The Chattahoochee River is where at least 32 ethnic groups came to live in the 1700s. They assimilated to become the Creek Indians by the end of that century.
Meaning of Chattahoochee
Virtually all references state that Chattahoochee means “marked or painted rock river” in Creek language. The Muskogee/Creek Dictionary states that the original Muskogee words were “Catv hoce hacci” – meaning ”Marked Rock River.” The original Creek name was for a specific town southwest of Atlanta. It may have been the English phonetic spelling for the Creek words, cate hacci, which means “Red River.”
Formative Ethnic Groups on the Chattahoochee River in 1700s
French maps from 1701 and British maps from 1721, list numerous ethnic groups living along the Chattahoochee. Until the mid-1720s all of the Chattahoochee River was within the territory of the formative Creek Confederacy. Around 1725 the Cherokees captured the Nacoochee Valley and held it until 1828, the year that gold was discovered there. Yonah and Brasstown Bald Mountains were the limits of Cherokee occupation of Georgia until 1785. The word “Muskogee” first appears as a name of the Creek Indian Confederacy on a 1776 map, but never appears as a name of a town or ethnic group. In the glossary below, we will use the 18th century spelling of names on maps, then give the Muskogean word or the commonly accepted spelling used today. A Muskogee “c” is pronounced very similarly to an Italian “c” = “ch.” A “v” is a “a(w” sound. An Itsate-Creek interior “s” is a “zja” sound.
1. Apalache – They occupied the Georgia Mountains and Hiwassee Valley, NC until around 1715. The Cherokees quickly conquered their northern territory, while the Upper Creeks occupied their territory in the Georgia Mountains. Most Apalache apparently moved to SE Georgia, where the defeated Yamasee had once lived. There they were commonly known as the Palache or Palachicola.
2. Itsate – It is pronounced I(t-zja(-te-. Early maps showed one or two towns by this name in the Nacoochee Valley. Each was associated with mounds. By the mid-1700s, Nacochee (Naguchee) was the largest Cherokee village in the valley. Nacochee was the Cherokee pronunciation of the Itsate-Creek word for bear, nokose . . . pronounced no–ko–she-. Yonah Mountain, the Cherokee word for “bear” overlooks the Nacoochee and Kenimer Mounds.
3. Saute – This is the Anglicization of Sawate, an Itsate word meaning “Raccoon People.” They were originally located in southern South Carolina, but moved both to the Broad River Valley in NE Georgia and to west central Georgia in response to continual expansion of Colony of South Carolina. Those on the Broad River apparently moved both to the Nacoochee Valley and Lee County, AL, when their land in northeast Georgia was ceded by the Creeks in 1774. Saute was located where Itstate had been originally situated – next to the Kenimer Mound.
4. Soque – In the early 1700s. The Sokee had a village in the vicinity of confluence of the Chattahoochee River with the Soque River in the eastern end of the Nacoochee Valley. Originally, they occupied one of the most powerful indigenous provinces in South Carolina until being decimated by plagues and English-sponsored slave raids. Their original capital was located where Lake Jocasee is now. Other Soque moved south to join with the Cusabo then relocated to the Chattahoochee River. The Nacoochee Valley Soque last had a town on the border between the Creeks and the Cherokees, where Clarkesville, GA is located today. When their land was ceded in 1818 by the Creeks, it is not clear where they went.
5. Kataapa – This is the Creek word for Catawba. They occupied region between the mountains and Atlanta until after the Revolution. Much of this land was given to the Cherokees by the United States in 1785. The Georgia Catawba then moved to the Chattahoochee River and became formal members of the Creek Confederacy. It is a little known fact that the Georgia Catawbas actually controlled more territory than the South Carolina Catawba. They may have even been more numerous.
6. Potano – They were probably Taino-Arawak hybrids, who joined the Creek Confederacy. They were located in northwest Atlanta. Gary Daniels of Lost Worlds theorizes that Potano of Florida, SW Georgia and Atlanta area were major players in the gold trade with some Maya heritage. The name is very similar to Putan/Putun Maya, which is the actual name of the Chontal Maya traders from Tabasco. A stelae was found at a hilltop shrine near Sweetwater Creek’s confluence with the Chattahoochee. It contains identical art to what is found on Taino stelae near Arecibo, Puerto Rico in the Puerto Rican Toa Province. There was also a town named Toa in Georgia.
7. Chattahoochee – This town’s name initially appeared at a location roughly where Six Flags over Georgia is located. Later maps showed that the town had probably moved downstream at bit. Apparently, at this time, the Chattahoochee became associated with the Koweta Creeks.
8. Koweta – During the 1700s, the Koweta or Middle Creeks, controlled the section of the Chattahoochee between SW Atlanta and Columbus. The Koweta were originally from the cluster of towns with mounds along the headwaters of the Little Tennessee River in extreme NE Georgia and around Franklin, NC. Until after the Revolution, the Kowetas still had a substantial number of villages in NE Georgia and around the headwaters of the Ocmulgee River, north of Macon.
9. Yuchi – These Yuchi were mostly from the Lower Savannah River region. They established villages on the Chattahoochee in the mid-1700s.
10. Sawakee – The word means Raccoon People. They were originally located in southern South Carolina, but moved both to the Broad River Valley in NE Georgia and to west central Georgia in response to continual expansion of Colony of South Carolina. Those on the Broad River apparently moved both to the Nacoochee Valley and Lee County, AL, when their land was ceded by the Creeks in 1774.
11. Westo – These were Rickohocken Algonquians, who occupied villages in around present day Augusta, GA on the Savannah River until the late 1600s. After losing a war with the Savanos, they move westward, ultimately joining the Creek Confederacy.
12. Cusseta – The Kusa-te (Coushetta in French) were from NW Georgia and SE Tennessee. They were driven out of the section of the Upper Tennessee Valley between the Hiwassee River and the Little Tennessee River between 1725 and 1735. The Kusa-te continued to occupy NW and North-Central Georgia until 1785.
13. Kiakee or Kialegi -The Kiakee were from Upper Oconee River Basin in NE Georgia. They relocated southwestward during the early stages of the Creek-Cherokee War (1715-1754.)
14. Colima – French maps labeled these people the Coloume. The Kolima were from NW Mexico. They were also located in extreme SW Georgia in the 1700s, but it is not clear which location was their first in the Southeast.
14. Atasee – Little is known about the Atvse People. The word means “descendants of people downstream.”
14. Echete – These were Itsate refugees from Georgia and North Carolina Mountains. It is quite possible that they were survivors of the Itsate towns in the Nacoochee Valley, when it was overrun by the Cherokees in the 1720s.
15. Tuskegee – The Tvskeke or Woodpecker People were Muskogee speakers from Little Tennessee River Valley in Smoky Mountains. Some stayed in the Smokies and became a clan of the Cherokees. Others fled southwestward. The main body of the Tuskegee Creeks ended up on the Tallapoosa River.
16. Cashita – The Kasitv (Ka(-she(-ta(w) apparently were the last members of the Creek Confederacy. Their “Migration Legend” describes them living for awhile with the Kusa in NW Georgia then sacking a great city on the side of a mountain that appears to have been the Track Rock Terrace Complex.
17. Cusabo – The Kvsapa (Ka(u-zja(-pa() were Muskogeans from southern South Carolina, who left the region with the British purchased their lands in the early 1700s.
18. Ocmulgee – The Oka-mole-ke were originally from the Ocmulgee River Basin, north of Macon. The word means “Swirling-water-people” in a Georgia dialect that mixed Itsate and Muskogee. The name possibly refers to the water pouring out of Indian Springs near Jackson, GA.
19. Chiaha – The Chiahv were Itsate-Maya from Little Tennessee River Valley and Snowbird Mountains in North Carolina. They were visited both by Hernando de Soto and Juan Pardo. They were driven out of the mountains by the Cherokees in the early 1700s. The word probably means “Salvia River” in Itsa Maya, but also can be interpreted as “Beside the river” in Itsa Maya.
20. Hogologee – The Hogeloge were Yuchi refugees, who survived Cherokee expansion into east-central Tennessee during the 1720s.
21. Palachikola – Also known as Apalache or Palache, they originally lived in north-central Georgia in the vicinity of Dahlonega and were heavily involved in the regional trade of greenstone, gold and mica. They first immigrated to southeastern Georgia, when it was partially abandoned by the Yamasee Alliance in 1717. After the new colony of Georgia bought their land around 1743, they relocated westward. Palache is the Creek word for Biloxi. The French ethnic name “Biloxi” was for a small village on the Gulf Coast containing approximately 100 residents. The main body of the “Biloxi” lived in Georgia.
22. Savano – These were Shawnee from the Savannah River Basin. After the Colony of Georgia bought their land, they moved westward to the Chattahoochee. Archaeological evidence on the Savannah River suggests that the Savano were participants in the Southeastern Ceremonial Cult.
23. Upahale – These were the Yupahali visited by Hernando de Soto in September of 1540. At the time, they lived in the vicinity of Rome, GA. The name means “Yupaha People.” It is not clear where their great capital was in northern Georgia. It was well known by the native peoples of Florida.
24. Tamale – These were the Tamatli that were living in Lower Ocmulgee and Upper Altamaha Basin, when de Soto came through in March of 1540. They also had a large colony in the Andrews Valley east of Murphy, NC and a village named Tamasee on the Keowee River in South Carolina. These were absorbed by the Cherokee Alliance. Some Tamale may have fled southward, however.
25. Tamasee – This is a generic Creek word meaning “offspring of Tama.”
26. Tamahiti – The Tamahiti were a colony of Tama in the southwest corner of Virginia, north of the Roanoke River. They were mound-builders. They disappeared from Virginia archives shortly before appearing on Georgia maps in the mid-1700s. They were probably driven out of Virginia by the Cherokees.
27. Ochese – Vchese (Muskogee) or Icese (Itsate) occupied a powerful province on the Ocmulgee River, near and south of Macon. They apparently left the region during or after the Yamasee War ended in 1717. In Creek tradition, the Creek Confederacy was formed in Ochese, at its original location. However, by the 1700s, the town of Koweta had surpassed Ochese in political importance.
28. Tawasee – These were the Toasi encountered by Hernando de Soto on the Ocmulgee River in 1540. They spoke a language that mixed Taino Arawak with Muskogee. Toa is also the name of a Taino province in the vicinity of Arecibo, Puerto Rico.
29. Oconee – The Okvte or Okvni were living in the lower Oconee River Basin when de Soto came through in March of 1540. Some Oconee immigrated to Florida while others settled among the Creeks on the Chattahoochee River.
30. Attapulgus – This means “wooden paddle stirring” in Muskogee. It is not clear if they were Muskogee or Apalachicola speakers.
31. Kolomokee – The Kolomvki were the same NW Mexicans as the Colima, but went by their Muskogee name in extreme SW Georgia.
32. Chiloki or Chalokike – I am inclined to believe that the Chiloki were Chichimecs because the word means “barbarian” in Muskogee, and in the Totonac language of NE Mexico. They were living in close proximity to the Kolomoki in the mid-1700s. It is possible that they were a splinter Cherokee band, but not likely.
33. Apalachicola – Apalachikola merely means Apalachee People in the languages of the Gulf Coast. Apalache means “People bearing torches” in Itsate-Creek. They did not originally speak Muskogee. They were probably related to the Apalache or Palache of the Georgia Mountains, but this is not certain.