Early Slave Raid
The Dark Age
In 1567 Captain Juan Pardo explored an extensive area of what is now the
Carolina Piedmont & Highlands. He probably also traveled through sections of the
upper Tennessee Valley and northeastern Georgia – possibly even SW Virginia.
Licenciado (attorney) Juan de la Bandero recorded names of indigenous
communities that he visited and gave some geographical descriptions of certain
important towns; but gave incomplete information as to the locations of these
communities. All but one of the political titles that Bandero recorded, are
words in Muskogee or Hitchiti. Scholars are not aware of any other detailed
accounts of the region for another 100 years. By that time the ethnic
characteristics of the region had changed starkly.
The archaeological records of most major towns in the Chattahoochee, Etowah and
the Coosa River Basins suddenly end between 1585 and 1600. Many of the towns in
the Highlands also apparently were abandoned, but there were exceptions.
Tugaloo, at the headwaters of the Savannah was occupied by “somebody”
continuously until after the Revolutionary War.
The Spanish definitely continued to explore the region after 1567. There is much
evidence of their visits, but currently no known chronicles describing the
expeditions. This spring, the editor reported the discovery of a 1615 Spanish
land claim high on a rock face in the Smoky Mountains. Spanish mining claims
were carved into rocks along Nickajack Creek in Cobb County, GA (NW Metro
Atlanta.) In 1690 a British Army expedition reported seeing a Spanish mining
colony in the Nacoochee Valley of NE Georgia. Until the 1740s, both Spanish and
French maps showed Spain owning all of the Chattahoochee River Basin to its
source near the Nacoochee Valley. Early Spanish artifacts have been found in
extreme western North Carolina and northern Georgia. There is much
archaeological work left to be done!
Another puzzling riddle of Native American history is the oral tradition among
South Carolina Indians, that at some time in the recent past, armies of the
Creek Confederacy invaded their region, but were pushed partially back, No
record of such a war has been found in English colonial records, while several
Muskogean tribes in South Carolina such as the Kusapa, Kusa, Sawakee and Ilape (Hilabee~Pee
Dee) were early members of the Creek Confederacy. Perhaps this invasion actually
occurred during the Mississippian Culture Period, and the invaders were the
pre-Creek Muskogeans of South Carolina.
The vague memory of a war between the Muskogee-Creeks and the South Carolina
Creeks might also be modified nightmare from the era when every ethnic group was
raiding every other ethnic group to obtain slaves in order to trade them for
firearms, powder, iron kettles and metal tools. It is known that the Creeks of
Georgia and the Savanao & Westo of the Savannah River Valley did raid each
Early Slave-Raiding Period (1657-1684)
We chose the date of 1660 as the official starting point for this report because
in 1660, Virginia’s Governor William Berkeley pushed through laws, which
officially recognized the institution of slavery and codified laws removing any
legal rights from slaves. From that point until 1752, any captured Indian was
condemned to a life of slavery, as were all their offspring.
Who were the Rickohockens? (many spelling variations) They were a powerful,
warlike ethnic group that in the 1600s controlled a territory in modern day SW
Virginia, SE Kentucky, NW North Carolina and NE Tennessee They began supplying
furs and Native American slaves to William Berkeley’s plantation on the James
River in the late 1640s, and quickly made him a very wealthy man. They spoke a
hybrid Algonquian-Iroquoian language and apparently had originally been based in
the Shenandoah Valley until pushed southwestward by Iroquoian raids. The
Shenandoah Valley was almost uninhabited when the first English explorers
arrived there in the mid-1600s. Its few Native inhabitants, the Shenandoah,
spoke a hybrid Algonquian-Iroquoian language that apparently was similar or the
same as Rickohocken.
There three divisions of the tribe. The principal town of the eastern most band
was the Twin Peaks of the Otter near modern day Bedford, VA. Its name was Otari,
which means “high place” in Rickohocken and several dialects of Cherokee. Juan
Pardo visited a town named Otari, but it may not be the same place (or language)
as the Otari in 17th century Virginia.
Who were the Westo? The Westo were a band of Rickohockens, who settled on the
east side of Savannah River near modern day Augusta some time between 1657 and
1674, Most cookie cutter history texts call them Yuchi. They were not. Dr, Henry
Woodward reported that the principal town of the Westo in 1674 was named
Hickauhauga (his spelling.) Rickauhauga contained Algonquian style long houses
that were randomly scattered around the chief’s long house. Early Yuchi towns
contained only round buildings and were formally arranged on the periphery of a
round plaza. It also should be noted that the “auga” suffix is common in the
Cherokee village names that are not of Muskogean origin.
The English name of Westo was probably derived from the Hitchiti-Creek word,
Weste, which means “people with long, unkempt hair.” Both male and female
Muskogeans were neatly groomed so the label implied that the Westo’s were
culturally less advanced, even if they did strike terror into the agricultural
peoples. The coastal Carolina peoples believed that the Westos ate children,
because the Westos would typically grab children and teenagers in their raids.
The captives would never been seen again. Of course, the youthful prisoners were
being immediately marched to plantations and slave markets in Virginia!
Who were the Chiska? Chiska is the original name of the Chickasaws for
themselves. In their tradition, the brothers Chiska and Chahta founded the
Chickasaw and Choctaw peoples. Chickasaw is the Muskogee word for them. The
Chiska were once numerous and occupied most of Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau
north of the Tennessee River. They lived in small villages, did not maintain
large cultivated fields, and built few mounds during the Late Mississippian
Period. What mounds they did build during this era were very modest. During the
1500s they were known for their military prowess. Chickasaws continued to be
known for their fierceness in battle until the late 1700s.
Who were the Chikamawka’s? The Chikamawka’s were a Chickasaw speaking people
based in the area around Lookout Mountain in TN and GA. The word means “place to
look out” in Chickasaw. They were known as the Chicameca’s by the Spanish,
because of the similarity of the name to the Nahuatl word for barbarian. At some
point in the 17th century, the Chikamawka’s became raiders. Their name survives
in its Cherokee form as Chickamauga. Renegade Cherokees took refuge among the
Chikamawka’s during the American Revolution.
Who were the Apike’s? The Apike’s were an advanced Muskogee-speaking ethnic
group in northeastern Tennessee. The name means “Cornstalk People.” Juan Pardo
made contact with them, but we know very little about them since minimal
archaeological work has been done northeast of Knoxville. In response to raids
by the Rickohockens, the surviving Apike migrated to what is now northern
Alabama. The French called them the Abeika because European speakers typically
changed a Muskogean P to a B. By the late 1700s, the Abeika (or Abikara) had
become the dominant province of the Upper Creeks. They did extensive damage to
central Tennessee as allies of the Chickamauga Cherokees.
Who were the Savano? The Savano were Shawnees, who were living on the Savannah
River in the 1600s and first half of the 1700s. They spoke a highly aberrant
type of Algonquian language. Most standard history texts state that they were
recent arrivals, when the English settled South Carolina.
Recent archaeological work in East Augusta, SC suggests that they arrived on the
Savannah River around 1600 AD. Cherokee history books state that they were small
bands of refugees that the Cherokees took in during the late 1600s and early
1700s. The Savano, themselves, may or may not have been recent refugees, but
Shawnee bands were scattered all over the east-central United States.
Ancestors of Shawnee were probably living in the Southern Highlands during the
Woodland Period and were associated with the Hopewell Culture. Their presence in
that region probably predates the Muskogeans, and definitely predates the
Cherokees. French maps show them occupying the heart of the Carolina Mountains
in the late 1600s while the Charakees were then located in NE Tennessee, SE
Kentucky and SW Virginia. The Swannanoa River near Asheville, NC gets its name
from the Muskogee words, “Suwanee Owa” or Shawnee Water. The ancestors of
Shawnee and Creeks were ancient trading partners, and thus during colonial times
the two ethnic groups tended to be on the same side in warfare. However, the
Savano villages were an exception to this general pattern, probably because of
the general collapse of integrity created by the Native American slave trade.
French maps show several Savano villages on the Tennessee River near the
concentration of Caskenampo (Koasati for “many warriors”) villages in the early
1700s. When that region was taken over by the Cherokees, the Savano villages
disappeared. They may have joined the Creek Confederacy.
Who were the Cusseta (or Coushetta in French?) - The Cusseta’s were the
descendants of the people of the great province of Kusa in the 1500s. The word
comes from their Hitchiti name, Kusa-te, for Kusa People = Koushe-te. Hitchiti
has three "s" sounds - S" ~ "sh" ~ "jzh.".At some unknown point in time, the
Cusseta shifted to speaking Muskogee.
Who were the Tomahitan’s? They were a Native American group on the west side of
the Blue Ridge Mountains in the late 1600s. Contact was made with them in 1673
by explorers James Needham and Gabriel Arthur from Virginia. A pantheon of
history books and web sites describe the journey as the first contact with the
Cherokees and the name of the town as Chota. Neither the word Cherokee nor Chota
are mentioned by the men’s journal. In fact there is too little information to
link this people with any specific geographical location. The proximity to the
Oconaneechi Tribe suggests that the Tamatitans lived on the New River, but the
description of their society and political organization suggest that they were
Muskogeans. This tribe may, in fact, be one that began as a Tamatli elite and
The Tomahitan’s told the explorers that they were eight days upstream from a
settlement of white men, who wore clothing and long beards. These Europeans
built brick structures. Another odd thing about the Tomahitan’s was that they
were armed with arquebuses that were very different than the ones used by the
English. This information suggests that the white men were either Spanish or
Melungeons. Melungeons were Spanish Jews, who migrated into the Appalachians to
escape the Inquisition.
Who were the Chorakee? The word is Muskogee and can be translated as either
“Splinter Groups” or “People Who Take Scalps.” Splinter Groups is the most
likely translation, since the town names are a mixture of Hitchiti, Muskogee,
Siouan, Shawnee and Yuchi words. The Chorakee towns were located in a triangular
region bounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains on the north, the Chattooga-Tugaloo
Rivers on the west and the Keowee River on the east. They were described as
being military allies of the Cussetas (Creeks) and Chickasaws in 1674 – both are
Muskogean ethnic groups. It is highly likely that the original Chorakees (or
Lower Cherokees) spoke a hybrid Muskogean dialect that mixed Hitchiti, Muskogee,
Catawba and Yuchi – and did not use any “Cherokee” words.
The earliest map to denote their towns from the 1690s, states that the Chorakees
were also allies of un-named peoples living in the North Carolina Mountains.
Many of the Chorakee villages bore the name of Muskogean peoples who lived much
closer to the coast in the 1500s, such as the Tamatli and the Edisto.
Apparently, none of the Chorakee settlements were very large. The combined
military strength of the 10 towns was only 300 men in 1715.
1657 – The Colony of Virginia provided arquebusses
(precessors to the musket) to the Rickohockens with the provision that they
capture Native American slaves for the tobacco plantations of Virginia. They
were the only indigenous peoples fully armed with firearms. Raiding parties
usually went south because the population densities were higher and the people
were sedentary farmers.
1658 – While the eastern Rickohocken’s decimated
the Siouans of North Carolina, the western Rickohockens attacked their immediate
neighbors to the south, the Chiska. Next in line were the Apike, in the vicinity
of modern day Knoxville. The Chiska were particularly vulnerable since they
lived in small villages, with minimal fortifications. Apparently, the Chiska
were completely driven out of eastern Tennessee at this time. The survivors
probably took refuge in the Smoky Mountains, moved west or took refuge among the
Muskogeans of the Chattahoochee Basin. There were Chickasaw villages in SW
Georgia in the 1700s.
1659 – An army of 1000 Rickohocken warriors and
some white men (all armed with arquebusess) attacked without warning the
powerful Tama Province on the Altamaha and lower Ocmulgee Rivers. The province
was annihilated. The Tamatli were the branch of the Creeks with many Maya
By this time the Rickohocken slave raids had produced a shock wave of horror
across the Southeast. The Rickohockens killed all male adults and toddlers too
young to walk back to Virginia. Most severely affected were the many small
Siouan ethnic groups in south-central Virginia and the Carolina Piedmont. Many
of these ethnic groups soon ceased to exist.
1661 – On June 20, 1661 (Gregorian Calendar)
Chikamauka raiders destroyed the Mission Santo Domingo de Talaje at the mouth of
the Altamaha River near modern day Darien, GA.
1669 – First settlement of the Carolina Colony was
founded at Albemarle Sound.
1670 - Charlestowne was founded at the bay where
the Ashley and Cooper Rivers meet.
1673 – Trade delegations journeyed to the Kusa on
the Ashley and Cooper Rivers, plus the Catawba farther north. The southerly
location of the Kusa suggests that the town of Kofitachiki was also farther
south that is typically assumed. Cartographer d’Lisle placed It on the upper
reaches of the Santee River.
1673 - James Needham and Gabriel Arthur pass
through the Oconanechee territory, cross over the Blue Ridge Mountains and then
spend some time with the Tomahitans.
1674 – Dr, Henry Woodward journeyed to the
principal town of the Westo’s to negotiate with them. He also made contact with
Savano (Southern Shawnee) village across the Savannah River, who warned the
Westo’s that they were about to be attacked by the Cusseta’s, Chickasaws and
Chorakees. Woodward’s warning to the Westo’s put him in good graces with them.
He was subsequently able to establish trade relations with them.
1674 – Woodward wrote the first report to the Lord
Proprietors which mentions the ethnic name, Chorakee. He had not made any direct
contact with them, but only knew that they were enemies of the Westo, who
occupied towns near the headwaters of the Savannah River.
1675 – Dr. Henry Woodward made his first journey to
the Middle Chattahoochee River Basin to meet the leaders of towns that would
soon form the People of One Fire or Creek Confederacy. He returned the next year
and often, again until his death in 1690. Woodward had 12 partners from
Charlestowne, who provided a variety of English goods to the ancestors of the
Creeks and encouraged them to remain independent of Spain.
1679 – Robert Holder traveled from Charleston,
passed over the Blue Ridge Mountains and then had trade talks with the native
peoples of the Upper Tennessee River. At that time, the largest ethnic group of
the Upper Tennessee region were the Koasati, who called their province,
Caskenampo. The word means “many warriors” in Koasati.
Holder used Muskogean guides for the journey because at that time the peoples
along the entire route spoke Muskogean dialects. The dominant province in
southeastern Tennessee at that time was the Tanasi. The South Carolina Muskogean
guides called them the Tenesaw and their province Tenesi. When the expedition
returned to Charleston, the mapmaker recorded the name of the region as being
1680 – Three hundred Westo raiders attacked and
destroyed the principal Spanish mission in Guale, Santa Catalina de Guale. It
was defended by a newly built stone fort, 6 Spanish soldiers and 40 Wahale
(Guale) militiamen. Nearby missions soon were sacked by either Westos,
Chikamaukas or Yamasees.
1680 – The Westo slave-raiders had become an
increasing nuisance to the young colony of South Carolina after they ran out of
small Native American tribes to decimate. Small bands of Westo had been raiding
plantations to steal slaves to sell to other plantations. Sometimes in the
process, English colonists were killed. The Lord Proprietors wanted to end the
slave raids and let their desires be known that the Westos were no longer to be
treated with special deference. However, the Indian traders were growing wealthy
from the slave trade and were reluctant to completely forego its profits.
In this year, the Westo lost their trade concession with a group of
middlemen, known as the Goose Creek men. The Goose Creek men then traded
arquebuses to the Savano and assisted them in attacking Westo settlements. By
1683 most of the Westo villages had been destroyed. The surviving Westo fled
west and joined the new Creek Confederacy. There was a Creek village named Westo
until the Indian Removal Period (1830s.)
1680-1690 – During this decade the Savano replaced
the Westo as the “most favored nation” among South Carolina traders. The Savano
were given special treatment by the colonial government while the slave traders
bought all the slaves that the Savano could capture. Most of the slaves were
Muskogean from eastern Georgia. However, the Muskogean increasingly took slaves
from their attackers as their confederacy strengthened. By the end of the
decade, the Savano had been decimated by Muskogean attacks. The surviving
Savanos moved north into the Tennessee River Valley or even migrated to the
Middle Atlantic region.
1683 – English pirates raided several of the
Spanish missions in the Province of Guale (now Georgia.)
Special Note: The probable meaning of the Creek
town name, Taliwa - Taliwa was ancient Muskogean town on the Upper Etowah River
that was occupied from at least 800 AD until it was destroyed by the Overhills
Cherokees in 1755. The word means "singers or choir" in contemporary Oklahoma
Mvkoke, but that doesn't quite make sense. However, there are a whole bunch of
Creek town and place names (both in Oklahoma and in the Southeast, that are not
words in Oklahoma Mvskoke. The late scholar John Swanton unknowingly gave us the
answer, In his book, The
Early History of the Creek Indians and their Neighbors, Swanton mentioned
that William Bartram visited an Apalachicola community which he recorded as
Taloowah Thlocco - which means "Town Big" in the Apalachicola language.
Apalachicola is a mixture of Hitchiti, Gulf Coast Choctaw and Archaic Mvskoke.
We have already mentioned in previous newsletters that the French maps showed
the Apalachicola occupying what is now NW Georgia until 1763. The fact that
Taliwa is the Cherokee way of pronouncing the Apalachicola word for town, is
very strong evidence that indeed the Apalachicola or Lower Creeks, were in the
NW Georgia mountains in the 1700s. Swanton's books is a must read for all Creek
scholars. The type style of this book is very small, but there is a massive
amount of archival information in Swanton's masterpiece, which gives a much more
complex perspective on Creek history than is typical of 20th century history
Notes About this Material
Source: Richard Thornton, an alliance of Muskogean scholars, professors and
professionals. Copyright Richard Thornton, Blairsville, GA, 2010. Used here with