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Just one of the reasons that you should support the creation of Ocmulgee National Park

Just one of the reasons that you should support the creation of Ocmulgee National Park

 

Did you know that there is a Native American town site, 12 miles south of Macon, Georgia, with at least 24 visible mounds and four more probable mounds . . . covered by red clay washed down from 19th century cotton fields upstream?  In 1935, the National Park Service promised to include this archaeological zone in the planned Ocmulgee National Park.  However, in the late 1930s, someone powerful in the U.S. Senate “pulled the plug” on this showcase for the Southeast’s Native American heritage and shrunk it down to a 600+ acre national monument.  Several hundred more acres that the people of Macon donated their meager earnings to purchase for a national park, reverted back to being eventually developed for subdivisions, apartment complexes, institutions and retail stores.

The new concept for Ocmulgee National Park links a 38 mile long corridor of publicly-owned lands, plus archaeological sites in undevelopable wetlands and river flood plains. There are at least 100-125 mounds in the proposed park . . . probably over 200 mounds in the Macon-Hawkinsville, GA area. From the beginning,  the promised creation of Ocmulgee National Park, 80 years late, has had bipartisan support in Congress . . . plus the support of all federally and state recognized tribes from the Southeast.  However, the previous occupants of the White House failed to heed the desires of Southerners for a national park dedicated to rich indigenous heritage of tour region.  President Obama’s staff did not promote its passage.  The current administration also has other priorities, but it is time to make the voices heard from a huge voting block in the United States.  Enough is enough members of Congress! Most Southerners are not interested in having gold-plated toilets, but we DO value very dearly . . . preservation of our natural and cultural heritage.

Infrared analysis of Bullard Landing suggests that there are at least four other mounds and numerous other Native village sites in its general vicinity.

Thanks to the generosity of several People of One Fire readers . . . including my little sister! . . .  a sophisticated computer model of Bullard Landing Mounds and their environs 800 years ago is currently being created with the state of the art CADD and GIS satellite image analysis software.   During 2018, this computer model will be used to create an animated film, which will be available to the general public on YouTube.

In a recent book on Native American mounds in the United States, the Midwestern archaeologist-author briefly mentioned Ocmulgee National Monument as an afterthought.  He stated, “One wonders why Ocmulgee existed at all.  It is a relatively small cluster of six mounds out in the middle of nowhere that had no satellite communities or cultural impact on the remainder of North America.”  His maps left out about 95% of the major Native American town sites in Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Florida.  He was completely unaware about the cluster of 5,500 to 3,000 year old mounds in Savannah, GA, plus didn’t even mention the cluster of large towns with interconnecting canals and causeways near Lake Okeechobee, Florida.

 

There were at least 24 neighborhoods and suburban towns with one or more mounds in the immediate vicinity of the Ocmulgee Acropolis. There are over 100 mounds in the corridor of the proposed Ocmulgee National Park. This map does not include several large town sites, discovered in the past eight years, north of Ocmulgee National Monument or those sites south of the City of Macon. The Midwestern archaeologist obviously knew little about the Ocmulgee River or the Southeast’s ancient Native American heritage. He didn’t even mention the Savannah Area or South Florida.

The creation of Ocmulgee National Park is a win-win proposition.  It represents the core values of most Southerners . . . and certainly all Native Americans.  It will have an immediate and dramatic economic impact on a section of the United States that was terribly hurt by the effects of the NAGPRA trade agreement in the 1990s . . . which also had bipartisan support.  Southerners were promised by both political parties that the federal government would implement policies and projects to promote new jobs in regions, gutted by NAGPRA, but that never occurred.  Nearby Warner Robbins Air Force Base has kept Middle Georgia from completely withering on the vine, after losing much of its industry, but that is not a enough.  This is a project that represents essentially pocket change for U. S.  taxpayers, but will become a magnet for international heritage tourism and spin-off commercial development.

We urge People of One Fire readers to send digital copies of the new Ocmulgee National Park brochure by the National Parks Conservation Association to all members of Congressional staffs and the White House, so they truly understand that this is a bill that is long overdue passage.  Wall Street oligarchs can keep their gold-plated bidets, but we Southerners want our 12,000 year old heritage to survive into the future.

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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.

8 Comments

  1. 5card678919j@gmail.com'

    The entire area is littered with mounds including those on the Ocmulgee Tributaries of the Tobesofkee and Echeeconnee Creeks in the nearby western parts of Bibb County. I grew up in this area and live there now.

    Reply
    • You are right! I need to up the number to at least 200 mounds from the 100 count.

      Reply
  2. wrdwevr@comcast.net'

    Richard, I’m so excited about this too. This is the area where I grew up, near the north end of the runways at Robins AFB. It was “country” out there then and I wandered this whole area, mostly alone, playing in and around the swamps along Echeconnee Creek back behind the base and down the RR tracks that crossed the creek near Elberta. I didn’t understand my attachment as a child, but the spirits of the old ones were everywhere and surely they were speaking to my soul. The map on page 17 of the brochure pinpoints the area. I’ll never forget, when I was a teen, walking the RR bridge over Echeconnee Creek on Thanksgiving day, when a train suddenly appeared around the bend. Nothing to do but jump! Landed in the deep, pure white sand along the creek, safe and sound.

    Reply
    • Interesting! I had no idea that you grew up so close to the archaeological zones. Did you ever find arrowheads (actually atlatl points) or pieces of pottery? By the way, all us are very grateful that you landed in pure white sand rather than stayed on the railroad track!

      Reply
      • wrdwevr@comcast.net'

        Thanks, I’m happy you approve that I survived. This wasn’t the only time I got caught on a RR trestle. The other time, was high over a TN mountain river & the train popped out of a tunnel. I couldn’t jump, so I just hung on for dear life until the train passed – but that’s another story. No, I never did find any artifacts, but I picked cotton and helped harvest peanuts. I visited Ocmulgee N.M. many times as a child and remember seeing a skeleton on display in the then-new museum. I was aware that artifacts were found on the base. There is a museum on base now where many are on display. My father was among the civil service employees from Wright Patterson who were transferred to GA in 1942 when the Robins Field was first being built. We were charter members of the new town of Warner Robins.

        Reply
        • When I was six, my mother took me to see that skeleton and to tell my about my Native American ancestry. She told me, “Richard, this could be one of your ancestors.” We are also glad that you hung on for dear life when standing on that Tennessee railroad trestle. Actually, it’s a wonder that you survived your childhood! LOL

          Reply
  3. itsamysticfarm@gmail.com'

    Wonderful article Richard, thanks for the spotlighting of how we have been lied to and stolen from by the people who supposedly work for us – gevernment officials.

    If you look to the northeast just a bit from the mound, you will see Dry Branch. This is where my grandfather was born and raised, out where you see the white area east-south-east of Dry Branch – Dry Branch Kaolin Rd. That was the old family home from back in the days long gone. His land was seized while in the hospital (Native Americans don’t do alcohol well) and he spent the remainder of his life fighting to reclaim the family land.

    He and much of the family is buried in the Hinson Barnes cemetery there. I found several documents listing him as either mulato or free man of color, which means Native American as opposed to black due to miscegenation laws back in the day. All three of his wives appear to be listed as white in records, although I was told by several Creek tribal members in south GA and north FL that they knew members of my mom’s family (her parents, grandparents and beyond).

    Apperently we are related somhow to the Howard family in Panama City FL. Which means that at one time I was married to my distant cousin, Billy White Fox Stall. The Howards are known throughout the region as Creek Indians, and prour of it. I really loved all of the Howard family, great folks, every one that I met.

    Anyway, folks need to push for the promises for a National Park. I guarantee that developers want to get their hands on that property and many a back room deal happens among money and politicians. And our heritage is worth a lot to many people who want to dig it up and sell it to the elite.

    Reply
    • Thank you very much for your very fine comment! We need more people like you.

      Reply

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