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One of the many aspects of the contemporary Creek Indians that non-indigenous anthropologists seldom understand is that the Creeks are an assimilated people, composed of diverse ethnic groups, many of whom were originally enemies. The Itsate-speaking Creeks were the main players in the mound building business. However, they were decimated first by European diseases. and then by English sponsored slave raiders.
By the early 1700s, the Muskogee-speaking minority were clustered in present day west-central Georgia and east-central Alabama. They were less affected by the holocausts that killed off 90-95% of the Itsate-speaking Creeks. The Muskogees came to dominate an alliance of remnant Creek towns. However, up until the American Revolution, the Itsate language was still the predominate language among Georgia Creeks. By the time of the Indian Removal in the 1830s, Muskogee language and traditions dominated the Creek Confederacy.
What survives today in Oklahoma are primarily Muskogee cultural memories. Many Oklahoma Creeks are not even aware that their ancestors dominated northern Georgia, western North Carolina, eastern Tennessee, much of South Carolina and even a wedge in south central North Carolina. The western Creeks do not think of themselves as a “mountain people,” and have no cultural memories of such a period. Fortunately, one legend of an earlier time survives elsewhere.
The exception is the Migration Legend of the Kas’hita People which was presented to Governor James Oglethorpe in written form in 1735. The war chief of the Palache, Taskimikko Chikolili, translated the Creek writing written in red and black characters on a bison calf skin. One paragraph seems to describe the town at Track Rock Gap. This North American Rosetta Stone was quickly shipped to the Georgia office in Westminster Palace in London, where it remained on a wall for many decades. London newspapers provided translations and described the Creek writing as being peculiar red and black characters that were not pictures. The final paragraphs of the legend mention recognizable geographic features and also seem to describe a town at Track Rock Gap.
The Kas’hita dwelled in northwest Georgia for awhile with the powerful Kusa, whose huge capital was located on the Coosawattee River. They then traveled north to the Tennessee River and dwelt for awhile on the Talasi River (Little Tennessee.) They then headed south, crossing two rivers before coming to a powerful people who lived in mountainous province. The Kas’hita called the highest mountain this province, “Mo’terel,” because it made a rumbling sound like a drum.
The Kas’hita first arrived at a recently abandoned town on the White Path next to a river. This location would have to be at present day Murphy, NC, where the Unaka Trail crosses the Hiwassee River. The Kas’hita sent two scouts to the capital of the province, which was a great town on the side of Mount Mo’t’erel. Its occupants had flattened foreheads.
The leaders of the great city refused to provide the Kas’hita with food. Therefore, the Kas’hita attacked the city on the mountain, and killed all but two people and a white dog. The Kas’hita then left Mo’t’eral and befriended the Palache (Palachikola or Apalache) who then lived in the lower mountains to the south. The Palache showed them hospitality and allowed the Kashita to dwell among them for awhile.
By 1735, the Palache or Apalache had moved to southeast Georgia. The Kas’hita and the Palache had joined the Creek Confederacy at some time before the presentation of the bison skin. The English translation of the Migration Legend does not say how many years in the past, the Kashita arrived in the Georgia Mountains. It probably was some year between around 1350 AD and 1600 AD. The Kusa arrived in the Georgia Mountains around 1300 AD.
See Further: A Migration Legend of the Creek Indians