1736 Georgia Philipp Georg Friedrich von Reck (German artist, 1710–1798) A war dance
In 1736, Philipp Georg Friedrich von Reck (German artist, 1710–1798) then only 25 years old, sailed with other colonists from Germany to Georgia. One of his intentions, expressed in a letter before he left Europe, was to bring back from America "ocular proof" of what he called "this strange new world." Idealistic & enthusiastic, well-educated & blessed with an amazing artistic gift, von Reck kept a travel diary, wrote separate descriptions of the plants, animals & Indians he discovered in Georgia & drew some 50 watercolor & pencil sketches of what he saw.
The Coyaha people, sometimes known as the Yuchi, (also spelled Euchee & Uchee), are people of a Native American tribe who traditionally lived in the eastern Tennessee River valley in Tennessee in the 16C. The Coyaha were mound builders. During the 17C, they moved south to Alabama, Georgia & South Carolina. After suffering many fatalities due to epidemic disease & warfare in the 18C, several surviving Coyaha were removed to Indian Territory in the 1830s, together with their allies the Muscogee Creek. Some who remained in the South were classified as "free persons of color;" others were enslaved. Some remnant groups migrated to Florida, where they became part of the recently formed Seminole Tribe of Florida.
The origin of the Coyaha has long been a mystery. The Coyaha language does not closely resemble any other Native American language. In 1541, the tribe was documented by the Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto as a powerful tribe living in what is now central Tennessee. They were recorded at that time as Uchi, & also associated with the Chisca tribe. European colonial records from the 17C note the Coyaha.
Both historical & archaeological evidence exists documenting several Coyaha towns of the 18C. Among these was Chestowee in southeastern Tennessee. In 1714, instigated by 2 fur traders from South Carolina, the Cherokee attacked & destroyed Chestowee. The Cherokee were prepared to carry their attacks further to Coyaha settlements on the Savannah River, but the colonial government of South Carolina did not condone the attacks. The Cherokee held back. The Cherokee destruction of Chestowee marked their emergence as a major power in the Southeast.
Coyaha towns were also documented in Georgia & South Carolina, as the tribe had migrated there to escape pressure from the Cherokee. "Mount Pleasant" was noted as being on the Savannah River in present-day Effingham County, Georgia, from about 1722 to about 1750. It was first a Coyaha town. To take advantage of trade, the British established a trading post & small military garrison there, which they called Mount Pleasant.
"Euchee Town" (also called Uche Town), a large settlement on the Chattahoochee River, was documented from the middle to late 18C. It was located near Euchee (or Uche) Creek about ten miles downriver from the Muscogee Creek settlement of Coweta Old Town. The naturalist William Bartram visited Euchee Town in 1778, & in his letters ranked it as the largest & most compact Indian town he had ever encountered, with large, well-built houses. US Indian agent Benjamin Hawkins also visited the town & described the Coyaha as "more orderly & industrious" than the other tribes of the Creek Confederacy. The Coyaha began to move on, some into Florida, & during the Creek War of 1813–1814, many joined the Red Sticks party, traditionalists opposed to the Creek of the Lower Towns. Euchee Town decayed. The tribe became one of the poorest of the Creek communities, at the same time gaining a bad reputation. The archaeological site of the town, designated a National Historic Landmark, is within the boundaries of present-day Fort Benning, Georgia.
Colonists noted Patsiliga on the Flint River in the late 18C. Other Coyaha towns may have been those on the Oconee River near Uchee Creek in Wilkinson County, Georgia, & on Brier Creek in Burke County, Georgia or Screven County, Georgia. A Coyaha town was sited at present-day Silver Bluff in Aiken County, South Carolina from 1746 to 1751.
During the 18C, the Coyaha consistently allied with the British, with whom they traded deer hides & Indian slaves. The population of the Coyaha plummeted in the 18C due to Eurasian infectious diseases, to which they had no immunity, & to war with the Cherokee, who were moving into their territory & were much more powerful. After the American Revolution, Coyaha people maintained close relations with the Creek Confederacy. Some Coyaha migrated south to Florida along with the Creek, where they became part of the newly formed Seminole people.
In the 1830s, the US government removed the Coyaha, along with the Muscogee Creek, from Alabama & Georgia to Indian Territory (present day Oklahoma). The Yuchi settled in the north & northwestern parts of the Creek Nation. Three towns which the Coyaha established in the 19C continue today: Duck Creek, Polecat, & Sand Creek.
Today the Coyaha live primarily in the northeastern Oklahoma area, where many are enrolled as citizens in the federally recognized Muscogee Creek Nation. Other Coyaha are enrolled as members of other federally recognized tribes, such as the Absentee Shawnee Tribe & the Cherokee Nation.