The Maskoki and the Aniyunwiya People
Etymology is the study of the origin of words and the way in which their meanings have changed throughout history. Words are interesting, in that they far outlive the voices that first spoke them; they manage to survive centuries — even millennia — though their meanings often are lost or changed.
For instance, at age 41, my sixth great grandfather, Hans Jerg Hag, arrived at Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia, aboard a ship called the Hampshire, from Rotterdam, on Sept. 7, 1748. The letter “g” at the end of a surname in German is pronounced as a “k,” and it comes as no surprise that, while he signed his name plainly enough, upon speaking it, the registrar recorded it as Hawk rather than Hag. And, when his son Konrad Hag was born, in what was to become Pennsylvania (literally, Penn’s Woods), it was recorded as Conrad Hawk. The family has been Hawk ever since. Bluntly, the English settlers decided what the German emigres were to be called. Anyone familiar with history knows better than to think of someone as European; there are French and English and German, but they speak different languages, are culturally distinct, and have fought against one another many times.
The same is true in North America; the term Native American is all but meaningless. There were hundreds of culturally distinct peoples encompassed by such a definition, and they warred with one another far more often than living in peace. But, is there anything left of these people in our county? There is — their words have outlived them. In some cases, the spellings have been changed, but the words remain.
The first descendants of the mound-building cultures in Cherokee County were the Creeks. It’s worth noting that Creek is the name used by their enemies; they called themselves Maskoki, which we today refer to as Muscogee. A confederacy of several tribes in the Southeastern U.S., it is to them that we owe the names of the oldest features in our state — the rivers that served as the interstate highways of their day, such as the Chattahoochie (painted rock) and Etowah (town).
An entirely different people, the Aniyunwiya, who in their later writings called themselves Tsalagi, were being pushed from the Carolinas into Georgia by the incursion of Europeans. The Creeks referred to them as Cherokee, meaning the people who speak a different language. The Cherokee, likewise, had no choice but to begin invading Creek lands, ultimately leading to the Battle of Taliwa, which was fought near modern day Ball Ground in 1755. There, a band of 500 Cherokee warriors overwhelmed a much larger Creek contingent. The Creeks retreated to south of the Chattahoochee, and never came back.
By the time European settlers began mingling among the native population, it was the Cherokee that lived here, and many of their village names survive in Georgia today, including Oconee (the place of springs), Dalonige or Dahlonega (yellow) and Sutali or Sutallee (sixth or six). Additionally, the city of Waleska was named by Lewis Reinhardt in honor of the daughter of a Cherokee chief, Warluskie.
The voices of the Creeks and Cherokee may have gone silent in our county a century ago, but many of the words spoken by those voices remain here to this day.
– The Wanderer has been a resident of Cherokee County for nearly 20 years, and constantly is learning about his community on daily walks, which totaled a little more than 1,800 miles in 2021. Send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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