Why do you not get involved with Native American political issues?
Dear Mr. Thornton,
My Creek great-grandparents came to California during the 1930s Dust Bowl. I am a citizen of the Muscogee-Creek Nation. There are over 5,000 Muscogee-Creek citizens in California now. However, I knew almost nothing about my heritage until I started reading the People of One Fire. My grandparents and parents tried to conceal our heritage, because they were afraid that people would think they were Mexicans. It’s your fault that I am spending way too much time going back and reading your earlier articles. I should be studying for finals! LOL You are doing a great job.
There are some things that I don’t understand, though. You never even mentioned the Keystone Pipeline. A group of us California Creek college students drove all the way to the Dakotas and camped out with our fellow Native Americans from around the country. It was great! You don’t seem to write about any political issues that are important to Native Americans today, yet often have articles that are more about Southern white history than Native American culture. They are interesting, but have nothing to do with us. Why is this? Don’t get me wrong. I really enjoy reading your articles, but don’t understand why you live in a dream world and pretend that there is nothing going on elsewhere.
Sarah H. – University of California at Berkeley
Our prime objective is to answer, “Who Are We?”
The origin of the People of One Fire was the Creek-Southeast Message Board, which began around 1999, I believe. The internet enabled Creek, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Seminole descendants from around North America to get to know each other and their individual family histories. At the end of the American Revolution, the Creek Confederacy was the largest, most powerful tribe and had the largest territory of any indigenous tribe in North America. From 1785 onward, it was the continuing policy of the federal government and several state governments to scatter the Muskogean peoples to the winds, kill those who resisted and then erase the survivors from the history books. The internet enabled the scattered remnants to start forming bonds again.
In 1864, a newspaper reporter asked the Union general in charge of the concentration camps in Kansas for PRO-UNION Creeks, why he was allowing thousands of loyal Creek supporters of the United States to die of starvation in these camps. He responded, “Dead Indians don’t need land, do they?”
Everything went fine until the 2004 presidential election, when white, rightwing Republicans began flooding our folksy genealogy-oriented website with crap. Anything that legitimate Native American bloggers said was turned into irrelevant political statements by the vile neo-Nazi trolls. When Native Americans complained about the irrelevant statements, they were told to “go take your meds and sober up.”
Then white Democrats began jumping into the fray. The message board collapsed into a partisan catfight. When I complained about the partisan political comments, three strangers from Virginia figured out my email address and sent me threatening email letters directly on behalf of the “Navy Swiftboat Veterans for Bush.” They told me that . . . “If you don’t fill your yard with Bush-Cheney campaign signs, the US Army will kill you with death rays.” As a professional architect in private practice, I have never become involved in partisan politics and don’t put anybody’s campaign signs in my yard.
As a matter of fact, someone did break into my house and tampered with my computer monitor so that it was emitting deadly cathode rays. The FBI did absolutely nothing, when I forwarded to the Atlanta FBI office those illegal emails and the report by the computer repairman. Well, someone did respond from somewhere. In 2005, a person or persons again broke into my architecture office in my home’s basement and fried all my expensive computer and architectural plotter with a electromagnetic impulse weapon. They did thousands of dollars of damage.
The message board limped along for two more years, but by then most of us were communicating with each other directly, so strangers would not interfere with our questions and research. Then in 2006 there was a massive political assault on Creek cultural heritage sites in Georgia, when Governor Sonny Perdue came into office. Spearheading the effort were white women, who at least in the past, had been Democrats, but now were department heads in Perdue’s new administration . . . so we knew this was not partisan politics. Over night, state bureaucrats and their archaeologist thralls were changing the ethnic identities of the Creek People’s most important heritage sites to Cherokee.
Some Creek descendants inside Georgia’s bureaucracy tipped us off privately that the Eastern Band of Cherokees, plus to a much lesser extent, the two federally recognized tribes in Oklahoma, had expended enormous amounts of money to bribe politicians, Chamber of Commerce officials and archaeologists to carry out cultural blitzkriegs in Georgia and Tennessee. The immediate objective was to make possible Cherokee casinos in Georgia and Tennessee. The long range objective was to assuage the almost infinite inferiority complexes of North Carolina Cherokees by making them feel like “big shots.”
The People of One Fire is formed in 2006
That is when the People of One Fire was formed. So you see, Sarah, we actually were originally a political organization. We stopped the North Carolina Cherokees and their hirelings at Thermopolae Pass then went on to other things. It was the People of One Fire that first told the world about a Woodland Period mound being destroyed in Oxford, Alabama in order to make land fill for a Sam’s Warehouse.
Between 2006 and 2010, the People of One Fire newsletter was strictly private. We had been so traumatized by the attacks from neo-Nazi trolls, that we hid in an “electronic closet.” Newsletters and Ezines were sent directly to subscribers.
Then in 2010 and 2011, I was homeless, so it was difficult for me to produce regularly email newsletters with high quality graphics. After moving to a tent in the North Carolina Mountains, I had been hired as national architecture columnist for the Examiner, so when I did come into town to write on a computer, I had to concentrate on income-producing articles. Judy White created a website for the People of One Fire. For the first few years, it was mainly used by POOF members and high school students, researching for term papers. In 2012 and 2014, the website was expanded to give it more appeal to the general public. Since that time, we have had as many as 77,108 readers in one month.
In 2008, organized crime “invested” heavily in the Muscogee-Creek Nation’s elections in order to take over the tribal government and make it a “milk cow” for criminals. One of the first actions of newly elected Principal Chief George Tiger was to fire the MCN employees, who single-handedly blocked the conversion of Etowah Mounds National Historic Landmark into a privately owned Cherokee museum . . . and who refused to be pressured by neo-Nazi’s into kicking out Creeks, who also had African heritage. If you recall, the Oklahoma Cherokee Nation did kick out all Black Cherokees . . . absolutely disgraceful. Creeks in the Southeast were also appalled at Tiger’s treatment and ultimate firing of Judge Patrick Moore, probably the most respected Native American judge and law professor in the nation.
We Southeastern Natives, Sarah, are not quite the wusses that you think we are. We just do things, how you say, “differently.” The last straw for us was when Principal Chief Tiger sent two ignoramuses to Georgia, who went out of their to say things publicly, which were in 100% in conflict with Creek history and genetics, plus also made false, derogatory statements concerning certain Southeastern Creek leaders. That was treason under Creek law.
The People of One Fire did not endorse any candidates for office in the Oklahoma Creek election, but we made sure that the world knew what had happened to the Muskogee Creek Nation under the control of George Tiger and Second Chief Roger Barrett. Until that point, Tiger was certain of being re-elected. Tiger was booted out and Barrett went for a stay in federal prison. There is no question that most Oklahoma AND California Creeks were not aware of the situation until POOF showed its journalistic muscle. From where the Creek Wind Clan blows . . . no one knows!
Becoming a catalyst for intelligent research
From the very beginning in 2006, when 18 Muskogean professors and professionals formed the People of One Fire, the membership and core readership of the newsletters, have made it clear that they want the POOF website to be focused on broad areas of research that will answer the question, “Who are we?” They did and do not want a great expenditure of human energy toward national or general Native American political issues. We will blow the whistle when a Southeastern heritage site is threatened, but do not get involved with public demonstrations.
Also . . . we are all mestizos here in the Southeast. I strongly suspect that you are too. We are educated people, who are interested in many more things than just pure Native American culture. If you go back and read my “white history” articles more closely, there is always a recurring Native American connection. What I am trying to say in these articles is that Native American history is AMERICAN HISTORY.
Personally, despite what others have said, I have no theories. I merely follow the evidence, wherever it leads me. That has led to many surprising discoveries, which would have never occurred, if my motivation had been to prove that I was right and and everybody else was wrong.
I gather, from some things you said, which were left out of the introduction, that you think that this is a one person blog. I now do most of the writing, but I have some very smart and very nice people backing me up . . . even the direct descendant of a famous Cherokee principal Chief. They are constantly sending me information, photographs and links to other research articles. They are also making it possible for me to survive financially. Some are doing their own research, which they freely share with me. We have quite a few people with doctorates or professional credentials and even in the profession of anthropology, who prefer to be invisible to the public.
Well, let’s look at the situation realistically. What did you and your friends really accomplish at the Keystone Pipeline Site by highly publicized demonstrations, some violence and counting on partisan political support? I am sure that y’all had a lot of fun on your camping adventure. I would have loved it too. But in the end, nothing changed.
In contrast, since the debacle at Oxford, Alabama . . . People of One Fire cadre have sharpened their covert claws to the point that the bad guys say “Oh #%&!,” if they hear a mountain lion’s panting somewhere hidden in the brush. Communities get excited about their Native American heritage and sites are protected. Corrupt bureaucrats get fired. Archaeologists have nervous breakdowns and bad things are stopped from happening.
Treating Southeastern Native Americans as retards
Then Sarah, we ran into a much bigger issue, which you don’t seem to understand. Maybe its because you attend a famous university in a much more progressive intellectual environment. The Southeastern academicians ignored us as long as we took a invisible profile. However, after POOF went public again and began pointing out that white academicians were consistently mistranslating Native American words and misinterpretating Native American architecture, they had a hissyfit. Rather than listening to the Native American perspective as anthropologists would in other parts of the world, they went out of their way to to belittle and mock me personally . . . behaving like preadolescent middle school students. They seem to be completely unaware that there are a whole bunch of Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Seminole folks out there with advanced degrees . . . several of whom are constantly helping me.
It is a very weird situation where Southeastern anthropology professors will go into the boonies of Latin America and soak up everything the primitive tribesmen say as the gospel truth then come home and treat Southeastern Indian descendants as if they are mentally retarded. Rather than being interesting in growing intellectually, they are primarily interested in being bowed down to as omniscient wizards.
Sarah, do you recall what General James Edward Oglethorpe, the founder of the Colony of Georgia, said about your Creek ancestors?
“The Creek Indians are obviously the descendants of an ancient civilization. They are equally as intelligent as Englishmen . . . perhaps more so. They should be treated as equals in all matters.”
Motivation for research
The primary reason that I am willing to give so much of my time now to research, while receiving modest compensation, is that when I was about your age, I was blessed with being tutored by two of the great archaeologists of the 20th century . . . Arthur Kelly and Román Piña Chán. Dr. Kelly never stopped learning and it was the love of gaining new knowledge, which always motivated him. The new generation of archaeologists hated him because he was not arrogant and anal like them.
Dr. Piña Chán? . . . he was a hoot. Here he was, one of the most respected and powerful professionals in Mexico and he would ARGUE WITH HIMSELF. Yes that’s right . . . he would challenge his own statements orally before us at brown bag lunches. Outsiders would have thought him off his rocker, because they wouldn’t have known that he was never satisfied that he knew all there was to know on any particular subject.
From that perspective, you are right. I must not be close-minded to other viewpoints. There is probably a place for political activism, but in our particular situation here in the Southeast, we feel that far more positive results will occur in the long run, if we continue on the Creek Spiritual Path of constantly gaining new knowledge and wisdom.
Richard L. Thornton
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