Hard to believe the Removal of the Cherokee that lived in our area began some 179 years ago. The reminders are all around us in our everyday lives. All North Georgia was part of the Cherokee territory, I understand I-20 is where the border would have been. Above that line, many of our cities and towns are named as they were then, or at least a version of that name we found to be pronounceable.
There is a marvelous reference for these names. Cherokee Place Names is an 11 part series. I thought I would share with you just some local references.
For instance, did you know that the Cherokee word was “da-la-ni-ge-i,” which means “yellow” or “yellow place.” Yellow, of course, is the color of gold, and gold was discovered in Georgia about 1815. The story goes that an Indian child found a nugget on the Chestatee River banks and brought it to his mother. She sold it to a white man, and the gold rush was on, in Dahlonega, Ga.
In our North Georgia mountains grows a little plant of the lily family known commonly as the yellow mandarin; botanists call it Disporum lanuginosum.
There is an ancient Cherokee story about a couple of green frogs who got into a fight using the flimsy stalks of the plant as weapons, so the old-time Cherokee called the plant “wa-lo-si u-nu-li-sdi” which means “frogs use it to fight with.” Near a big patch of these plants was the Indian town “Wa-lo-si-u-ni-li-sdi-yi” (“Place where the frogs-fight-with-it plants grow”). The name of the town, as often happened, became the name of the creek, but, untranslated, it proved too much of a mouthful for English speakers. To keep things simple, they just translated it as Fightingtown, choosing to ignore most of the story. And that was that.
Hiawassee for the town, it’s spelled Hiwassee for the river and the ridge south of Brasstown Bald. From “a-yu-wa-si,” “a meadow or grassy place.” Let’s not forget Lake Chatuge, on the Hiwassee River. The pronunciation of HIGH-uh-WAH-see is reasonably close to the old Cherokee word. Often, I hear it pronounced Hi-WAH-see, though, more like the North Carolina river’s name. On some old maps, “A-yu-wa-si” is distorted into Euphasee as the name of the Hiwassee.
Just west of Blairsville is the Nottely River and Lake Nottely. The river continues northward and empties into the Hiwassee a short distance west of Murphy, NC. Long ago, the small Cherokee settlement of “Na-du-tli” [sometimes written Natuhli] lay on the riverbank just inside what is now Cherokee County, NC. The village was another of those taken from the Creeks by the Cherokee, and the name seems to have been another forgotten Creek word; once again, the Cherokee just kept the name after driving the Creeks out. From this village came the river’s name.
Take a look through the reference, find your favorite place in our little part of the world. Beyond that, visit! Take a drive, enjoy the few days of sunshine we are beginning to see.
As always, thank you for spending a part of your day with us and Welcome to the Mountains