The Chalaka Division

Chalaka. Properly Chalaaka, but spelled without long vowel in references to the division (following the practice of C. F. and E. W. Voegelin). With endings: Chalaakaatha 'Chalaaka Person, member of this division'; chalaakaathiwi 'he belongs to, is a person of the Chalaka division'.  The preeminent Shawnee division. The principal chief of the Shawnee Nation is chosen from either this division or from the Thawikila Division.





DESIGNATIONS (representative variations)







Chalaque(s) (Chalaqua, Chalaq, Xalaque, Chelaque, etc.)

South Carolina





Tchalaka (Tchalaq, Tchalake)

Tennessee and Kentucky






Georgia, South Carolina







Shallna-rooners ?





before 1728

Shallyschohking (Celisquaqua, Chilliequaque, Chillisquaque, Zilly Squachne)






Chalakagay (Sylacauga, Challacpauley, Shalapheagyee)












Challicaathee (Challichates, Chelokraty, etc.)



Chilicothe (similar variants)

Ohio, Kansas


Tshilikauthee (Tshilleekauthee, Tshalakarthar, etc.)

Ohio, Michigan




Late 19th century

Tshalaxgasagi (Tshalachgasagi)




Chalaaka(atha) (regularizing phonetic symbols); orthographic: Chalaka.


I. Possibly; II. Mostly probable; III. Known Shawnee

   "Chalaque" ("Chalaq," etc.) is generally located to the east of the Savannah river.  Andrews (1918) goes to considerable length to pinpoint its location more exactly, and determined that the area was in the region of present Augusta, Georgia, and that the region visited prior to Chalaque, Cofitachequi, was at Silver Bluff.  It is placed to the east of a large river, called "R. Seco," on a map found among the papers of the royal cartographer, Alonso de Santa Cruz. Its information was probably gleaned from the reports of the survivors of the DeSoto expedition. The R. Seco lies east of what appears to be the Altamaha and Ogeeche rivers -- identifying this as the Savannah.

   This position accords with the careful research of many scholars who have investigated the route of DeSoto as well as with the results of the U.S. DeSoto Commission headed by John R. Swanton (1933), the well-known ethnographer.     Andrews (1917) takes note of the fact that Ranjel's account mentions camping in a pine forest and spending the night at a mountain. The coastal pine forest extends 15-20 miles north of the fault line on the Savannah River, and the only mountain in the region is Graves Mountain in Lincoln County. Therefore, he locates Chalaque at or near the present site of Augusta, Georgia.

     It is not, therefore, the location of the Chalaque that is at issue, but their tribal identification.  Swanton (1938:204-5), in fact, suggests that Chalaque might be the Chalaka Shawnee rather than the Cherokee, as it is often supposed (e.g., Mooney, 1902:191; 1910(2):204). In his study of the American Indian in North Carolina, Douglas L. Rights (1947:154) also doubts that the Chalaque were the Chkerokee: "It is improbably that these Indians were Cherokee, although they were long thought to have been that tribe. The word "Chelaque" was used in describing the wilder tribes of the interior, but it came to be associated with the name Cherokee, a designation of the Iroquoian tribe of the Southern Mountains."

   The origin of both the Shawnee term "Chalaka" and the designation "Cherokee" are in doubt. The Shawnee themselves have no inkling as to the meaning of the former: "Chalahgawtha has no particular meaning" (Alford in Galloway, 1932:21), and John Johnston (1920:275), "Chillicothe has no definite meaning--it is a place of residence." The suggestion by John S.Williams (see Galloway's Daniel Boone, 1904:263), and others, that "ch-le-co-the" was to be understood as a Shawnee name "signifying town or city" (the Creek talwa 'town' was suggested). This, however, is simply a misunderstanding about the Shawnee habit of giving the major settlement of a division the divisional name. The only other suggestion has been that of "Buzzard's Roost" from the Creek suli 'buzzard' and retained in the Alabama city of Sylacaga, to be discussed shortly. One the other hand, there is an embarrassment of riches for the etymology of the word in Cherokee.

   It is probable, however, that it is the Creek word was applied to both the Chalaka division and the Cherokee. Gatschet (1884:123) gives the term as tchilokoga that "designates persons speaking an alien tongue; tchilokas 'I speak an alien tongue'."  The term was not, as some have remarked, indiscriminately applied to this or that tribe in the southeast by the Creeks. Woodward (1859:19,40) speaks of "The other little tribes with the Uchees, they being the 'same fireside' Indians with the Shawnees, all dwindled away among the Creeks and lost their language, except the Uchees [and the Shawnee] -- they still retain theirs." The other tribes he refers to were "known as Yamacraws or Yamasees, Oconees, Ogeeches." Woodward had his information from old Inidans in the third quarter of the 17th century and from famous pioneers such as Benjamin Hawkins, and he himself served as an informant for the historian of Alabama, Albert Pickett.

   It would seem, in fact, that is was only the Shanwee division of the Chalaka and the Cherokee that had this appelation.  It is noteworthy that the Shawnee proper were never called by this term. If we are correct in identifying the Chalaque as Shawnee, they might have been encountered by the Creeks before the unification of the various southern Shawnee bands that constituted the new Shawnee confederacy within the next hundred years or so.  Woodward, in a letter to Albert J. Pickett answering questions, Woodward expanded on his information (pp. 39-40):

All I can say about the [the Uchees] is, that they occupied portions of Alabama, Georgia, and perhaps South Carolina. When the Creeks first settled the country, they [the Uchees] were the neighbors of the Sowanoka or Shawnees, the Yemacraws, Yemasees and Hitchetas; though they in habits, customs and language were more like the Shawnees than either [sic] of the other three tribes I have mentioned.... The Cherokees and Sowanokas were about all the tribes that the Creeks did not subdue. These two tribes were always able to stand their hands with the Muscogees, particularly the Sowanokas, until the whites began to encroach on them from the east. The tribe was then strong, and emigrated to the north-west. Many of the Uchees went north-west with the Shawnees.

   This removal to the northwest is not the one that occurred at the end of the 17th century, but an earlier departure from the southeast. This is of great significance and will be returned to later. For the moment, however, it should be noted that the Shawnee and Cherokee are the two who maintained their languages (along with the Uchees) and were not subdued. This might correlated with the term applied to them as those who maintained their languages.

   Swanton provides us with a very important clue when he cites a letter (1922:90) written to the courty of Spain on May 14, 1680. Here we learn tht the "Chichumecos, Uchizes, and Chiluques" had made friends with the English and jointly attacked two of the Guale missions. Swanton identifies them here as the Creeks, Yuchi, and Cherokees, but it seems much more likely that they were the Chalaka Shawnee.  First, we don't have any record of the Cherokees penetrating deep into Creek territory to attack Spanish or anyone else.  Furthermore, given the historic intimacy of the Shawnee and Yuchi, this is a much more reasonable association than the Creek, Yuchi and Cherokee.