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Banned Creek Indian festival was on a Native American town site

Banned Creek Indian festival was on a Native American town site

An educated Native American population is an empowered electorate.   The People of One Fire cannot stress enough how important it is for you to learn the early history of the region that you live in and monitor everything that is stated in the public arena.   You cannot depend on government officials, tribal officials or archeologists to tell the truth.  These days, many seem to be for sale to the highest bidder . . . and the local journalists?  . . . they do as little research as possible.

Remember in 2012, when reporter Bill Torpy of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution quoted the opinion of a retired electronics engineer from Florida as the “expert opinion” on why the Track Rock Terrace Complex in the Georgia Mountains was built by the Cherokees?  That is par for the course these days in local newspaper and television journalism.  Few reporters check the facts, especially in regard to history.

In the 13 years of its existence, the Sweetwater Creek Native American festival at Sweetwater Creek State Park had become one of the most popular such events in the Southeast, second only in attendance to the Southeastern American Indian Festival at Ocmulgee National Monument.  The event was sponsored by Friends of Sweetwater Creek State Park and made thousands of dollars, which were donated to the state park.

It started out as a Creek Indian festival for the thousands of Creek descendants in West Georgia and East Central Alabama.  With the blessing of the Creeks, the festival expanded to be inclusive for all Southeastern tribes.  This made the festival even more popular as it drew attendance from throughout the Metro Atlanta Area.

Then in early 2006,  the new director of the Georgia Division of Parks and Historic Sites issued a press release that the Sweetwater Creek Indian Festival was being permanently banned.   The official reason was that there was no Native American history associated with Sweetwater Creek or its environs.   The real reason was that its annual date was the same as a festival at the Eastern Band of Cherokees Reservation, 140 miles away in North Carolina.   The Cherokees believed that the Sweetwater Creek Festival was drawing attendance away from their own event.

The new director’s next act was to un-invite seven top Muscogee-Creek officials to the annual Creek Barbicoa at Etowah Mounds.  The name of the fund-raising dinner was changed to
“A Woodland Feast” and an employee of the EBCI was invited to speak in their stead.  The Muscogee-Creek Nation had been donating $5000 a year to the State of Georgia to support archaeological research.   That came to a screeching halt after this insult.

A slam dunk affair

Initially, the banning of the popular festival was greeted with astonishment and hostility by the public, but got very little press coverage.   The Atlanta Journal-Constitution initially ran a brief article that reported the director’s statement as fact.

Outraged civic leaders and Creek Indian descendants then went to the TV stations.   They had no facts to contradict the version of history by the state administrator.  Their very valid points, though, were that the festival made lots of the money for the state parks program and that many taxpayers enjoyed attending the festival.

The state bureaucrats then produced an archaeology professor at the University of Georgia,  a history professor at Georgia State University and an archaeologist in the Georgia Division of Historic Preservation,  who all backed up the administrator.  “Well shucks folks, we’uns don’t know why, but there were just not many Injuns around Sweetwater Creek Park.”

The proponents of the festival lost heart after the “experts” backed up the administrator in the newspaper and in all local TV stations.   Later on,  the Friends of Sweetwater Creek were allowed to have a “Summer Festival” but it has never drawn the attendance of the original Creek Indian Festival.

These “experts” couldn’t have told a bigger lies.   The park is near the Chattahoochee River.  The river’s 63 mile long corridor through Metro Atlanta is almost non-stop Native American archaeological sites.  Large Creek towns thrived for centuries immediately south and east of the park.  The famous Sweetwater Creek Stela was found on a hilltop shrine that is now part of the park.

The biggest lie of all did not manifest itself until this morning . . . ten years later.   American archaeologists typically prevent the public from seeing the list of archaeological sites in any state.  The reason given is that artifact poachers would ransack these sites, if they knew where they were.  Actually the poachers seem to know more about where village sites are than the archaeologists.

Whatever the case,  the archaeologists employed by the State Historic Preservation Office and the University of Georgia would have had access to the top secret archaeological site files.  All they had to do was look up the latitude and longitude of Sweetwater Creek State Park to see if there were any archaeological sites there.

This morning I stumbled upon an archaeological report from 1966, which listed four designated Native American archaeological sites within or adjacent to Sweetwater Creek State Park.  In fact, the lake which makes up the heart of the park, was a Native American town site.  Apparently, no excavations were made at this site, prior to the lake being filled.  Maybe that’s why the archaeologists lied.  They did not want the public to know that someone had dropped the ball.

The People of One Fire was not formed until November of 2006.  However, we really did not have an extensive library and knowledge base for several more years.  At that point in time, we would have probably taken the word of experts also.

If you excuse the pun, this story is “water over the dam,” but there will be future incidents similar to the Sweetwater Creek fiasco in your neck of the woods . . . sooner or later.   It is a lesson learned.  If the leaders of Douglas County, GA and Creek descendants in that region had known about archaeological sites 9DO1, 9DO2, 9DO3, 9DO4, 9FU9 and 9FU4, they could have slammed them in the faces of these lying “experts” and the Sweetwater Creek Native American Indian Festival would still be with us today.

Now you know!

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

8 Comments

  1. syblcranford@gmail.com'

    Richard,
    I used to live in the Sweetwater Creek area from 1969 to 1984. I hiked the trails along Sweetwater Creek with my two daughters before it was a park and not many people knew of it’s existence. I have Mvskogee Creek ancestry and to me the trail was a place of solitude and teaching for my children. We hiked a wide trail along the creek from where we parked down to the old mill where once there was a factory which made Confederate uniforms during the war. A huge water wheel was still on the side of the remnants of the old stone factory and the remains of a stone wall was on the bank of the creek for most of trail length. What a beautiful experience it was to walk that trail and be next to Mother Earth and the gentle flowing creek as it cascaded over the huge boulders in the creek . It was one of the favorite things my girls and I enjoyed and I hate to learn of what has happened to it. There was no reservoir there at that time and the locals said there had been a town high on the hill on the right of the trail at one time. The Creek people were all over the area of Atlanta at one time and the Native history of the area needs to be preserved. I know it is a battle with the Georgia professors , archaeologist and local governments, but please do not give up the ship. Do whatever is necessary to keep our Native History alive and well. Many blessings for all you do for the Creek people in the Southeast. We must not allow the forces within to sweep our history under the rug.
    Sincerely,
    Syble Cranford

    Reply
    • Thank you Syble

      That area of Douglas County is beautiful and has so much history – both Native American and American. I feel like a fool now for not speaking in public about the festival being banned. I unfortunately believed that the archaeologists would not have told the public that there were no Indians around the park, if it was not true. Several people on the Creek-Southeast message board were actually involved with the festival and were very angry. They tried to get the rest of us involved with the protest, but we didn’t.

      It was the beginning of a very bad year for Georgia’s Native Americans. By the end of the year, journalists, plus employees and consultants of the state government had committed so many travesties that we could not bear it any longer. We formed the People of One Fire.

      Reply
  2. geomatical@hotmail.com'

    These same experts would probably tell the Ozzies that there is no evidence of aboriginal activity around Uluru.

    Reply
  3. kkakins@gmail.com'

    So glad you are documenting this for future generations. I have no affiliation with your tribes at all, but I love history and I love truth. Thank you.

    Reply
  4. quasimojo69@yahoo.com'

    I was born and raised in Austell and still reside in neighboring Douglas county. I don’t have any credentials other than a high school diploma from South Cobb High, but I do have a lifetimes worth of experience in the outdoors, coupled with a passion driven fascination of history both recent and pre-historic. I have logged countless hours and miles visiting many different sites in these areas mentioned, and some not mentioned sometimes in search of artifacts, relics, and sometimes just to make my own assessment with what little bit of evidence I had to work with (mainly the trench lines and fortifications at bankhead hwy and Chattahoochee river). I have come to find several other sites in Austell and Lithia Springs that I believe to have been small villages or clans of creek origin along Sweetwater creek and several other tributaries that feed into it. Sadly, there are now warehouses on top of a couple of these sites where I once used to sit and try to imagine what the extent of activity was before colonization came to be. I do know that I have found evidence near pretty much every creek in those areas even back towards Paulding county. Even though these sites are very crude and overgrown the fact remains that they exist, and are being lost over time to proposed expansion, or lack of maintenance due to there not being recognized for what they are. I guess I’m part of a dying breed too since fewer and fewer people actually get out and explore wooded undeveloped areas anymore. Too bad because they might find some of the shallow caves that exist in the area which still hold plenty of proof of a primitive people that were here long before we were.

    Reply
    • Derek

      Anytime that you want to write an article on Native American sites that you have found . . . even a short one . . . please feel free to do so.

      Richard T.

      Reply
    • quasimojo69@yahoo.com'

      One other thing that I just noticed the other day while at the visitors center at the park. I was really expecting there to be a greater amount of Indian artifacts from the area to be displayed, but the few that were there were impressive, although every one of the artifacts were credited to the Cherokees and not one mention of the Creek tribes at all. What is the reasoning behind this?

      Reply
      • That is especially weird since the Creek town of Chattahoochee was near the park. However, we have been seeing this since Becky Kelly took over as director of the State Division of Parks and Historic sites in 2006. There is some sort of connection between the occult and the North Carolina Cherokees. Most Georgians are quite aware that the Cherokees were only here briefly and are always puzzled why women administrators in the Georgia state government and in certain federal agencies such as the US Forest Service, go out of their way to be “cheer leaders” for a North Carolina Indian tribe. I can tell you this. During the 1980s, several of the current top administrators in the North Carolina and SE Regional offices of the US Forest Service used to come out to our farm near Asheville, NC for meetings of a witch coven. My ex-wife used to make me leave the farm during their rituals, because she said that it was a “sorority”. However, in the mid-1990s, I figured out what was going on and that is why she is an EX. By then, we were living in Virginia, however.

        Reply

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