Editorial after “America Unearthed” premier is more relevant than ever
It now seem so long ago and then sometimes like last week . . . the tumultuous events of 2012. At a time when the federally-owned roads in the Southeast’s national forests are going to hell in a handbasket because the US Forest Service claims not to have money to maintain them, the very same USFS bureaucrats used many thousands of dollars of YOUR tax money to fund a public relations, crew work assignment and law enforcement harassment program designed to discourage citizens from visiting a half square mile archaeological zone next to a paved county road.
The Track Rock Terrace Complex had been open to the public for over 85 years. Suddenly, USFS employees five miles away in the Blairsville, GA USFS Visitors Center were refusing to tell tourists where it was located. People had to contact me to get a copy of the trail map. That same USFS facility had ordered the few remaining “working men” on its payroll to cut down over 100 trees to block the trail. Then PR officers in the Gainesville and Atlanta offices announced that “a windstorm had blown down a few small trees.” Five years later those same liars would tell the world that lightning had come out of a clear blue sky to start a fire which was allowed to burn for several weeks in the Cohutta National Wilderness Area, before it got completely out of control and ultimately destroyed most of that pristine wilderness.
The other day I asked a local community leader, “When did the US Forest Service stop maintaining the roads in the Chattahoochee National Forest? You can’t even get into most of the campgrounds now.” He responded that it started under Bush and continued under Obama. He added that the Forest Service bureaucrats figure that the fewer campers there are the less work they have to do.
Formerly, local farmers and grading contractors were paid modest fees to maintain sections of the roads near their homes. The program worked well and cost the taxpayers relatively little. Emergency repairs were done by work crews, employed by the USFS. First, most of the blue collar employees of the USFS were laid off by the Bush People, who used as an excuse the “War on Terrorism” . . . leaving only public relations officers, desk jockeys and pencil pushers. Then the contracts for maintaining roads became a political payoff for loyal political party supporters.
The community leader exclaimed, “Would you believe that the roads in the Chattahoochee National Forest were graded once by a big construction contractor out of North Carolina, who donated a lot to the Republicans. The Bush People called it privatization, but Hell, all our local farmers and contractors were a whole lot more private than some big shot in Charlotte, NC.”
When the Obama people came in, they stopped maintaining the roads altogether to punish the region for going Republican. I asked him, “Couldn’t they have repaired 46% of the roads to reward the folks in this region, who voted for Obama?” He laughed.
These politicians and bureaucrats, whose salaries are paid by YOU, don’t even realize that they had gone into the Twilight Zone. They covertly see their role now as discouraging use of the National Forests or getting involved in the interpretation of archaeological zones. Unfortunately, the leaders of both national political parties and many federal government agencies have come to believe that they are the United States. Unless you are extremely rich (this goes for both parties) you are just a serf to be manipulated and milked.
Neither political party mentioned Native Americans in their last conventions. They paraded about every minority, known to mankind, except Native Americans on stage to tell you how their candidate was going to make everybody happy again. Apparently, there are more transexual Slobovians in the United States now than federally-recognized Native Americans.
The federally recognized tribes should see the writing on the wall. You are about to lose much of your federal dole. Politicians from both parties have already decided that the minuscule political campaign donations sent in by members of federally recognized tribes do not justify the amount of our tax funds going to the tribes.
That’s why this old editorial below is even more relevant than ever. Whether in a federally recognized tribe, a state recognized tribe or a merely a Native American descendant, the days are about over when you can look to other people to solve your problems for you. You are going to have to start working together and becoming team players again.
Why Native Americans should always be team players
“Oklahoma Creeks say that Mayas never came to Georgia”
That was the headline in many editions of newspapers in Georgia as the world sat down to watch the first broadcast of American Unearthed on the evening of December 21, 2012. These articles were the direct result of multiple public statements made by a delegation of two Muscogee-Creek Nation officials, who were manipulated into visiting Georgia by the US Forest Service, just before the broadcast.
By Saturday morning, all the articles had been deleted. It is a good thing, because you know what they made these men look like. These card-carrying citizens of the Muscogee-Creek Nation actively participated in an attempt to sabotage and denigrate an internationally televised program about Creek and Maya history. Unbelieveable!
Do you realize that Friday night’s program was the first time in the history of television that the Muskogean peoples were portrayed in a positive manner? As a child, I was ASHAMED of being Creek because the Davy Crockett Series on “Walt Disney Presents” always portrayed Creeks as naked, bloodthirsty monsters wearing Mohawk haircuts, and the Cherokees as a peaceful, civilized people . . . ironically wearing traditional Creek clothing. It has always been my dream to do something about it.
Honestly people, how many times over the past 250 years have government officials manipulated the Choctaws, Creeks and Chickasaws into royally skewering themselves?
It happens over and over and over again. The Creeks were the largest indigenous ethnic group in North America in 1800. The Choctaws were the second largest. Federal and state officials kept on cutting them in pieces to the point that in the 1940s, Oklahoma Creeks assumed that they would soon cease to exist.
You would think that when some low-ranking, hillbilly yokel from western North Carolina in a federal agency wanted an Oklahoma Creek to sign a document or be in a video posted on a USFS website entitled, “Maya Myth Busting in the Mountains,” they would give it some forethought. Perhaps they would call home to Principal Chief Tiger for his thoughts on the matter. They didn’t, however, we now know that Principal Chief Tiger approved their trip to Georgia out of loyalty to his connections with organized crime.
Now reporters are asking me why the Oklahoma Creeks did those stupid things. The two tribal bureaucrats look like fools now. As yet, I cannot think of a face-saving explanation for their actions, so I am telling the reporters that I don’t know.
Worst still, they have scheduled me to be on some national radio talk shows in 2013. What am I to say when someone asks me about the documents that the Muskogee Creeks signed along with the North Carolina Cherokees?
We now have proof that it was North Carolina and Oklahoma Cherokee leaders, who ordered the USFS not to allow the History Channel to film archaeological sites in the Chattahoochee National Forest. The real reason is that they didn’t want the world to know that the Creeks, Shawnees and Yuchi once occupied all the Southern Highlands. Yet Oklahoma Creek officials got sucked into signing compromising documents that confirmed the false history that North Carolina Cherokees now tell tourists.
It is hard for me not to cuss. As I wrote Principal Chief Tiger afterward, if an Oklahoma Creek had called me a Muskogee on Friday, I was so angry that I might knocked their head off.
People frequently contact me with questions about the history of the Muskogee-Creeks during the past 182 years that they have lived in Oklahoma. I immediately send them to the Museum of the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Okmulgee. That is because (a) I am not a Muskogee-Creek. I am Itsate-Creek; and (b) living in Oklahoma was not part of my immediate family’s cultural experience.
Muscogee-Creek leaders and employees should follow the same consideration when asked about your heritage before your ancestors left the Southeast. Culturally, you are not the same people, who left the Southeast. The Creeks in the Southeast were a confederacy of many ethnic groups, many of whom were not even Muskogeans. Most of the members of the confederacy had ancient histories that differed somewhat from other member groups. The Muskogees were just one of those member groups.
I have found that most Oklahoma Choctaws, Chickasaws, Creeks, Seminoles and Yuchi know as little about the pre-removal history of their ancestors as I do about their history in Oklahoma after removal. However, Muskogeans in Oklahoma have a valuable resource that most Oklahoma tribes don’ have. Southeastern Muskogean researchers stress scientific study of our past, not the fabrication of malarkey to please the tourists. For 182 years we have secretly maintained the cultural traditions that you may have forgotten.
This whole thing of blood quantum and federal recognition equals legitimacy is yet a continuance of the divide and conquer strategy that government bureaucrats have used for 200 years. Don’t y’all realize that you are being manipulated when these officials “make you feel important” because you have a BIA card. They always want something from you when they do. My lord . . . the commanding general of the Creek Confederacy during the 20 years when it was most powerful was a FULL-BLOODED FRENCHMAN. He ultimately returned to France to become a general under Napoleon.
We are who we are. I am slightly under 75% European. I will never be a “full blooded” Native American. Few people are these days. I see plenty of people in the Muscogee-Creek Nation, though, who have a lot less Native features than me. It doesn’t matter. It is what is in your heart, mind and soul that count.
PLEASE . . . call the researchers in the People of One Fire first before letting federal or state officials trick you again. Our members know the Southeast like the back of our hands. When we reach to the ground to pick up a piece of pottery, it could have easily been made by one of our direct ancestors. Can you say that?
Scott Wolter asked me this morning, if any hot babes had come my way as a result of the appearance on America Unearthed. Yes, a female raccoon, two days ago, begged for some of the South Georgia pecans that a friend sent me for Christmas. Then I came home one night to find that a female chipmunk had built a nest in the kitchen drawer, where I keep my silverware. Ah the perks of fame!
Seriously . . . there was one section of American Unearthed that made me feel VERY DUMB. Do you remember when Scot Wolter showed a photo of the famous copper “Eagle man” that is found at both Ocmulgee National Monument and Etowah Mounds National Landmark? My immediate response was, “Okay Scott, don’t go there. You’re getting in the realm of Space Aliens Built Teotihuacan.”
You see while on my fellowship, Dr. Piña-Chan intensely studied the two books I gave him about the Southeastern Indians. He told me that the art at Etowah seemed to be derived from Toltec or Huastec artistic tradition. So for years, I have vainly looked for art in northeastern Mexico that looked like the Eagleman. So far, I have not found it.
Then, Scott Wolter walks up to a building in Chichen Itza. He points to a stone inscription that is very similar to the Georgia Eagleman. I felt like caca. Would you believe that as part of my fellowship, I photographed every panel on that building? Slides of that important link between the Southeast and Mesoamerica have been sitting in my slide trays throughout my entire adult life, and NOT ONCE did it dawn on me to look at them. Even as late as this year, it never dawned on me that there could be a possible similarity between art at Chichen Itza and art in the Creek homeland.
Well, let’s be honest, there are discoveries I have made that other people have missed. It is a Muskogean tradition they we share everything and consult the whole community. We all have to be team players for a community to thrive.
It is a good tradition.
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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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