Richard Thornton | Jun 3, 2017 | 15
Native Americans in Georgia Coastal Plain grew pineapples, quinine and cacao
The sketchbook of Baron Georg Frederik von Reck, who lived at the Ebenezer Colony on the Savannah River, among other things, contains water colors, pen-and-ink sketches, ink washes and pencil sketches of the plants grown by Native Americans near him. The plants he sketched included what might be expected, such as corn and squash, but also included water melons, passion fruit, a Caribbean variety of sweet squash, pineapple and cacao.
It is already known, from a letter sent from Fort Caroline in 1564, that the Alecmani tribe, who lived along the Altamaha River in Georgia, grew chichona trees, from which quinine is made. Water melons are believed to be indigenous to the Middle East or Africa. They were probably introduced by Spanish friars. However, there is no mention in Spanish archives of missions growing cacao or pineapples. These are native to either Central America or South America.
Images of Von Reck’s art are currently featured on the People of One Fire website. The original book is owned by the Royal Library of Denmark.
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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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