One of the most interesting, and what some people consider mystical, is Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park. The number of different and rare plant and animal species that live there are staggering. There have even been expeditions to try and investigate if the Ivory Billed Woodpecker still exists out there.
For years, the origin of the name have been debated. So here is the explanation of Fakahatchee.
Below: Sunrise over Fakahatchee at the summer solstice.
It is a Muskogee language word. Most of the native place names in Florida are from Muskogee, which is the main official or commerce language. Many of the Seminoles and Miccosukee during historic time spoke both languages, but when they got down to business, it would be Muskogee . Similar to Koine Greek. I have been told that even today, Muskogee is used as the ceremonial language among Miccosukee.
Fakahatchee goes back a long way in history for south Florida . It is on the Seminole War maps, which are the earliest maps that show anything inside the coast. So someone would have gotten the name from a Seminole. It’s not a random name the Americans decided to apply. How far back in history the names goes, I don’t know. But it was firmly established by 1841. And today’s spelling is the same as on Sprague’s 1848 map. That is better than most of the local names that vary over time, like Marco/Malco/Maco, or Cape Roman/Romano.
The suffix –hatchee / hacci is applied to many creeks and rivers in Florida. So we won’t look into that since it is settled.
Below: Janes Scenic Drive in Fakahatchee.
Some things about the language. It is not so much a written language, as it is a spoken language. It is also a tonal language; like Chinese, but very few people are aware of that. The language is more fluid and changes over the years. A long time ago there was more of a male and a female language (like Spanish), but this seems to have fallen into disuse. This might be because of the influence of English.
The concepts in the language are rendered totally different than what we are familiar with in English. Words are not specific as such, but more easily seen as categories. It depends on how they are used. They use the past/present/future tense different than in English. It does have suffix and prefix on words, but they just work differently than in English. To get specific with a word, it depends on how it is used. In Muskogee, it is more concerned with who said it, than when. From a hunter / gatherer society, the source of your information is often crucial.
Many of the place names in Florida describe how the place was used. Fish-eating-creek on old maps was Thlathlo-apopka. (English spelling use.) So it would give you a little more information about the place just with the word. If you were going to the Wacasassa River, you knew that it was a place where there are cattle. (Waca is from the Spanish word Vaca, for cattle, but the Muskogee don’t have a V sound.)
The spellings are closer to German than English. That is because Moravian missionaries developed the first written form. So if you understand a little written German, Muskogee seems to make more sense. And there are only about 20 letters. (Although I think a couple new ones have been developed in recent writings.)
Here are some pronunciation hints:
Most always, the second syllable is emphasized.
There is no character G, use K instead. There are two different E’s. There is no B character, so use P. And there is no common R sound used, but there is a character R which has a thlee or flee sound, as in Bethlehem . Sound fun?
v—is a vowel. Pronounced “uh” like in “but” or “tub.” Ekvnv is used as an example of how v is used, which is pronounced ee or eh, ee-Guh-nuh. This is the word for earth , land, mound. A common prefix is an E pronounced like eh, as in “it.” Written in a lot of pronunciations as (i).
For old maps. They use phonetic spellings since the Moravian characters were not used by American map makers and Army officers. Interesting enough, Fakahatchee is spelled just that way. It hasn’t changed since the 1840s. This is probably important to consider for the meaning of the word.
Below: Royal Palm at gate K2 in Fakahatchee.
Here are some terms taken from the recent version of English/Muskogee dictionary. (There are only two such dictionaries, and I will use them both.)
A Dictionary of Creek/Muskogee by Jack B. Martin and Margaret McKane Mauldin. (2000, Univ of Nebraska Press.)
Fak.ke /fakki/ n. soil, dirt
Fak.ke-le.pak.fe /fakki-lipakf-i/ n. mud
Fa.kv /fa:-ka/ n. hunting
This is where the importance of the slight variations in pronunciations become important. Just one vowel changes the whole word. Fag-Gee for dirt, and Fak-Gee-le-Bak-fee for mud. But Fak-guh for hunting. Hunting is the closer word.
Fv.kv, e.fv.ka /(i)faka/ n. lieder, vine, cord, twine. Pronounced Fuh-guh.
Close, and for a long time I thought maybe Fvkv was it. A lot of vines in the area.
The Martin dictionary has a section on place names. One of the sources from 1934 / Wm Read suggests that the name comes from fvkv/ vine, or fake/fakki/ soil+hvcce /hacci/ stream
Going from English to Muskogee , here is what it has.
Crooked, winding river: etepvkohlE/(i)ti-pakohl-i
Not close at all.
Continuing in the section for English to Muskogee , there are about 5 terms for muddy water, all using the root word of aklowvhe, which gives us the name of the Oklawaha River . The Oklawaha is a very dark river from the tannin, and there is a very striking contrast where the crystal-clear Silver River runs into it. The Ochlockonee (O-clock-nee) River means yellow (muddy) river.
Hunting -- fakv /fa:-ka/
The lights went on! Fakahatchee has long been known as a hunting area. For both Indians and white men.
Below: a precarious boardwalk at K2 in Fakahatchee. This was taken at the height of the dry season; when there is not water flowing underneath. But the boards give you a false sense that you might not get wet or get your feet in the water. Everyone gets wet on this trail.
Dictionary Muskogee English by R.M. Loughridge, 1964 reprint. Loughridge was a Baptist minister who did most of his missionary work in Oklahoma in the 1840s. The Christian bias is extremely evident, as he tries to translate the Christian terms and concepts into Muskogee without always succeeding. His work is a long-time standard because it was the only one. He is very good for including archaic words. I would say that Loughridge was almost as influential on the culture as Benjamin Hawkins was, but never got the credit.
Here are some words that he has.
Using the prefix word for earth in the beginning, E-gah. Not looking good there!
That is it.
As in Oklawaha.
Muddy water—Ue-okofkE, Ue-svholwakE
Ue, ew, or Whee, is a common prefix that denotes water.
Faka’—a hunt, a chase
FakkE—soil, loam, dirt, clay
Fv’kv—a rope, vine, string, cord
The Origin, Progress, and Conclusion of the Florida War by John T. Sprague. Sprague was General Worth’s adjutant in the 2nd Seminole War, and wrote the history of it in 1848.
The one officer who came through the interior of the SW Fla area in the 2SW in 1841 was Maj. Wm. Belknap.
His report calls it Fakahatchee. In parenthesis after it, his Seminole guide says that the Naval maps improperly name it Fakahatchee-chee. The chee on the end usually means little, lesser, baby.
The map of south Fla in the beginning of Sprague also labels it Fakahatchee. Same spelling as today.
Below: Typical vandalism. Unfortunately many people disregard any signs in Fakahatchee. If this sign is replaced, it will look the same way the next week; if it is not missing altogether.
Now, which word makes sense from just our own observations?
In the strand, the water is not muddy. It is clear. It is very nice. Sailors at one time would obtain fresh drinking water for the ships from the Fakahatchee River. (From oral history of old Everglades City residents.) They wouldn’t stock up on drinking water from what was called “muddy river.” Muddy must not be the way to go.
Now why is it called a crooked or forked river? That would be most rivers in Florida . And it is not as crooked or forked as other rivers in Fla.
Hunting or hunter’s river seemed to fit nicely. So I asked both Ted Osceola (Ochopee) and Cory Billie (here, Naples ) and they confirmed that Hunter’s River is the correct term/usage for Fakahatchee. So, that is what I will settle with.