The Moon-Eyed People were a race of small men who, according to Cherokee legend, live underground and only emerge at night. Unlike the Cherokee, the Moon-Eyed People are bearded and have pale, white skin. The Cherokee knew the Moon-Eyed people primarily from the many remains they left behind...the mounds and low stone walls that can be found throughout the southern Appalachians. The most famous is just over the North Carolina border in Georgia at Fort Mountain. Now a state park, Fort Mountain gets its name form the 850 foot long stone wall that varies in height from two to six feet and stretches along the top of the ridge.
THE MYSTERY OF THE FORT MOUNTAIN WALL
The remains of the 855-foot stone wall that gives Fort Mountain its name wind like a snake around the northeast Georgia park, and its very presence begs a question: Who put them there?
A Cherokee legend attributes the wall to a mysterious band of "moon-eyed people" led by a Welsh prince named Madoc who appeared in the area more than 300 years before Columbus sailed to America.
A plaque at the wall says matter-of-factly it was built by Madoc and his Welsh followers, but most professional archeologists give no credence to the legend.
"There has been no archaeological evidence to back up stories that either this Welsh prince or any others came to explore the New World," said Jared Wood, the manager of the archaeology lab at the University of Georgia.
As the legend goes, the group arrived at Mobile Bay around 1170, made their way up the Alabama and Coosa rivers and built stone fortifications at several spots near present-day Chattanooga, Tenn.
Dana Olson, an author who has spent decades trying to prove the legend, said circumstantial evidence on both sides of the Atlantic is too compelling to ignore.
"I've traveled all over the country finding these forts. Some of them are pretty well known, but I'm still uncovering some of them," said Olson, the author of The Legend of Prince Madoc and the White Indians
The stone structures have long been a topic of debate. Many scientists have come to believe that the walls at Fort Mountain and other Southeast sites were built by native Americans between 200 B.C. and A.D. 600.
"We're not exactly sure what purposes these enclosures served," said Wood, the UGA archaeologist. "But they were likely well-known gathering places for social events. Seasonal meetings of friends and kin, trading of goods, astronomical observance, and religious or ceremonial activities may have occurred there."
Yet supporters of the Madoc legend say the wall's tear-shaped designs are similar to ruins found in Wales or elsewhere in Great Britain.
And they point to an 1810 letter from John Sevier, the first governor of Tennessee, who said that in 1782 he was told by an Indian chief that the walls were built by white people called the Welsh who lived in the region before the Cherokee.
They were driven out with the promise that they would never return to Cherokee lands, Sevier said in the letter, and they supposedly traveled to the Ohio valley or downstream to the Mississippi.
There is also evidence of a major battle between 1450 and 1660 at the Falls of the Ohio, which Olson said was the scene of the "big battle began between the red Indians and the white Indians" - the Welsh.
Supporters of the legend say Madoc made two trips to North America, with the first visit coming in 1169. While scientists say the story was widely accepted in the 17th and 18th century, it has fallen out of favor over time.
"For one thing, there is not a historian that goes along with the theory of pre-Columbian contacts in the United States," said Sundea Murphy, who works with Corn Island Archaeology in Louisville, Ky.
"A scientist needs proof. A historian needs proof," she said.
Yet she sees no reason to discount the story of Madoc or any other pre-Columbian culture - from the Vikings to the Polynesians - exploring the continent.
"There were too many other civilizations that had the capability to make cross-ocean voyages," Murphy said.
THE WELSH INDIANS
Madoc, a Welsh prince who, according to legend, sailed to America in 1170 with a group of settlers. The legend claimed the settlers were absorbed by groups of Native Americans. Their descendants migrated to the American Midwest, where there were reports from the first explorers in the area finding Indian tribes that spoke Welsh. The stories Welsh Indians became popular enough that even Lewis and Clark were ordered to look out for them. In 1833, artist George Catlin visited the Mandan Indians, whom he believed were the "Welsh Indians." The Mandan were almost wiped out by European disease, the last full-blood Mandan died in 1971.
I found the following reference in John Keel's The Mothman Prophecies quite interesting:
The Indians must have known something about West Virginia. They avoided it. Before the Europeans arrived with their glass beads, firewater, and gunpowder, the Indian nations had spread out and divided up the North American continent. Modern anthropologists have worked out maps of the Indian occupancy of pre-Columbian America according to the languages spoken. The Shawnee and Cherokee occupied the lands to the south and southwest. The Monocan settled to the east, and the Erie and Conestoga claimed the areas north of West Virginia. Even the inhospitable deserts of the Far West were divided and occupied. There is only one spot on the map labeled "Uninhabited:" West Virginia.
Why? The West Virginia area is fertile, heavily wooded, rich in game. Why did the Indians avoid it? Was it filled with hairy monsters and frightful apparitions way back when?
Across the river in Ohio, industrious Indians--or someone--built the great mounds and left us a great heritage of Indian culture and lore. The absence of an Indian tradition in West Virginia is troublesome for the researcher. It creates an uncomfortable vacuum. There are strange ancient ruins in the state, circular stone monuments which prove that someone settled the region once. Since the Indians didn't build such monuments, and since we don't even have any lore to fall back on, we have only mystery.
Chief Cornstalk and his Shawnees fought a battle there in the 1760's and Cornstalk is supposed to have put a curse on the area before he fell. But what happened there before? Did someone else live there?
The Cherokees have a tradition, according to Benjamin Smith Barton's New views of the origin of the tribes and nations of America. By Benjamin Smith Barton, M.D. Correspondent-member of the Society of the Antiquaries of Scotland that when they migrated to Tennessee they found the region inhabited by a weird race of white people who lived in houses and were apparently quite civilized. They had one problem: their eyes were very large and sensitive to light. They could only see at night. The fierce Indians ran these "moon-eyed people" out. Did they move to West Virginia to escape their tormentors?
PRINCE MADOC AND THE DISCOVERY OF AMERICA
Who discovered America? It's a simple question and one that usually brings the standard response - Christopher Columbus. But here in Wales we have our own theory. And that theory says that America was actually discovered 300 years before Columbus sailed "the ocean blue" in 1492 - and more importantly, that it was discovered by a Welshman.
The man in question was Prince Madoc, the son of Owain Gwynedd, one of the greatest and most important rulers in the country, and while the legend cannot be corroborated there are many who believe it implicitly. Owain Gwynedd certainly existed, his reign being marred by long and hard-fought disputes with Henry II, king of England.
The story goes that in 1170 Owain died and, almost immediately, a violent and very bloody dispute arose between his 13 children regarding the succession. Madoc and his brother Rhirid were so upset and angered by events that they decided they wanted no further part in what was happening. Indeed, they wanted nothing more to do with their family or their homeland. They duly took ship from Rhos on Sea (Llandrillo) and sailed westwards to see what they could find.
What Prince Madoc found, so the legend runs, was America. He and his brother managed to cross the Atlantic and land on the shores of the New World. Madoc returned to Gwynedd for more men, then sailed off again, this time never to return. His sailors inter-married with a local Native American tribe and for years the rumor of Welsh speaking Native American tribes was widely believed. It is, of course, the stuff of legend but like all good legends it has at least a grain of truth about it.
As America was explored and colonized several Native American tribes were discovered, speaking a language that did actually sound quite like Welsh. That was not the only connection. The Mandan Indians used Bull Boats for transport and fishing, vessels that were identical to the famous Welsh coracles. It was all too good for storytellers and poets to ignore. The legend lasted well into the 19th century and even the explorers Lewis and Clark were instructed to keep their eyes open for these "Welsh speaking Indians" while they were trekking through the interior of the country.
The earliest reference to such a people can be found in a Welsh poem by Maredudd ap Rhys who lived and wrote in the years between 1450 and 1483. However, it was during the Elizabethan period that the story gathered momentum and grew.
There was a political agenda behind the spreading of the legend - it was a ploy, used to assert the right of England to the lands of the New World. Put quite simply, Welsh colonization of America, many years before, was a convenient justification for Elizabethan settlement in a territory that had already been claimed by Spain.
Starting with Humphrey Llwyd in 1559, the story was embroidered and developed - the detail of the Welsh speaking tribe comes from this period. Even recognized experts in the field of navigation and exploration, men such as Richard Hakluyt, consciously and deliberately wrote about the legend as if it were the absolute truth. Sadly, there is no absolute historical or archaeological proof - even Lewis and Clark were unable to find that - but it remains a great story, one that we in Wales have taken to our hearts.
Other people have not been quite as happy to believe the story of Prince Madoc. In 1953 the Daughters of the American Revolution set up a plaque on the shores of Mobile Bay in Alabama. On the plaque it stated that it had been erected "In memory of Prince Madoc," who was in the opinion of the Daughters of the Revolution the original discoverer of America. The plaque did not last long and was soon removed by the Alabama Parks Department.
For Welsh men and women, however, the story of Madoc's discovery of America remains special - even if, in our heart of hearts, we know that it is probably not true. And as the saying goes, why let the truth get in the way of a good story?
WHO WERE THE MOON-EYED PEOPLE?
OK...so who were the Moon-Eyed People? Over the years there have been several theories on this subject, but no one knows if they even existed and simply a Cherokee legend. The folklore of the region is quite interesting, but it will likely remain a mystery. The interesting part is that they were reported by the Cherokee even before the Spaniards came to the new world.
There has long been a legend of an ancient race or tribe of 'Whites' that existed and thrived long before the American Indians arrived in North America. The Book of Mormon describes a similar story, identifying the race as the Nephites
There are tales among the Piaute about "Red haired giants" with fair skin in the West. The legend says that the Piaute were at war with these giants for generations and that the red haired giants began to decline to a point where they became "dog eaters" (an insult). The final battle came when the Piaute trapped the giants in a cave on the edge of the mountains. They set a huge fire that eventually killed what remained of the giants. Most of this legend was considered "fanciful" in order to give greater status to the tribe....until a cave was discovered on the edge of the Sierra Nevada in the 1920's. It's called Lovelock Cave and a museum is now located there.
Kennewick Man was thought to have been a part of this group of giants as well, though it was most likely of Asiatic ancestry despite being Caucasiod-like. The Tocharian culture thrived in what is now Northwest China. Despite it's total destruction, you can still see blonde hair and lighter colored eyes among the current population.
In recent years, another tale of the nature of the Moon-Eyed People has also been put forth...that they are some part of the vast, pan-dimensional conspiracy of subterranean lizard people or Reptilians that secretly inhabit our world, most notably underground. This theory has been promoted, for the most part, by David Icke. Could it be true? At this point, do we really know what is fact or conjecture?
The Legend of Prince Madoc and the White Indians
Footprints of the Welsh Indians: Settlers in North America before 1492
Madoc: A Mystery
The Welch Indians: Or A Collection Of Papers Respecting A People Whose Ancestors Emigrated From Wales To America, In The Year 1170, With Prince Madoc