The Invention of the Cherokee People

The Invention of the Cherokee People

(continued from previous blog post, concluding part of Chapter 8 in forthcoming book Cherokee DNA Studies Volume II: More Real People Who Proved the Geneticists Wrong)


Outacite, or Mankiller, or Ostenaco of Tomotley in the Overhill communities, etching after painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds in London, 1762. © The Trustees of the British Museum.

Stages of Cherokee History

Besides the Possum Creek Stone, Gloria Farley was the discoverer of an unusual boundary marker in her home state of Oklahoma. She describes it in her book In Plain Sight in the chapter titled, “They Claimed the Land.”[1] The stone was pulled out of farmland by curious eleven-year-old Brent Gorman of Warner, Oklahoma, in 1971. It was identified by Barry Fell as a Libyan boundary stone in the Numidian alphabet.[2] His translation of its script, which resembles that of the Sun Clan tablet of the Hopi, was:  Land Belonging to Rata. A discussion of the Warner Stone was published in his book America B.C. and its Numidian writing system and interpretation were confirmed by visits from surprised scholars at the Universities of Tripoli and Benghazi in Libya. Rata was identified as the second in command after Maui in a major ocean-going expedition and colonization event under Egyptian pharaoh Ptolemy Euergetes III, called the Benefactor (ruled 246-221 BCE). The stone is now in the permanent collection of the Kerr Museum in Poteau, Oklahoma.

Although neither the writing system nor language on the Warner Stone was Cherokee, it may have been more than coincidence that it was found near Cherokee and Creek cemeteries on the boundary between the two nations’ lands. About the time Rata staked his claim, the so-called Stony Tribes were thinly spread on the Great Plains. They are represented in both the rock art record and pictogram writings of the Algonquian, Sioux and other Indians by the tribal symbol consisting of a head with five feathers. In the Walam Olum, the migrating Lenape meet the Stony Tribe in Book IV, verse 43, as they are crossing the Great Plains, before they cross the Mississippi (see figure). They were presumably still Greek-speaking as a tribe, for they did not relexify until they adopted the Iroquoian language of their allies, the Mohawks and Hurons.

Later the Cherokee related that one of their culture heroes was Stone-Clad (tchaskiri). This word seems to come from the Greek warrior-type named Thrax, or Thracian. Stone-Clad spoke the old language, had armor and magical arts. His long spear was super-sharp and deadly. He introduced music, and only he could sing the old songs. It was taboo for any other Cherokee to do so.

Brent Gorman

Brent Gorman and Warner Stone in 1972. Photograph used by permission from Gloria Farley Publications.

tynchanathings that befalltikanohistory
etheloikeoivolunteer settlerseshelokeeCherokee; original people
gennadasnoblekanat(i)doctor, hunter
huios DiosSon of Zeus (title of Herakles)Su-too Jeemythic strong man
kakotechneobase arts, perjury, fraudkaktuntataboo regulation
kanonstraight-edge used by athleteskanugascraper used by ballplayers
karanosa chiefKoranuwar chief title, Raven
kateisassemblycahtiyisassembly house
keruxheraldskariroskenspeaker, herald
monastopping place, way-stationmonaland where the Elohi (Westerners) tarried
ouktennaone not killedUktenaname of dragon or serpent
oulountatadeclared healthyoolungtsatadivining crystal for health
skiaghost, shadeatchinaghost
stixabominableStichiname of dangerous serpent
tanawaastronomical instrumentTchlanuaGreat Hawk
(hoi en) teleithose in authoritytilihibrave, warrior
theatasspectator in a playtetchataplayful Cherokee fairy
theatrontheater, assemblytetchanunceremonial enclosure
ThraxThraciantchaskirisorcerer, Stoneclad
typhoraise a smoke, make sacrificeTathtoweceremonial title; firecracker  (smoke) bringer (Santa Claus)

Greek Words in Cherokee.

It is not known how long the Cherokees stayed in the Ohio Valley with their allies the Lenape and Iroquois. They remember this stage of their history as when they lived in peace in a land named Elohi Mona (Western Home). Mona, literally, is Greek for temporary dwelling place. In order to patch up relations with the Iroquois, they adopted their language, though the original Greek speech survived in certain titles and ceremonial terms, for instance tilihi “brave, warrior,” from telei “those in authority,” or Koranu/Kolanu “war chief, Raven,” from karanos “a chief.”  Perhaps around 1200, the Iroquois split off and settled in the Finger Lake District of present-day New York state. In Cherokee legends, this stage was remembered as The Land of Sorrow, when they had to say goodbye to family members and friends. About a century later, the Lenape divided off. The main body continued eastward across the mountains to the shores of the Atlantic, which they reached in 1396, as shown by the dating of a famous wampum belt. Some Algonquian tribes remained in the Midwest, where they became the Potawatomi and Sauk and Fox and related tribes.  The Shawnee spread out south as far as Virginia and the Carolinas. The Cherokee seem to have traveled in the same direction, for we next meet up with them in Middle Tennessee with the famous Thruston Tablet (see figure).


Runestone from West Arkansas with Stony Tribe Indian in profile and Elder Futhark inscription reading I-W-S-L. Photograph from p. 240 of In Plain Sight used by permission from Gloria Farley Publications.

Walam Olum

Walam Olum depicts the Lenape sachem Mighty Wolf, represented by the standard symbol with three feathers, one extending longer and pointed to the east, fighting and striking down a foe named Strong Stone (that is, Metal Armor). Strong Stone is shown to be the Stonys’ chief by one long feather, now pointed to the west. The town over which he ruled is represented by two overturned rectangles.

Thruston Tablet

Thruston Tablet. After photograph in Mallery, p. 735.

Sun chief

Sun chief in battle dress, with tomahawk, from the Thruston Tablet.

Snake chief in battle dress

Snake chief in battle dress, with large shield, from the Thruston Tablet.

Sun chief in ceremonial gear

Sun chief in ceremonial gear, appearing very much like a Greek hoplite, with stallion’s crest helmet,  from Thruston Tablet.

Thruston Tablet

Bonding ceremony between daughter of sun chief and victorious snake chief, now wearing with helmet, from the Thruston Tablet.

Boat or ship from the Thruston Tablet

Boat or ship from the Thruston Tablet.

Like much of the other evidence we have focused on in this book, the Thruston Tablet has been swept under the carpet of history. It was dug out of the bank of Rocky Creek near Castalian Springs in Sumner County, Tennessee, by a local farmer sometime before 1874. The “amateur” archeologist Gates Thruston came into ownership and presented it to the Tennessee State Historical Society (now Tennessee State Museum, acc. 4.197). A current consensus of opinion interprets the central scene as depicting two Indian warriors shaking hands vigorously after having a bit of a row.[3] We beg to differ. For one thing, the two Indians joined in ceremony are not two males, but a female, shown by her maiden’s hairdo, and a male, recognizable from another scene on the same tablet. The male obviously places one hand on the female’s shoulder, while the female reaches one hand toward the male’s lips. Unless we are dealing with an ancient version of same-sex marriage, this is a standard Indian bonding ceremony.

We haven’t been able to examine the Thruston Stone personally or study good photographs of it. It has several levels and different panels and is quite complex. We reproduce here the separate scenes for our readers to study for themselves. But we believe it relates to the Cherokees’ migration to Middle Tennessee from the Ohio Valley. Here they became known as the Mountain People (Otali, a Cherokee word, Walam Olum V.43), also the Ani-Yunwiya, or Principal People, another Cherokee word. The Thruston Tablet cannot be dated because the its archeological context was not documented. The scenes could reflect the defeat and subsequent alliance of the Stony Tribe by the Lenapes, as recorded in verse 443 of Book IV of the Walam Olum—sometime between perhaps 100 BCE and 100 CE (fig. XX). The Cherokee could have brought the Thruston Stone along with them when they migrated to Tennessee. At any rate, it records a peace treaty and morganatic marriage between two tribes—further adding to the admixture in the Cherokees’ past before they settled on the Little Tennessee and Holsten River and in Keowee, their three primary settlements.

We recently sent scans of the Thruston Tablet to John Ruskamp, author of Asiatic Echoes and an expert on maritime patterns in Old World and New World epigraphy.[4] He immediately confirmed the antiquity of the style and thought the boat (falsely called “gallery” by others) was Scandinavian, Greek or even Minoan. Additionally, strange to say, some of the unidentified writing was read by him as Chinese. “It appears to me that there could be three Chinese based symbols involved with this item,” he reported. “First . . .  the four horizontal lines may be for the number four ‘Si.’ Second . . .  X-shaped stick-man could be a figure of ‘Wen,’ which in this case looks as if it is holding a fishing pole with a forked end of the line. Or it could just be a drawing of a stick-man, as this is a difficult image to work with because of its artistic nature. . . . Finally . . .  there appears to be the Chinese symbol ‘Mi’ for thread or rope (a couple of twisted fibers). This may be a separate drawing, or it could relate to the larger depictions.”

Background panel on Thruston Stone

Fig. XX. Background panel on Thruston Stone shows Chinese number four (red circle), Wen stick-figure (green) and Chinese symbol for Mi, consisting of a couple of twisted fibres (blue).

The Thruston Stone incorporates several writing systems, including ogam, Old Chinese, Tifinagh and runic. Much analysis by qualified experts remains before the world will know its true meaning. Many of the iconographic motifs, such as the double serpent design on the opposing warrior’s shield, are echoed by inscriptions on Tumamoc Hill in Arizona. It could thus hark back to the arrival of that part of Maui’s fleet, which made landfall on the western shores of America. The Algonquian warrior (if that is his tribal affinity) wears a solar disk on his head, like many of the Sea Peoples (chapter 5). Could the Thruston Tablet in fact commemorate the original expedition of the 3rd cent. BCE Eshelokee in which Chinese ships helped transport the colonists across the Pacific to the New World?

One can’t help drawing attention to certain details of the Thruston Stone that raise even more questions:

  • Is the bride in the scene wearing a six-pointed star, and is that meant to convey her being Jewish?
  • Were the Chinese pictograms made by the hand of a Chinese trade partner or simply by someone on these shores familiar with Chinese writing?
  • Did the Algonquian tribes use Chinese writing?
  • Does the pictogram of the rope (Mi) stand for the Twister Clan (Cherokee Haplogroup B), whose name, like that of Hilo, came from the twisted navigational ropes emblematic of Hawaiians?
  • Finally, is the central symbol on the upper right panel really a rooster? Some sort of “sun bird”? Whatever it is, it exactly matches a petroglyph on the very top of Tumamoc Hill in Tucson.[5]

When they lived on the Great Plains, the Cherokee were called Stonys by other tribes. When they passed over the Mississippi, the tribes there at that time called them the Chan, or Snakes (Shanogi). The Iroquois, Creek, Seminole and most other eastern tribes knew them as the Cave People (Rickohockens), as did the Tihanama (Lagippe Inya, lit. Cave Indians). Just before the arrival of the Spanish they were called Otali, or Otari (“Mountaineers”). But the oldest ethnonym was Eshelokee—as the English had it, Cherokee. It was a name that appeared as early as Spanish accounts and maps, as Chalaque. From everything we have gathered together from the archeological record, they were, early-on, a mixture of many different peoples, but they were one people.

Age of Jewish Admixture

Naturally, one wants to know how old the Jewish strain is in Cherokees. Is it pre-Columbian? Is it ancient? Did Cherokees wear beards before the white man came? Was it an effect of the Spanish period only, that is, the sixteenth through seventeenth centuries? Here is a list of pertinent considerations for answering this question:

  • The chief’s daughter given as a marriage partner to the victorious chief in a peace treaty, as depicted on the Thruston Tablet, may have been Jewish.
  • If the Cherokee originated as Ptolemaic Volunteer Settlers from Egypt in the 3rd century BCE, some of them were probably Jews, since there were more Jews in Egypt than Judea at that time. The Elephantine papyri written in Aramaic show there was a Jewish community at that outpost on the Nile, perhaps made up of mercenaries, dating to sometime in the 5th century BCE. There were several waves of Jewish soldiers settled by the Egyptian government in Cyrene.
  • Greek was the vernacular of most Jews in classical antiquity, not Hebrew or Aramaic. It was even used for sacred texts, laws and literature.
  • Greek appears alongside Hebrew or Aramaic in the Red Bird Cave entrance inscriptions, dated to Augustan times or later (1st to 2nd CE).
  • The Bat Creek Stone (“A star for Judah,” in Hebrew) was found in Cherokee territory and has been dated to the time of Bar Kokhba (whom it appears to reference) in the second century CE.
  • According to Val Green,[6] Desoto had about 150 Sephardic Jews in his army in 1540. When they reached the Indian community they called Cofitachequi, they said it was the best place in La Florida. “Somehow a name they left for a lake at Cofitachequi has survived. I found in on a land grant of 1759. The Lake on the land grant was ” Cados Lake.” The name of the Lake has survived and today it is on the property of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, as Cuddos Wildlife Hunt Unit. The name Cados is originally a 15th century Sephardic name meaning Holy Place.”
  • The Portuguese under Juan Pardo (1567-1568) and Huguenots in Georgia (from 1564), as well as Croatians (around 1580) were potent sources of Jewish influence and intermarriage among the Indians.[7]
  • 1609. New Amsterdam was established on Manhattan Island by the Dutch West Indies Company. Almost immediately, Jewish and crypto-Jewish traders began heading down the Appalachian Valley along the Great Warrior Path to trade with the Cherokee and other Indians.
  • 1610. An important branch of the Inquisition was set up by Spain in Cartegena, Colombia. “Families, who had been openly practicing Judaism, had to leave town fast.” By the shipload, many went to Jamaica, many to Georgia and Florida. There was a second episode of persecution and flight in 1635.[8]
  • 1615. A Jewish wedding took place in the Smokies. A Sephardic Jewish couple made their marriage vows binding in the absence of an officiating rabbi by carving the Ladino words “PRE DARMOS CASADA” and the date September 15, 1615 on a boulder at Hoopers Bald, North Carolina. Richard Thornton found the record, which may have been between a Spanish man and Indian woman. The words are a formula meaning “Prayer we give.”
  • 1653. A Tuscarora chief tells Francis Yeardley and a party of visiting Virginians in central North Carolina that a wealthy Spaniard, thirty members of his family and seven Africans had lived in his village for seven years before moving westward.[9]
  • 1600s-1700s. Jewish entrepreneurs in the Appalachians build the Toe River Valley settlements around the rich gem mines near between Asheville, North Carolina and Johnson City, Tennessee, now part of Cherokee National Forest. In the late eighteenth century, the wagon trains carrying the Wataugans to their new homes on the Holsten passed several ancient villages in Southwest Virginia, Western North Carolina and Northeast Tennessee that were inhabited by Spanish-speaking Jews.[10]
  • Early 1700s. British Colonial archives record several instances of Cherokees killing Sephardic Jewish men and keeping their women or daughters as concubines.
  • 1671. Thomas Wood and companions explore the hinterland of Virginia and encounter numerous “Portugals,” or Portuguese settlers.
  • 1673. Abraham Wood’s letter (App. A) makes it clear that the Needham and Arthur Expedition ran across substantial numbers of Spaniards, Africans, French and other strange settlements downstream from Tomahitan Town (Coosa, Rome) throughout Creek country.
  • 1690. Two English men, James Moore and Maurice Matthews, attempting to prospect for gold in the Nacoochee Valley and northward from there in probably the Andrews Valley in North Carolina are chased off by hostile Indians and men wearing long beards. The latter are presumed to be Jews.[11]
  • 1690. French engineers and traders map the Little Tennessee River basin and report a “colony of Moors.”[12]
  • 1715. “On one of the six main boulders of the Track Rock petroglyphs near Brasstown Bald Mountain, Ga., across Track Rock Gap from the Track Rock Terrace Complex, a Jewish girl carved her first name, Liube, and the date, 1715.” The name suggests Ashkenazi Jewish, not Sephardic Jewish background.
  • 1745. At the behest of the British government, Cherokees entered the Tuckasegee River valley for the first time, now Jackson County, North Carolina, 16 miles from the present-day Cherokee Indian Reservation, and destroyed several villages occupied by men with long beards, who “worshiped a book” (the Torah?), spoke Spanish and lived in houses built out of logs with arched windows.[13]
  • 1770. A tribe called the Bohuron lives in northeast Georgia between Athens and the Nacoochee Valley. They spoke Spanish, and their names were Spanish, Arabic, Hebrew, Turkish and Dutch words. Bohuron seems to be the Arabic and Turkish word for “nobility.”[14] In this year, the Bohuron were driven out by the Talasee Creeks and never heard from again.
  • 1775. James Adair published his landmark book The History of the American Indians. His arguments that the Southeastern Indians were descendants of the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel were partly based on information from his half-Chickasaw, half-Jewish wife, “the Indian princess by his side,” while he himself came from a crypto-Jewish background.[15]

Seven Cherokees in London visiting King George II, August 1730. Left to right, they are named as: Onaconoa, Skalilosken Kettagusta, Kollannah, Oukah Ulah, Tathtowe, Clogoittah and Ukwaneequa. The legend reads: “The above Indian Kings or Chiefs Were brought over from Carolina, by Sr. Alexander Coming Bart. (being the Chiefs of the Cherrokee [sic] Indians) to enter into Articles of Friendship and Commerce with his Majesty. As soon as they arriv’d they were conducted to Windsor, & were present at the Installation of Prince William & the Ld. Chesterfield. The Pomp & Splendour of the Court, and ye Grandeur, not only of the Ceremony as well of the Place was what Struck them with infinite Surprize and Wonder. They were handsomely entertain’d at his Majesty’s Charge, & Cloath’d with These Habits out of ye Royal Wardrobe. When the Court left Windsor they were brought to Town and proper Lodgings & Attendance provided for them near Covent Garden. They were entertain’d at all ye Publck Diversions of the Town, and carried to all Places of Note & Curiosity. They were remarkably Strict in their Probity and Morality. Their Behaviour easy & courteous; and their Gratitude to his Majesty was often express’d in a publick Manner, for ye many Favours they receiv’d. On Monday Sept. 7.1730. Articles of Friendship and Commerce were accordingly propos’d to them by ye Ld. Commissioners for Trade and Plantations, wch. were agreed on Two Days after, viz. on ye 9th. at Whitehall, and sign’d on ye Part of their Lordships by Alured Popple Esqr. upon wch. Ketagustah after a Short Speech, in Complement to his Majesty, Concluded by laying down his Feathers upon ye Table & said; This is our Way of Talking, wch. is ye same Thing to us, as yr Letters in ye Book are to you; and to you, Beloved Men, we deliver these Feathers in Confirmation of all that we have said. NB The marks in their faces & bodys are tokens of Victory.” © The Trustees of the British Museum.

Seven Cherokee in London

In 1730, a scapegrace Scots laird from Aberdeen by the name of Alexander Cuming traveled to the Overhill Towns (Otali) of the Cherokee, threatened to burn down their councilhouse and captured what he later called the Crown of Tanasi, a sort of headdress made from possum or otter fur. Originally set on bringing back the “king,” Moytoy, he persuaded instead seven countrymen, mostly younger Cherokees, to form a delegation to meet George II in London. The Cuming adventure resulted in an unofficial alliance between the Cherokee and English, though the Board of Commissioners ended up giving little credit to him. The treaty was repudiated by the true Cherokee chiefs when the delegation returned. Outraged war parties looted and burned English trading posts on the Georgia and Carolina frontier.

The obscure figure responsible for this fiasco is described by modern-day writers with words like “bizarre,” “madcap” and “eccentric.” Some even call him a psychopath. He died in debtor’s prison in 1775. One of Cuming’s more audacious schemes was the establishment of a stock company that would settle 300,000 “honest and industrious” European Jewish heads of household among the Cherokee Indians. This white elephant may have been inspired by John Law’s Mississippi Bubble of 1720. Cuming also claimed to be the “deliverer of the Jews.” That he himself was a Jew seems more than likely. “He was called by his mother, a few days before her death, both Jacob and Israel.”

If we ask how Cuming even knew of the existence of 300,000 Jews—a fairly accurate estimate of Ashkenazi Jews in Eastern Europe—some surprising facts emerge. Like many Aberdeen burghers, he spent the first part of his career as a merchant and soldier in Russia and Lithuania. He may have retained connections with eastern Jewry, for “wild as his projects were, some of the most learned Jews seem to have given him several patient hearings on the subject.” One can infer that Sir Alexander was an Aberdeen Crypto-Jew. The family name comes from the Flemish nobleman Comyns, a knight who accompanied William the Conqueror to England and boasted of being directly descended from Charlemagne. The Cuming clan’s association with Gordons, Sutherlands and Setons supports Jewish roots.

While the seven Cherokee were in London, they were followed closely by the press, who reported they were “all blacks,” and they had their portraits done by several artists.[16] A popular engraving was made of them by Isaac Basire in the clothes presented to them by King George II (Fig. XX). Their identities are set forth in figs. XX.

One of the seven, Uku-u-ne-ka (White Owl), far right, appears to be no other than Attakullakulla (Ata’gul’kalu, “leaning wood”), age about 30, who later became supreme peace chief of the Cherokee 1760-1775. Here we draw attention to him because like two others we are going to focus on briefly, Attakullakulla is clearly not a Cherokee by birth nor does he satisfy the usual stereotypes. He is supposed to be Donald Yates’ 7th-great-grandfather on his mother’s side, as his daughter married Chief Black Fox. Supposedly, he was a Mishawaka Algonquian Indian slave adopted into the Moytoy family and assigned to the Wolf Clan. The Quaker naturalist Bartram described him as “a man of remarkably small stature, slender and of a delicate frame, the only instance I saw in the [Cherokee] Nation; but he is a man of superior abilities.” In later life, Attakullakulla often mentioned his trip to England and offered to go back and see “the Great King George.”

Tathtowe (Tistoe) is the tall figure with dangling sidelocks; he was probably of Tassetchee and was remembered as the fifth to join Cummings’ party in 1730.[17] The Cherokee title Tistoe originally distinguished an official responsible for smudging or producing the sacrificial smoke in the assembly house. Today it refers to Santa Claus, bringer of firecrackers during holidays. The word probably comes from Greek typho “to raise smoke, sacrifice.” Tistoe in the 1730 artwork may be the same figure as the tall figure, second from the right, in the 1734 painting. [18]  He is one of four of the seven who clearly has sidelocks. Another in the 1730 group with this hairstyle is Clogoitah (Gun Carrier) of Tanasi, the second figure from right. He was from Tanasi, the home of the Crown, fourth to join Cuming’s party.[19] Both Kolanah of Tellico (third from left) and Ounakannowie (far left) also have sidelocks. The latter was from an unidentified Upper Town, while the former was the official war chief (The Raven) serving at Tellico, also an Upper Town in the mountains. If the sidelocks are not an invention of the painter or printmaker, they are likely to be signs that tribal Cherokees of this time coming from both Upper and Middle Towns followed the Orthodox Jewish practice of wearing curled sidelocks in front of the ears (payot), based on the injunction of the Torah and Talmud in Leviticus 19:27.

The Raven of Tellico (third from left) has a muscular body not generally typical of American Indians. His build is more like black slaves or Europeans. Cherokee historian Brent Cox says he was the brother of Quatie of the Moytoy family, that is, the brother-in-law of Moytoy, and married Nancy, who was “one half white.” It was unusual at that time for an Indian male to marry a white or part-white woman. The inference is that he also bore non-Indian genes. There could have been African ancestry in both his parents’ makeup. The names Quatie (Patty) and Nancy (Nanheyi), moreover, are not originally Cherokee names.

The Moytoy connection leads to John Beamer, a French Huguenot of an Iberian Jewish family fleeing from the Spanish Inquisition. The original name was Beamor in English records, French Benamour, Spanish Benamor. Variants are Benamou, Ben Hammo, Ben Ammou, Benamu and Ben Hamu. It is an example of a composite or false patronymic surname, originally formed from ben “son of” and the Arabic word for “life.”[20] This was a widely spread, ancient, even illustrious family, famous for their business interests, scholarship, piety and court influence. They had branches in Meknes (Morocco), Gibraltar, Lisbon, Madrid, Jerusalem, Saïda (Sidon), London, Paris and Amsterdam.

John Beamer came to the Carolina colony soon after the foundation of Charles Town. He met Quatie in 1699. He was thus one of the first white men, along with Alexander Dougherty and Joseph Cooper, to intermarry with the Cherokee. She was his Indian wife. He had a series of white wives back in the settlements, one of them the daughter of the governor. On the frontier he received the name Beaver, Cherokee Amadohiyi, English Moytoy. Brent Cox regards this as a clerical error but why should we not take it at face value? One meaning of the word is “beaver,” another is “mariner.” John Beamer’s grandson, Thomas Beamer, was called a Mustee, proof of some degree of African blood. Derived from Mestizo, this term is confined to admixtures of the Indian and Negro races. In the Beamer-Moytoy family, then, we can trace –genealogically and pictorially—a tri-racial mixture, the white constituent of which is Sephardic Jewish.


Attakullakulla or White Owl of Tanasi (Ukwaneequa).

Tistoe or Smoke Raiser

Tistoe or Smoke Raiser

Clogoitah or Gun Carrier of Tanasi

Clogoitah or Gun Carrier of Tanasi.

Tall figure in 1734 Painting

Tall figure in 1734 Painting.

A standard lesson in the textbooks tells us that the office of principal chief was not introduced among the Cherokees and other southeastern tribes until the British created it, wishing to have a single authority to deal with on matters of trade. English policy was to appoint headmen to sign treaties for all towns in their “nation.” As R. S. Cotterill, for instance, says of the 1721 treaty at Congaree, the British “created, on [Gov. Francis] Nicholson’s suggestion, the new office of principal chief, elevating thereto a chief whom the Carolina writers have effectively disguised as Wrosetasatow [a form of Outacite, Mankiller, from the Lower Town of Estatoe].” The historian Charles Hudson agrees that principal chiefs did not come into fashion until the mid-eighteenth century, when a breed of Indians who might be termed “Fort Indians” gathered around the trading posts built on the southeastern frontier. Moytoy, Old Hop, the “non-entity” Amascossite, Attakullakulla and Oconostota thus serve as treaty chiefs for the Cherokee. In the same way, Tomochichi and the “Emperor” Brim function as puppets manipulated by the English in Georgia. Conchak Emike (Chief Skunk-Hole) fulfills the same role among the Choctaws until the French have him killed.

Such a model of tribal government may not be completely accurate. The principal actors in the Cherokee Nation at this time were apparently Jews. Not only are four of the seven Cherokees visiting London in 1730 depicted with Jewish sidelocks, but it was noted that unlike previous delegations, they did not attend any church services, nor request any Christian materials, only gifts of a useful nature such as bullets and gunpowder.[21] We do not know how old the Jewish strain was in the Cherokee. Perhaps it was coeval with their genesis in the third century BCE. There were multiple Moytoys, not just the one Cuming tried to get to accompany him to England who declined because his wife was ill. There is the case of Aaron Brock or Chief Red Bird to consider (d. 1797). Testing of the Y chromosome DNA type of a male claiming direct descent from Aaron Brock revealed in 2010 that he carried J12f2.1+, an ancient form of J12f2.1+, an ancient form of the Cohen haplotype, the genetic signature of high- priests going back to the Jewish patriarch Aaron.[22] How much of Jewish participation in Cherokee politics was opportunistic and how much was borne out of the traders’ recognition of genetic and religious ties cannot be known, but the official titles used by the Cherokee delegation of 1730 were all in the “old language,” and these confirm the origin narrative of the Eshelokee. Most of them are Greek and military in inspiration, from Moytoy (Admiral) to Skalilosken (“herald”) and Kolanu (karanos).

Let us end by turning from different strains and individual families and genealogies to the big picture in genetic terms. A modal profile was constructed from 33 Enrolled Cherokee samples from North Carolina included in the classic 2016 Globalfiler study by J. Ng et al.[23] Shown below, this profile represents the most commonly reported STR alleles on 15 loci, hence the DNA fingerprint of a prototypical North Carolina Cherokee, and the scores reflect equally the maternal and paternal contributions to ancestry. From a different perspective, both authors of this study (Donald and Teresa Yates) match Enrolled Cherokee in their top world results, as do many other participants in the three phases of Cherokee DNA Studies conducted since 2006.

D8S117913147 – 24
D21S11293012 – 41.2
D7S82010115 – 17
CSFIPO10126 – 18
D3S135815169 – 21.1
THO179.34 – 13.3
D13S3179125 – 17
D16S53911124 – 20
D2S1338232310 – 28
D19S43314157 – 19.2
VWA16178 – 24
TPOX885 – 16
D18S5114147 – 31
D5S81811116 – 17
FGA24256 – 48.2

Fig. X. Modal Profile for the Reference Population U.S. Cherokee (n=33). 

This genetic profile of an “average” Cherokee in the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians produced surprising results in DNA Consultants’ database. This is the STR frequency program behind the Cherokee DNA Test and Basic American Indian DNA Test, as well as the company’s standard autosomal offering, the DNA Fingerprint Plus. First of all, it was apparent that the Cherokee, despite all the disbelief and suspicion aimed at them, are very Native American. They have only small indications of non-Indian DNA. The reference population in the study (n=533) comes in at position no.16, and in terms of megapopulations—aggregate ethnicities such as American Indian and various European ancestries—their strongest admixture is American Indian. This is three times stronger than the next contenders, Central Asian, Iberian American and North Asian. Jewish hardly appears in any of the results.

Here are some other findings (for full results, see Appendix C).

  • Thirty-eight of the top 50 autosomal matches are to other Indian tribes.
  • Cherokee are most like Mexican Indians, for instance the Diegueño of California and Baja California and various Huichol groups in West Mexico.
  • They are little separated in genetic distance from the Creek Indians (nos. 5 and 6).
  • Cherokees have high matches to Guatemalan Mestizos and other Central American populations with high quotients of Maya people in them.
  • In addition to Mexican Indians and Mayas, Cherokees also have strong matches to Ecuadorian Kichwas (no. 3) and other South American Indians (Bolivian, Peruvian, Argentinian Colombian).
  • In terms of European matches, Norway is far and away the strongest, followed at a distance by Netherlands, Russia, England/Wales, Finland, Sweden and Scotland

The European results bear out speculations regarding the prominent role of the “pre-Viking Vikings” and “pre-Celtic Celts” in early Native America. Richard Thornton’s theories about the primacy of Maya, Itsa and other Mexican, Central American and South American Indians in North Georgia are amply supported by autosomal analysis. On the other hand, the Cherokee have no high matches to Asiatic peoples like the Chinese or Japanese. Neither do they seem to be related to Mediterranean or North African peoples, at least in a modal sense, and they exhibit no Sub-Saharan African ties, at least on average.

A more diversified population structure might be arrived at through sub-modal experiments like those we conducted for the Lumbee, which exposed their Croatian, Armenian and even Tunisian strains of admixture (chap. 6). The Cherokees have, if we can say nothing else, a coherent identity that appears to be quite deep rooted. Their most pronounced Asiatic earmarks are with the Turkic tribes of Central Asia. This region is believed to be the source of the Lenape migrations of the Walam Olum. We have seen how the Cherokee began to be associated with Algonquian Indians in the midlands of America with the two groups eventually going their separate ways. Matches 11-13 link Cherokees with the Algonquians of Canada. Finally, it is also evident that the Cherokees have a rather high, though not the highest, affinity with the Chippewa, or Anishnabe, the oldest Indians in Eastern North America (nos. 22, 23, 31).

[1] See pp. 195-98.

[2] Fell broke the story of the settlement of the Pacific by ancient Greeks and related peoples in a series of articles contributed to Epigraphic Society Occasional Publications from 1974 onward and presented the accumulated evidence in his book, Saga America (New York:  Times Books, 1980) esp. 238, 262.

[3] Vincas P. Steponaitis, Vernon James Knight, Jr., George E. Lankford et al, “Iconography of the Thruston Tablet,” in:  Lankford, George E. et al (2011). Visualizing the Sacred. Cosmic Visions, Regionalism, and the Art of the Mississippian World. Austin:  U of Texas P. There are various inaccurate reproductions and line drawings of this artifact. Perhaps better than Thruston’s is that which appears in Garrick Mallery, Picture-Writing of the American Indians, vol. 2 (New York: Dover, 1972), p. 735. The photo the Tennessee State Museum supplies is not useful for detailed study. Possibly one of the most valuable artifacts in American Indian culture is kept hidden away and only sometimes put on display—treated a bit like the Tucson Artifacts in Phoenix. Lankford’s team took photographs but won’t share them. One should send in Massad with a spy camera to get a good shot of this jewel of American studies.

[4] John Arthur Ruskamp, Jr., Asiatic Echoes – The Identification of Ancient Chinese Pictograms in pre-Columbian North American Rock Writing, 3rd ed. (CreateSpace: 2016).

[5] For the many Chinese inscriptions, see Ruskamp, and cf. Gayle Harrison Hartmann and Peter C. Boyle, New Perspectives on the Rock Art and Prehistoric Settlement Organization of Tumamoc Hill, Tucson, Arizona, Arizona State Museum Archaeological Series 208 (Tucson: Arizona State Museum/U of Arizona, 2013). For signs of Greek mariners and a Phoenician inscription on Tumamoc, see Donald N. Yates, “Admixture in Pima Includes Greek and Sardinian, Midwestern Epigraphic Society 33/2 (May 2016), pp. 3-7; available online at at: Admixture in Pima Includes Greek and Sardinian: Genetic Signature of the Minoans, Sea Peoples and Other Mediterranean Peoples in the Southwest

[6] Val Green. Comment on post “Cherokee Unlike Other Indians.” March 21, 2019.

[7] For these and following events, with references, see Richard L. Thornton, The Forgotten History of North Georgia (2016), pp. 100-23. Adds Thornton: “I have yet to meet someone in Northeast Georgia claiming to be Cherokee who has a drop of Native American DNA or even looks Asiatic. They all look like what they are, a mixture of Iberian and Jewish. There are several old time families near where I live who thought they were Cherokee but turned out to be either Portuguese or Asturian. Last year a lady, who is a direct descendant of Chief Vann and on the rolls of the Cherokee Nation, contacted me. The Vanns, even though considered one of the most prominent Cherokee families, have no Native DNA, except for one branch that intermarried with the Creeks. They were Scottish Sephardic Jews . . . .” Personal communication, December 30, 2019.

[8] Thornton cites Ron Duncan-Hart, “World Politics, Illegal Jews, and the Inquisition of Cartagena,” Society for Crypto Judaic Studies.

[9] (Richard Thornton and Marilyn Rae), “Chronology of European Occupancy in the Southern Highlands,”; Alexander S. J. Salley, Narratives of Early Carolina (New York: Scribner, 1911), p. 27.

[10] Richard Thornton, personal communication, January 15, 2015.

[11] “Chronology of European Occupancy in the Southern Highlands”; Lowell Presnell, Mines and Minerals of Western North Carolina (Alexander: WorldComm, 1999), p. 13.

[12] “Chronology of European Occupancy in the Southern Highlands”; “Melungeons: America’s Greatest Cultural Myster,” Tennessee Online History Classroom, Tennessee Department of Education, Nashville.

[13] “Chronology of European Occupancy in the Southern Highlands.”

[14] “Chronology of European Occupancy in the Southern Highlands”; N. Brent Kennedy, The Melungeons, p. 133.

[15] On Adair’s Jewish sympathies, see Yates, Old World Roots, pp. 86-97.

[16] Alden T. Vaughan, Transatlantic Encounters: American Indians in Britain, 1500-1776 (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2006), pp. 137-50.

[17] On Tistoe, William O. Steele, The Cherokee Crown of Tannassy (Winston-Salem: Blair, 1977), p. 80.

[18] See Donald N. Panther-Yates, “A Portrait of Cherokee Chief Attakullakulla from the 1730s? A Discussion of William Verelst’s ‘Trustees of Georgia’ Painting,” Journal of Cherokee Studies, vol. XXII (2001), pp. 4-20; Yates, Old Souls, pp. 53-60; Old World Roots of the Cherokee (McFarland, 2012), chapter “The Crown of Tennessee,” pp. 98-105. All these previous publications are outdated, however.

[19] On Clogoitah, p. 79.

[20] Dictionary of Sephardic Surnames, p. 198.

[21] Vaughan, p. 147.

[22] M.F. Hammer et al., “Extended Y Chromosome Haplotypes Resolve Multiple and Unique Lineages of the Jewish Priesthood,” Human Genetics 126 (2009): 707–17. Cf. Yates (2012), p. 129.

[23] J. Ng et al, “Native American Population Data Based on the Globalfiler® Autosomal STR loci,” Forensic Science International: Genetics 24:e12-e13. Online, see abstract and references: Native American population data based on the Globalfiler® autosomal STR loci.


  Comments: 11

  1. Christopher Swink

    It would make clear sense that the North American continent was traversed in days of old by many a peoples. Especially by seafarers. All one has to do is look at the Grand Canyon, especially near the old Anasazi dwellings, and know that that great canyon was once filled to the brim with ocean waters.

  2. I’m interested to know if there had been any DNA research done on the Snowbird Cherokee of Graham County. I am linked to them genetically and carry the T2e haplogroup marker. I understand that this haplogroup implies Sephardic Jew lineage. (You mentioned that the Cherokees of Jackson County were tested but these Cherokee are in Graham county and have very different features.)

    • According to my informant Richard Thornton, who lived among the Snowbird Cherokees, they consist of two elements, Uchee from the Georgia mountains and Saukee Cherokees who settled after the Trail of Tears around Robbinsville and were called Moonfaces. The latter look like Polynesians, rather heavy set and somewhat ugly, like certain tribes in Southern Mexico. No one has studied the DNA story, but Thornton has written in random blog posts about Sephardic Jews and Spaniards in the mountains, miners for the most part. The Snowbirds (named for the nearby mountains, where snow geese were seen) are by all accounts totally different from the Qualla Cherokees. T2e is common in our Cherokee DNA studies, though not all of it is Sephardic in ancestry. Recent genetic studies have shown back and forth migrations between Polynesia and the Caribbean/ Southern Mexico over a long period of time.

      • I keep pointing to those feather capes, that the cherokee wore that were also in Hawaii…I had a polynesian marker come up on ancestry, but when they updated, their sight the next time it was gone. I have Elizabeth ( Betsy Walker) Leatherwood in my Davis/Rogers line. They say Nonnie Ollie, Little Carpenters wife was Polynesian but assumed to be black due to her dark skin.

        • The stallion’s mane helmet was also in common between the Cherokee and Hawaiians. One whole clan, the Twister Clan (or Long Hair), began as Polynesian. Its name was Ani-Kilohi. Even sounds Hawaiian.

  3. I am hoping you can help me resolve a family mystery. My mothers maiden name was REDWINE. My Grandfather was Charles Christopher Redwine of Grassey Cove, Tennessee. Born: 2-5-1887
    Death: 4-8-1961 Kansas City, Ks. His Father was Henry Green Redwine Born: 6-26-1853 Death: 2-12-1926. His mother was Mary Ann Knox 1844-1918. Charles Christopher Redwine’s Grandfather was Rev. William Wiley Redwine. Born: 5-6 -1791 Death 3 -8-1888 from Grassey Cove, Tennessee. He was a Cuicuit Rider a Methodist Minister. Rev. Willam Wiley Redwine was married to Avis Alberta Packard (Mundy ?) 1793-1855. She was from Catawba, North Carolina & died in Grassey Cove, Tennessee. They were married, 12-12-1812 in Tazewell, Claiborne County, Tennessee.
    Here is where the mystery begins.
    What I have found is Avis’s last name could have been Packard, Pickerd, Morrely, Mondy or Mundy. I have read that she was possibly from the Tihanama Tribe. That her father was a Chief. I can’t verify this information about Avis & her family.
    I have read several of your books & information online about the Tihanama. You have mentioned the Redwine surname in several of your books & genealogy.
    I have read that Rev. William Wiley Redwine was known to have been called “Father Redwine”. That they called themselves & their descendants were known as Redwine Indians. That many of them had blue eyes & blond hair.
    Rev. William Wiley Redwine’s father was Frederick Augustus Redwine . Born: 11-28-1767 North Carolina Death :1859 at Redwine Plantation, Elk Garden, Russell County, Va. He was married to
    Elizabeth Polana Tihanama . Her father was said to be Chief Chief White Feather Feathers. I cant verify this information either. Please understand I mean no harm or in sensitivity about this matter of these 2 Native American women in my Family Tree.
    I am the last in my Family. My wish is to document as much as I possibly can. I also would be interested in any future DNA Studies or Genealogy Studies you may be currently working on regarding the Tihanama.
    With best regards,

    • Hi Nancy! I am also a descendant of the Redwine Indians. My GG-Grandfather was David Lee “Jim” Redwine. His family migrated to Texas circa 1840 from Indiana. His father is John Frederick Redwine. John Frederick’s father is Frederick Redwine, brother of Rev. William Wiley Redwine.
      My grandmother knew that her Redwine grandfather was part Indian, but that was about it.
      I would love to know more about my Redwine relatives. I’m happy to participate in any testing or whatnot that helps solve this mystery!
      Happy to meet you cousin!

    • My 6th Great grandfather was Frederick Redwine, married to Elizabeth Polana Tihanama, who I believe was native American. I would love to know more of the story. Frederick’s son John was my 5th great grandfather, who had a son named Frederick, who had a daughter named Mary Ellen that married my 3rd Great grandfather Ephraim Peddycourt. Then Archer Peddycourt was 2nd great, Lee “Roy” Peedycourt was my great grandfather, and Robert Peddycourt was my Grandfather, and Father to my mother Penny.

    • Elizabeth Polana REDWINE was my 5th great grandmother. All I can find on her was that her father was a CHIEF WHITE FEATHER, of possibly the Tihanama tribe. and she married a German, Fredrich Agustus REDWINE. Her son Rev. William REeDWINE married Avis PACKARD (PICKARD? MORRELLY? MUNDAY? MONDAY?) and they were my 4th great grandparents. All I can find about Avis is that her father was possisrveble Shoshone, born 1775 in VA and her mother possible Cherokee, born 1777 in possibly NC or VA.
      Avis’ daughter, Harriet REDWINE married William Henry LIVELY, and there were my 3rd great grandparents. Harriet’s daughter, Nancy Jane LIVELY married Soloman Arch KNOX, and they were my 2nd great grandparents.
      Nancy’s daughter Sophia A KNOX married Jonathan Chastain SMITH, and they became my great grandparents. Sophia’s daughter Maude Jewel SMITH married John Franklin ATKINSON and were my grandparents,. Maude died a few years before I was born, so I never knew her. However, she told one of my older cousins that she herself was “part Cherokee”. My cousin remembers this exactly, thinking it was cool.
      ‘Maude’s daughter was my mother Cora Lee ATKINSON.
      I would very much love to find out all I can on these 2 Native American women in my diverse family tree, including their ancestors.

  4. Mark Thomas Redwine

    We have the same 5th generation grandparents. What have you been able to find out? Mark

  5. Regarding the Ladino words “PRE DARMOS CASADA” (which this article asserts to mean “Prayers were given”: in Ladino or Spanish or Portuguese, it would be understood to mean “WE’LL GET MARRIED” or, more formally,, “WE ARE PRE-MARRIED.” I cannot find any way to translate it as “Prayers were given” either in those languages or in Ladino.

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