” pronunciation of “tl” is very similar to the correct pronunciation of the Ll in Welsh Llanfair.]
After the pronunciation, there will be a spelling of the name that would be readable to a Cherokee speaker and which could readily be written using the Cherokee Syllabary. Please note that the letter “v” is used to represent the sound that is close to the UH in <HUH?>.
The next entry will be an authentic translation or explanation of the name. There are still a few of the names that I simply cannot decipher into some original meaning as yet, but I will continue the research and update those names whenever possible.
Anyone who wishes to print out this list is welcome to do so. I would appreciate it if you would mention the source on the printout.
This is the format:
Street name [best pronunciation] (Cherokee word, by syllables): meaning
Adawehi [ah-DAH-way-hee] (a-da-we-hi): Medicine man, magician, conjurer
Adayahi [ah-DAH-ya-hee] (a-da-ya-hi): Oak
Adelv [ah-DAY-la] (a-de-lv): Silver, money
Adohi [ah-DOE-hee] (a-do-hi): Woody place, forest
Agaliha [ah-GAH-li-ha] (a-ga-li-ha): It is shining, so: sunshine or moonshine
Ama [AH-ma] (a-ma): Water or salt. Probably water was intended.
Amacola [ah-ma-KOH-la] (a-ma u-qua-le-lv-yi): An attempt at Amicalola, place where water makes rolling thunder noise. The name of the famous water falls and state park in Georgia. Some old maps spelled it Amacola.
Amayi [ah-MAH-yee] (a-ma-yi): In the water
Annakesta [anna-KES-ta]: I am still trying to decipher this one.
Anv [AH-na] (a-nv, modern form a-ni): Strawberry. Please don’t pronounce it “Ann-vee!.
Atisvgi [ah-ti-SUN-gi] Still researching this one
Atsadi [a-CHAH-di] (a-tsa-di): Fish
Awi [ah-WEE or ah-WHEE] (a-wi): Deer
Ayugidv [ah-YOO-gi-DUN] (modern yu-gi-da): Hazel or hazelnut
Catatoga [CAH-ta-TOE-ga] (from ga-du-gi-tse-yi): New town or new settlement. In Macon County, the same word became Cartoogechaye.
Chagee [CHAH-gi] (tsa-gi): Perhaps from tsa-gi, “up the road” or “upstream”; one Cherokee village bore this name.
Cheestoonaya [CHEES-too-NAH-ya] (tsi-stu-na-yi): Crawfish place
Cheowa [chee-OH-wah] (tsi-yo-hi): Otter place
Cherokee [CHER-o-kee] (tsa-la-gi): the Cherokee people
Cheulah [CHEW-la] (tsu-la): Red Fox, the name of a Cherokee chief in TN, 1762.
Connestee [KAH-na-stee] (ka-na-stv-yi): Meaning unknown; there is a legend of a lost Cherokee settlement from which the name comes. It is quite possible that it is only a Cherokee approximation of the name of the tribe or town which was there long before the Cherokee arrived.
Dalonigei [da-LAHN-i-GAY-ee] (da-lo-ni-ge-i): Yellow, gold; the same word that became the name of Dahlonega, GA
Dawatsila [DAH-wa-CHEE-la] (da-w-tsi-la): Elm
Dewa [DAY-wa or TAY-wa] (te-wa): Flying squirrel
Dotsi [DAH-chee] (do-tsi): A kind of water monster believed to live in the Tennessee River
Dotsuwa [doe-CHEW-wha or toe-CHEW-wha or toe-JEW-wha] (do-tsu-wa): Red Bird, Cardinal
Doyi [DOE-yee] (do-yi): Beaver
Dudi [DOO-dee; I prefer TOO-tee] (du-di): Snowbird
Duya [DOO-ya; I prefer TOO-ya] (tu-ya): Bean
Dvdegi [DUN-day-gi] (tlv-de-qua): Eel
Dvdisdi [dun-DEES-ti] (attempt at tlv-ti-sdi): Pheasant
Dvga [DUN-ga; I prefer TUN-ga] (tv-ga): Housefly
Echota [eh-CHOE-ta] (i-tsa-ti): Meaning unknown; New Echota was the capital of the Cherokee people at the time of removal. Sautee is one rendition of the same word.
Elaqua [eh-LAH-qua] [e-la-qua]: Still under research
Elseetos [el-SEE-toess]: One source claims that this was the Cherokee name of Mt. Pisgah, Haywood County, NC, but I cannot document that.
Enolah [ee-NOE-la] (i-no-li): Black Fox, a Cherokee chief in the early 19th Century; also, an old name for what is now Brasstown Bald in GA
Gadu [GAH-doo] (ga-du): Bread
Gagama [ga-GAH-ma or ka-KAH-ma] (ga-ga-ma): Cucumber
Galuyasdi [ga-LOO-ya-stee] (ga-lu-ya-sdi): Ax or tomahawk
Galvloi [gah-la-LOW-ee] (ga-lv-lo-i): Sky
Ganohenv [GAH-no-HAY-na or KAH-no-HAY-na](ga-no-he-nv): Hominy, which is not the same thing as grits!
Gasga [GAHSS-ga or GOSH-ga] (a-ga-sga): It is raining
Gawanv [ga-WOE-na or ka-WOE-na or ga-WAH-na] (ka-wo-ni): Duck
Gigagei [gi-ga-GAY-ee] (gi-ga-ge-i): Red
Gili [ghee-LEE or GHEE-hli or GI-li] (gi-tli): Dog
Gogv [KO-ga or GO-ga] (go-gv): Crow
Golanv [KO-la-na or GO-la-na] (go-la-nv): Raven; Cherokee name of Sam Houston
Guledisgonihi [GOO-lay dis-KAH-ni-hee] (gu-le-di-sgo-ni-hi): Mourning dove [literally, “he cries for acorns”]
Guque [kuh-KWAY or guh-KWAY] (gu-que): Bobwhite quail
Gusti [GOOS-tee or GUS-tee] (gu-sti): Meaning unknown, from a Cherokee settlement on the Tennessee River in TN
Gusv [goo-SUH) (gu-sv): Beech tree [probably]
Guwa [KOO-wah or GOO-wah] (gu-wa): Mulberry tree
Gvhe [GUN-hay or GUH-hay] (gv-he): Bobcat
Gvli [GUN-tlee or GUH-lee or GUH-hlee] (gv-li): Raccoon
Hokassa [ho-KASS-a] (perhaps intended for na-qui-si): Naquisi is the word for star.
Inadv [EE-na-DUH or ee-NAH-da; EE-na-DEE in some dialects] (i-na-da): Snake
Inoli [ee-NO-lee] (i-no-li): Black Fox; see Enola
Isuhdavga [ee-SUN-da-UN-ga] (i-sv-da-v-ga): Still under research
Iya [EE-yah] (i-ya): Pumpkin
Junaluska [JOO-na-LUS-ka] (tsu-nu-la-hv-sgi): “He keeps on trying unsuccessfully”; the name of a great Cherokee chief in the early 19th Century
Kalvi [ka-LUN-ee or ka-LUH-ee] (from di-ka-lv-gv-i): East
Kanasdatsi [KAH-na-STAH-chee] (ka-na-sda-tsi): Sassafras
Kanasgowa [KAH-na-SKOE-wa or KAH-nahs-GO-wa] (ka-na-sgo-wa): Heron
Kanunu [ka-NOO-na] (ka-nu-na): Bullfrog
Kanvsita [kah-na-SEE-ta] (ka-nv-si-ta): Dogwood
Kassahola [KAHSS-a-HO-la or KASS-a-HO-la] (ka-sa-ho-la): Still under research
Kawani [ka-WAH-ni or ka-WOE-ni] (ka-wa-ni): Perhaps same as Gawanv, or possibly meant to be “April”
Kituhwa [kee-TOO-whah] (gi-tu-wa): Very important early Cherokee settlement; said to be the Mother Town of the tribe
Klonteska [klon-TESS-ka] (tla-ni-te-sga): Research continues. I don’t believe it means “pleasant” as sometimes stated.
Konnaneeta [KAHN-a-NEE-ta] (ka-na-ni-ta): Possibly “young turkey hatchlings,” but I am still researching this one.
Moytoy [MOY-TOY] (perhaps ma-ta-yi): Cherokee chief in first half of the 18th Century. The name is probably an English attempt at the shortened Cherokee form of “Ama-adawehi,” which could be translated as “water wizard” or, by implication, even “rain maker.”
Nodatsi [no-da-CHEE or no-DOTCH-ee] (no-da-tsi or no-da-tli): Spicewood [Lindera benzoin]
Nokassa [no-KAHSS-a or no-CASS-a] (probably na-qui-si): Star. See Hokassa.
Notlvsi [no-TLUN-see or nah-TLUH-see] (one writer’s spelling of na-qui-si or na-tli-si): Star
Notsi [NAH-chee or NO-jee] (na-tsi or no-tsi): Pine
Nunv [NOO-na or NOO-nuh, not NUN-vee!] (nu-nv): Potato
Nvya [NUH-ya or NUN-ya] (ny-ya): Rock [not river]
Oakanoah [OH-ka-NO-a](distorted from u-ga-na-wa): South [also has come to mean “warm” and “Democrat”; pronounced oo-GAH-na-wa in modern Cherokee]. One of the seven Cherokees who went to England in 1730 was Oukanekah; the name of this street may be a distortion of his name.
Ogana[OH-ga-na or oh-GAH-na] (o-ga-na or a-ga-na): Groundhog
Ohwanteska [OH-hwahn-TESS-ka] (o-wa-ni-te-sga): I am still working on this one.
Ortanola [ORR-ta-NO-la] (??): This name is badly distorted. Still in research
Ossarooga [OSS-a-ROO-ga] (??): This one is in research, too.
Ottaray [OTT-a-RAY] (o-ta-ri): Mountain, in an extinct dialect
Qualla [KWAH-la] (qua-la): Cherokee attempt at the word “Polly”; now the name of the Qualla Boundary part of the Eastern Cherokee Reservation
Quanv [KWAH-na] (qua-nv): Peach
Sakkoleeta [SAK-a-LEE-ta] (Perhaps tsa-quo-la-da-gi): Bluebird; Sakonige [sa-KOH-nee-gay] does mean “blue.”
Sali [SAH-lee] (sa-li): Persimmon
Saligugi [SAH-li-GOO-gi] (sa-li-gu-gi): Mud turtle, also called snapping turtle
Salola [sah-LOW-lee or sha-LOW-lee] (sa-lo-li): Gray squirrel
Sedi [SED-i or SAY-dee] (se-di): Walnut
Selu [SAY-loo or SHAY-loo] (se-lu): Corn; corn goddess
Sequoyah [see-KWOI-ya] (si-quo-yi): Probably the most famous historical Cherokee; he invented the Cherokee Syllabary
Setsi [SETCH-ee] (se-tsi): Mound and settlement in Cherokee County, NC; meaning unknown
Sgili [SKILL-ee] (sgi-li): Witch
Soco [SOH-koh] (so-quo-hi): “Number One Place”
Soquili [so-KWEE-lee or show-GWEE-lee] (so-qui-li): Horse
Sunnalee [sun-a-LAY-ee] (su-na-le-i): Tomorrow or morning or evening
Svgata [sun-GAH-ta or SHUNK-ta] (sv-ga-ta): Apple
Taladu [ta-LAH-doo or TAH-la-DOO] (ta-la-du): Cricket [ta-LAH-du] or twelve [TAH-la-DOO)
Tawsee [TAW-see] (to-si): Name of a Cherokee settlement in Habersham County, GA. Meaning unknown. I suspect that the village may have been taken from the Catawba people; if that is the case, in the Catawba language, the name may have referred to a dog, or more likely, to a wolf.
Taya [TAH-ya] (gi-ta-ya): Cherry
Tellico [TELL-i-KOH] (ta-li-qua): Important Cherokee town in TN; Tahlequah, OK, is the same word.
Ticoa [tee-KOH-a] (ti-go-a): Could be a distortion of Toccoa?
Tili [TEE-lee or just TIL-lee as in Tilly] (ti-li): Chestnut or chinquapin
Tinequa [ti-NEH-kwa] (ti-ne-qua; probably ta-ni-qua): Literally, “big louse”; probably Taniqua [ta-NEE-kwa “mole”] was intended.
Tlugvi [tlu-KUH-ee or just TLOO-kuh] (tlu-gv-i): Tree
Tludatsi [tloo-DAH-chee or tlun-DAH-chee] (tlv-da-tsi): Panther, mountain lion
Tsalagi [CHAH-la-KEE or JAH-la-GHEE] (tsa-la-gi): Cherokee
Tsataga [cha-TAW-ga or chee-TAW-ga] (tsi-ta-ga): Chicken
Tsayoga [cha-YO-ga] (tla-yi-ga or tsa-yo-ga): Blue jay
Tsisqua [CHEE-skwah] (tsi-squa): Bird
Tsiya [CHEE-ya] (tsi-ya or tsi-yo or tsi-yu): Otter was probably intended; also can mean canoe or boat
Tsisdu [CHEE-stoo] (tsi-sdu): Rabbit
Tsisdvna [chee-STUN-na] (tsi-sdv-na): Crawfish
Tsitsi [chee-chee] (tsi-tsi): Wren
Tsolv [CHOE-la] (tso-la) : Tobacco
Tsuganawvi [chew-GAH-na-WUN-ee] (tsu-ga-na-wv-i): South [toward the south]
Tsula [CHEW-la] (tsu-la): Red fox
Tsuyvtlvi [chew-yun-TLUN-ee] (tsu-yv-tlv-i): North [toward the north]
Tsvwagi [chuh-WAH-ghee] (tsv-wa-gi): Maple
Udoque [oo-doe-KWAY] (u-do-que, nv-do-que-ya intended): Sourwood [Oxydendron arboreum]
Udvawadulisi [OO-ta-na WAH-doo-LEE-see] (wa-du-li-si u-ta-na intended): Bumblebee [literally “big bee”]
Ugedaliyvi [oo-gay-DAH-lee-YUN-ee] (u-ge-da-li-yv-i): Valley or cove
Ugiladi [oo-gi-LAH-di] (u-gi-da-tli intended): Feather
Ugugu [OO-goo-GOO or oo-GOOG] (u-gu-gu): Hoot owl [Barred owl, Strix varia]
Uloque [oo-LOW-kway] (u-lo-que): Mushroom
Ulvda [oo-LUN-da] (u-lv-da): Poison ivy
Unoga [oo-NO-ga] (u-no-ga): Bass [fish]
Unole [oo-NO-lay] (u-no-le): Storm [or strong wind or tornado]
Unvquolad [oo-NUN-kwo-LAHD] (u-nv-quo-la-tv-i intended): Rainbow
Unutsi [OO-nuh-chee or OON-chee] (u-nv-tsi): Snow
Unvdatlvi [OO-na-dah-TLUN-ee] (u-nv-da-tlv-i; do-da-tlv-i): Mountains [perhaps intended for “they are mountains”?]
Usdasdi [oo-STAH-stee] (u-sda-sdi): Holly
Usgewi [oo-SKAY-wee] (u-sge-wi): Cabbage
Utsonati [oo-cho-NAH-tee] (u-tso-na-ti): Rattlesnake
Utsuwodi [oo-chew-WOE-di] (u-tso-wo-di; I prefer a-la-su-lo): Moccasin
Uwaga [oo-WAH-ga] (u-wa-ga): Passion fruit [Passiflora incarnata, also called “old field apricot”]
Uwohali [uh-WOE-ha-lee] (a-wo-ha-li): Eagle
Uyasga [oo-YAH-ska; better OO-ska] (u-ya-sga or u-sga): Skull
Vdali [un-DAL-lee] (v-da-li): Lake
Wadigei [WAH-di-GAY-ee] (u-wo-di-ge-i): Brown
Waga [WAH-ka or WAH-ga] (wa-ga): Cow [Cheroke pronunciation of Spanish vaca]
Wahuhu [wah-hoo-HOO] (wa-hu-hu): Screech owl [Otus asio]
Walelu [wah-LAY-la] (wa-le-la): Hummingbird
Walosi [wah-LOW-see or wa-LOWSH] (wa-lo-si): Green frog
Wanei [wa-NAY-ee] (wa-ne-i): Walnut
Warwaseeta [WAR-wah-SEE-ta] (wa-wa-si-ta): Said to be the old Cherokee name for Pisgah Ridge in Haywood County, but I cannot document that.
Waya [WAH-ya] (wa-ya): Wolf
Wesa [WAY-sah or way-SHAH] (we-sa): Cat [domestic cat]
Wodigeasgohi [WOE-di-gay ah-SKOE-hee] (wo-di-ge a-sgo-li intended): Copperhead
Yanequa [yah-NEH-kwa] (yo-ne-qua, from yo-na e-qua): Big Bear, Cherokee chief in the late 18th Century
Yona [YO-na] (yo-na): Bear; more commonly spelled Yonah
Yuda [YOO-da] (perhaps gi-yu-ga or yu-ga intended?): Chipmunk [?]
Yunega [yoo-NEH-ga] (Intended for u-ne-ga): White [Yonega is “white man” or “English”]
Note: In the Eastern Cherokee [Giduwa] dialect, most of the syllables beginning with <ts> are pronounced as if they begin with <z>. In many words ending in -i, -hi, or -a, the last syllable is dropped in pronunciation.
Many thanks to Mike Heiser, who kindly provided me with a working list of the street names. Any errors of commission or omission are my fault and not his.
Cherokee Place Names, Part 11
A few miles southwest of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is a little known stream called Agana Branch. It is named for the groundhog (woodchuck, Marmota monax). I have no idea how it came to be so named. The modern word in Cherokee is “oga’na.” Agana was the first element in the name of the great 18th-Century Chief Oconastota, and the second part meant something like “ground up” or “mashed up”; that is why his name was sometimes translated as “Groundhog Sausage.”
Obviously, there is no connection at all with Agana, the capital of Guam.
In Monroe County, Tennessee, is Coker Creek and the community of the same name. Once it was called Coco Creek; the name seems to have been changed a hundred years or so ago. Perhaps it sounded too much like “cocoa” or, worse yet, like the original Cherokee word “gugu” (pronounced roughly like “koo-kuh,” accent on the second syllable), reminding one vaguely of cuckoos. The plant for which it is named is Asclepias tuberosa, commonly known as butterfly weed or pleurisy root. In Cherokee medicine, the large tuberous root was used to make a tea for treating colds and other lung ailments; the bruised root was used to make poultices for treating minor wounds and bruises. The plant contains enough cardiac glycosides that it also helped with swellings of the legs arising from heart problems. There exist local stories of a Cherokee chief or a Cherokee “princess” named Coqua, whose name the white people distorted into Coker; however, as with many colorful legends about Indian place names, there is no historical evidence of such a person or persons. “Gugu” is the modern Cherokee word for “bottle.”
Not far from Coker Creek is the community of Waucheesi. A nearby mountain and the creek have the same name. The original meaning is lost, but the name was that of an old Cherokee man who lived near the route of the Unicoi Turnpike, a road built in the period 1813-1816 to connect the Tugaloo and SavannahRivers to the Cherokee capital of Echota on the Little Tennessee River. His name was Wachesa (Watsi’sa), and he lived in the vicinity of the present Murphy, North Carolina. The Unicoi Turnpike was usually referred to as the Wachesa Trail. One rendition of Wachesa was Waucheesi.
Also in Monroe County is the Notchy Creek community. The community and the nearby creek take their name from the Cherokee word for the Natchez Indians [Ani-Natsi]. Remnants of that tribe had lived in the area. “Notchy” is a fairly close pronunciation of Cherokee “Natsi.”
There was a very old Cherokee settlement, No’natlugv’yi [“spruce tree place”], about where Jonesborough, Tennessee, now stands. A few miles to the south is the Nolichucky River. The river’s name comes from a distortion of the settlement name. The community of Chucky and the stream Little Chuck(e)y Creek, in the same general area, take their names from a shortening of Nolichucky. In 2016, archaeologists unearthed the remains of a sizable Cherokee town on the Nolichucky in southern Washington County, Tennessee. It is believed to date from about 1500, and it contained some European glass trade beads, so it still existed after some contact directly or indirectly with white people. There is no way to know what may have been the settlement’s name.
Coytee Spring seems now to be under Tellico Lake. Near it was an ancient Cherokee town about which little is known, save a few references in English with varied spellings. It seems to have been destroyed in 1776. The town’s name is preserved in the area as Coyatee and even as Kai-a-tee. The Cherokee pronunciation and meaning are forever lost. Each such loss—and there are many—leaves us poorer.
Ooltewah, Tennessee, stands about where the Cherokee settlement of Ultiwo’i was. The meaning is unknown and does not appear to have been originally a Cherokee word.
South Mouse Creek runs through the heart of Cleveland, Tennessee. On this creek was the old Cherokee town of Tsistetsi’yi, which translates as “mouse place,” from which the creek took its name. The area had probably been occupied by Yuchi people for a long time before the Cherokee pushed them away.
Toxaway Creek has its headwaters near the Brasstown community in Oconee County, South Carolina. Somewhere on it was the old Cherokee town of Duquasa’i, pronounced approximately “Duksa’i,” which became Toxaway to English speakers. The meaning of the word is lost. The creek joins the Chauga River and the upper reaches of Hartwell Reservoir.
Tamassee, South Carolina, gets its name from the Cherokee town of Tama’si, in OconeeCounty. There was another Tamasi in Macon County, North Carolina. The word has no meaning in Cherokee. Tamassee is pronounced <ta-MAHSS-ee>.
To the east, in Pickens County, South Carolina, is the Oolenoy River, a tributary of the South Saluda. Its name derives from “u’lana’wa,” the Cherokee name of the spiny soft-shell turtle (Apalone spinifera). How it came to be applied to the river is uncertain, but it is no coincidence that this very same turtle lives in that stream. I suspect that some place along the river served as a good source of the principal ingredient of turtle soups. And, I am sorry to report that Oolenoy was not a Cherokee word for “land of grain and clear water” as I have read elsewhere.
We have already seen that the state of Tennessee and the Tennessee River took their names from the several Cherokee settlements called Tanasi. One of these was in Jackson County, North Carolina; it left its name in the form of Tanasee Creek and Gap, and in the more modern Tanasee Lake.
In the Great Smokies, we find Wasulu Ridge. Wa’sulu’ was the name of a particular kind of moth, but it is now wa’sohla, the generic word for any moth, in some modern dialects.
Just west of Franklin, North Carolina, near the Appalachian Trail, are Wayah Creek and Wayah Bald. The Cherokee word “wa’ya” or “wa-ha-ya” means “wolf.” There is general agreement that the animal’s name began as an imitation of its howl. I will write more of wolves in a later section.
To the southwest of Franklin is Standing Indian Mountain and the Wildlife Management Area. The Cherokee called the mountain Yv’wi-tsulenv’yi, “where the man used to stand.”
A little to the southeast of Brevard, North Carolina, is the community of Connestee, with Connestee Falls. Here was the legendary “lost village” of Ka’nastv’yi, the ancestral name of Connestee. Kana’sta was a shorter form of the village name. There is some evidence that the Connestee people may have been a tribe which preceded the Cherokee, or they may have been ancestral to the later Cherokee.
In the far northern part of Whitfield County, Georgia, was one of the ancient meeting grounds for the Cherokee. This one was called Elawo’diyi, “red earth place.” It translates well into Red Clay, the community which now occupies the same place.
The great Chief John Ross was born at Gv’di’gaduhv’yi, in the northeastern part of what is now Gadsden, Alabama. The name of that Cherokee town translates to “Turkey Town Place,” from which Turkeytown takes its name.
The Tennessee River enters Alabama at very near the state’s northeastern corner, and it swings across the northern part of the state, making a southwesterly detour near Florence, and then proceeds to exit the state at precisely its northwestern corner. Before the dams of the Tennessee Valley Authority were built, there were shoals in the vicinity of Florence, and these shoals were rich in freshwater mussels. In fact, there are more than 50 species of mussels in the Alabama portion of the Tennessee. To the Cherokee, this section of the river was Daguno’hi, “mussel place,” from “dagu’na,” mussel, plus the locative -hi. English speakers translated Dagunohi as “Mussel Shoals” and then misspelled it to name the city of Muscle Shoals. It appears exactly that way on old maps of the Alabama area, including the 1794 map I recently examined, so the “Muscle” spelling is not a recent development. On a 1750 map, we find the shoals clearly shown in the correct place, but without any name.
[Incidentally, for reasons unclear, the place where Nashville, Tennessee now stands was known to the old Cherokee as Dagunawelohi, “mussel liver place,” according to Mooney.] Dagvna survives in modern Cherokee, meaning oyster, clam, pearl, or pimple.
It is not especially relevant to our discussion here, but the English words muscle and mussel both derive ultimately from the same Latin word, musculus, which meant both mouse and mussel; it is a diminutive of the word mus, mouse. In ages forgotten, someone decided that both muscles [which ripple under the skin] and the shellfish [grey and not large] somehow resembled small mice.
Just across the Georgia line, to the south of Chattanooga, is Catoosa County. Its name is from the Cherokee word “ga-du-si,” accent on the second syllable. The plural form is the same as the singular, so the meaning can be interpreted as “a hill,” “on or at a hill,” “the hills,” or “in the hills.” It is not likely that it means “between two hills,” as is sometimes reported, but that is still a reasonable translation. The old Cherokee word for “mountain” was “o’tali” [sometimes written “a’tali”] except in the Lower Dialect, the one with the “r” sound; among those speakers, it was “o’tari.” Some Eastern Cherokee speakers use the word “gadu’shi” for “mountain,” but another word has evolved for more widespread use there. Otari has been made into Ottaray, with many associations in upstate South Carolina and even into Kentucky; however, the root means only “mountain,” not “beautiful mountains,” as I see written in a few places. Gadusi remains Oklahoma Cherokee for “hill,” and the Oklahoma word for mountain is “odalv’i.”
High in the Smokies, on the Haywood County line, is Inadu Knob; to the northeast in Cocke County is Inadu Mountain, of which the knob is really the summit. Inadu Creek is nearby, and to its west is Snake Den Mountain. The area seems to have a long history of being a very snaky place, seeing that “inadu” [modern form: “inada”] is the Cherokee word for “snake.”
In the early 19th Century, there was a Cherokee chief whose name was translated as Going Snake. His Cherokee name was Inadunai, which, translated somewhat more accurately, would have been “a snake goes along with him” or “he travels in company with a snake.” The famous Goingsnake District in Adair County, Oklahoma, takes its name from him. For the interesting story of the Goingsnake Massacre and Zeke Proctor, click this link.
By the way, if you are interested in mountains, take a look at http://www.mountainpeaks.net