How can a Native American tribe be everywhere and nowhere?
Out of the blue last night came an email that opened up suppressed memories of a happier time in America and my life, when most of us had hope for the future and the bounty of the nation was more equitably spread across its citizenry. It was a time when we were seriously “getting back to nature,” developing sustainable agriculture into profit-making ventures and going solar. Now it is only in our dreams.
Dear Mr. Thornton:
Beginning this past spring, I have been doing research for my thesis topic, which will be on “Southeastern Native Americans in the 21st century.” It seems like almost every Google search I do with a key word related to Native Americans, People of One Fire articles pop up on the internet. There are also some blogs from 2012 and 2013 that are highly critical of you individually . . . then suddenly they stopped. This made me curious.
I cannot find the People of One Fire listed anywhere as an Indian tribe. Your organization is not associated with any other tribe or university. Most of the other Native American websites like that seem to be profit-making ventures by people, claiming to be Cherokee chiefs, shamans or medicine women – trying to do stuff like sell herbal cures for acne, spiritual counseling at weekend retreats or Native American art. The People of One Fire site only has one small advertisement on each page. I couldn’t find any description of the tribal organization or its officers and no mention of annual meetings – no powwows either. The People of One Fire seemed to be everywhere and nowhere.
I contacted some professors in our university’s anthropology department. They either said that they had never heard of you or you were a fraud with no educational qualifications, making big money off of delusions about the Mayas. I called the Chamber of Commerce in the town near where you live now. They had never heard of you, the People of One Fire or the America Unearthed TV program that was filmed in Dahlonega. They suggested that I call the Anthropology department at the University of North Georgia there in Dahlonega. The secretary had never heard of you or the People of One Fire. She handed the phone to a professor, who told me that you were an ignorant hick, who needs to be locked up in jail.
I assumed that like so many people involved with powwows and “Native American organizations” that I have investigated for my thesis, you were pretty much a fraud, but unlike most, an excellent writer. I didn’t think that you were a criminal like the professor in Dahlonega said. LOL I was especially convinced that you had no qualifications, when I learned that the host of American Unearthed didn’t have a masters degree in geology, like he claimed.
Then your name somehow came up while I was spending the weekend at my girlfriend’s parents’ home in Asheville. Her mother knew you! You and your former wife had been the counselors of her church youth group at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church there. She said that you were a famous architect, who had saved Downtown Asheville from being torn down to build a mall and that she had been out to your farm in the Reems Creek Valley many times. She also said that there was a room in your house full of Mexican and Indian artifacts like a museum. She remembered you going on another expedition to Mexico and showing them many slides, when you returned.
The following week, I called Georgia Tech and Georgia State University. You have MORE education than mentioned in your bio, so you are not like the guy on America Unearthed. You taught classes in Mesoamerican architecture at Georgia Tech and gave guest lectures at Georgia State’s anthropology department. The anthropology professors were lying about that.
I also did a paid search of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution archives. It had published several articles about you before I was even born. Two articles involved reporters asking you questions about the civilizations in Mexico. Angie’s (my girlfriend) mother found a clipping from the AJC in a box of college mementos about your farm and cheese creamy. It was a huge article covering two full pages with a lot of color photos. So you are for real, after all.
I have attached a reduced photocopy of the AJC article, which included a photo of my girlfriend’s mother with your goats on the second page. Do you remember her? She said to tell you that everybody in Asheville knew what was going on behind your back, except you. By the time, that you got a long overdue divorce, the teenyboppers in her church were all grown up. Several had already been married and divorced. She said that you should have come back to Asheville to look for a wife, who would love you. There were a bunch of those girls, who would have married you in a heartbeat. LOL
Please pardon my long letter, but I also have two questions: (1) What exactly is the People Of One Fire? It is obviously not an Indian tribe. (2) Do you think that state recognized tribes have a future in the Southeastern United States?
Jeff ______ in Charlotte, NC
Your girlfriend’s mother did more than visit our farm. She worked part time in her freshman year in college at our goat cheese creamery! The next year we moved to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Tell Cheryl hello. I had forgotten all about that two page spread in the AJC. Where have the years gone?
Making big money off the Maya thing? That’s a joke. Right now I have $127 to live off of for the next two weeks. No one will give me architecture work here because I live in a hovel. While living on a beautiful Colonial farm in Virginia, I had nationally famous celebrities as clients. After I moved back to Georgia, I did real well professionally until the year 2000. That year, I refused to be involved with organized crime when they took over Northwest Georgia. I live in a different county now with honest law enforcement, but most people these days assume that smart people are rich, while poor people are stupid or drug-addicts. It’s a Catch 22 thing. Fortunately, I am a very good farmer and grow most of my veggies and heat with wood.
(1) When the People of One Fire started out in 2006, it was intended to be a research institution and organization with officers and annual dues. Ric Edwards, a Creek, who grew up in SE Alabama, came up with the organization’s name and a Seminole man with a Masters degree in Anthropology was to be our president. We initially had 18 members. Within a year, though, we learned that people would come in and out of involvement with the organization . . . but never all the members at one time. We steadily gained membership, but after three of the founding members had died, it was obvious that no one had the time to pump up the group into a real institution.
That is the status now. The People of One Fire is an alliance. Highly qualified experts weave in and out of the picture to provide me important information or suggest articles. A real pro designed and maintains our web site. Most of my articles are derived from paid research I do for private clients. I try to condense the information in the research reports into readable English.
(2) State recognized Native American tribes seem to have the same problems that we had when kicking off the People of One Fire. Almost all started out strong with strong leaders, who were elected chiefs and elders. As time goes by, people die, people lose interest and people become absorbed with the problems of making a living or raising a family. Very often when the people, particularly the chiefs, become too feeble to remain physically active or else pass on to their reward, the tribe withers away. In fact, though, these state tribe’s are artificial institutions, created by people, who wanted to somehow recreate the past.
Personally, I think the only solution is to form a Southeastern Creek tribe, composed of people from several states and with business activities, which will create corporate income. Such a tribe could easily have as many as a half million members. It would have the human resources to become a self-sustaining institution.
Thank you for reminding me of golden memories that due to the hardships of the past 17 years had been pushed to the far corners of my mind.
Love was only in my dreams
The song below was playing constantly on the radio as I drove with my two herd dogs northward 400 miles to a 233 year old farm in the Shenandoah Valley. I didn’t realize that it was really a metaphor for that time in my life. My wife had been living in Virginia for seven weeks, when I supervised the moving of furniture, livestock, cheese creamery equipment and farm tractor machinery on October 21st.
What I didn’t know is that two weeks earlier, 17 year old Tim Connors had been ritually murdered in our Virginia barn because he had complained to the Virginia State Police about Shenandoah County sheriff’s deputies selling drugs to teenagers. Top Virginia State Police officials, local law enforcement, several Georgia law enforcement agencies and people very high up in Virginia’s government were running an organized crime ring, which was transporting drugs and counterfeit airplane parts from North Georgia to the Basie Airport in Shenandoah County.
Simultaneously, both my parents were selling their souls to Satan to be granted three wishes each. They were a metaphor for what was happening to the United States.
At the same time, a federal DEA agent, who was the same age and same height as me, plus part Cherokee, was quietly moved from McMinn County, TN to Shenandoah County, VA. It was intentional. The feds wanted to confuse the crime ring as to who the real secret agent was. His body would be found on a frozen pasture next to our road (The Back Road) on December 12, 1992.
Tim’s body had been stored in a deer cooler for two weeks and then was dumped in a field next to our house, so it would be discovered just as I arrived at my new residence. It was some sort of Satanic sacrifice that I probably will never fully understand.
One chapter of the Spiritual Path had ended and another had begun. It would be a time in which the National Champion Yodel Choir of Switzerland would dedicate our new creamery . . . I would sip wine and cheese with presidents on the East Lawn . . . and ultimately become involved with high stakes intrigue, which would put the movie, “The Pelican Brief” in the class of a cheap dime novel.
For example, at the very beginning of the Sally Jesse Raphael Show, which devoted a full hour program to the murder of Tim Connors and presented evidence that Sheriff Marshall Robinson had ordered his murder, Sheriff Marshall Robinson rang our front door bell. I saw and experienced things while in Virginia that few people can even imagine.
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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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