Cherokee Nation gets power to block public access to US forest lands
The People of One Fire has just learned that the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma co-sponsored a conference with the US Forest Service in February 2017 to which representatives of all federally-recognized tribes were invited. Located in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the conference was held officially to discuss general issues associated with archaeological sites on lands owned by the US Forest Service. However, some Creek, Seminole and Chickasaw attendees from Florida, Alabama and Oklahoma, quickly realized that without the knowledge of Congress or the general public, the Cherokees and federal bureaucrats were secretly attempting to get pan-tribal backing for a policy, which would give the three federally-recognized Cherokee tribes control over many Creek and all Chickasaw archaeological sites in the Southeast.
The secret policy change underway will takes all local and state say-so away from the management of archaeological sites on USFS lands and give it to bureaucrats within federally recognized tribes. That might sound fine to most Americans, but the tantamount ownership of these archaeological sites is based on the 1991 NAGPRA map, which is a sham sneaked through Congress by Cherokee employees of the Department of the Interior. (See below.) In areas, where the map shows no “Tribal Affiliation,” a multi-tribe committee associated with that state will be assigned the authority. However, with three votes, the Cherokees will always have a majority on the state committees.
For over two decades, a committee composed of representatives of seven federally-recognized tribes has advised officials at Ocmulgee National Monument in Macon, GA. Three of the members are Cherokee. The committee was formed after the Cherokees claimed that their ancestors built Ocmulgee Mounds. However, this committee does not have near the power that would be held over US Forest Service archaeological sites.
The NAGPRA map showed vast areas of the Southeast as being always occupied by the Cherokees, when in fact they never lived there at all or were only there for a few generations. Maps, published before 1715 even show all of western North Carolina, being occupied by Shawnees and Creeks. The NAGPRA map pretends that the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Shawnee, Uchee, Catawba, Alabama and Koasati tribes never existed.
What does that mean to you? It means that if you want to hike up to the Native American archaeological sites in the national forests of northern Alabama, northern Georgia, most of Tennessee, southeastern Kentucky, southwestern Virginia, western North Carolina or northern South Carolina, and some tribal bureaucrat in Oklahoma says you can’t . . . then you will be breaking federal law to do so. This is no speculation. As will be read below, Oklahoma Cherokee officials have already stated their desire to cut off public access to the ancestral Creek ruins at Track Rock Gap.
For some reasons not fully understood, the Cherokees have a cultural inferiority complex, which drives them to steal the cultural heritage of other indigenous peoples in the United States and make it their own. This trait was merely humorous to other Native Americans until the advent of casino profits enabled serious identity theft possible.
The cover of the new Cherokee dictionary is a Coushatta-Creek gorget, unearthed along the Chattahoochee River near Columbus, GA. This symbol is also the official seal of the federally recognized Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas. The logo of the Museum of the Cherokee Indian in North Carolina is a gorget unearthed in Missouri near the Mississippi River. It is on display at the National Museum of the American Indian. Since 2012, the logo of the Eastern Band of Cherokees Cultural Preservation Office is a gorget unearthed at Etowah Mounds, Georgia.
As you will read below, the North Carolina Cherokees played a joke on themselves. The gorget at left portrays an Itza Maya priestess of the god, Kukulkan. The staff of this office have repeatedly made appearances before TV cameras and given interviews to newspaper journalists in which they said that the Cherokees knew for a fact that Maya immigrants never came to North America. Of course, they also claim to have lived on their reservation for 10,000 years even though the rivers on their reservation have Creek Indian names. A large Creek mound was formerly located where their sewage treatment plant sits.
The money from gambling casinos corrupt everything it touches. Beginning in 1991, some members of the Georgia Council of Professional Archaeologists, on the payroll of the Eastern Band of Cherokees or developers wanting to build Cherokee casinos in Georgia, began attempts to re-interpret traditional Creek Indian archaeological sites as being Cherokee. In the late 1990s, some Georgia politicians attempted to lease Etowah Mounds National Historic Landmark for a dollar a year so it could be re-developed as a Cherokee museum and a Cherokee casino could be built nearby. One of the principal spokesmen for the USFS-funded “Maya Myth-busting in the Mountains,” who is a member of the Georgia Council of Professional Archaeologists, was to be the Director of this new Etowah Cherokee Museum. In 2006, a delegation of North Carolina Cherokees demanded that all references to the Creek Indians be removed from the museum at Etowah Mounds.
The Eastern Band of Cherokees in North Carolina uses casino funds to persuade officials and academicians in Georgia to promote their version of history. Chambers of Commerce in the Georgia Mountains are given annual grants, while their officers are given perks at the casinos. Georgia politicians receive generous campaign donations from the North Carolina Indians. Georgia archaeologists are hired by the EBC to excavate sites in North Carolina and are invited to lavish “archaeological conferences” at the Cherokee casino hotel. Georgia history professors are given grants to fund papers and books that replicate their version of history. The director of a museum in Middle Georgia, with a Creek name, was given a lucrative, long term contract to do historical research for the EBC as the same time that he continued his employment with the museum. Creek mounds and town sites in Georgia are purchased by the EBC and thereafter declared to be Cherokee Sacred Heritage Sites . . . off limits to the public and any archaeologists not in their favor.
The Battle of Track Rock Gap
Events that occurred in 2012 and 2013, illustrate how far the US Forest Service has erred from its original mandate . . . and how dangerous these proposed policy changes are. US Forest Service administrative employees in the Southeast have repeatedly shown themselves quite capable of lying to the public and journalists. They somehow view their agency as detached from the federal government, plus immune to the will of the people . . . and the Constitution.
Like most Creek descendants in Georgia and Florida, I carry Maya DNA test markers. My mother’s family strongly resembled the Kekchi Mayas of southern Guatemala, who even today farm on terrace complexes. I can show you a photo of a Kekchi man, who looks almost identical to me when I was in my 30s. Maya DNA can also be found among Muskogee Creeks in Oklahoma, but it is not as prevalent.
Most of the Itsate (Hitchiti) Creek words having to do with writing, agriculture, trade, architecture and political offices are pure Itza words. The Muskogee Creek words are often similar, but have been slightly altered. The Second Chief of the Muskogee-Creek Nation has a Maya title – hene-ahau.
Creek and Seminole children in the Southeastern United States grow up being told that they are part Maya. However, the justifications for this tradition in the past were always vague. The Miccosukee branch of the Seminoles/Creeks in Florida openly call themselves Maya. They can even carry on conversations with certain branches of the Mayas. The Creek Migration Legends describe migrations in the past by most branches of the Creeks from various parts of Mesoamerica and northwestern South America.
The majority of Creeks in Georgia, South Carolina, western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee were not Muskogee Creeks, but Itsate Creeks. Itsate means Itza People and is what the Itza Mayas call themselves. The Itsate generally sided with the Patriots in the American Revolution and the United States in the Red Stick War. As a result, most became estranged from the Muskogee-dominated Creek Confederacy. Many moved to Florida and became Seminoles. However, over 20,000 Creeks were still living in Georgia, when the majority of Muskogee Creeks were forcibly marched to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears.
In 2010 and 2011, as I camped across the Southern Appalachians, former Director of the National Park Service and National Museum of American History, Roger Kennedy, sent me checks to support my research into the early Colonial Period history of the Southern Highlands. Specifically, I was looking for ancient trails that might have been used by Hernando de Soto and Juan Pardo in the 1500s and ruins of 17th century Sephardic Jewish villages.
I was temporarily living in an abandoned chicken house near Track Rock Gap when I discovered evidence of mining activities in the gap and immediately above it, ancient stone retaining walls. At the time, I had no clue that the stone ruins covered a half square mile. I assumed that I had found the ruins of a 16th century Sephardic Jewish gold mining village. The mining activities later turned out to be associated with a late 19th century – early 20th century gem mine.
I had a big surprise, when frost finally cleared out the dense undergrowth, I got to see the whole site. It was identical to Itza Maya terrace complexes near Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, which I has visited while on a fellowship from Georgia Tech to study the architecture and city planning of Mesoamerican civilizations. Furthermore, both the Creek and Cherokee names for that part of Georgia meant, “Place of the Itza.” Not only that, the ethnic name for most of the Creeks in Georgia was Itzate . . . the same name that the Itza Mayas call themselves.
Roger Kennedy’s cancer suddenly came back. I temporarily I stopped my research into the 16th and 17th centuries. This discovery at Track Rock Gap did not seem to be something that would produce professional income for me, so I created a three dimensional computer model and a 32 page report then announced the site on the Examiner. For five years, I was the National Architecture columnist for the Examiner.
At the time, I assumed these actions were the end of my involvement. Several universities would become interested in the archaeological zone and obtain grants to comprehensively study it . . . at least, that is what I thought.
The US Forest Service steps over the line
In September 2011, the Gainesville, GA office of the USFS issued a filming permit for an independent film-maker to shoot an online documentary of the Track Rock ruins. In February 2012, the same office issued a filming permit for a company associated with the Travel Channel. In early April 2012, the same office denied filming permits requested by film companies associated with PBS, the History Channel and National Geographic.
When the History Channel announced plans to continue their project and make it the pilot for a new series, America Unearthed, the US Forest Service panicked. This agency was reeling from budget cuts, but nevertheless, its Southeastern administrators assigned funds and personnel to a new program which it called, “Maya Myth Busting in the Mountains.” The purpose of the program was to discredit the History Channel documentary . . . before it was even broadcast . . . and to libel me professionally. Why would a federal agency devote its resources to attack a Creek architect, who had taught Mesoamerican Architecture at the university level, served on an advisory council of the National Park Service, designed the Trail of Tears Memorial in Tulsa and been a consultant to the Muscogee-Creek Nation for five years? It was surreal.
I certainly didn’t dream that the Examiner article would result in a national controversy involving me personally . . . fanned by the US Forest Service in Georgia, the Georgia Council of Professional Archaeologists and the three federally-recognized Cherokee tribes. From the beginning, nothing of substance was discussed by the archaeologists, employed by the USFS. Their entire strategy was based on personal attacks on me . . . totally bizarre. They used the same strategy that the Republicans used against the Democratic officials in Georgia to order to gain complete control of the state. The only problem was that I was not a politician and as an independent, I always vote for the candidate, not the party. I also knew far more about my Creek ancestors and Mesoamerican cultures than all the members of the Georgia Council of Professional Archaeologists combined.
Among a legion of outrageous statements and actions, employees of the three federally recognized Cherokee tribes claimed in nationally published articles to be the descendants of the builders of the Track Rock Terrace Complex in Union County, GA . . . which had a radiocarbon date 1018 AD and was in the territory of the Creek Confederacy until the 1786 Treaty of Augusta. They claimed that their ancestors had built the 200+ agricultural terraces as locations for performing sacred dances and that the other stone ruins were the graves of “great Cherokee chiefs.”
Why would ANY federal agency be involved in such nonsense? USFS employees even cut down over a hundred trees to block the access trail to the Track Rock ruins in advance of a visit by members of the California Sierra Club. The trail had been open to the public for over a century. The USFS Atlanta Office then lied and claimed that a wind storm (containing chain saws?) had blown down a few young trees. How can one possibly trust these bureaucrats?
As it turns out, we now know that Track Rock is but the most northerly of at least 16 massive terrace and stone architecture complexes, whose locations stretch southward 150 miles to near Columbus, GA. Most of these archaeological zones are in areas, where the Cherokees NEVER lived. Nevertheless, the public was not told this until several journalists became suspicious. They produced TV documentaries and radio broadcasts to expose the lies by the US Forest Service personnel and archaeologists, which have been viewed or heard around the world. In fact, I am scheduled this summer to be in a documentary film on this subject, which will be broadcast to Latin American viewers.
1984 comes to Jawja
I really do not have to say anything more, to justify my concerns other than provide you statements by those involved with the “Maya Myth Busting in the Mountains” campaign.
“This Maya thing is a bunch of crap!”
- Opening statement in a speech to the Trail of Tears Association by Jim Langford, representing the Georgia Council of Professional Archaeologists. Langford has absolutely no credentials to discuss anything about Mesoamerican or Muskogean culture.
“Thornton is an ignorant peon.”
- Editorial in the national edition of the American Institute of Archeology Journal.
“These people are Marxists, who want to take away all your money.”
- Published in the Atlanta-Journal Constitution – speech made by archeologist Johannes Loubser to a group of wealthy Atlantic civic club members, while being paid by the US Forest Service to speak to civic groups on behalf of “Maya Myth-Busting in the Mountains. He was referring to the Creek Indians in Georgia, Alabama and Florida.
“This white man is a racist, who is trying to steal your heritage.”
- Published in the Atlanta Journal Constitution – Johannes Loubser, while speaking at a conference sponsored by the US Forest Service, attended by members of several federally-recognized tribes. He was referring to me. Loubser immigrated from South Africa after the Apartheid Regime collapsed. He has never been in Mexico and interpreted the traditional Creek and Maya glyphs on the Track Rock petroglyphs as “graffiti by bored Cherokee hunters.”
“Richard Thornton is nothing but an architect. He is also a self-styled historian, self-published author and pseudo-archaeologist.”
- Article published in the monthly newsletter of the Society for Georgia Archaeology. (This nothing-architect has 8 years of university education. LOL )
The most damning statements were made in an “Indian Country Today” article, which interviewed Lisa LaRue-Baker a Cherokee tribal cultural preservation officer in Oklahoma and James Wettstaed, a Northwestern wildlife biologist and expert on American elk, who was transferred to Georgia in 2012 to become the “archaeologist” for the Chattahoochee National Forest. After reading them, you can see the clear intent of the US Forest Service to collaborate with the Oklahoma Cherokees in order to block the general public from federally owned land. The full article can be read at: Indian Country Today At the time of the article’s publishing, Baker worked part time as a tribal employee and actually was a member of a rock band. She has no qualifications to discuss either Muskogean or Maya culture.
Despite the Cherokee official’s claim of love for Track Rock Gap . . . personally, I have never met a Cherokee, who has ever been to Track Rock Gap or even knows where it is. LaRue-Baker also had never seen Track Rock Gap and apparently, never even been in Georgia. When the Cherokee representatives were brought to Track Rock Gap to pose for the photo above, they and their well-nourished USFS hosts were in too poor physical condition to actually see the ruins. It requires a 600 feet climb up the mountain. It’s something that we Georgia Creeks regularly do!
- Lisa La Rue-Baker:
Lisa LaRue-Baker affirmed that Wettstaed (USFS archaeologist) has been in consistent contact with the Cherokee Nation in reference to the site and trail.
“We consult with the Forest Service in our historic area of interest on a regular basis,” she said. “[They] made us aware of [the chopping down of the trees] and we didn’t object to it.”
Note that LaRue-Baker openly admitted that the trees were cut down, while the US Forest Service still lies and said the wind blew the trees down. These are exactly the same people, who allowed a fire to burn for several weeks in the Cohutta Wilderness Area in the autumn of 2016, until it was out of control and destroyed virtually all of the pristine wilderness area.
LaRue-Baker said a film crew had submitted an application with the Forest Service to film a documentary within Track Rock Gap. LaRue-Baker told Wettstaed that the nation was adamantly opposed to the idea to filming at their sacred site.
“Our initial response was that we didn’t wish to see the permit be approved because it’s an archeological site that we would like to remain pristine,” she said. “It’s a sacred site and we don’t want sacred sites commercialized and exploited.”
She added that the Cherokees do not want the site “violated and forever altered for curious and recreational purposes.”
LaRue-Baker, who said she’s “baffled” by the “fabricated Mayan-Cherokee connection,” said her nation, in partnership with the Forest Service, are working on a plan to further protect the site.
“It’s the last stronghold we have on our homeland,” she said. “It’s very near and dear to us.”
- James Wettstaed
Wettstaed promulgated that there is no empirical or scientific data that links the Mayan people to Track Rock Gap.
Wettstaed added the Forest Service will continue to monitor the site and that he hopes that after December 2012, the hype for Track Rock Gap will all “go away.”
The joke was on Wettstaed. He has absolutely no credentials to discuss publicly either Muskogean or Maya culture. As proof of this ignorance, the photograph that he chose for this article and for further propaganda articles that he wrote in 2013 for other publications, was one of the glyphs on Boulder Six at Track Rock Gap. It is the Maya glyph, hene . . . the first glyph translated by the famous archaeologist, David Stuart, when he was a teenager and can be seen on the cover of the best-selling book, Cracking the Maya Code. 🙄
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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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