Skip to comments.Archaeology Paper Reports Meaning Of Indian River Names
Posted on 03/11/2003 4:25:49 PM PST by blam
Archaeology paper reports meaning of Indian river names
McCOMB, Miss. - The Chickasawhay, one of the finest rivers in the state, also has one of the prettiest-sounding names - Chick-a-sah-HAY. The Choctaw meaning: "Place Where Martins Dance."
The name probably referred to a long bluff on the river known as King's Bluff where martins built nests in the bank.
That tidbit is in a research paper by University of Southern Mississippi anthropology student Chris McPhail: "Mississippi Rivers: A Study of Choctaw Indian Place-Names of the Streams and Rivers of the State of Mississippi."
McPhail pored over 300-year-old maps of French explorers showing the rivers with their Indian names. To translate them he studied the Muskhogean language the tongue of Choctaws and related tribes and consulted books such as "Choctaw Language Dictionary."
Right off the bat he solved "bogue" (originally "boke") refers to a clear, swift stream with a sandy gravel bottom, while "hatchie" (originally hatcha) refers to a sluggish, broad, deep river.
Just look at the rivers with "bogue" in the name, like Bogue Chitto and Bogue Homa, and then at those with "hatchie," like Tallahatchie and Hatchie, and the difference is obvious.
Some of his definitions disagree with those given by other sources, which suggests that the translation of old Indian place names is a mighty complicated business. Samples:
_Mississippi River. There are many theories about the meaning of Mississippi. McPhail thinks it's a contraction of Choctaw "mishi sipokni sipi," meaning infinitely old.
_Yazoo: McPhail dissents from the commonly accepted "river of death" and says Yazoo comes from "yashu," Choctaw for stinking mud.
_Tallahatchie River, Tallahala Creek, Tallahoma Creek: After much research, McPhail found a distinction between the Choctaw word "tala," which means palmetto, and "tali," which means rock. As a result, he says Tallahatchie means palmetto river, Tallahala means dancing palmetto, but Tallahoma means red rock.
_Homochitto River, Bogue Homa Creek, Tallahoma Creek: McPhail likewise differentiates between "humma," which means red, and "homi," which means bitter. Thus he says Homochitto means big red and Tallahoma means red rock, but Bogue Homa stands for bitter creek. Incidentally, he says the original name for Homochitto was Bokomachito, as in Bogue Homo Chitto, or big red creek (chitto means big).
_Okatoma: This name comes not from a contraction of homa but from "oka" for water and "katoma" for stench, thus stinking water.
_Yocona River: This is a contraction of "yockni catawpha hatcha," or land of dividing creeks.
_Tombigbee River: From "itombi ikbe," or box maker, in reference to the limestone slabs along the river which Indians used to make boxes to hold the bones of their deceased.
_Buttahatchie: "Bota hatcha," corn meal river.
_Buckatunna: Probably from "bogue tunna," or weaving creek, either from its meandering course or from riverside canes which could be used to weave baskets. Or maybe tunna comes from "tunnap" for "other side," since the creek was on the far side of the Chickasawhay River where the Choctaws had a village.
_Biloxi: "Biluchi," hickory bark.
_Tchoutacabouffa: "Shuti kobaffi," broken pots.
_Pearl: Maps show the Indians called the middle river "Talli Yaiya," or moaning rock. McPhail believes this came from a section of rock cliff which "produces a clearly audible moaning sound as wind blows up the river and is trapped and forced over this rock and into the recessed cliff. Years after reading accounts of this phenomenon and after many trips by small boat to this place I was finally privileged to hear it. It can be likened to one blowing into an open soda bottle."
_Topisaw: McPhail didn't include this in his paper but analyzed it at McComb outdoorswoman Vickie Cothern's request. His best guesses were "tabi sha," which means peeled vines, or "tappa asha," meaning "creek of many falling banks."
No, Seattle was originally "Sealth" which means "Run for your lives!! A big yellow hot thing has appeared in the sky!!!"
Tin foil alert! Billy Joe was pushed!
I heard that rumor at the Harper Valley PTA meeting.
That wasn't your mother was it?
Please FREEPMAIL me if you want on, off, or alter the "Gods, Graves, Glyphs" PING list --
Archaeology/Anthropology/Ancient Cultures/Artifacts/Antiquities, etc.
The GGG Digest -- Gods, Graves, Glyphs (alpha order)
What business is it of yours if I did or did not use any federal grant money in my research?-Chris McPhail
Just a few corrections:
Alabama: Muskogean (Choctaw/Chickasaw dia.) "alua'balama', ceremonial rock which served as an alter where incense was burned. Also the name of a group of Choctaw-speaking people who lived in Mississippi in the early 18th century.
Kentucky: Muskogean (Choctaw/Chickasaw dia.) 'Kain'tatok' Place of hanging grapes (muscodines) 'ee' was added to the end of the word for the sake of euphony.
Ohio: Muskcogean (Choctaw/Chickasaw) Originally translated by the French in the 18th century as "Woman's River" or "Riveriera de Belles". This is an easy mistake. In Choctaw woman is 'ohoyo'. The true intent of the place-name is the Choctaw "oh'hiya" which means place of hunting. The name actually did not apply to the Ohio River itself but to present-day Kentucky which was an Indian free-for-all hunting ground that was recognized by all tribes as owned by none and shared by all. The Choctaw name for the Ohio River according to the only source I could locate was 'Managuahala' "ma'na kawa'whaythla". Ma is a locative, there or here. Na is a negative meaning no, non, none, never. Kawa means broken. Whaythla means to dance. "Here united (together)we dance". The northern portion of this river above Pittsburg is still called Monongahela which is the same word/different spelling.
Pensacola: Muscogean (Choc/Chick dia.) Pens is a corruption of puska, 'bread', and ocala is the same as okla in Oklahoma, meaning nation or people. Thus Pensacola means simply People Having Bread or "Bread People".
Tennessee: Choctaw/Chickasaw contraction for the longer tombi tenakbi hutcha chito. Meaning: River of the big white bend (sandbars). It is definitely NOT Iroquoian (Cherokee).
Arkansas: Choctaw/Chickasaw- a French corruption of "ark'a(n)sha, hickory nuts down low or on the ground.
Mississippi: Choctaw original was Mishi sipokni'sipi hatcha. Contracted to Mishi'sipi it means old, very old. The rivers were thought to widen as they aged and since the Mississippi River is subsantially wide south of Cairo Illinois it was thus named. Since it does not contain the sex indicative 'tek' it is assumed to be masculine. Thus the translation to English would be "male river extremely old".
Well, Chris, since you asked:
I am a taxpayer. When you spend tax dollars, you are in essence spending my money. If my money is used, and is used w/o my permission, I believe that I have a right to voice my opinion regarding the spending of my money.
Without commenting on the importance of your work, I do feel I am justified on questioning if it is a fair and reasonable use of tax dollars.
PS: Welcome to Free Republic.
Ping re: previous discussion
Unfortunately the Kanawha River doesn't seem to be listed in the linked PDF.
Hey, nice of you to drop in! Welcome to FR.
Maybe you could answer aposiopetic's question about the meaning of "Kanawha" a river name in West Virginia(?).
Thanks for the ping. Yes, I am still interested in the origin of the name and its meaning.
Thanks and welcome aboard.
In order to show to you how insignificant your opinion or cares are to me I won't divulge to you how much or, if any, grant money was used. I'm a taxpayer too, you self-righteous ass. And I served this country with six years of my life in the U.S. Marine Corps. Who the hell are you to make a statement as you did about me or my research? You speak of options, well this is your only true one: If you don't like it then don't read it, got it? And to all of the other nice people reading this, I sincerely apologize for lowering myself to Michael's level and that you had to hear this from me. I just cannot stand rude people and won't tolerate it. I would be happy and honored to help/answer any questions that I may be able to regarding Indian place-name research. My expertise is humble but whatever I have I will gladly share with anyone interested.
I'm working on it right now, -Chris
So three years after I made a rather innocent comment that the work done in putting together this research was not something that government dollars should be used for, you decided to dredge this up, ask me a question and then harangue me for saying I could give a rats ass what some shit hole river in bumsuck, Mississippi is named for or what it means?
Pal, you are both overly sensitive and an unfortunate drain on taxpayers.
Now go back to sucking off the government teat down in Choctaw, Mississippi.
Oh, btw, thanks for your service in Marines, at least you have done some good in life.