Knowledge of places is closely linked to knowledge of the self, to grasping one's position in the larger scheme of things, including one's own community, and to securing a confident sense of who one is a person.
-Keith H. Basso, Wisdom Sits in Places
In Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney discusses the etymology of "Chattooga." Under his listing for "Tsatugi" [the name commonly written Chattooga or Chatuga] Mooney offered possible Cherokee derivations:
From words signifying respectively "he drank by sips," from gatugia…or "he has crossed the stream and come out on upon the other side," from gatugi.
But according to Mooney, Tsatugi was a name of foreign origin, specifically from the Creeks who laid claim to at least a portion of the Chattooga River during the first half of the eighteenth century. More often than not, the Cherokees contested the claims of the Creeks in North Georgia and Western North Carolina:
The ordinary condition between the two tribes was one of hostility, with occasional intervals of good will.
Mooney listed several place names reflecting the former presence of Creeks, as indicated by the origins of their names, among them Coweeta, Tomatola, Coosa, and Chattooga.
According to Jack B. Martin, writing in Handbook of North American Indians: Southeast, Creek is one of the Muskogean languages (including Chickasaw-Choctaw, Alabama-Koasati, Apalachee and Hitchiti-Mikasuki and Creek) - the largest language family in the Southeast during the historic period (and spoken primarily in Georgia and Alabama). In 2000, there were three main dialects of Creek, used in Oklahoma, Mississippi and Florida, respectively, with a total of about 4000 speakers at that time.
[Photos from Chattooga River at Bullpen]