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2012 . . . the year when “1984” came to the Appalachian Mountains

2012 . . . the year when “1984” came to the Appalachian Mountains


It was a beautiful, sunny morning in July 2012.  I was interviewing the wife of a farm couple, who had expanded their apple orchard into a thriving farmers market. The interview was for an article in my Architecture column in the National Examiner on the ideal design of family-owned farmers markets.  The day before, a crew from Committee Films, contractors with the History Channel, had spent eight hours at my cabin for a planned program on “The Mayas In Georgia.”  However, I had signed a confidentiality agreement and so did not discuss that film session with the lady.

Suddenly, her cell phone rang.  She looked at the phone ID then showed it to me.  It said US Government.  She told me that she had better take the call since it could be someone like the IRS.   It wasn’t.

The man claimed to be a federal law enforcement agent.  This is what he told her, verbatim:  “I have been watching you from a satellite above. We are recording everything you say (so was she!).  Don’t listen to that Thornton guy says about the Mayas.  He’s crazy.  We will know, if you keep talking to him and you can have problems if you do.  Do you understand me?”  He disconnected.   She looked up in the sky then looked at me and said, “That man was crazy.  Do you know what a Maya is?”  We continued with her interview.

Bureaucrats for sale

It seems like maybe a year ago, but seven years have passed since the traumatic events of 2012.  The People of One Fire was only six years old back then and didn’t have a public website.  Only about 40 of the current POOF subscribers, were then getting newsletters sent them via direct emails.  We just talked among ourselves and few people knew about our research. 

None of us would have dreamed back in 2011 that there was such corruption in the federal government.  Native Americans in the Southeast thought of the Feds as the “good guys” when Southern Boss Hoggs attempted to steal land from minorities or block people from voting.  Because of the deprivations of the Great Recession, we had scarcely paid attention in 2008, when several employees of the Gainesville, GA Office of the Chattahoochee National Forest were charged with requiring government contractors to make substantial contributions to certain Republican candidates.  There virtually no Democratic candidates in North Georgia and much of Alabama by then, so it was usually a case of federal employees breaking the law to help one Republic candidate over another one.   It’s called the Hatch Act and all federal employees are very much aware that it is illegal for them take part in partisan political activities.

Three years later and the Gainesville USFS employees, plus some Atlanta USFS employees, were at it again.  This time, they were acting as agents for an out of state tribal government against the welfare of the people of Georgia and in particular, its Native American citizens.  The Cherokees hoped to build a casino near Track Rock Gap and use that spectacular site as a private playground for guests at the casino resort.   The Union County Chamber of Commerce received a thousand dollars a year, plus lots of perks for its officials at the Cherokee Casino in return for steering tourists in the Georgia Mountains rather than sites farther south in Georgia.  They did not say a word when the Cherokees pressured the US Forest Service to refuse filming permits to National Geo, History Channel, CBS and PBS.  Those TV programs could have brought millions of dollars of tourism to struggling Union County . . . but the loyalty of the Chamber was to its puppeteers.

Two months later, despite the outrage of Union County residents, Union County’s Chamber of Commerce, the local newspaper and state tourism officials stayed silent when the US Forest Service chopped down over a 100 trees to block the trails in the archaeological zone, just prior to planned tour by California Sierra Club members.   The only way that the USFS could have known about the planned hike was via an illegal wire tap in Georgia. 

During the closing days of the Obama Administration, US Forest Service bureaucrats even worked out an agreement to give all archaeological sites in Tennessee’s, Kentucky’s and Georgia’s national forests to the Cherokees.  Fortunately, that didn’t happen, but given unstable nature of American politics now, who knows what will happen next?

Part Four of “Secrets of Track Rock Gap” takes the reader from the Track Rock Archaeological Studies 19 years ago to the immediate aftermath of the broadcast of America Unearth’s Premier on December 21, 2012.   You are there!

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Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer-builder. He is today considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the Southeastern Indians. However, that was not always the case. While at Georgia Tech Richard was the first winner of the Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture and culture in Mexico under the auspices of the Institutio Nacional de Antropoligia e Historia. Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, the famous archaeologist and director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, was his fellowship coordinator. For decades afterward, he lectured at universities and professional societies around the Southeast on Mesoamerican architecture, while knowing very little about his own Creek heritage. Then he was hired to carry out projects for the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The rest is history. Richard is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the KVWETV (Coweta) Creek Tribe and a member of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe. In 2009 he was the architect for Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial at Council Oak Park in Tulsa. He is the president of the Apalache Foundation, which is sponsoring research into the advanced indigenous societies of the Lower Southeast.



    I’ve been reading a preview of “America Before: The Key to Earth’s Lost Civilization” by Graham Hancock. Are you familiar with this book? Some of it is in line with some of your writings on POOF.

    • I have read some of Graham Hancock’s books. I also recently bought a book that specifically addresses Neolithic and Bronze Age art and architecture.


        I was previewing it on Amazon and went ahead and bought it. The main thing that interested me in the reviews was the idea that the history of humans in the western hemisphere seems now to go much further back than evidence of humans in the eastern hemisphere.

        I’m looking forward to reading it when it gets here, because the preview was about the great serpent mound, which has been interesting to me for a long while.


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