Thursday, September 6, 2007

Chiulè Tells His Story

It’s a blessed thing to gather around the ancient fire for tales of long ago.

Our mentors and companions circle there, becoming immortal by the telling and remembering of their stories. Bartram, Timberlake, Featherstonhaugh, Merrimon, Olmsted, Muir, Mooney, Morley, Kephart and Dykeman – to name a few.

Now, another incandescent face joins the group.

Meet Chiulè...sharing his memories at the age of 110...

Onomastic cartography - mapping the poetry of this place - has caught my attention. And while exploring the names that describe our home, I found a reference as astounding as it is obscure.

The remainder of this posting is a passage from an unsigned article that appeared in The Southern and Western Monthly Magazine and Review, December, 1845:

"Information from Chiulè, an Indian, who, in 1838, was said to be 110 years old-Betsy Chickalee, interpreter. Chiulè stated that Valley River, which falls into the Highwassee at Murphy, was called Coneheteh by the Indians-in English, Long Town.

He farther stated that the tradition which was current among the Indians when he was a very small boy, was that, but a short time before - perhaps but a single generation - there had been terrible wars between the Cherokees and a nation of Indians living to the west of that river - that these wars were attended with various successes - that the piles of rocks in the gaps of the ridges from Highwassee to Ninety-Six, the neighborhood where Chiulè was born, were the graves of the conquerors; that Nantihala was the divisional line between the Cherokees and the people with whom they were at war, and that this name signifies a dividing line, or the `middle between.'

He farther informed me that the last decisive battle between these enemies, was fought at the mouth of Peach-tree Creek, where the western nation had a fort or place of defence, and that the Cherokees remained masters of the field. Highwassee, in the language of the beaten people, signifies fortress or place of defence, From this fort the river takes its name, conferred, according to Chiulè, by the conquerors.

According to this venerable informant, the holes and numerous excavations along the Valley River, at the head of Peach-tree and other places, were dug by a people who resided with the conquered nation - that they were not white people, but were whiter than Indians - that they were called Hispan, and retired, with the people with whom they dwelt, after the last fatal field in which they were expelled from their places of refuge."

There is much of curious interest in this narrative of old Chiulè. It contains nothing which is not perfectly probable. The fortresses which cover the country, the numerous remains here and there, in works and implements, by which we are to infer the presence of a race superior to the rude savages by which the country was overrun, rather than occupied, at the coming of the English settlers, may, with reason, be ascribed either to the Northmen in the first instance, or to the scattered bands of Spaniards, brought by Ponce de Leon, by Nicuesa, by De Soto and others, in the last.

The Spaniards, whiter than the Indians, but less white than the blue-eyed and fair skinned Saxon, are sufficiently described by the words of Chiulè; while the accounts of the Northmen, which represent the same region of country, to have been partially possessed by a white people, speaking a language which they could understand, and which resembled the Irish, will seem not unreasonably to indicate the presence of this latter people among those conquered by the Cherokees, when we note their numerous ditches which Chiulè insists upon. By putting this and that, and what else elsewhere we may find, together, and our dealer in fiction, if not in history, may venture on his way with sufficient confidence.

"Tusquattie signifies `a bend,' and this creek was thus called, from its falling into the Highwassee, just below a remarkable bend in the latter river. `Chunky Girl Mountain' lies between Nantihala and the heads of Tusquattie, Shooting Creek, Bill Creek, and Hightower Creek; and received its name in compliment to a very fleshy and chunky squaw, the daughter of Culsowec, who dwelt at the foot of the mountain, and at the head of Shooting Creek. `Steccoe' was a town on the Tuckasidgee, and meant `little fat.' The `Chestatee' river of Georgia, was so named from the waters falling over a rock. `Jocassee' signified a field. `Che-oee,' falling into the Tennessee, below Nantihala, is `Otter' river. `Tuscaga' means bushy-head.

The French Broad, from the Long Shoals to the head, was called by the Indians `Cheu,' or Canal river, as not easily fordable, but navigable along this space. Below the Long Shoals and down to Holstein, it was called`Tokeaskeh,' or Running river. The Indian name of Pidgeon river was Wayah, or Wolf river. Nolichuckyis from Nolichuckquah, `a spruce pine.' Catugajay is `bread made with the milk of roasting ears of corn, 'Elejay is `new.' The Indian name of `Toe' river is Calltah, `of no value.' Terrora, or Tellulah, a river of Georgia, is `a `possum.' Coweta is `taking away.' Holstein was Oointewasteh, or `Swimming River.' Cumborland was Equoneh, or the `steep banks.' Peach-tree Creek was Culsateh. Eastatoe, a branch of the Saviny, is `poor beaver."

Thus ends the chronicle of Chiulè and Indian Bet…

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