The following is the text of a column I write for the local paper which will be published today.
I’m not sure you’d call it a hobby. Maybe it’s just an interest, an intellectual curiosity, a time-occupier. Whatever caused it, I’ve been completely fascinated with the Native Americans who occupied this area before we, white folks, got here, and, arguably, messed up a good part of the environment.
Perhaps, what struck me first was those signs scattered about the roadways: Calhoun, Land of the Cherokees. I have to tell you, that slogan is a bit of a conundrum. I’ve been living here a bit over a dozen years, this time, and I haven’t, to my knowledge, seen a single Cherokee yet. Hmmm. I wonder where they are.
Native Americans seem to fascinate us in this twenty-first century. I recall a couple of years ago when I took my, then, eight-year-old granddaughter to Alaska. We were riding in a taxi to the Alaska Museum in Anchorage. She was talking with the taxi driver. He told her a bit about his life. Suddenly, she sat back in the seat, pulled out her cell phone and began texting her parents. “You won’t believe this. Our driver is a Native American.” The trip was now worthwhile.
I understand her excitement. For the last dozen years I’ve been studying the civilizations that first farmed this valley, created great towns, engaged in a sophisticated infrastructure of government, religion, and social mores. I’ve been amazed.
Ever been to Fort Mountain? That wall, which is the major attraction, is, in my amateur opinion, an ancient Native American worship site. It’s not a fort built by DeSoto. Those little “foxholes” are but evidence of folks digging along the wall for artifacts. Stand on the wall and pull out a compass and you’ll see it runs along a true East to West line. Head up to the Snake River in Tennessee and you’ll find another wall. Pull out a compass and it, too, runs on a true East to West line. Considering Native Americans were here 200 years before Christ, looking at the effort it took to build those walls, you can’t but help be amazed.
Head down to the Etowah Mounds in Cartersville. Here from 1000 until around 1600 lived, off and on, a civilization of Native Americans who occupied a city with a population of thousands. It was a culture of intricate religious activities, of well-established government. And the civilization was massive. In the waters of the Etowah River bordering that city was a fish weir (a fish trap made of rocks stacked in a V shape) to provide protein for the city. And there’s one of those fish weirs every four miles along the Etowah.
And then there’s New Echota, the Cherokee Indian Nation Capitol. There is the houses that hosted their democratic government, their newspaper, the evidence of their advanced culture.
But they’re not here any longer. The Etowah civilization was wiped out be disease brought by DeSoto. The Cherokees, well, you know what we did to them. For seventeen hundred years the Native Americans thrived here in our valley. Too, often we forget to honor them.
But this Saturday, May 3, the Native Americans are coming back. Hundreds of them will be at Pine Log Campground. They’ll have a worship service at 11:00 in the tabernacle. And they’ll be sharing their crafts and art afterwards.
Oh, my goodness. Think about it. We, who live in the “Land of the Cherokees” will finally have an opportunity to actually meet one.