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White bureaucrats say the darndest things . . . Ten years of Non-Indigenous Humor

White bureaucrats say the darndest things  . . . Ten years of Non-Indigenous Humor

One of the biggest complaints that Native Americans have had for decades about Hollywood movies is that they portray Native Americans as being stoic, humorless and two dimensional. Well . . . you can count on five fingers the number of times in the past 75 years that Southeastern Indians have even been portrayed at all by Hollywood . . . but we do have a profound sense of humor.  In recent years, we did not even have to dream up funny jokes.  Caucasian archaeologists and government bureaucrats provided all the humor we needed, just by being themselves!

The People of One Fire’s founders have put together a list of the six funniest statements by non-indigenous persons, during the ten years of our existence.   We would like the readers to vote on their favorite humorous statement or event by sending in a comment to this article.  Just name one contestant, please!  You do not have to be a member of the People of One Fire to vote.

The winner will be awarded the first annual Grey Owl Award.  Grey Owl was a real person, Archie Belamy, who moved from the UK to Canada then began living in the wilderness.  He soon conned the entire Dominion of Canada into thinking he was a gray-eyed Indian of mixed Scottish-Ojibwe ancestry.  After a very pretty Métis Iroquois woman, Gertrude Berhard, moved into his cabin,  Grey Owl evolved into a conservationist.  He eventually was hired by the Canadian federal government and became Canada’s most recognized spokesman for environmental concerns . . . literally Canada’s Iron Eyes Cody.

The actor, Peter Brosnan (above) played Grey Owl in the very funny movie about the con-artist’s complex life.  A companion POOF article follows that will tell you more about Archie Grey Owl.

Below are contestants:

 

  1. Atlanta Journal Constitution (December 2006)

“GDOT archaeologists prove that Cherokees have lived in Georgia for 1000 years.”

The article claimed that archaeologists, hired by the Georgia Department of Transportation, had proved that archaeological site 9CK1, a satellite town of Etowah Mounds, was built by the Cherokees around 800 AD.  The famous archaeologists, Robert Wauchope and Arthur Kelly, had excavated the mounds and village here decades ago and determined that they were built by the same people, who built Etowah Mounds and other ancestral Creek towns in Georgia.  Therefore, by inference, according to this article, Etowah Mounds was actually occupied by the Cherokees, not the ancestors of the Creeks.  

The Museum of the Cherokee Indian in North Carolina immediately sent out a massive national press release, containing the article, with the added note that the study proves the Cherokees DID build most the mounds in the Southeast.  Their press release was quoted as fact in thousands of newspapers and web sites, plus the evening news on all the major TV networks. 

The newly formed People of One Fire investigated.  The article was actually written by am Italian-America staffer at the Georgia Department of Transportation, who had just moved to Atlanta from New Jersey.  The AJC printed the article verbatim, without fact-checking it.  No archaeological work had been done whatsoever.  In fact, the newly formed female-owned, cultural resource firm,  given the contract for that work, had just hired a female archaeologist in Illinois to supervise the project, who had no experience whatsoever in the Southeast. 

When POOF pinned the new female director of the GDOT to the wall about this screw-up and the fact that she was only giving contracts to female-owned archaeological firms without allowing other firms to submit bids,  she explained that her staff had gotten this archaeological site mixed up with an early 19th century Cherokee village named Long Swamp Creek, which was two miles away.  They had finished plans and were now building a 100 million dollar+ bridge and road widening project and didn’t know where the work was being done?  OMG!

The year long archaeological study of the site found the same features and artifacts, found by Wauchope and Kelly.  No evidence of a Cherokee occupation was found, but there were also no more press releases.  Both the GDOT Director and the chairman of the Department of Transportation Board, were soon forced to resign because of a romantic relationship they had.  However, the real reason was that the board was upset about so many contracts being awarded without competitive bids.  There were charges made that most of the contractors and consulting firms getting contracts this way, had organized crime connections.

Actually, we later did further sleuthing and found out that there was never a Creek town named Taliwa, a Cherokee village named Long Swamp Creek or a Battle of Taliwa.  These were fictional tall tales made up by the editor of the Cherokee Phoenix newspaper in 1828.

 

     2. City of Oxford, Alabama (June 2009  & January 2010)

“We checked and the Cherokees never built any mounds around here” (June 2009)

“We have done nothing to harm the site” (December 2009 – mound gone) 

Members of the People of One Fire, living in East Central Alabama were the first to notice that a 30 feet tall Woodland Period burial mound seemed to be in the path of earth movers working on a nearby Sams Club store in Oxford, AL.  After they contacted Oxford City Hall about compliance with state and federal laws concerning burial mounds, a clerk at City Hall got on the phone and told them that what they saw was only a hill with a pile of rocks at the top.  She said that when some local “history nuts” raised the question about the hill always being known as a mound, the mayor had called the North Carolina Cherokee Reservation (300 miles away) and asked them if the Cherokees had built any mounds in his county.  They said no. 

POOF then sent a out a national press release like the Cherokees had done three years before.  Immediately, the TV networks and magazines were on to the scandal. It made international headlines.  Professional archaeologists were brought onto the site, who confirmed that the “hill” was a burial mound.  They were promised that the mound would not be harmed.  By the end of the year, the 30 feet tall mound had been completely leveled.  However, when Jacksonville University archaeologist, Harry Holstein, heard a rumor about the mound being gone, he called Oxford City Hall.  They told him, “We have done nothing to harm the site.”    They didn’t harm the site!  They made land tract more valuable for development by getting rid of that 1800 year old eyesore of a mound.

 

3. Jim Langford, Georgia archaeologist (March 2012)

“This Maya Thing is a bunch of crap”

Creek members of the Trail of Tears Association were shocked to see the entire speech that Langford gave to the Georgia Trail of Tears Association posted on their website and summarized on the National TOTA website.   The speech opened with the above statement.  It had no substance other than saying that Georgia professional archaeologists knew for a fact that the Mayas never visited Georgia.   Most of the talk was a “personal slander type” thing.

POOF did some sleuthing.   Like all the other Georgia archaeologists involved, Mr. Langford has absolutely no credentials in Mesoamerican architecture.  In fact, we could find no evidence that he even knew the Track Rock ruins existed until after they were publicized by POOF. The president of the Georgia TOTA Chapter was a paid consultant for the Eastern Band of Cherokees.  According to several newspaper articles,  Langford and University of Georgia Anthropology professor, Mark Williams, had been in the past consultants for a real estate developer, who wanted to build a Cherokee casino in Bartow County, GA where Etowah Mounds was located.  Another developer had proposed that the State of Georgia give him Etowah Mounds so an exclusive gated community could be built around it.   The developer and the Eastern Band of Cherokees planned to tear down the existing museum and build a new Etowah Mounds Cherokee Museum with Mr. Langford as its director.

 

4.  US Forest Service, Southeastern Regional Public Relations Office (June 2012)

“There were only a few small, diseased trees blown down by a wind storm.”

Shortly after a brief Travel Channel program on the Track Rock Terrace Complex in May 2012,  Union County, GA residents complained to POOF that the US Forest Service was cutting down a bunch of trees in the archaeological zone.  POOF leaders assumed that they were just finally cleaning up the archaeological site of dead and fallen trees. Therefore, we were not concerned.  However, a couple of weeks later, members of the California Sierra Club contacted me to say that over a hundred trees had been sawed or chopped down to block the access trail to the ruins. Some of the trees were 12-16″ in diameter.  In early June, I accompanied a group of hikers from nearby counties, North Carolina and California to inspect the damage.  What the Sierra Club said was absolutely true.   I then wrote an article about it in the National Examiner and included photos.

The Southeastern USFS Public Relations Officer then released the above statement to Atlanta Area newspapers. It was insinuated that the hikers, who had witnessed and photographed the damage, were delusional.  None of the newspapers and TV stations, who published her statement,  followed up on the USFS bureaucrat’s statement to fact check it.

 

 

TrackRock-USFS

5.  James Wettstaed (USFS), Society for Georgia Archaeology, Indian Country Today (September 2012)

“Archaeologists have found no evidence of the Mayas being in Georgia”

(While using a photograph of a standard Maya glyph on a boulder in Georgia for his article.)

In mid-2012, the US Forest Service transferred a highly respected wildlife biologist from an office in the Northwestern United States to Gainesville, GA to become the Heritage Manager for the Chattahoochee & Oconee National Forests.  The public was told he was an expert archaeologist.  However, a legion of past articles and press releases by the USFS told another story.  Dr. James Wetstaed is an expert on the Western Elk and the migration patterns of bison at Yellowstone National Park.  The recently introduced elk population is growing in Western North Carolina and there is talk of introducing elk in Georgia, where they actually were once more numerous than in the Carolina Mountains.   He had absolutely no experience with either Southeastern or Mesoamerican archaeological sites, but was ideally suited for managing the introduction of elk back into the Southern Highlands.

Nine is a “magic number” among occultist – hence the 9/11 attack.   They chose the month of September to use Dr. Wetstaed as the coup de grâce  on the “Maya thing.”   When is the last time that you attended a Christian funeral for a Gringo archaeologist?   In articles, written for Indian Country Today, the Society for Georgia Archaeology and the American Institute of Archaeology,  Wetstaed was presented as an expert on Southeastern and Mesoamerican archaeology.   The assumption was that if THE archaeologist responsible for protecting the Track Rock site said that there was nothing to the Maya thing, there must be nothing to the Maya thing.  The readers were not told that Wetstaed was still unpacking his belongings and had devoted his career to Western wildlife.

The members of the Society of Georgia Professional Archaeologists, mentoring Wetstaed, picked out a photo to go with his articles.  As the caption says above, it was from the Track Rock Petroglyphs.  Unfortunately, they chose one of the best known Maya glyphs.  Someone, who had passed a Freshman introductory course in Maya history, would have known that it is the glyph that accompanies all the names of Maya kings . . . hene.  OMG!  How could these self-proclaimed intellectuals be so stupid?  They didn’t even know what they didn’t know.

 

     6.  Johannes Loubser,  South African and Georgia archaeologist (January 2013)

“The Cherokees built the terraces at Track Rock as ceremonial platforms to perform sacred dances.”

 Those 300+ terraces at Track Rock must have composed the world’s largest casino disco!

Between 2000 and 2001,  Mr. Loubser was paid by the US Forest Service, Eastern Band of Cherokees and a local neighborhood group to carry out a brief examination of the Track Rock  petroglyphs and terraces.  He dug three test pits, including one in an agricultural terrace.  The soil samples were analyzed by a highly competent archaeological firm, New South Associates, to determine their age, components and any plant pollen.  The assumption of New South’s report was that these were cultivated soils dating to at least 1018 AD.  The soil contained high quantities of charcoal and potsherds, which is a sure sign of biochar agriculture.  However, Georgia archaeologists are in general ignorant of the cultural practices of commoners South of the Border, so they missed that detail. 

Loubser did not say who built in terraces in his final report.  However, when in 2012, he and some other Georgia archaeologists were hired to go on a speaking tour in the Atlanta Area to bash the Maya thing, he more and more presented the Track Rock terraces as a Cherokee site.  The strongest statement occurred while he was speaking at the Fernbank Museum in January 2013.  That zinger got him nominated for the Grey Owl Award. 

For the record . . . the first European map to even mention the Cherokees was published in 1717.  There were only a minuscule number of Cherokees (100-200) in Georgia until the latter days of the American Revolution.  The Track Rock site was in the territory of the Creek Confederacy until 1785, when it was given to the Cherokees by the United States.  However, most of Georgia’s 14 terrace complexes were never in territory occupied by the Cherokees.   None of the archaeologists who were being paid to speak, were aware that Track Rock is merely the most northerly of at least 14 terrace complexes.  In fact, most didn’t even know there were any terrace complexes in Georgia until the Track Rock controversy.

Now vote for the person or organization, who you think best follows in the footsteps of Grey Owl!

 

 

 

 

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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.

38 Comments

  1. iwg42@hotmail.com'

    Wow Richard,
    So much stupidity for just one choice, but I will go with the trees at Trackrock being blown over by a storm.
    It had to be a storm of chainsaws and axes that came through, I have seem it with my own eyes.
    Thanks for the laugh

    Reply
  2. In that one, the USFS bureaucrats assumed that the public and particular the local folks in Union County, GA, were really stupid. Very logical explanation for giving that department the honor they deserved. Your taxpayers money at work. Thank you!

    Reply
  3. romoqqd@aol.com'

    I vote for the Oxford, Alabama story. All very interesting. Thanks

    Reply
  4. WHITEOAK43@GMAIL.COM'

    The most ridiculous one of all in my opinion is the Atlanta Journal Constitution Article (Dec 2006) that claimed, “GDOT archaeologist prove that Cherokees have lives in Georgia for 1,000 years”. That gets my vote.

    Reply
  5. arclein@yahoo.com'

    Grey owl was outed as an Englishman but that is irrelevant. He was an able writer who essentially went native at a time that this was unacceptable and he then allowed his publicists to promote him as some kind of Indian to assist in selling his books. No one cared until long after he passed and could not defend his choices and actions.

    His books were the first real voice calling for conservation and served to teach Canadian school children about conservation. I read them as a teenager and they stood out in that they connected you to the wilderness at your doorstep in a way no one else did.

    He should be strongly promoted as a cultural link between a then largely illiterate native life way and our own modernism and be properly honored then shunned for trivial human compromises in a world were everyone lies to the tax man. That life way was subsumed for good or ill through the residential school system both here in Canada and in the USA as well, largely because there were no good choices to convert scattered hunting bands to the modern world…..

    Reply
  6. Nicholasacambron@gmail.com'

    1. Atlanta Journal Constitution (December 2006)
    “GDOT archaeologists prove that Cherokees have lived in Georgia for 1000 years.”

    I thought that number 6 was good too, claiming that the Cherokee lived upon Track Rock, he’ll the probably founded Hawaii. Like you proved in the maps, 1717. And, I find it interesting that the Cherokee became a band of Indian’s after the war in 1715. But, why not steal your way in to the the Five Civilized Tribes and hold a political power in The Native Nation ( they wouldn’t do that). Granted I do believe that Creek’s and Huron’s(Iroquois)*[could be wrong on affiliations], other smaller tribes, and slaves (black and native), Irish, Jewish, Spainish, French, Brit, and everyone else that has ventured to the US make up the Cherokee Nation. The Yamasee War, in 1715, which seemed to be the “Yamasee” or collective SE Natives, versus what would be called the Cherokee, a nation formed in 1717, at the end of the “Yamasee War.” Which makes me feel like the Cherokee are the Ellis Island Native’s. No disrespect because most of us existing are mixed somewhat by now, but when I look down I have to see my dirty maroon arms everyday, and look suspicious every night, and you have pale tanless or European tanned skin (non-native coloring), and you are more Native and understand what it is like to be “Native!?!”, and push for free money because you are “Native, just remember “Quantum,” and while your at it remember the Holocaust too, because that was also terrible. What is your #? You don’t know what it is like to be one until someone looks at you like you are one. If you don’t know what I mean, then you will never understand. My humor must have dried up.

    The funny I guess is: When did the Cherokee become a tribe?

    Reply
  7. Jwettstaed77@gmail.com'

    James Wettstaed-because he shrunk my cashmere sweater.

    Reply
    • Oh horrors! Demand that he replace it with a custom elk skin vest displaying ornate bead motifs, designed by master Chippewa artisans!

      Reply
  8. Jwettstaed7@gmail.com'

    Comment awaiting moderation? This isn’t a free exchange of ideas?

    Reply
    • Spammers like to get into websites using comments, so we keep them out by checking their IPN number.

      Reply
  9. CdAe1875@gmail.com'

    James Wettstaed-shoddy swing construction.

    Reply
  10. Chagnyandcats@gmail.com'

    James Wettstaed-he hogs all his Dixie Mafia Swag.

    Reply
    • You are one of the few people I know, who even knows who the Dixie Mafia are.

      Reply
  11. Jeffhiembrockstwittwr@gmail.com'

    I vote for James Wettstaed because he stole my hogwarts invitation

    Reply
    • That is a dastardly thing to do. My sister lives in England. I will see if she can get you another invitation.

      Reply
  12. Broadway.is.forever@gmail.com'

    James Wettstaed becaus he’s the reason for Peitro dying in AOU

    Reply
    • Sorry, I am a simple Creek farmer living on the side of a mountain and I can’t afford a TV. Who is Peitro and what is AOU?

      Reply
    • quarefremeruntgentes7@yahoo.com'

      There is good and bad in Cherokee history, but this story was interesting:

      John D. Loudermilk: The Story Behind “Indian Reservation” on the “Viva! NashVegas® Radio Show”

      Reply
    • quarefremeruntgentes7@yahoo.com'

      It also was interesting that Loudermilk had not known his great grandparents walked the Trail of Tears when he wrote “Indian Reservation.”

      Reply
    • quarefremeruntgentes7@yahoo.com'

      Loudermilk’s own performance of his song:

      Reply
  13. CERSEI.L@gmail.com'

    James Wettstaed:He dropped me in the ocean

    Reply
    • No that was the pilot of the LIDAR plane that works for the History Channel!

      Reply
  14. realwood@gmail.com'

    James Wettstaed, his soul is dark as coal and he is trying to hide the truth about Track Rock

    Reply
  15. Winterfellraven9989@gmail.com'

    James Wettstaed, he’s why I lost my head

    Reply
    • I know someone in Alabama who can carve you a really nice new head out of wood.

      Reply
  16. IWillkillthEselittLeschoolboys@gmail.com'

    James Wettstaed. He pushed me

    Reply
    • No, that was one of the Cherokee Little People that pushed you.

      Reply
  17. Operaphan7790@gmail.com'

    James Wettstaed-the real reason the chandelier fell.

    Reply
  18. MickeyO@Gmail.com'

    James Wettstaed. He is responsible for clear cutting Track Road, funded Loubser and Langford, and conspires with GDOT. If he gets enough attention for his evil deeds maybe they will send him away..

    Reply
  19. Kimkard4booTy@gmail.com'

    James Wettstaed. He’s the tool of our dolphin overlords

    Reply
    • No, that’s false rumor. He is the king of the Elk People.

      Reply
  20. Idanceaynite12567899@yahoo.coM'

    James Wettstaed. He can’t dance.

    Reply
  21. I'mhelpless@gmail.com'

    James Wettstaed-He killed Phillip

    Reply
  22. Frisongeorge69@hotmail.com'

    Wettstaed, clearly. His dirty fingers are in every effort by the Cherokee to take over as much of Georgia as they can. He already received payoffs for getting them control of Track Rock. He will be rich if they get to put a casino at Brasstown Bald.

    Reply
    • I can’t imagine him getting payoffs. He was supposed to work with elks . . . not very angry Georgia Creeks! LOL

      Reply
  23. Youngscrappy&hungry@gmail.com'

    James Wettstaed. He promted my affair with Maria

    Reply

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