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Who Were the Talligewi

by Frank Coryell and Frank McPhillips

In choosing a name and totem for the lodge, the lodge creation committee attempted to give weight to connections with (Central) Kentucky, (Southern) Indiana area - the area making up the Lincoln Heritage Council.

The Delaware (Leni Lenape) is the Indian tribe the Order of the Arrow uses in its legends and ceremonies. The Delaware language and history are a great part of the customs and traditions of the Order.

"Walum Olum" or "Red Score" is the migration legend of the Leni Lenape or Delaware Indians, translated by Constantine Rafinesque (1783-1840), a professor at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky, and published by the Indiana Historical Society. It covers time as far back as when the tribes crossed the land bridge from Asia to North America and continues its account to a date not too distant from when Rafinesque was born. There are numerous historical references to the Talligewi (Ancient Ones). This record is the only one of its kind and was translated and interpreted by linguistic, historical, archaeological, ethnological and physical anthropological studies.

Volumes IV and V of the Leni Lenape chronicle provide the important written evidence which supports the existence of the Talligewi and the great pre-Columbian battle at the falls of the Ohio River where the Talligewi were defeated by a confederation of the Iroquois and Delaware (believed to included the Cayuga, the Onondaga, the Oneida, the Tuscarora and the Cherokee (author's note - some believe the Talligewi were driven south and were the forerunners of the Cherokee). Their accomplished goal was to punish the Talligewi for past wars as well as to drive them out of the sacred hunting grounds known as the Dark and Bloody Ground or Kentucky.

Historical records indicate Native Americans (believed to be the Talligewi) lived and hunted on or near two scout camps. There are archaeological finds along both Fourteen Mile Creek, which runs through Tunnel Mill Scout Reservation and Harrods Creek which runs through the former Camp Covered Bridge.

Other local historical sites include Fourteen Mile Creek and the Devil's Back Bone at Rose Island, Harrods Creek at the Ohio River, Wiggins Point in Jefferson County, KY, Marble Hill in Clark County, IN, Indian Fort Mountain near Bera, KY, the Falls of the Ohio River, Sand and Corn Islands in the Ohio River and Big Graham Creek near Deputy, IN.

Some scholars, as well as others having contact with the Native Americans in the eighteenth century, have advanced the theories that the Talligewi have a very unique history in this country. While most Native American Tribes date back to the last ice age when the Bering Sea was frozen over, and they walked or sailed from Siberia and Mongolia into present day Alaska and then spread through the Americas; these people believe the Talligewi are descended from the Welsh Prince Madoc and his crew with the native American population they encountered.

John Filson, in His "The discovery, Settlement and Present State of Kentucke" wrote: "In 1170 AD, son of Owen Gwynnedh, Prince of Wales, dissatisfied with the situation in Wales, left his country in search of new settlements. Leaving Ireland to the north, proceeded west until he discovered a fertile country; where leaving a colony, he returned and persuaded many of his countrymen to join him, put to sea with ten ships, and was never more heard of." (Page 95)

This preceded Christopher Columbus by some three hundred years.

When the explorers and settlers arrived in the area around the falls of the Ohio (and further west), they heard; " frequent accounts of a nation inhabiting at a great distance up the Missouri River, in manners and appearance resembling the other Indians, but speaking Welsh, and retaining some ceremonies of the Christian worship."

Captain Abraham Chaplin, of Kentucky told John Filson that during the Revolutionary War, some Indians came to his garrison at Kaskaky and were "speaking in the Welsh dialect, were perfectly understood and conversed with two Welshman in his company". (Ibid. page 96) "There are several ancient remains in Kentucky, which seem to prove, that this country was formerly inhabited by a nation farther advanced in the arts of life than the Indians. These are usually attributed to the welsh, who are supposed to have formerly inhabited here; but having been expelled by the natives, were forced to take refuge near the sources of the Missouri River." (Ibid. page 97)

General George Rogers Clark related that he ha been told by Tobacco, a very old Indian chief, of a tradition that Sand Island, had been the last stand of mysterious fair-skinned Indians whose very name had disappeared from the face of the earth. (Louisville - The Gateway City, by Isabel McLennan McMeekin, page 15)

R.S. Cotterill, in writing his "History of Pioneer Kentucky" (which, of necessity included Southern Indiana in the are of the falls of the Ohio), remarked on pre-Columbian Kentucky: "There are many traditions to indicate, and a few shreds of evidence to prove, that in the far past that Kentucky supported an advanced and extensive civilization. Nor was it a civilization whose greatness or decline has, like the Romans, left its influence largely written on succeeding ages. It has vanished wholly; the kentuckians of today owe nothing good or evil to its existence and have no link to connect them with its remains. Yet as this civilization existed on the same soil as we, it becomes the duty, if not the pleasure, of the historian of Kentucky to investigate the remains and describe, if he may, its history.

The Delaware, whom the Indians of every tribe addressed in reverence of their antiquity as "grandfathers" were accustomed to relate as an authentic tradition that eastern North America was at one time occupied by a white people. The Indian name for these was Allegwi. They were no savages or nomads but a nation of fixed habitation and great culture. Whence they had come or when, are points upon which the traditions are silent. But the traditions of the Delaware, the Sac, the Shawnee and even other tribes attest the fact of their presence, their civilization and their power. In the dim past, continue the traditions, the savage Iroquois emerged from the great western country and began to hew their conquering way to the present abode. The Delaware at the same time began migration to the east but took a route much to the south of the Iroquois. Both tribes were confronted and halted on the banks of the Mississippi (editor's note Ohio River?) by the strange Allegewi. But through the Iroquois forced their way restlessly across, the weaker Delaware soon formed an alliance and began a merciless war against their common enemy. The Allegewi in a number of terrific battles were driven southward and finally stood desperately at the bay of their favorite land, Kentucky. Here they built huge mounds for fortifications, for burial places and for temples. How long their last stand respited the Allegewi no one knows, but finally at the falls of the Ohio they staked their lives and fortunes on the issue of one great battle and lost? Their people were expelled and their civilization forgotten."

It is important to remember, however any connection of the Native American with a Welsh tribe is considered highly speculative and is rejected by most scholars and historians. On the other hand, it is part of the local lore and legends as related to the eighteenth century settlers by Native Americans inhabiting the area around the falls of the Ohio.

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Last Update: 03/26/2009