Richard Thornton | May 9, 2017 | 23
Are Oklahoma Cherokees Planning a Reservation and Casino in Georgia
Generally, someone who helped put eight crooked cops and seven crooked politicians behind bars in Virginia 20 years ago, is pretty good at history sleuthing elsewhere . . . if given enough time. From the beginning it puzzled me why the question of Maya refugees coming to the Southeast became a “faith-based” right wing political issue. Southern Baptist congregations in the mountains were mobilized to fight the “Mayas in America” thing with the same furor that they normally applied to the evil of Mexican-American kids getting subsidized school lunches. Wealthy real estate speculators from Atlanta and the Blairsville, GA area seemed to be their most important allies. It made no sense.
The smear tactics directed at me had all the hallmarks of a political campaign guided by Georgian Ralph Reed. You have no clue what I went through last summer. Remember Ralph? He’s the one who was caught using Christian Coalition donations to fight state lottery elections at the same time his political consulting firm lobbied for approval for Native American casinos in the same states. He also caused John McCain to lose the 2000 Republican nomination by painting him as a closet gay. In this case, though, it again made no sense. There are no federally recognized tribes in Georgia.
Then the pieces of the puzzle fell together. I found old newspaper articles in which the two Georgia archaeologists who have been most vocal against “the Mayas in America” – and used the most expletives in public to describe me personally – where directly involved in the effort seven years ago to establish an Keetoowah Cherokee Reservation and Casino in northwest Georgia. They were on the payroll of the real estate speculators where the reservation was planned. They were the primary spokesmen to the media for supporting the legitimacy of a Cherokee reservation in Georgia. Just recently an Oklahoma court forced the Keetoowah Band to close its big casino and pay $240 million in damages to the State.
The final piece of the puzzle appeared a few days ago. I learned that in June of 2012, while the Eastern Band of Cherokees were announcing plans to construct a second casino near Murphy, NC, the main corporate office of Harrah’s Casinos sent letters to its Georgia patrons that announced the imminent construction of a Harrah’s Casino IN NORTH GEORGIA. How could they build a casino where there is no federally recognized reservation? Why would the North Carolina Cherokees build two new casinos in the general vicinity of each other?
In November of 2012 the Eastern Band of Cherokees Council indefinitely tabled funding for the initial construction of their new casino in North Carolina. Plans for the Georgia casino seem to be moving forward. Nevertheless, political hacks in the US Forest Service continue their ridiculous media campaign to prove that the Mayas didn’t come to Georgia and that the Cherokees built the stone structures and mounds in the region. USFS bureaucrats in Gainesville, GA even sent angry emails to newspaper editors in Georgia, who wrote positive reviews for the debut of “America Unearthed.”
“What a tangled web ye mortals weave, when ye first try to deceive.” To learn more
The truth is out there somewhere!
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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.
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