CHARLESTON, SC – May 25, 2011 (Examiner.com) A long overlooked report made to the King of Spain in 1521 provides an eyewitness account of an Irish province on the coast of South Carolina. The description of its culture seemed so absurd to scholars, not familiar with Irish history that it was ignored during the following five centuries . . . until now.
First Spanish attempt to colonize North America
The year 1521 AD was one of the most important in the history of Spain. In 1519 Hernán Cortés had led a band of 550 conquistadors and sailors into the heart of the Aztec Empire, in violation of orders from the Governor of Cuba, Diego Veláquez, In January 1521 he began a siege of the three Aztec capital cities of Texcoco, Tlatalolco and Tenochtitlan. The Aztecs had been greatly weakened by European plagues. Cut off from food supplies and potable water for weeks, Tenochtitlan, one of the largest cities in the world, fell. The incalculable amount of gold and silver in Mexico soon made Spain a super-power.
In early 1521, Spanish colonists elsewhere assumed that Cortés’ insubordinate invasion of Mexico had failed. They had no knowledge of the vast wealth of Mexico and were looking around for new locations to found colonies for growing sugar cane and, hopefully, mining gold and silver. Francisco Gordillo and Pedro de Quejo secretly sailed ships to the Carolina coast to capture Native American slaves and scout out potential locations for new colonies. They captured 70 victims,
One ship sank in a storm on the return voyage to Santo Domingo, causing its human cargo to drown. When they learned about the abduction, colonial authorities freed the surviving captives. Word soon spread throughout Dominca that Cortés had obtained unimaginable wealth in Mexico, and that La Florida (southeastern North America) was much larger than explorer Ponce de Leon had assumed.
Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón, a wealthy sugar cane planter and member of the Audencia (colonial council) interviewed Gordillo and Quejo, plus an especially bright Native that they had attempted to enslave, named by the Spanish, Francisco de Chicora. De Ayllón then compiled a report to be submitted to the King of Spain that accompanied his petition to be named the Governor of the future Province of La Florida. King Carlos V granted Ayllón a charter to colonize La Florida at his own expense and be made its hereditary noble.
In 1520 Peter Martyr d'Anghiera, a historian and professor, was appointed by Carlos V to be chronicler for the new Council of the Indies. In 1522, he interviewed Francisco de Chicora, Gordillo, Quejo and Ayllón for weeks then submitted a detailed report to the king. Martyr died in 1526, but this report was published posthumously in a book named “De Orbe Novo” (About the New World.) The book has been published and translated numerous times in the centuries since then. The passages concerning the land that would become Georgia and the Carolinas were always included, but generally ignored.
After some more exploratory voyages, de Ayllón founded a colony in 1526 at location now believed to be near the mouth of the Altamaha River in Georgia. The colony quickly collapsed due to disease and starvation. Ayllón was one of those who died. It was abandoned six months after being settled.
The Duhare cheese-makers
While Gordillo and Quejo treated the Chicora Indians with treachery, their relations with the other province along that section of the Atlantic Coast were peaceful. Peter Martyr recorded its name as Duhare. It was one of the more powerful provinces in the region.
The inhabitants of Duhare were described as being Europeans, who seemed to possess few metal tools. They had red to brown hair, tan skin and gray eyes. The men wore full beards and were much taller than the Spanish. The ancestors of the Creek Indians were at least a foot taller than the Spanish. The ancestral Creek men wore mustaches and high leaders wore beards, but the beards were thin like those of the Chinese and Koreans. Nevertheless, Spanish accounts clearly labeled the Duhare, Caucasians, even though their houses and pottery were apparently similar to those of American Indians.
In many respects, the Duhare had similar lifestyles to neighboring American Indian provinces, for one exception . . . they raised many types of livestock including chickens, ducks, turkeys, geese and deer. According to all Spanish sources, the Duhare maintained large herds of domesticated deer and made cheese from deer milk! The excess male deer population was fattened with corn for butchering. The deer stayed in corrals within the villages at night, but grazed in herds in the day time, accompanied by “deer-herders” and herd dogs. Neighboring peoples knew not to hunt them. Several Spanish sources, including de Ayllón, stated that the Duhare owned some horses. However, when interviewed by Martyr, Francisco de Chicora could not confirm or deny the presence of horses.
The Spanish soldiers may have observed Chamoisee dairy goats being herded and milked. The goats of Spain are descended from a short wild goat with curly hair called a capra prisca. The wild Chamois goat of northern Europe is similar and appearance and size to a North American white tail deer.
The people of Duhare were also skilled farmers. They grew large quantities of Indian corn, plus another grain, which the Spanish did not recognize. They also grew several varieties of potatoes and all the other vegetables that had been developed in the New World.
The king of Duhare was named Datha. He was described by the Spanish as being a giant, even when compared to his peers. He had five children and a wife as tall as him. Datha had brightly colored paint or tattoos on his skin that seemed to distinguish him from the commoners.
History lost in the fine print
In 1922 the Smithsonian Institute published, “Early History of the Creek Indians and Their Neighbors” by renowned ethnologist, John W. Swanton. It included much of Martyr’s passages on Duhare, but was prefaced with contemptuous remarks by Swanton that the story couldn’t be true and that the Duhare were probably a Siouan tribe. In 1998 a version of the book, edited by famous archaeologist, Gerald Millanich, was published by the University of Florida Press. It also contained the description of Duhare, but again all readers assumed that Swanton’s assessment was accurate.
Many contemporary archaeology programs in the United States most frequently reward those students, who regurgitated whatever their professor told them to believe. This can be a problem, when an authority figure was in error. Once the data is obtained from careful excavation, or advanced technology, interpretation of a situation requres powerful deductive reasoning and as broad an education as possible . . . the ability to think outside the box.
Beginning in 2006 the People of One Fire, a nationwide team of Native American scholars, primarily of Creek Indian heritage, began a comprehensive research program to obtain more accurate and detailed knowledge of North America’s pre-European history. Much of the work involved painstaking, paragraph by paragraph analysis of the archives of the colonial powers, particularly those of Spain. The team attempted to translate every Native American word recorded by the Spanish, while they were in the Southeast. Almost all the words were easily translated by modern Creek, Alabama, Koasati or Choctaw dictionaries. There were no Cherokee words, whatsoever. However, the words associated with the province of Duhare defied translation until this week.
While investigating the similarity of Irish petroglyphs to those in the State of Georgia, A People of One Fire member ran across this ancient Irish lullaby, called “Bainne nam fiadh:” On milk of deer I was reared. On milk of deer I was nurtured. On milk of deer beneath the ridge of storms on crest of hill and mountain.”
A check with Gaelic dictionaries quickly found translations for the Duhare words, recorded by the Spanish. Duhare can either be translated as “place of the Clan Hare” . . . or if the Duhare came from west of the Shannon River, it meant, “du’hEir – place of the Irish.”
Datha was a standard Medieval Irish Gaelic word that means “painted.” Since the Spanish recorded that he covered his skin with pigments or tattoos, as was traditional among the Celts, this name makes perfect sense.
Researchers feel certain that there was a colony of Irish folk living in what is now South Carolina, when Christopher Columbus “thought” he had discovered the New World. When and how the Irish got to the New World is another question. Most likely it was during the Medieval Period. Even if the Irish had originally known how to smelt iron and bronze, the nearest deposits of iron and copper ores were a 280 miles (448 km) away from the coast. There are no tin deposits in the Southeast for making bronze. A couple of generations of NOT making iron tools, and the people would have forgotten the knowledge.
There is a particular irony to this stark change in North America’s official history. During the Irish Potato Famine, all the ports in the United States, except Charleston, SC and Savannah, GA were closed to Irish immigration. Possibly, as many as a quarter million Irish immigrants entered the United States through Charleston and Savannah. Although most dispersed throughout the Southeast to establish farms or work on the railroads, enough stayed in Charleston and Savannah to make them, “very Irish” cities. The Province of Duhare seems to have been located near modern-day Charleston.