Guale to Gullah

  • Suede Santoro
  • 12-19-2020 15:44:07



The coastal region or corridor of modern day South Carolina and Georgia had an estimated 100,000 people enslaved in Western and Southwestern Africa between the year of 1708 to 1808. As the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade brought in thousands of indigenous Africans into the Americas as well as enslaving Native Americans and shipping them into Africa, Europe ,and the Carribean. 

The first groups of people to be brought into slavery in the United States began in St. Augustine, Florida. Florida was the first region to have intensive contact with Europeans with the arrival of shipwrecked sailors and Spanish conquistadors until they forcefully established a colony by the year 1565 in St. Augustine. 

At war with many tribes they dubbed southern Georgia as "Spanish Florida". Author Alan Gallay in the book entitled "Indian Slavery In Colonial America" cites that : "The study of indian enslavement of Africans in Africa and the Americas, and the evolution of race and racism as historical concepts and ideologies in the Atlantic World. Too often racialization of Native Americans and Africans is analyzed separately and sequentially. The European construction of indigenous Americans as 'others'--savage heathens inhabiting a dangerous wilderness that threatened the souls and bodies of Euro Americans -- is usually deemed to different from the creation of Africans as others to warrant comparison. Yet both Indians and Africans were depicted as savage heathens , with comparative reference made to their skin color ,nudity, and other characteristics allegedly denoting racial inferiority and barbarism." Gallaycites "Although Africans and Indians for the most part were viewed differently, they

received similar treatment, often were described with similar labels, and frequently were lumped together by law". As the Spaniards arrived in Florida being the root of the violenceand murder of indigenous Americans they were revolted and at war with a Muskogean people that originally inhabited the corridor, who were ethnically Creek Natives who were absorbed into the Yamasse. The Spaniards called them "Guale" (pronounced Wallie). The

native people were at war with European invaders as well as intertribally. As certain Creek bands such as the Poarch Creeks and Red Stick Creeks were enemies , war lead to pushing many families from Georgia into Florida. The Europeans used intertribal differences as

their aid to removal and slavery in the south. The tribes in the Georgia/Florida region were :  Abihka, Coosa, Coweta, Wakokai, Holiwahali, Hilibi, Timicua, Eufaula, Santee, Edisto, Wimbee, Sewee, Bohicket, Ashepoo, Combahee, Wappoo, Etiwaw, Tama, Yoa(Yua) and

Guale (Goale). The towns of Guale lay almost entirely between St. Catherines and St. Andrews Sounds. With the early invaders having documents referring to 'the twenty two chiefs of Guale ". Being a cover label for St. Catherines Island. The Europeans went into what is known as the Rice Coast and began to gather intelligence of people who had a rice heritage and an extreme intellectual knowledge of rice cultivation. They had an intricate science from the practices at home. A science which included agronomy, engineering, and astronomy because the African people had to know the cycle of tides which were instrumental in flooding the rice fields with water. By the 18th century we would see a system of irrigation, reservoirs, and impoundment using ocean tides established along the Carolinas & Georgia coast which made rice a prized commodity in the Lowcountry. The indigenous people of Angola, Liberia, Senegambia, Niger, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and the Winward Coast were enslaved and brought into America around 1708. The remaining indigenous of the Guale along with the targeted people: Kissi (pronounced Geezee) ,

Mende, Fulani, Hausa, Limba, Kpelle, Temne, Vai, Susu, Wolof, Mandinka, and Baga of Africa were grouped in and enslaved. Some groups migrating into South Carolina when the remainder of the Guale tribe was removed to Florida. The grouping of these various bands over time led to the modern day label of Gullah-Geechee. The word Gullah (Gull-ah) being translated as "blessing of God", also the derivative of Goale or Guale along with Gola. Geechee from the Kissi (pronounced Geezee) of Liberia along with the inhabitants who lived along the Ogeechee River in Georgia. These people mixed in and grouped together for years inhabited the corridor and sea islands from Jacksonville, North Carolina to St.  Augustine, Florida. With the corridor being home to over one hundred sea islands such as Hilton Head Island , St. Catherine Island, Daufuskie Island, Sapelo Island, Jekyll Island and more all home to the Geechee community. As they preserved a separate experience in America being isolated on the islands only accessible by boat. The European slave master's of the 18th and 19th century were afraid of the weather conditions of the corridor. With various wildlife such as snakes and alligators along with an innumerable amount of insects and mosquitoes, Europeans removed themselves from those regions, even so much that  the slave master would leave the sea islands in the spring/summer season returning in the winter months. 

The isolation led to the community preserving an African sense of living in the American south. As they mixed the remaining languages of their ancestors they speak  what is labeled Sea Island Creole. They became expert fishermen , boat makers , craftsmen, brick mas ons, herbalists, soap making , quilting and known mainstream for sewing with the  famous sweet grass baskets. The first evidence of the sweet grass basket in America was the fanner used to thrash rice. Thrashing was a process of tossing rice upward so that the wind could separate the hull from the grain. The need to make other household storage containers and the availability of natural resources contributed to the basket's artform. As

they were made to store wild herbs, corn, okra, dried grains, and salted fish.

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