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Joint Statement on Track Rock Archaeological Zone

Joint statement by U. S. Forest Service, Muscogee-Creek Nation and Eastern Band of Cherokees on Track Rock Archaeological Zone

On December 19, 2012, the U. S. States Forest Service sponsored a meeting of representatives of the Eastern Band of Cherokees and Muscogee-Creek Nation concerning Track Rock Gap. Immediately prior to the broadcast of Unearthing America, the USFS installed the following text on its website.

Of course, that the Creek and Cherokee Nations should be committed to protection of the Track Rock Site is absolutely correct. It is a step in the right direction, because during the time that the USFS has had sole stewardship, logging operations, plus growth of trees and vines have severely damaged many structures. Since at least 2000, the USFS has known that this was a major archaeological zone and did nothing to either protect or promote the ruins.

The sign which greets visitors to the Track Rock Archaeological Zone.

On the other hand, the fact that the USFS held and “Anti-Maya” conference before knowing the contents of this TV program is highly suspect. Why would the U. S. Forest Service care if the Mayas came to Georgia? Their obsession with an ethnological question can only be explained as political. Not the politics of what the vast majority of voters think, but that of a handful of Boss Hogg’s who feel their lives and political power slipping away as the Cretaceous Period ends. They made this intellectual issue into a political football. Now they have to prove that they always win.

As for the South African archaeologist, Johannes Loubser presenting himself as an authority on the Southeast’s Native Americans – Have any of you Creeks read his report? He labeled the Creek sacred symbols on the Track Rock petroglyphs that also can be found all over the art of Etalwa (Etowah Mounds) as “graffiti made by bored Cherokee hunters.” He still does not know that there is a peak called Fort Mountain in eyesight of the Track Rock ruins, with numerous stone walls and ruins. It is not the same Fort Mountain as the one in NW Georgia. He still evidently does not know that Track Rock Gap was Upper Creek territory until 1785.

Neither the Creek Confederacy nor the Cherokee Indians existed in 1000 AD. Anyone that says that doesn’t know diddlysquat about Native American history. The Itza Maya built their wood-frame houses on fieldstone platforms, which can be seen all over the archaeological zone. Of course, Mr. Loubser wouldn’t know that either, since he has never seen an Itza Maya ruin. He dug two small pits and obtained radiocarbon dates for those pits. That is not nearly enough information to either date or understand a half square mile archaeological zone. Well, you can read the press release for yourself.

American Indian Partners Work to Protect Track Rock Gap

The Track Rock Gap rock art and stone landscape sites on the Chattahoochee National Forest were created by Creek and Cherokee people beginning more than 1,000 years ago. The Forest Service works closely with Creek and Cherokee tribal governments to manage, protect and better understand these important, sacred ceremonial sites.

On December 19th, members of the Muscogee Creek Nation and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians gathered at Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests to publicly denounce recent claims that the Track Rock Gap features were created by people other than Creek and Cherokee ancestors. There is no archeological evidence of any connection to Mayan people or culture at the site. Archeological studies at the site definitively link its origins to Creek and Cherokee people, and clearly demonstrate that it was not an inhabited town site. Watch this video of the December 19th briefing to learn more from the Muscogee Creek Nation and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians about Track Rock Gap and the work to protect it.

Stone landscape sites occur throughout the region and are not unusual, but they should be respected and protected. One way the Forest Service and Tribal partners protect the very fragile, sensitive and sacred stone landscape is by not encouraging visitation or allowing commercial activities to take place there. Unauthorized, user-created trails leading to the remote site create erosion issues and increase the potential for vandalism and theft, for which there are severe criminal penalties. The nearby and easily accessed Track Rock Gap rock art site is open to visitors, displaying the fascinating story left in stone by the Creek and Cherokee for all to see and experience. For a wealth of information on the Track Rock Gap archeological site, including detailed information on origins, archeological studies, commonly asked questions, photos and other online resources, visit USDA.

“We have come to view the Forest Service as the standard for nation-to-nation consultation as per federal cultural resource law. We feel the Forest Service has gone above and beyond to help us do our job to protect this site; this is an example of a good-faith effort.”

Yolanda Saunooke
Tribal Historic Preservation Assistant, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians

“The landscape is an important part of being Cherokee…the difference between being from a place and being of a place. The Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests are excellent stewards of this place that we are of.”

Tyler Howe
Tribal Historic Preservation Specialist, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians

“The known facts concerning the stone-walled complex should be sufficiently amazing to capture the imagination of academics and public alike. Ultimately, the “out of thin air” speculations of naysayers disregard the descendants of indigenous people who built the stone features and I can fully empathize with the frustration of indigenous peoples who are continuing to be stripped of their heritage. “

J. H. N. Loubser, PhD, RPA

Archeologist and Rock Art Specialist, coauthor of “An Archaeological and Ethnohistorical Appraisal of a Piled Stone feature Complex in the Mountains of North Georgia,” Early Georgia (Vol. 38, No. 1, p. 29-50), Loubser and Frink, 2010.

“As resource managers, we take our Congressionally mandated duty to protect cultural resources on the national forest very seriously. We stand with our Tribal partners in our common primary concern to protect this fragile and significant archeological site from damage or disturbance. All of our management actions have been in coordination with our partners to protect the site, whether by not disclosing the site location, removing evidence of user created footpaths, or denying requests to film at the site for commercial purposes.”

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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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