Richard Thornton: People of One Fire expose the forgotten history

The Ocmulgee National Monument in Georgia. Photo from National Park Service

Richard Thornton explains the origins of the People of One Fire, a research group dedicated to Southeast Native history and culture:
Beginning in 2000, Creeks from around the nation began to overcome 165 years of forced isolation on the new-fangled internet. The Creek-Southeast message board provided a means for people to trade their family histories and knowledge of the past. Oklahoma Creeks knew virtually nothing about their heritage before the Trail of Tears. Southeastern Creeks had forgotten the languages and the traditional dances. By 2005, it was becoming a research tool on which Choctaws, Chickasaws, Creeks and Seminoles with post-graduate and professional degrees were rapidly peeling away the layers of forgotten knowledge by sharing research.

Then in early 2006, a group of white women in Georgia, who had recently come into positions of power, inexplicably launched a cultural war against Georgia’s Creek Indians. It didn’t make any sense, because the main complaint that whites always had against the Creeks was that their women were equal in all things. Creek parents could not strike children, and men who beat their wives were punished severely. Creek women had the right to vote and hold office years before white American women did.

The Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma had been donating $5000 a year to the State of Georgia to support archaeological research at Etowah Mounds. Nevertheless, the annual Creek Indian Festival at Sweetwater Creek State Park was banned. A delegation of high ranking elected officials from the Muscogee-Creek Nation was un-invited two weeks before the annual Creek Barbicoa at Etowah Mounds State Historic Site. The name of the banquet was changed at the last minute to “A Woodland Feast” and North Carolina Cherokee officials were invited in their place.

Shortly thereafter a delegation of North Carolina Cherokees showed up at Etowah Mounds and demanded that all references to the Creek Indians, all books written by Creeks and all art created by Creeks be removed from the museum. The books and art were removed for several years, but not the signs mentioning the Creek Indians. The state had no funds for that shenanigan.

Get the Story:
Richard L. Thornton: Peeling Away the Layers of Forgotten History (Indian Country Today 1/23)

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