Connestee Falls, North Carolina

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 7

Cherokee Place Names, Part 7

During 400 years of white contact, the names of more than 200 Cherokee settlements were recorded. Most of them were clustered along rivers and other streams.

A teacher who had read some of my articles told her students that the Cherokee word for a creek is “Gusa,” and she cited me as the authority.

But, the word for a creek is “u-we-yv’ i,” and a Creek Indian is “Agusa,” shortened to Gusa and rendered Coosa in modern place names. A Creek is not a creek!

Still, a connection does exist. British traders in the 17th Century did a fair amount of repeat business with a small tribe of Muskogean-speakers whose town was on a creek of the upper Ocmulgee River. The tribe was the Ochesee, so the creek became known as Ochesee Creek. We are not sure of the location of the creek, but my guess is that it may have been somewhere in or near what is now Newton County, Georgia. In time, the Ochesee came to be called “the Creek” Indians.

Before long, of course, these Creek Indians had to move further west toward the Chattahoochee. Spread across from there into Alabama and northward were at least six dozen other small tribes, all loosely allied for mutual preservation since before the white men came. The entire collection became generically the “Creek” Indians, the Creek Confederacy. They spoke at least 8 or 10 different languages, so they were not exactly monolithic.

Most Indians in the southeastern U.S. built their settlements along or near streams. The towns were named from legendary or mythical events said to have occurred at this or that place on the stream, or they came from some natural feature of the location.

Rivers and creeks had only generic names: e-gwo-ni, river; a-we-yv-i, creek; it never occurred to anyone to give a stream its own personal name. Instead, streams may have had a dozen place names along their lengths, like strings of many-colored beads. And, it was from some of the more prominent beads that white people gave the streams the names we see on our maps today.  Of course, sometimes any important river was addressed ceremonially as “Asgaya Gvnahita,” (or “Yvwi Gvnahita”) meaning “Long Man.”

I have reason to think that the Oconee River, in Georgia, takes its name from e-gwo-ni (river), but I cannot be certain of that; there was once a Creek band called the Okonee [from Creek okvne, living on the water] who may have lived on the river. There is better evidence that Aquone, North Carolina, on Rowland Branch near the Nantahala River, is another version of the river word.

Further to the east, the Oconaluftee River flows through the Eastern Cherokee Reservation; a town on it was called Egwonulati, from e-gwo-ni plus nu-la-ti [“beside”]. In speech, the name became Egwonul’ti, the eclipsed “a” becoming a nearly aspirated sound that made the name sound to those not fluent in Cherokee as “Uhquonulfti,” which came out as Oconaluftee [pronounced “oh-KOH-na-LUFF-tee”]. A fairly good modern translation of the old town name would be “Riverside.” The present town of Tsisquohi [Birdtown] is on about the same site.

Not far north of the Oconaluftee Indian Village is Mount Stand Watie, named in honor of the famous Cherokee Confederate general.  Watie, who was born in the town of Oothcaloga–where Calhoun, Georgia, now is–was the only American Indian to rise to the rank of brigadier general in the Confederacy, and he was also the last Confederate general to surrender at the end of the Civil War.  His name derives ultimately from Uweti, “Old (Person),” his father’s name.  Watie’s Cherokee name was Degatoga , which can be translated roughly as “they two stand close together,”  the shortened translation of which was Stand.  Watie was also the principal chief of the Western Cherokee at the same time—1862-1866, to be precise.  [One possible translation of Degatoga is “blood brothers,” those who stand shoulder-to-shoulder in battle and life.]

There was also one American Indian brigadier general on the Union side, Ely Parker, a Seneca.  After the war, President Grant appointed Parker to the position of Commissioner of Indian Affairs; he was the first non-white to hold that position.

Oconee County, South Carolina, on the other hand, is named for Ukwuni, a Cherokee town on Seneca Creek.  No one remembers the meaning of U-kwu’ni.  A well-made 1775 map shows the town was called Aconnee by the cartographer; it lay on a tributary of the Sennekaw River.

Seneca, South Carolina, takes its name from the once-important Cherokee town of Isuniga, or Sennekaw, which was near the junction of Coneross Creek and what used to be the Keowee River before it became Lake Keowee. The meaning of I-su-ni-ga has been forgotten, but it has nothing at all to do with the Seneca Indians of New York.  I suspect that it was taken from the Catawba language and its original meaning may have been the Catawba name for a tributary of the Savannah River.

Seeing that so many of the original Indian place names can no longer be translated, we can be fairly certain that creative local chambers of commerce will devise some clever meanings, no doubt coupled with tales of warriors and forbidden loves and that sort of thing.

Now, we would assume that Coneross Creek must surely get its name from some historic site in Scotland or Ireland, but not so. Coneross is an English perversion of the name of a place on the creek, Ka-wo-na-u-lo-sv [yi], but from the now extinct Cherokee dialect which had a “r” sound instead of the “l” of the surviving dialects. It was pronounced roughly “ka-wo-nu-ro-sv,” and it came from the word for “duck,” kawona, and “where it fell,” urosvyi. The story is that a duck had a nest in a cave high above the water, so that when she left the cave, she seemed to fall into the water. There is some indication that a small settlement, Kawonurosv, may have been nearby, but I have not found it among any historical lists of Cherokee towns. Coneross is pronounced “Conna-ross” these days.

One settlement not so far away was called Kuwahiyi, from ku-wa-hi, a place with a good stand of mulberry trees. Its name meant “mulberry grove place.” Two towns bore this name: the first was a major one, now lying beneath the waters of Lake Keowee, and the other was somewhere between what are now Pickens and Easley, South Carolina. Poor English pronunciation of the first one led to the name of the Keowee River.  Keowee is pronounced “KEE-uh-wee” by those who live near it.

Before the white people came, the Cherokee had two principal sources of sweetener. The obvious one was honey. The word for honeybee, in modern Cherokee, is wadulisi. By extension, it also means honey and even sorghum molasses.

The other sweetener was the sweet gum between the seeds in the large pods of honey locust, kalasetsi [Gleditsia triacanthos].

Nowadays, in the more modern form kalseji, the word is used for both sugar and candy; many speakers no longer know about the tree. A few miles to the east of Franklin, North Carolina, was the site of the old Cherokee village of Kalsetsiyi “honey locust place,” for which the Cullasaja community and the Cullasaja River, with its beautiful gorge, are named.  The Cullasaja [pronounced “Culla say ja”] River joins the Little Tennessee at Franklin.  The community of Sugar Fork, just below the gorge, took its name from a translation of the Cherokee word.  A good English equivalent of Kalsetsiyi [“Kulsage” in some old documents] is Sugar Town, and that name appears in places in many documents referring to Cullasaja.  There used to be a Sugartown Creek close to Morganton, near the site of another Kalsetsiyi, but I believe it was swallowed by Blue Ridge Lake.

The honey locust is a close relative of mesquite [Prosopis spp.], which was long used by the Southwestern U.S. Indians in the same way the Cherokee used the honey locust.  Mesquite flour is now available commercially.  The sugar present in both mesquite and the honey locust is primarily fructose, which carries a lower glycemic load than sucrose.

There is a Cullasaja Branch that empties into Alarka Creek, near Alarka, North Carolina. There does not exist any record of a Kalsetsiyi in that location, so far as I can determine. The Alarka community and the creek name comes from the Cherokee word Yalo’gi, the meaning of which is not known.

Another lost word is Tuksitsi [a form of tsiksitsi], an old Cherokee village name. It lay near the forks of the Tuckasegee River, where there is now the Tuckasegee community. Locally, the pronunciation is “Tucka say gee.”  There is some indication that the name is connected with the diamondback terrapin [Malaclemys terrapin], called daksi [sometimes tuksi] in modern Cherokee, but I don’t have any positive evidence on that point.

The Briartown community in northern Macon County, North Carolina, and Briertown Mountain, nearby in Swain County, got their name from the Cherokee town of Kanu’galo’yi, [“brier place”].   The Cherokee word kanuga was the name given to the ritual “scratcher” used by medicine people to prepare players for the ball play.  In the form kanugala, it was the general name for all sorts of sorts of brier-laden berry bushes and vines.   Probably somewhere near Pigeon Gap, in Haywood County, there was said to be a Cherokee town which was called Kanuga [“scratcher”]; it has left onomastic descendants in Lake Kanuga and Camp Kanuga, among others.

In Swain County, North Carolina, is Kanati Fork Creek. Following just above the creek is a portion of the Kanati Fork Trail for hikers.  In White County, Georgia, just to the east of Cleveland, there is Kanati Ridge Road and nearby is Selu Creek Road.  Probably all of these names, most especially the last two, were given in modern times.

Kanati and Selu are linked in Cherokee mythology.  They were among the first people, perhaps even the very first of all, and they came to be regarded as supernatural and godlike.

Kanati’s name seems to be derived from the Cherokee <ganohaliDOha>, “hunter.”  He was a great hunter and he taught people how to hunt.  His wife’s name was Selu, and that remains the modern Cherokee word for “corn” (maize).  Corn was a gift from her and it was from her that people learned to grow it.

You can find the full text of the Legend of Kanati and Selu [as recorded by James Mooney] at this link.

In Georgia’s Gilmer County is the community of Tickanetley, near Tickanetley Creek. A short distance to the northwest is Tickanetley Bald, near Rich Mountain. Somewhere on the creekside was the old Cherokee settlement of Tekanitli. No one is sure of the location, and I cannot be sure of the derivation of the name, but I can tell you that it is suspiciously like the Cherokee word di-ga-ne-tli, the plural form of the word for a bed. I think the town may have taken its name from the presence of good expanses [“beds”] of some kind of useful plant. This is just one of those mysteries that will likely never have a final solution.