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NAGPRA Map and Map of actual ethnic territories in Southeast

Several POOF readers requested copies of the NAGPRA map last night. Most readers were unaware that the Muscogee-Creek Nation had so little jurisdiction in Georgia, and none in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Tennessee.

I have also attached a map from my book, Ancient Roots IV, which shows the general ethnic areas of the Southeast in 1540 – based on the words recorded by early Spanish and French explorers in the 1500s.


Keep in mind that the Chickasaw Nation has been completely disfranchised by NAGPRA from reviewing archaeological sites in the vast territory that the Chickasaws occupied in Tennessee, northern Alabama, the tip of northwestern Georgia, the tip of northeastern Georgia and on the Chickasawhatchee River in SW Georgia. Even though the Alabama, Chickasaw and Choctaw Peoples once occupied western and southern Alabama, they are not allowed NAGPRA review there. Well, the Choctaws have been shut out of most of Mississippi too.


Since preparing the map, we have realized that there was a significant Taino-Arawak presence on the Ocmulgee River in south-central Georgia and around Atlanta. There was also a significant Siouan presence between Atlanta and the mountains. However, these ethnic groups eventually joined the Creek Confederacy.

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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.



    Given the way the map is laid out, Who does NAGPRA say the “Cherokee” are?
    Based on the Treaties and the Constitution of the Cherokee and the Resolution of Rattlesnake Springs, this would be the descendants of Cherokee who did not move West, but this is not necessarily what NAGPRA espouses.

    • James, the best I can determine . . . someone in the US Department of the Interior decided to label all lands that the Cherokees ever claimed or lived in as locations where they had exclusively lived for thousands of years. By the time that the Cherokees had moved into Northwest Georgia after the Revolution, they had lost or ceded most of the territory on the map. Their official ownership of much of North Georgia lasted from 1794 to 1836.

      However, I can find no logic whatsoever, for the Choctaws, Shawnees and Chickasaws being left completely off the map. They were huge tribes during the Colonial Period. The Choctaws are still one of the largest Native American tribes. Why would their presence in the Southeast be completely denied? Totally bizarre.


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