Dakota Sioux Once Lived in Georgia?

By Gary C. Daniels, LostWorlds.org, March 28, 2013; Revised Jan. 7, 2017

The Dakota Sioux are known primarily as a Plains Indian tribe that lived in tipis but they
originally lived in South Carolina and constructed large towns featuring open plazas
surrounded by earthen pyramids.

When one thinks of the Dakota Sioux what instantly springs to mind are
images of Indians on horseback hunting buffalo on the Great Plains and living
in teepees. Yet long before the Dakota Sioux lived in North and South Dakota
(two states named after this tribe) could they have actually resided in

It is well established among scholars that the Dakota Sioux are also known as
the Santee Sioux.1 Curiously, a Siouan-speaking tribe called the Santee also
once lived in South Carolina.2 (Their descendants still live there today.) In
fact, South Carolina’s Santee tribe were part of the mound building culture
there and were responsible for sites such as the Santee Indian Mound on the
Santee River in modern-day Santee, South Carolina.

This Indian mound beside Lake Marion in South Carolina was associated with the Santee.

Modern scholars make a distinction between the Santee Dakota and South
Carolina’s Santee tribe but placenames in the two areas suggest a connection.
It is thought that the Santee Dakota left the Southeast before the arrival of
Europeans. They first moved to Ohio and then Minnesota where they were
living by 1697. Eventually they moved into Nebraska and the Dakotas.

It is accepted fact that the town of Santee and the Santee River in South
Carolina both take their names from the Santee tribe. But could the Santee
also have once lived in Georgia and could rivers in that region also be named
for the Santee?

Georgia’s River Name Origins- Mystery Solved?

Just across the border from South Carolina in the state of Georgia are two
rivers whose names have puzzled historians for at least three centuries. Yet it
appears that these two rivers also take their name from the Santee tribe.

One such river, today’s Satilla River, was once known as the Santila River. It
appeared so-named on maps as late as 1824.

1823 map of Wayne County, Georgia shows the “Santilla River”
and “Little Santilla River” today known as the Satilla and Little

It has been speculated that the Satilla took its name from a Spanish
missionary named Saint Illa3 but no evidence for this can be found. This 1823
map shows that the river derived from the root “Santi” and the suffix “-la.”
The “-la” suffix means “place” thus Santi-la translates as “Santee Place.”

Interestingly, “Sattee” was another of the names for the Santee.4 Thus Satteela (Sati-la) could be the origin of today’s Satilla. Regardless, Sati-la and Santila were interchangeable and both meant “Santee Place” suggesting the Santee
tribe once lived along this river and gave their name to it.

The Satilla River empties into the Atlantic Ocean just south of Brunswick,
Georgia. North of Brunswick is a river named the Ogeechee. The origin of this
river’s name has baffled historians for centuries. Yet it, too, appears to be
associated with the Santee Sioux.

For instance, a Lake Ogechie also exists in Minnesota in the same area the
Santee Dakota once lived. Scholars believe the Santee were living in
Minnesota by 1697 migrating there from Ohio. When other Dakotas were
forced out after their loss to the Ojibwe in the Battle of Kathio, these Santee
Dakota eventually gave up their Dakota identity to become Ojibwe and
remained in the area.5 They continued to live on Lake Ogechie.

This highly unusual placename with no clear historical origin can be found in
only two places in the U.S.- Minnesota and Georgia. The fact that the
Minnesota placename is assocatiated with the Santee Sioux strongly suggests
that the Georgia placename was as well.

The Altamaha River, located between the Satilla and Ogeechee rivers, might
also take its name from the Santee. For instance, in the 1800s there was a
prominent chief of the Dakota Sioux named Tamaha. He was “known as a
powerful orator and a diplomat of unusual ability.”6 His name meant
“Standing Moose.” Once again, we have an unusual name that shows up in
only two places, Minnesota and Georgia, both associated with the Santee.

William Bartram actually mentioned the Santee along with the Savannas and
Ogeeches when he travelled through Georgia in the 1700s which suggests
these tribes were living near one another and likely affiliated. While visiting
the Muscogee tribes in Georgia Bartram noted that the Muscogee:

“…never ceased war against the numerous and potent bands of
Indians who then surrounded and cramped the English
plantations, as the Savannas, Ogeeches, Wapoos, Santees,
Yamasees, Utinas, Icosans, Paticos, and others until they
extirpated them.”7

Since we know the Savannas and Ogeeches were living in Georgia and gave
their name to two Georgia rivers, the Savannah and Ogeechee, the fact
Bartram listed the Santee right after them suggests they were in Georgia as
well. The name of the Satilla River seems to confirm this as well.

Other Georgia Placenames with Santee Connection?

Bartram also mentioned a tribe called the Utina along with the Santees,
Savannas and Ogeeches. This suggests the Utina were in Georgia as well.
Interestingly, the Utina were one of the tribes the French encountered
upriver from their settlement of Fort Caroline. This fort has always been
assumed to have been built on the St. John’s River in Florida yet some
researchers have placed it on the Altamaha River in Georgia. Bartram’s
statement seems to support this hypothesis.

This could help explain a name recorded in the French accounts of their
settlement. The French leader at Fort Caroline, Laudonniere, noted:

“…six Indians arrived from the land of Chief Allicamany…they spoke of the
amiable alliance that Allicamany wished to enter into with me.”8

The first part of this name, Allic, is a Muskogean word that means “doctor.”
There are several placenames on the Altamaha River called Aleck: Aleck
Island, Aleck Creek, and Aleck Town. Aleck Town is today known as Doctor
Town and is located along the Altamaha at Jessup, Georgia. It is the location
of an important river crossing of an old Indian trail. Although researchers
believe these locations were named after a 19th century Indian chief named
Aleck it is just as likely that this chief took his name from the place which had
a long history of being called Aleck. These same archaeologists uncovered
numerous archaeological sites here showing a long history of habitation.

Aleck may be of Muskogean origin but the second part of the name
Allicamany, “–amany,” is not a Muskogean word. It is a Lakota Sioux word
though: mani means “walk” and amani means “to walk toward on or over, to
walk toward for a purpose.”9 Thus Alecamani could mean “to walk towards
Aleck (Town).” Or simply, “the way to Aleck.”

If the French were located on the Altamaha River as some researchers have
claimed this would make perfect sense because Aleck Town or Aleck
Province would have been upriver from Fort Caroline thus one would have to
walk through Allicamany’s province in order to reach it.

The French also noted that a type of cinchona tree grew near their fort. The
cinchona is a native tree of the Andes region of South America from which
quinine, a cure for malaria, is derived. William Bartram found a relative of

this tree, called the fevertree or Georgia bark, living along the Altamaha River
at Fort Barrington near Aleck Town. Could this be the reason Aleck Town
(Doctor Town) was located here in the first place?

The current range of this tree is limited to the coast and rivers of
southeastern Georgia. And there is no evidence of the Santee living any
further south than the Satilla River thus how could the tribal name
Allicamany, with Muskogean and Siouan root words show up on the St. John’s
River in Florida if neither tribe ever lived there? Thus these two pieces of
evidence support the hypothesis that the French Fort Caroline was in Georgia
and not Florida.

Interestingly, archaeologists also found a large quantity of Spanish artifacts
on the Sansavilla bluffs near Aleck Island.10 These were conjectured to be
part of a Spanish Mission to the Utina (Sans Ysabella de Utinahica) but just as
likely could have come from Fort Caroline after it was taken over by the
Spanish and renamed Fort San Mateo.

(On a side note, Santee could be translated as “light skinned people” since
“san” means “faded in color; light tone” in Lakota and “-ti” is a suffix that
likely means “people.”)

Georgia’s Itsate Placenames

Curiously, after migrating out of the Southeastern U.S. and settling in
Minnesota, the Santee referred to themselves as the Izatys, sometimes
spelled Issati. (Their relatives the Catawba, another Siouan tribe of South
Carolina, were also known as the Issa11.12)

For example, one location the Santee settled was in the present-day area of
Mille Lacs Kathio State Park near Duluth, Minnesota. According to
researchers, "Well-known explorer Daniel Greysolon, Sieur duLuth
collectively referred to the area as 'Izatys,' a name the Mdewekanton Dakota
people gave themselves."13 In his memoirs DeLuth notes:

"On the second of July, 1679, I had the honor to set up the arms
of his Majesty in the great village of the Nadouecioux called
Izatys, where no Frenchman had ever been…"14

Remarkably, not far from Lake Santeetlah in North Carolina (also named for
the Santee) was Brasstown, an area in Georgia the Cherokee called Itsaye
meaning “Itsa Place.” Old colonial maps of the area show towns also named
Itsate. Since we know the Santee once resided in this area due to the
Santeetlah placename it seems likely that these towns named Itsate in

Georgia are the same as the “Izatys” place name recorded by duLuth in 1679
in Minnesota also associated with the Santee.

Lacoda Trail

The Santee Sioux are known as the Dakota and their Siouan neighbors are
known as the Lakota. They speak distinct but mutually intelligible languages.
Interestingly, one of the most important Indian trading paths in Georgia was
known as the Lakoda Trail. A portion of this trail was memorialized in 1988
by the Georgia State Assembly15:

Designating Georgia Highway 334 as the "Lacoda Trail
1- 2 Memorial Parkway"; and for other purposes.
1- 3 WHEREAS, the Lacoda Trail was used by the Cherokee
1- 4 and extended from what is now Athens-Clarke County
1- 5 the present City of Commerce to the majestic north
1- 6 mountains; and
1- 7 WHEREAS, this ancient trail was later followed by
1- 8 and explorer William Bartram in his famous travels
1- 9 Georgia; and
1-10 WHEREAS, Georgia Highway 334 now follows what was
once part
1-11 of the Lacoda Trail and passes through a historic
1-12 once known as Fort Groaning Rock; and
1-13 WHEREAS, it is fitting and proper that the name of said
1-14 highway reflect this rich American heritage and
1-15 the ancient Lacoda Trail.
1-17 GEORGIA that Georgia Highway 334 in Jackson County
from the
1-18 junction of said highway with U.S. Highway 441 in the
1-19 vicinity of the City of Commerce southward to its
1-20 again with U.S. Highway 441 in the vicinity of the former
1-21 Town of Center is designated as the "Lacoda Trail
1-22 Parkway."

Could the Lacoda Trail be another important placename and remnant of the
Santee Sioux in Georgia?

Master Traders?

The fact that three major river systems in Georgia and a major trading path
had names associated with the Santee Sioux suggests that this tribe likely
controlled these important thoroughfares and were important players in the
Native American trade networks of Georgia.

But where did they come from and when did they arrive? Linguists have
placed Santee Sioux in the Mississippi Valley Siouan languages. Around 1050
AD the massive Native American town of Cahokia was founded on the
Mississippi River near St. Louis, Missouri. Some researchers believe Cahokia
was a Siouan site.16 The site’s population collapsed around 1250 AD.
Coincidentally, Georgia saw a large population increase in 1250 AD at a site
called Etowah Mounds. Archaeologists unearthed multiple decorative copper
breastplates in a burial at Etowah that were proven to have been
manufactured at Cahokia. They also found one man buried with a feather
headdress identical to those of the Plains Indians.

The Santee are associated with large mound sites in South Carolina. Could
Etowah Mounds have been one of the first places the Santee Sioux settled
after leaving Cahokia?


Although not widely known, the American bison ranged all over Georgia as
far as the coast until the 1700 and 1800s:

The extreme southeastern limit of the buffalo in the United States was
found on the coast of Georgia, near the mouth of the Altamaha River,
opposite St. Simon’s Island. Mr. Francis Moore, in his “Voyage to
Georgia,” made in 1736 and reported upon in 1744,[9] makes the
following observation:

“The island [St. Simon’s] abounds with deer and rabbits. There are no
buffalo in it, though there are large herds upon the main.” Elsewhere
in the same document (p. 122) reference is made to buffalo-hunting
by Indians on the main-land near Darien.

In James E. Oglethorpe’s enumeration (A. D. 1733) of the wild beasts
of Georgia and South Carolina he mentions “deer, elks, bears, wolves,
and buffaloes.”17

One must wonder if the bison was as important a food source to the Santee
Sioux in Georgia as it was to their descendants on the Great Plains? Did the
Dakota/Santee, in fact, migrate westwards not only because of white
encroachment but also following the bison as they disappeared from Georgia,
South Carolina and the rest of the Eastern United States?


Several place names in Georgia hint at a Santee Sioux connection. The Satilla,
Altamaha, and Ogeechee Rivers in southeastern Georgia, Itsati and Itsaye in
northern Georgia, and the Lakoda Trail all appear to have an association with
the Santee (Dakota) Sioux. Etowah Mounds may have likely been settled first
by the Santee Sioux as well and only later by Muskogean speakers.

The fact that several major waterways, a major trade path, and possibly a
major regional site such as Etowah were controlled by the Santee suggests
they played a much larger role in Georgia’s history than is currently

1 “Dakota people.” Wikipedia.org. Accessed online 19 March 2013 at
2 “Santee tribe.” Wikipedia.org. Accessed online 19 March 2013 at
3 “Satilla River.” Wikipedia.org. Accessed online 19 March 2013 at <
4 “Santee Indians.” Sciway.net. Accessed online 19 March 2013 at
5 “Mille Lacs Indians.” Wikipedia.org. Accessed online 19 March 2013 at <
6 “Tamaha (Dakota leader).” Wikipedia.org. Accessed online 19 March 2013
at <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tamaha_(Dakota_leader)>.
7 Bartram, William. Travels. p. 54.
8 Laudonniere, Rene. Three Voyages. p.89.
9 Lakota Dictionary Online. Lakotadictionary.org. Accessed online 7 January
2017 at <http://www.lakotadictionary.org/nldo.php#>
10 Elliot, Daniel T. “Sansavilla Bluff: Survey at the Crossroads of the Colonial
Georgia Frontier.” LAMAR Institute, p. 112. Accessed online 8 January 2017
at < http://www.thelamarinstitute.org/images/PDFs/publication_63.pdf>.
11 dePratter, Chester B. “Cofitachequi: Ethnohistorical and Archaeological
Evidence.” Anthropological Studies. The South Carolina Institute of
Archaeology and Anthropology. 1989: Vol. 9, p. 138. Accessed online 28
March 2013 at <

12 “Catawba people.” Wikipedia.org. Accessed online 28 March 2013 at <
13 “A History of the Area.” Mille Lacs Kathio State Park. StateParks.com.
Accessed online 19 March 2013 at
14 Kellogg, Louise Phelps. Early Narratives of the Northwest 1634-1699.
Charles Scribner Sons, 1917: p.330. Accessed online 19 March 2013 at
15 “Lacoda Trail Proclamation.” Georgia Legislature. Accessed online 19
March 2013 at
16 “Cahokia.” Wikipedia.org. Accessed online 7 January 2017 at <
17 Hornaday, William T. The Extermination of the American Bison. Accessed
online 19 March 2013 at <http://www.gutenberg.org/files/17748/17748h/17748-h.htm>

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