Richard Thornton | May 9, 2017 | 23
Both the Georgia Creeks and Cherokees were living on detached farms in the 1820s
A Footnote on the McIntosh-Texas Series of Articles
The major objective of this series of articles in the People of One Fire is to get people to understand the real cultural history of the Creeks and Cherokees. The majority of history articles by white authors state that removal of the Creeks and Cherokees from western Georgia was necessary in order to give them time to change their lifestyles in order to be compatible with white neighbors.
This is just not true. What Roger Kennedy discovered was that whatever excuse the white politicians made, the real reason for the Creeks and Cherokees being deported was the greed of men, who wanted to acquire large tracts of prime bottom land cheaply in order to establish cotton plantations. For obvious reasons, both the Creeks and the Cherokees had established their farmsteads on the most fertile land. The cotton planters could not assemble large tracts if the bottom lands were divided up into modest sized farms.
Over and over again we have found eyewitness accounts that by the 1820s, both the Creeks and the Cherokees were living lifestyles quite similar to their white neighbors on detached farms and plantations. This is also true for East Central and Northeast Alabama. Where Chief Bowl ran into trouble was that he was insisting on maintaining a traditional tribal village on a large reserve.
The Creeks, who moved to Texas dispersed across the landscape and developed plantations and farms little different than their white neighbors. Most of these Creeks were mixed bloods anyway. Therefore, they were hardly noticed by the Texas politicians.
Look at this painting of Benjamin Hawkins. It was painted just before the War of 1812. Note that immediately in back of him is a Creek farmstead . . . hardly different from white farmsteads of the era. In the left center of the background is a cone shaped Creek chokopa and square. On the other side of the river is the emerging city of Macon, GA. The message of the painting is that the work of Hawkins made it possible for the Creeks to maintain traditions such as the chokopa and yet be in close proximity to conventional towns.
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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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