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Etowah Mounds almost became a McMansion subdivision during the Bush Administration

Etowah Mounds almost became a McMansion subdivision during the Bush Administration

It was a battle that the public never knew about.  Courageous federal, state, local and Muskogee-Creek tribal employees lost their jobs for fighting what would have been an unimaginable travesty.  It is quite likely that much of the “weirdness,” associated with Creek heritage sites in Georgia up to this day, is a vestige of that bitter struggle.

It is the summer of 2001.  Etowah Mounds National Landmark’s visitation was thriving, but there was a strange look on the faces of its staff, as if they had been told their execution date.  Finally, the Creek lady from South Georgia, who managed this state historic site, spilled the beans to some Georgians of Creek decent.  None of us were ever in a position to do anything about it.

A multi-millionaire had made a surrealistic offer to Governor Zell Miller (D) around 1997.  It was made again to the man, who followed him in the governor’s mansion in 1999, Roy Barnes (D).  Both governors had responded positively.   Here was the proposal:

If the State of Georgia would either give or lease Etowah Mounds for one dollar to this developer, the man’s development company would tear down the existing museum, designed by the famous architect, Julian Harris, and erect a much larger one, named after the himself.  The museum would be adjunct to an exclusive shopping center containing restaurants, bars and boutiques.

The new museum would be operated by a foundation with a Cherokee name.  The director of the foundation would be an archaeologist, who was  then a consultant to a developer wanting to build a Cherokee casino in the same county that Etowah Mounds was located in.  This same archaeologist would later become one of the most rabid attackers of the “Maya In Georgia Thing.”  We suspected that the developer’s long range plans also included a casino.

In return for relieving the State of Georgia of the cost of maintaining Etowah Mounds,  the developer wanted the state to remove all environmental and historic preservation restrictions for several hundred acres of land around the state’s property, which were in both a no-build US Army Corps of Engineers flood hazard area and part of the nation’s largest historic district.   The developer wanted to build a gated golf course community in this tract, composed of houses costing at least a million dollars.  Top Georgia officials said yes.

The staff at Etowah Mounds told us that the objective of this bizarre real estate development was to provide an enclave for very wealthy occultists.  Supposedly there was a “power vortex” at Etowah Mounds, which these people could channel in order to control the world . . . or something like that.

There apparently was something to their story.  The developer was a homosexual and the leader of a male cult that also functioned as his private army.  All the men had red, sandy or blond colored hair, plus Prince Albert beards.  Each was given an impeccable $800+ suit to wear all the time, plus a brand new black Mercedes-Benz SUV with illegally tinted windows.

When the developer and state officials took the proposal to Washington, DC,  Clinton Administration officials essentially laughed them out of town.  They were incredulous that Georgia would want to privatize and develop one of the premier archaeological zones in the United States.

Nevertheless, planning continued at the local and state level, as if all was go for the project.  If a state, county or city employee insisted on obeying the laws of Georgia and the United States, they were fired.

The developer switched from being a Democrat to a Republican then became one of the largest donors to the 2000 Bush Presidential campaign.  The staff at Etowah Mounds was depressed by early summer, because the Bush Whitehouse had ordered the immediate firing of EPA, Corps of Engineers, Department of the Interior and National Park Service employees, who refused to sign off on the Etowah McMansions.  All were under Civil Service protection.  All were framed to make it look like they had committed criminal acts, so they could be fired summarily.

Apparently,  it was in this period that someone on the staff at Etowah Mounds tipped off the Muscogee-Creek Nation.  The Creek director was soon forced to take medical retirement in her 40’s, “because her carpal syndrome prevented her from firing a pistol accurately.”  In the 60 year history of Etowah Mounds, there has never been a incident in which the rangers were even required to carry pistols.

I had moved my architecture practice away from Cartersville in 1999 because of all of the weirdness associated with the planned project.  I was never involved with any of the efforts to stop it, but apparently they didn’t want a Creek architect serving on the county planning commission and the city Board of Zoning Appeals.   The last straw for me was when the Cartersville Police Chief pulled up along side my car at an intersection and said, “Richard we’re gonna kick your butt.”   I had done nothing political.  I was totally absorbed in the dating scene, trying to find a new wife.

I continued to get large architecture projects in the Cartersville area even though I was living 45 miles away.  On several occasions, I noticed 6′-3″ to 6′-5″ Mexicans working as laborers in the vicinity of Etowah Mounds.  They spoke Spanish with a Southern drawl.

The self-proclaimed aristocracy in Cartersville was so detached from other cultures, they didn’t even realize that these men were really either Creeks or Seminoles.  Whether they were sent by the Creek Nation or from insubordinate Justice Department offices, we shall never know. What they were doing there, I can only speculate.

I really can’t tell you what the elected officials and employees of the Muscogee-Creek Nation specifically did to stop a project that had the backing of all the “powers and principalities”, but they did.  I did encounter several Wind Clan Keepers from Oklahoma and South Florida in Cartersville, who were obviously conducting spiritual warfare. Certain tribal employees put their heart and soul into protecting Etowah Mounds.  They won that battle, but were fired immediately after former Principal Chief George Tiger took office.   We will owe a debt to these brave people for all time.

Between 2006 and 2008,  the new Georgia Parks and Historic Sites Director, Becky Kelly,  laid off all the employees at Native American archaeological sites, who had postgraduate degrees in history or archaeology.  She eventually also laid off the park rangers and replaced them with part time employees.  To this day,  all of these sites, including New Echota, the former Cherokee capital, are open only 3-4 days a week and have skeleton staffs.

Just remember the next time you visit Etowah Mounds that many people in Georgia, Oklahoma and the Washington, DC area had their careers destroyed because they stood up for what was right.  The fact that you can look out from the tops of those mounds into a verdant landscape was made possible by their sacrifices.  Say a little thank you prayer for them before you leave the grounds.

The photo above is of the model of Etowah Mounds that sits beneath the Great Seal of the Muscogee-Creek Nation.  It was created in 2007 to celebrate the victory of the brave leaders and employees of this tribe, who stopped the devil when he came down to Georgia.

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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.



    Wow. This should be a movie!

  2. Someone else will have to write the screen play. As I said in the article, I really don’t know what the Creek Nation did, but I do know that they were fighting the world. This was during the paranoid era right after 9/11. Corrupt government employees were taking advantage of police state powers to do very evil things.

  3. You can blame it on the archaeologists. They don’t want anybody to see the sites in the United States. I discovered that there is a 4200 year example of Native American architecture on Edisto Island, SC, which covers several acres. It is a National Historic Landmark, yet most people, even on Edisto Island don’t know about it or know where it is. The archaeologists kept it a secret!


    There are so many things like this that happen everyday that the citizens of this country know nothing at all about. I have first hand experience of these types of forces at work in our historic sites. It is a wonder we have anything left at all. There has been so much history covered up for the sake of the all mighty dollar. I am so very glad that our money grubbing state government weren’t able to go through with their plans….this time.


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