Richard Thornton | May 9, 2017 | 23
Lower Chattahoochee Creek, Apalachicola and Apalachee families eligible for federal recognition
Did your Creek, Apalachicola or Apalachee family live continuously on the Lower Chattahoochee River until relocated by the US Army Corps of Engineers to build Lake Walter F. George, Lake Eufaula or Lake Seminole? Perhaps your family is still living there?
If the answer is yes to either of those questions, then your heritage is specifically mentioned in numerous documents produced by the US Army Corps of Engineers and local historians as being “Creek Indians,” who have lived in the region continuously. In fact, there were specific communities of Creek Indians identified by the federal government, who were relocated by the federal government in the 1950s and 1960s to make way for reservoir construction.
What has blocked all petitions for Creek tribes being federally recognized is the Southeast, except the Poarch Band, is the Stage Three requirement that the descendants have lived continuously in a Native American community, since the forced removal of the Southeastern tribes in the 1820s and 1830s. It is easy for most of us to prove Muskogean ancestry because our ancestors lived life styles little different from their European and African neighbors and so were recorded in census data. However, virtually all of these families have scattered to the winds and so cannot meet the criteria for permanent residence in a Native American community.
Undoubtedly, the many descendants of the Lower Chattahoochee families have also scattered to the winds, but this situation is different. Your recent ancestors were forcibly relocated by the US Army Corps of Engineers and they were specifically labeled “Creek Indians who had lived there continuously” prior to being relocated.
For federal recognition purposes, your initial Tribal Town enrollment can only include families living on the Lower Chattahoochee River between Eufaula, AL, Georgetown, GA, Bainbridge, GA and Chattahoochee, FL. Being in the same county is not the same thing . . . although undoubtedly Creeks living away from the Chattahoochee River often intermarried with those on the river.
The Coweta Creek Confederacy will help you people get organized, but you must file for federal recognition as a distinct Tribal Town. Please pass this information on to historical societies and newspapers in that river corridor. If you meet the above criteria, please contact us at PeopleOfOneFire@aol.com and your name/address will be put on a list.
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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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