Lies My Professor Told Me . . . meet Dr. James W. Loewen
A few years ago, I was headed north over the Blue Ridge Mountains to get some more GPS coordinates and elevations for several stone ruins at the Track Rock Terrace Complex. I stopped at the Walasiyi Inn, where the Appalachian Trail crosses Neels Gap, to get some Gatorade and granola bars. The sales counter was packed with hikers and tourists, so for several minutes I got to listen to the conversation of two college students, who were handling the cash registers. Quite interesting . . . they were talking about me . . . and it wasn’t very complementary.
The young man and woman were freshmen or sophomores, enrolled in a Introduction to Anthropology class at the University of North Georgia in Dahlonega. Initially, their conversation was about a newly graduated professor from up North, who had just come down to Georgia to bring enlightenment to their university. It then shifted to “these crazy people, who think the Mayas came to Georgia.” Their professor had recently lectured on that particular subject.
Two tourists from Florida picked up on the students’ conversation and asked them how to get to Track Rock Gap. Some of their friends had seen a TV program about the Maya ruins in the Georgia Mountains and the US Forest Service Information Center wouldn’t tell tourists, where they were located. That lit the two students on fire. They slowed down handling customers and went into a sarcastic rant on how stupid this crazy guy was on the TV program. They were focused on demonizing this guy in particular, who was at the center of this Maya thing and obviously the devil incarnate. They advised the tourists not to visit Track Rack since it was a hoax. Nothing they said had anything to do with the History Channel program, so I began wondering if they had even watched it.
The Florida tourists eventually paid for their camping gear, which gave me the chance to be close enough to the two students to ask questions. Had they seen the ruins at Track Rock Gap? No Had they watched the TV program? No Had the professor seen the TV program? No Had the professor read the book about Track Rock Gap? Evidently not . . . the students didn’t know there was a book. Had the professor done archaeological work at a Maya city? No, he was more interested in Greece.
My final question was, “If this professor is just out of college and obviously knows nothing about Georgia’s Indians or the Mayas, how can you be so certain that this is a hoax? I understand that the guy, you’re talking about, studied in Mexico and is a Creek Indian from Georgia. The young man pretended not to hear me, while the gal displayed a scowl that expressed annoyance. She blurted, “Do you need anything else? We’re busy.”
As I was paying her, I mentioned that I was the guy in the TV program that they were ridiculing. The gal looked at me with a face full of hate like I was a mass murderer and said, “You’re the Maya guy!” Both she and the young man then turned their heads and bodies 90 degrees, pouted their lips and stared out the window like zombies in some sort of bizarre occult ritual. I walked out the Walasiyi Inn, wondering if there was any hope for this generation of college graduates.
There is hope, if they will listen to the wisdom of sociologist and historian, Dr. James Loewen . . . author of the best selling book, Lies My Teacher Told Me. A few weeks later, he contacted me and asked if he and his wife could come down to Dahlonega from Washington, DC. They took the AmTrak train and then rented a car. It was one of the most memorable days of my life.
The following are two 20 year old TV interviews with Jim Loewen that are even more relevant today than in the 1990s. The first video deals with the inaccurate description of history in history textbooks. The second interview addresses the inaccurate description of history on historical markers and in museums. More than ever, political hacks, fringe religious groups, political extremists and corrupt bureaucrats are twisting history to their own agenda. You will enjoy his wit!
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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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