People of One Fire
A national alliance of Muskogean scholars and their longtime friends
Creek – Seminole – Choctaw – Chickasaw – Alabama – Koasati – Apalachee –
Yuchi – Houma – Natchez - Shawnee
Native American trade routes between the
Appalachians and the Sea
Native American Brain Food No. 3
August 16, 2012
Note to new readers: We include the Shawnees because
perhaps a thousand or more Shawnees joined the Creek Confederacy.
Quechua and Maya DNA in the Southern Highlands
Native American trade routes between the Appalachians and the Sea
When I reached for the first time the acropolis, 700 feet up the Track
Rock agricultural terrace complex, I uttered about ten, “Oh my gosh’s”
that were followed by, “Why in the heck is this place HERE? The theme
song of the Last of the Mohicans was playing in my head the whole time I
was there. Much of that beautiful movie was filmed on or near my former
farm in North Carolina.
Things got really kornfuzing, however, when we learned that there were
people living east of Track Rock Gap and Brasstown Bald Mountain in
Georgia, who carried significant quantities of Quechua AND Maya DNA,
even though their BIA card said that they were Cherokees. Yes, that’s
the same DNA carried by the people of Peru and our favorite Pocahontas,
Q'orianka Kilcher . . . welcome to POOF, Q’orianka! What in the heck is
Quechua DNA doing in the Georgia Mountains? We can explain the Maya DNA,
Does the Quechua DNA give credence to the French colonial archives that
describe cinchona trees (quinine) being cultivated on the coast of
Georgia near the Altamaha River? ALL European maps show Fort Caroline
being located about 12-16 miles inland on the Altamaha. The native
people around Fort Caroline were called the Alekmani. They were
arch-enemies of the Timucua, who lived farther to the south. The
Alecmani called their king a paracus. This is a Peruvian word dating
back to the Moche Culture. In the 1700s, there was a Creek village on
the Lower Altamaha named Alecktown. By then, "alek" was also the Creek
slang word for a medical doctor. There is also an Aleck Mountain
southeast of Brasstown Bald Mountain. Were the Alekmani particularly
skilled in medicine?
There are no DNA markers for the Cherokees, but a History Channel
consultant noted very different DNA patterns between the Georgia
Quechua-Maya and the North Carolina Cherokees 45 miles to the north on
the Qualla Reservation. The region around Track Rock Gap was Creek until
1785, so we suspect that these people were an isolated population
bypassed by the Cherokees, but assigned to them by federal bureaucrats.
All the Native American place names in the county where they lived are
Creek words, so we also suspect that at least some Upper Creeks in
Oklahoma may carry Quechua DNA.
Many Georgia and South Carolina Creeks carry a trace of Maya DNA.
However, another surprise was that the Cherokees whose roots were in the
vicinity of Murphy and Hayesville, NC often carry Maya DNA. These towns
are due north of Track Rock Gap. Cherokees from this area apparently do
not carry Quechua DNA.
It will take some serious archeological, forensic and botanical studies
to fully answer the “Why in the heck” and “What in the heck” questions,
for in 2012 we have discovered several smaller terrace complexes in
Georgia and Virginia. However, macro-analytical techniques, like we
planners use in regional studies, partially answered the first question.
This new scenario of the Native American history of North America was
mind-boggling to me, until I looked at a topographic map of the region
without state boundaries or interstate boundaries. Brasstown Bald
Mountain is the hub of almost all major trade routes in the Southeast.
The reason is that many of the major rivers in the lower Southeast
(north of Florida,) either begin on the slopes of Brasstown Bald or
within walking distance of this tall mountain.
This will surprise you. The Chattahoochee River begins on the southeast
slope of Brasstown Bald. The Hiwassee River’s source is about one mile
north of the Chattahoochee’s on Brasstown Bald. One of the tributaries
of the Nottely River begins at Track Rock Gap. The source of the Coosa
River begins about five miles west of Brasstown Bald on Coosa Bald. The
Toccoa River begins 10 miles to the west of Track Rock Gap. The Etowah
River begins 26 miles southwest of Track Rock Gap. The Little Tennessee
River begins 28 miles to the east. The Savannah River begins 32 miles to
Whenever possible, Native Americans hauled bulk goods by canoes. Unlike
the Quechua, they had no beasts of burden. When rivers were too shallow
or rocky for canoes, the major trade routed paralleled their channels.
Major towns developed along these riverine trade routes. There was an
equally important reason for aligning trade routes to the rivers. The
rivers interconnected geological regions within the interior of North
America with the ocean. Each region produced raw materials or finished
products that were scarce in other regions. Regional surpluses and
scarcities resulted in commerce.
Regional trade goods
It is strongly recommended that all of you, who are interested in the
Southeastern Native Americans, read Three Voyages as translated by
Charles C. Bennett. It is the memoir of Captain René Goulaine
Laudonniére, commander of Fort Caroline and describes the attempts
between 1562 and 1565 of France to colonize North America. It is
available on Amazon.com. It is also the most detailed and credible
account of Native Americans in the Southeast at the time of European
As a member of Congress, Bennett pushed through an act creating the Fort
Caroline National Memorial in 1950. He did not publish the translation
of de Laudonniére’s book until 2001. His book continued to equate the
May River of the French with the St. Johns River of Florida, even
though, obviously the St. Johns does not flow from the Georgia Mountains
down to Florida. Nevertheless, one does get an objective look at Native
American societies that were still thriving in the 1560s. The great
Native American Holocaust must have occurred a little later.
Several French Huguenot expeditions went up the Altamaha River from Fort
Caroline to both the Piedmont and the Appalachian Mountains. De
Laudonniére gives very interesting information about the Native American
trading system in the Southeast. One of his men, Pierre Gambie was
setting up a trade network when Fort Caroline was massacred by the
Spanish. Because he was stranded in North America, Gambie married the
daughter of a native king. He eventually became king of a province in
central Georgia, himself.
At least in the 1560s trade was extremely important for Native American
provinces in the Southeast. Provinces fought over control of trade
routes. Apparently, the actual transportation of the goods was by
merchants, who easily passed through all provinces without being
affected by wars. It is known that the Yuchi were heavily involved with
trade. However, the Tamale-Tamatli-Tamahiti seemed to have controlled
trade between the Lower South and the Upper South and Midwest. Tamaule
means “Merchant People” in the language of Tamaulipas State, Mexico.
Tamatli means “Merchant People” in Totonac and some dialects of Creek.
Tamahiti means “Merchant People” in Itza Maya and Itsate-Creek.
The most valuable commodities came from the Southern Highlands. By far
the most necessary of these was a type of very hard greenstone that
occurs near the gold deposits in northern Georgia. This stone was used
by all the provinces in the Piedmont, Coastal Plain and Florida to made
wedges and axes. Other traded commodities from the mountains included
red ocher, mica, copper, flint, hickory nut oil, hickory nut butter,
gold, quartz crystals, marble and silver.
The memoir of René Goulaine Laudonniére does not state what the Native
peoples of the Piedmont and Coastal Plain traded to the mountain
provinces in order to obtain their valuable commodities. It is known
that the white and colored clays of the Upper Coastal Plain were
considered the best raw materials for pottery and stuccoing building.
For sure, the coastal tribes traded shells to inland provinces. Perhaps
some bulk agricultural commodities were shipped northward. There must
have been other commodities, which the Apalache, Koweta and Kusa living
in the Georgia Mountains, would have accepted in trade. This is a major
question that has not been fully answered by anthropologists and
There is so much that we still don’t know.
Have a great weekend!
Richard Thornton, Editor