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Footnote: The Southeast’s Past Is a Complex Tapestry

Footnote:  The Southeast’s Past Is a Complex Tapestry


The ideal medium to analyze the Early Colonial Period in the Southeast would be a three dimensional hologram. It is almost impossible to comprehensively explain what was going on, otherwise. 

In this series,  POOF is examining the key role that William Berkeley played in the creation of a slave-based society in the Southeast, plus simultaneously, the appearance of the current federally-recognized tribes.  It is a complex story indeed.   The tribes that exist today are artificial assimilations of remnant peoples, who somehow survived plagues that wiped out 90-95% of their population and slave raids that erased entire provinces of their human occupants . . .  not to mention the incessant intrigues of European powers as they manipulated the indigenous peoples for their own agendas. 

The landscape of the Southeast was already a complex ethnic patchwork quilt before the intruders from the Old World arrived.  The interplay of imperialistic European powers and self-serving individual European leaders turned this complexity into constantly evolving chaos. Bewildered indigenous peoples struggled to adapt to their evolving situations . . . often wandering the countryside in search of a safe place to live.

By focusing on the role of a 17th century leader in the Colony of Virginia, plus cryptic European, African and Middle Eastern colonists in the Southern Appalachians, we are leaving out the roles played by others . . . such as the indigenous leaders or the Spanish and French explorers.  However, to do so would probably extend the series of articles into a full semester course!

Despite the narrow focus of the text, what we hope to achieve is a more realistic understanding of the past, in particular, the 17th century.  Twentieth century academicians failed to research this era adequately.  University of Georgia anthropology professor, Charles Hudson, ended his book on the Spanish exploration of the Southeast by saying that no Europeans entered its interior during much of the 1600s and that this time period will undoubtedly remain a “black hole” in the knowledge of the past.  If you are a long time reader of POOF, you know that his statement was patently false, but unfortunately, the current generation of academicians believed it to be so and therefore, stopped asking questions or searching for answers.



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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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