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

Chinistoe

Conanennah

Cotchatoy

Ecuy

Mankiller of Chote

Otacite of Quaratrie

Oucconnastotah

Raven of Newcassie

Raven of Tugaloo

Saliey

The Wolf of Keowee

Tiftoe

Tuckassie Keowee

Usteneca

Warrior of Cowie

Willinawaw

 

Treaty of Lochaber, 1770

Altahkullakulla

Chinista

Chinista Watoga

Chukamuctas

Ecuij

Kaheatoy

Kinnatitah

Kittagusta

Otacite of Higwassie

Oucconnastotah

Skaliloske

Tarrapin

Teutchkee

Tiftoy

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

Skeleak

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

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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.”

Cherokee Place Names, Part 10

Cherokee Place Names, Part 10

Now, it is time for a change of pace. I will list place names and follow each with some information about its origin.

Tusquitee Creek empties into the Hiwassee River just north of Hayesville, North Carolina. Near the junction was the old Cherokee village of Da’squitv‘yi, “place of rafters,” the corrupted pronunciation of which became Tusquitee. The reference was to those of houses, not to those who who choose to float on waters. In the immediate area, we find townships, mountains, ridges, and ranger stations bearing the Tusquitee name.  Here we have a good example of what happens when chambers of commerce do not carefully examine details when they prepare “translations” of local Cherokee place names. In several places, I find it written that “Tusquitee means ‘where the water dogs laughed.'”  That is incorrect information.  Here is a quotation from Mooney which will serve as an explanation of how they came to believe what they wrote. Note that the story has nothing directly to do with Dasquitvyi.  Bracketed parts are my editorial comments.

“The Cherokee name [of this area] is Tsuwa-uniyetsv’yi [and not Dasquitvyi], ‘Where the water-dogs laughed,’ the water-dog of the southern Alleghenies, sometimes also called mud-puppy or hellbender, being a large amphibious lizard or salamander of the genus Menopoma, frequenting muddy waters. According to the story, a hunter once crossing over the mountain in a very dry season, heard voices, and creeping silently toward the place from which the sound proceeded, peeped over a rock and saw two water-dogs walking together on their hind legs along the trail and talking as they went.  Their pond had dried up and they were on their way over to Nantahala River.  As he listened one said to the other, ‘Where’s the water? I’m so thirsty that my apron [gills] hangs down,’ and then both water-dogs laughed.” 

Nickajack Creek, in Marion County, Tennessee, and Nickajack Lake take their name from the important Cherokee town once located where Nickajack Creek emptied into the Tennessee River. Now, the site is under the lake. Niquatse’gi was one of the Cherokee Chickamauga towns; in 1794, it was the site of a horrible and senseless massacre of Cherokee men, women, and children. There is another Nickajack Creek on the Cullasaja River, in Ellijay Township, North Carolina. Before the days of political correctness and ethnic sensitivity, a less pleasing pronunciation of this latter creek was the norm. And, there is still another creek of this name in Cobb County, Georgia; it is said to provide some whitewater rafting after a good rain. I am not sure why these last two creeks are so named. Some have written that Nickajack meant “old Creek place.”  Linguistically, there is no justification for that derivation.

The Nantahala River flows northward from its headwaters in Macon County, North Carolina, to the Little Tennessee River through beautiful scenery and a deep gorge favored by whitewater rafters. Its name comes from the Cherokee words Nvda’ and aye’li [“sun” and “middle”], from the implication that one sees the sun only at midday from the gorge. It is not too much of a stretch to say that Nantahala could be translated as “Land of the Midday Sun.” In Cherokee, Nvda can mean either sun or moon, so one must specify “nvda iga ehi” [Nvda living in the day] or “nvda sunoye ehi” [Nvda living in the night]. Contrary to most world mythologies, in Cherokee tradition the sun is feminine and the moon is masculine. By the way, the moon is grammatically masculine in German.  [This might be a good place to remember how the Cherokee vowel “v” is pronounced.  We can use the word “nvda” as the example:  First, say “Nun” as in English, then pronounce it again, exactly the same way but leaving off the second “n” sound.  You end up with a nasal (through the nose) sound like “nuh”; then, put it all together to get “nv-da.”]

The Nantahala Mountains were once called the Jore Mountains.  The local pronunciation of the word Nantahala is “Nanta-HAYla.”

The Swannanoa River joins the French Broad at Asheville, North Carolina. The Cheraw Indians lived east of the Cherokee until they were obliged to join the Catawba people early in the 18th Century. Their name for themselves must have been something like “Suwala,” because de Soto called them Xuala and, to the Cherokee, they were Ani-Suwali [“they are Suwali”]. The Cherokee name for the route from the mountains to the Cheraw country was Suwa’li-nunnohi [“Suwali path”]. In English pronunciation, that became Swannanoa and was applied to the river and the mountains just east of Asheville.  Pronounce it SWANuh-NOah.

Under Tellico Lake now, but once upon a time where Citico Creek joined the Little Tennessee River was the town of Si’tigu’ [or Sitiku]. Its name was probably not a Cherokee word, so it may have been Creek or Yuchi before it was occupied by the Cherokee. The meaning in whatever the original language was is now lost to us, but there is no basis at all for saying it means “place of clean fishing water,” as is sometimes reported.  The Spanish expedition under Pardo in 1567 reported a town which they spelled “Satapo” at about the location of what came to be known later as Citico.  It is likely that the 16th Century inhabitants may have been Muskogean or Yuchi of some unknown tribe, which would indicate that the Cherokee, lacking a “p” sound, rendered as Sitiku or Setiku.  There seems to have been another settlement far up Citico Creek, but I want to research it further before including it here.

Tallassee is not far to the east of Citico, on the north side of the Little Tennessee. Further upstream, Tallassee Creek enters the river from the south. Here lay the Cherokee settlement of Ta’lasi’; perhaps the old site is now at least partially submerged in Chilhowee Lake. Talasi is not a Cherokee word; it is more likely Creek, perhaps from a dialect in which it simply meant “town.”

Chilhowee‘s name came from the town that Bartram spelled “Chelowe”. I believe the old settlement area is now under the lake, too. The Cherokee pronunciation was probably “Tsutlvwe’i,” and the meaning is lost. An oft-repeated speculation is that it came from the word for fox or kingfisher, but I am skeptical.

Tomotla is a few miles northeast of Murphy, North Carolina, on the Valley River. Here was the old village of Tamatli [sometimes written Tamali or Tamahle]. This town may have been continuously occupied for several centuries; it was taken from the Creeks by the Cherokee, who kept their approximation of the Creek name. There was another Cherokee town of the same name near the junction of the Little Tennessee and Tellico Rivers; its site is now under the waters of Lake Tellico, but the name survives as Tomotli Shoals and Tomotla Ford. Far down the Chattahoochee, in Creek lands never occupied by the Cherokee, was still another town called Tamatli. The Nahuatl [Aztec] word for tomato, incidentally, was tomatl, but it is hard to believe this was more than a coincidence. Suches, Georgia, may have taken its name from a settlement called Tase’tsi [Tasache, on old maps], which actually lay a few miles to the east of the present town. Tasetsi was sometimes shortened to Setsi. I recall that the old people I knew in my childhood pronounced Suches as “Sechis.” [It is pronounced “SUCH-iss” locally these days.]  The shortened form, Setsi, was also applied to the mound and a long lost village near Andrews, North Carolina. Like many other very ancient names, the meaning of this one is also forgotten to us.

Junaluska Creek, near Andrews, and Lake Junaluska, near Waynesville, North Carolina, are named for the famous Cherokee Tsunu’lahv’sgi. He organized a group of warriors in 1813 and vowed to wipe the Creeks off the face of the earth. Unfortunately (for him, but not for the Creeks!), he was not able to accomplish his goal. He reported that he had tried and failed. Thereafter, he was called Tsunulahvsgi, which translates as ” he tried, but he always failed.” English speakers rendered his name as “Junaluska,” and he is memorialized by other place names in western North Carolina.  For further reading about Junaluska, you might begin with this link. Junaluska was born near Dillard, Georgia, then called Eastertoy [Estatoah].

Also near Waynesville is the Saunook Community.  I believe its present name is taken from the prominent Cherokee family.  Historically, the family name came from Ani-Sawanugi, the Cherokee word for the Shawnee tribe.  Many Shawnee came eventually to live among the Cherokee, despite long previous hostilities between the two tribes.  One Cherokee signer of the “Turkeytown Treaty” of 1817 had his name rendered as “Souanooka.”  The Shawnee were known to the Creeks as Savanuka, and, according to Mooney, some of the coastal tribes called them the Savanna.  So it was that the Shawnee gave their name to the Savannah River and to the city of Savannah.  In the 20th Century, Savannah was often used as a girl’s name, including in the shortened form Vanna. Soco Gap, derived from soquo’hi [“One place”; the word for “one” is pronounced “sho-gwa” in the Eastern Cherokee dialect], and several other places incorporating Soco in their names. It is not clear why a site would be so named. Soco Creek joins the OconalufteeRiver at Cherokee, North Carolina. In Georgia, near Gainesville, is a street and community called Ahaluna. I am not sure how it came to have that name, but, as a matter of interest, that was a Cherokee name applied to Soco Gap. Translated into modern terms, Ahaluna would mean “Deer Stand.” Literally, its meaning is “where they lay [past tense] in wait” [for deer, or for enemies].

Ela, in Swain County, North Carolina, is the Cherokee word for earth or land.

The name of Euharlee Creek, which runs through Rockmart, Georgia–and the Euharlee community a few miles to the northeast—comes from the Cherokee attempt [“yuha’li”] at pronouncing the Creek town name Eufaula, so it really is not Cherokee at all. We should remember that Cherokee has no “f” sound.

Cullowhee, North Carolina [pronounced “CULLA-whee”]: From “Gulohiyi,” a place where gulohi grows. Some sources say that gulohi is the watercress, but we really don’t know that. I have an idea that the gulohi was quite another plant, but I can’t prove it. In the extinct Lower Dialect, the word became “gurohiyi,” which morphed into Currahee, the famous mountain at Toccoa, Georgia. During World War II, 101st Airborne troops trained on this mountain, and Steven Spielberg’s TV miniseries Band of Brothers featured it prominently. You thought paratroopers all yell “Geronimo” when they jump, didn’t you? Currahee! was the cry of those who trained there, as everyone who lives around Fort Campbell, Kentucky/Tennessee knows. I am proud that I served for a time in the 101st Airborne Division.  [The pronunciation is CURRa-hee.]  Near Townsend, Tennessee, is Curry He Mountain, from the same Cherokee word.  One of the Cherokee signers of the “Turkeytown Treaty” of 1817 was Currahee Dick, but he was from North Carolina.

The word Currahee is often cited as meaning “We stand alone” or similar phrases.  I am sorry to report that, as great as that sounds to those who serve in the 101st Airborne, it just is not true.  Not in Cherokee.  Sorry.  However, we need to point out that the mountain is a monadnock, which by definition, stands alone.  Currahee does stand alone!

Up in the Smoky Mountains is Cataloochee Creek and other Cataloochee places: a township, a mountain, a divide, and more. Sometimes, I have looked up at a mountain ridge, narrow at its top, to see a thin line of tall conifers looking rather like a stiff and vertical fringe against the sky. So it must have looked, somewhere in the Cataloochee region, to the ancient Cherokee who called it “Gadalutsi,” which translates as “fringe sticking straight up.”

Tuskegee: There were several settlements called Dasgigiyi [sometimes transliterated Taskigiyi or shortened to Taskigi] in the Cherokee country. The name is not Cherokee, nor even Creek; it came from the name of a nearly forgotten tribe who were taken in partly by the Cherokee and partly by the Creeks to the south. They were absorbed and nearly extinct before white people took notice of them, so not very much is known about them. They may have been some remnant of people who were living in the southeast when the Creeks and Cherokee arrived. The name remains in Tennessee, North Carolina, and Alabama. It is intriguing to note that the Spanish explorers were told in 1567 that not too far from “Tasqui” was another town, “Tasquiqui.” One wonders if there is a connection between Tuskegee Creek and Tuskee Gap in the Smokies?

Suwanee: “Suwani,” the name of a Cherokee town near the present Suwanee, Georgia. The word is not Cherokee, and the town had been taken from the Creeks. Both Creeks and Cherokee claimed a wide strip across Georgia, and, since neither side was able to enforce its claim, for a time there were towns of both tribes within the strip. The Suwanee River, famous as the “Swanee River” of song, has the same name origin.

Judaculla Rock is a large soapstone outcrop near Cullowhee, North Carolina; it is covered with incised and scratched markings of various shapes, not seemingly arranged in any order, and of wholly unknown meaning.  The markings, the best known petroglyphs in the state, are somewhat similar to those found at Track Rock Gap [q.v.].  In April 2016, the rock was senselessly vandalized.  On older maps, the name was spelled Juttaculla, and nearby is a “bald” of some 100 or so acres which is called Judaculla Old Fields.  The name is the result of English attempts at Tsul’kalu, a mythological and supernatural slant-eyed giant.  Tsul’kalu can be translated “he has them leaning [or slanted].”  According to legend, Tsul’kalu, who had seven toes on each foot, made the marks when he jumped up or down from his fields.  The proper pronunciation of Judaculla is JOOdah-KULLa, the first syllables pronounced like the Biblical name Judah, which is why the modern spelling is better than the old. The first u in the old word Tsul’kalu has the long u sound as in school.

Cherokee Place Names, Part 8

Cherokee Place Names, Part 8

Tulula Creek joins the Sweetwater Creek to form the Cheoah River at Robbinsville, North Carolina. Once, it was spelled Tallulah Creek, and about 10 miles southeast of Robbinsville, on the creek, was the old Cherokee town of Tallulah or Tulula. We have already taken a look at Tallulah Falls, Georgia. Some writers have speculated that the word Tallulah may have come from the Creek word talwa [town], more specifically from the Okonee dialectical form talula. We are not likely ever to know the real truth about that. During historical times, the Okonee would not have been this far into the mountains, but there were Creek towns here before the Cherokee pushed them to the south and west by the year 1600. I notice that the word “tulula” has come to have an unsavory meaning, possibly originating from a misspelling of Tallulah Bankhead’s first name.

Sweetwater Creek, a few miles east of Robbinsville, is one of the headwaters of the Cheoah River. On this creek is the community of Cheoah. Here was the old Cherokee town of Tsiyohi [“otter place”], for which the community and river are named. [Cheoah is pronounced “chee-OH-uh.”] Perhaps we should determine just how long this particular site has been continuously occupied; it may have been at least several hundred years.

In Oconee County, South Carolina, was another Tsiyohi. The name survives here in Cheohee Creek and Cheohee community. A third Tsiyohi was somewhere on a creek at Cades Cove, Tennessee, but it does not seem to have left any place names there, so far as I can tell.

Chiaha, Cheaha, and Chehaw, all found in Alabama, bear a superficial resemblance to Cheoah and its variants, but these are actually Muskogean names, not Cherokee.

Entering what was once the Cheoah River, now Lake Santeetlah, on the west side is West Buffalo Creek.  Somewhere on that creek, likely now under the lake waters, was an ancient Cherokee village called Yansai [or Yvsai or Yunsai, “buffalo place”], whose name had already been translated into Buffalo Town before 1799.  Buffaloes [actually bison, of course] had long ago been present even in the mountains of western North Carolina, the last ones apparently disappearing westward by about 1760, but they were not forgotten to the Cherokee.  However, this creek actually takes its name from an ancient legend about a buffalo who lived under the water near the place where the stream emptied into the river.  Santeetlah is not derived from a Cherokee word.   From Lake Santeetlah onward, the Cheoah River is reduced to a dry streambed, water coming only after heavy rains or in the handful of days annually in which water is released from the Santeetlah Dam.

In the northwest corner of Graham County, forming a few miles of the North Carolina-Tennessee border, is Slickrock Creek.  It enters the Little Tennessee downstream from the Cheoah Dam.  The name is a translation of  Nvya Tawisgvhi [nvya, rock; tawisgvhi, slippery or slick].  There are several other streams of the same name, for example, the one a few miles northwest of Brevard, NC, but this is the only one that I have been able to verify as having the name translated from Cherokee.

Iotla Creek joins the Little Tennessee River at what is now the Iotla community. It stands on the opposite side of the river from the creek’s mouth. That location would have been a near ideal spot for a Cherokee town, and I think it was. In the lists of old Cherokee towns appears one Ayahliyi or Ayotlihi or Ayoree.  That name translates to “offshoot place” or “sprout place,” probably in reference to its being a colony from a larger town such as Nikwasi, which lay only a few miles to the south. Iotla’s present pronunciation [“eye-OH-la”] is a rather good English approximation of the Cherokee “ay-o-tli” [sprout]. The survival of the -tl- in the spelling gives further credence to my suggestion.  Bartram’s list included the town of Jore, and there is some indication that it may have been on Iotla Creek.  I believe that Jore is a corruption of Ayoree.

Those mountains that Bartram called the JoreMountains are now known as the Nantahala Mountains.

A few miles west of Iotla is the Burningtown community and Burningtown Creek, in Macon County’s Burningtown township.  On the creek, there was recorded a Cherokee town called Tikaleyasuni, which meant “place where they were burned” or something close to that.  Linguistically, it contains the Cherokee elements that would justify that conclusion.  So far as I can determine, there does not exist any historical information that might explain the name, so we assume that the town may have been near (but not on) a place where there had been a forest fire at some time in the past.

Stecoah Creek empties into Fontana Lake. Near the head of the creek is the Stecoah community. We have already seen Stekoa Creek in Rabun County. There were at least three Cherokee towns called Stikoyi, one of which was somewhere on this Stecoah Creek. The meaning of the name is unknown.  [Fontana is not a Cherokee word; it is an Italian word that means “fountain.”  The  lake was named for one of the several small towns now lying beneath its waters.]

Just north of Rome, Georgia, is Armuchee Creek and the Armuchee community. Somewhere on that creek was the ancient town called Aumuchee [probably for A-mu-tsi], which appears on some of the lists of Cherokee towns. I am not convinced it was originally Cherokee, and I know no way to translate it, but from its name we have the creek and community names.  Locally, the pronunciation is “ar-MER-chee.”

Canton, Georgia, is now said to be one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S. As I wrote these words in 2007, the Hickory Log Dam was just being finished. It will create a lake of some 370 acres to supply water for Canton and for parts of other counties. There was a Cherokee town on the Etowah River near Hickory Log Creek.Its name was Wa-ne-a-sv-tlv-yi. [Please understand that I separate some names into syllables to make them fit more easily into English-speaking mouths. So often do I see words thus hyphenated, that one would have the impression that American Indians speak only in unmodulated and monotonous syllables. If you hear some spoken Cherokee some time you will understand that such is not the case.] Hickory Log is a fair translation of the Cherokee name of the settlement, Wanei-asvtlvyi, in full. Wanei is the name given to the hickory tree, and asvtlvyi, in the old days, meant a place where there was a footlog for crossing a stream. These days, the modernized word is asvhdlvi, a bridge.

There are other places with this footlog element. One was Nah-tsi-asvtlvyi, a Cherokee town not so very far from Hickory Log. In this case, “nahtsi” meant pine tree. From the translation came Pine Log Creek and the Pine Log community and a wildlife area. Cherry Log community and creek had a similar beginning, from “gita’yvsv’tlvyi,” wild cherry log lying across.”

In Habersham County, on the Soque River, was the village Soquiyi. The meaning of the name has been lost to us, but I note that the local pronunciation of the Soque [suh-kwee’, accented on the last syllable] is surprisingly close to what would have been the Cherokee sounds. I remember visiting the site of this village more than 60 years ago. There were still markings and signs of a town then. I expect they have long since been destroyed to make way for the enormous development that has since occurred along and around what used to be Pea Ridge Road and vicinity.

In North Carolina, Chesquaw Branch used to empty into the Little Tennessee River from the north, but now Fontana Lake covers what may have been a historically interesting old Cherokee town in the vicinity of the mouth of the stream. It must have been gone by the time Bartram made his list of 43 Cherokee towns, but two hundred years earlier, de Soto’s chroniclers wrote about a rich gold-mining town called Chisca. Could it be the same? The Yuchi Indians living a short distance to the northeast of Stecoah told him the “province” of Chisca was over the mountains into what is now Tennessee. Of course, they simply wanted de Soto to get on his way and out of their area. So, who knows? Does Chisca lie under Fontana? Another mystery. What we do know is that Chesquaw is from the Cherokee Tsi-squa-yi or Tsi-squa-hi [“bird place”]. These days, it would be called Birdtown, but it is not the same as the Birdtown on the Eastern Cherokee Reservation.

If one follows the trail up Forney Creek from Fontana Lake for a few miles, rising a bit over 3500 feet on the west is Suli Ridge, seemingly dwarfed by the much taller Loggy Ridge just to its north and east.  “Suli” is the Cherokee word for “buzzard”, but I am not certain how the name came to be applied to that particular ridge, just a small ridge among more than a dozen of them within a few miles.

The French Broad River passes through Asheville and heads north to Hot Springs. Because of the rapids along this area, I doubt that any significant Cherokee settlement was to be found along this stretch. The Cherokee called this section Un-ta-ki-yo-sti-yi [or Vtakiyostiyi], with some accent on the second and fifth syllables. The name means “where they race,” referring to the rushing waters here; it survives in Tahkeyostee Park.

On the Tellico River, in eastern Tennessee, at the place now called Tellico Plains, lay the important Cherokee town of Taliqua [accented on the last syllable]. For a time, it was the most important Cherokee town. Its name is probably from a Creek dialect, and no Cherokee meaning is known. When de Soto passed through the area, the town seems to have been Creek and not Cherokee. Archaeological work in the Tellico Plains area shows that it has been occupied for about ten thousand years.

There was another town of the same name on Tellico Creek, near its junction with the Tennessee River north of Franklin, North Carolina. It was sometimes called Little Tellico, and there was another “Little” Tellico near what is now Murphy, North Carolina.

In Oklahoma, the Cherokee Nation’s capital was established as Tahlequah, now a city of about 15000 people, a bit more than a fourth of whom are American Indians. It took its name from the Taliqua in Tennessee.

Beaverdam Creek, which empties into the Soque River at Clarksville, Georgia, seems to be a translation, because one Cherokee town called Tsuyugilogi [“where there are dams”] stood somewhere nearby. More interesting is Oothkaloga Creek which passes through Adairsville, Georgia, on its way to the Oostanaula River. Another Tsuyugilogi was situated on that creek, near the junction with the river. The shortened form of the name of the town was Uy’ gilogi. In Cherokee pronunciation, the slight aspiration that replaced the -yu- would have sounded a bit like a -th- to an English speaker, so that Oothkaloga is a reasonable English attempt at the Cherokee word, and that is the real origin of the creek’s name.  There seem to be variant spellings of Oothkaloga:  Oothcaloga, and Oothcalooga.

Perhaps we need to explain. Cherokee is spoken with still lips. The mouth is held almost imperceptibly open. The tongue is held along the bottom of the mouth pressed against the lower teeth; it remains tightly in place as much as possible. The upper lip is tightened slightly across the teeth. Speaking may be done while breathing in or out; when expiration [“outbreathing”] occurs through the mouth and nose simultaneously in speech, certain sounds are clearly preceded by aspiration [that strong “h” sound], producing the “intrusive h” of Cherokee. Degree of h-intrusion varies widely among individual speakers.

The city of Adairsville takes its name from a Cherokee town which grew up around land owned by Walter John Scott (“Red Wat”) Adair, a grandson of Irishman James Adair and his Cherokee wife.  Red Wat was born in 1791, and he apparently moved into the area in the 1820’s.  He became a prominent leader in what was then the Cherokee Nation, in Georgia, and the settlement came to be called Adairsville before the white people took it over.   Adair was one of the signers of the “Turkeytown Treaty” of 1817.  As best I can tell, the family moved to Oklahoma, on the Trail of Tears.

We extend our deepest sympathies to the people of Adairsville and wish them the speediest possible recovery from the destruction wrought by the recent tornado [January 2013).

To the south of Adairsville, not far from Kingston, Connesena Creek empties into the Etowah River.   Upstream, the creek passes near Connesena Mountain, and a small branch flows from Connesena Spring into the creek.   A Cherokee family once living in the area were descendants of Dragging Canoe [Tsiyu-gvsini], the second part of whose name became Connesena.  Dragging Canoe was a chief of the Chickamauga band, very inimical toward the whites, in the period shortly after the Revolutionary War.  Conseen remains to this day the name of a prominent family of the Eastern Cherokee.   Dragging Canoe’s Cherokee name can be analyzed into <Tsiyu, “canoe”; and <gvsini>, “he is dragging it.”

I notice that there is a Lake Qualatchee a few miles northwest of Cleveland, Georgia. I have never visited the site. Bartram’s list of Cherokee towns included a “Qualatche,” but it was reportedly on the Flint River, too far away to have a connection with this lake. But, Mooney says a town called Qualatchee was somewhere on the headwaters of the Chattahoochee River. Not much else seems to have been written about the town, and I am not yet sure how the lake came to have its name.