New Echota

Juli Kearns Art-Photos, Everyday Stories 10 Comments

New Echota
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Emerson writing of the American Indian Removal of 1838 said, it was a “crime that really deprives us as well as the Cherokees of a country; for how could we call the conspiracy that should crush these poor Indians our Government, or the land that was cursed by their parting and dying imprecations our country, any more?”

New Echota was for a brief period of time the capital of the Cherokee Nation in Georgia. The attempt to protect Cherokee lands failing, they were rounded up by thousands of Federal soldiers, placed in stockades, then sent to Oklahoma on the infamous Trail of Tears. Over 4000 individuals died.

The New Echota State Park, a memorial to the Cherokee people, was established in the early 1960s, and with its establishment laws had to be changed which had been implemented to prevent the return of the Cherokee and which had never been taken off the books.

My husband has Cherokee/Chahta ancestry. Earlier this month, on my husband’s birthday, we drove to New Echota to walk the streets of New Town with our son who has Cherokee/Chahta ancestry through his father, and Ioway ancestry through me.

We appeared to be the only ones there. Before starting on our unguided walk around the grounds we sat alone in the theater and watched a 17 minute movie on the history of New Echota. As the movie ended, hearing a clearing of throat that announced the entrance of another person, I expected the park ranger who’d ushered us into the theater but instead it was another park ranger. He looked eager. First he offered a bit of information on the surrounding exhibits, I think as part of a trial move to see how ready we were to listen, then given half an opportunity he started amending the history given in the movie (and he had done his history) telling us all about the suffering of the Cherokee and their ill treatment by Anglo-European settlers and how the generic histories aren’t accurate on the account. What he wanted us to leave with was a knowledge of how the Cherokee were and are a people, not just illustrations on the movie screen, and while he talked I wondered, it being North Georgia, how many visitors had at least some Cherokee ancestry. We didn’t mention anything about distant Cherokee ancestry or that we already knew much of the history he was relating. It’s something that’s just meaningful to us, and it was good to hear him talking with such passion on the subject.

It was late in the afternoon and the park closes at 5, so we had to disengage and get on with our tour, though it would have been nice to talk a little longer. By now there was another family, a young woman with two young children. Our courses sometimes intersected but did so without conversation. The mother wasn’t interested in saying hello but a girl H.o.p.’s age was obviously interested in H.o.p., smiling at him and as they walked past us once she did what she could to put herself on a collision course. H.o.p., interestingly, was bashful for the first time in his life as she waved and grinned, doing her best to almost collide with him in passing, to which he responded by barely acknowledging her, ducking his head down while also glancing up with a shy half-smile and stepping around her. Because he was forced to step around her as she wasn’t moving out of his way.

There’d been a brief drizzle before we arrived at the park, but not long after we began our walk, the thunders made an appearance in earnest, rumbling the air and easing the heat with a shower of respectable length and vigor. As many of the reconstructed buildings were closed (we could look through the open windows at the exhibits) we waited out the heavier parts of the showers on the porches. The earth roads that follow the plan of New Town became muddy, became swampy, so we kept to the grass. But H.o.p. was in his moccasins (mass-manufactured mocs that he simply wears because he’s got crazily sensitive feet and these feel good on his feet) and the mocs ended up saturated and caked with mud and his pants soaked up to the knee. Fortunately, as part of day trip equipment, we’d brought along a change of clothes for him. Fortunately, too, I got H.o.p. in some Keen sandals early this summer, or at least bought him some because they are thus far the only other shoe he’s tried on in years that he said felt good. He wouldn’t wear them all summer, stuck to his mocs, but several weeks ago had no option but to wear them, remembered how great they felt, and has at least not argued since against them. The mocs were, after a year’s worth of hard wear, done in by New Echota and I need to order him some more.

After our walk we returned to the museum but only did a hasty brush through as they were getting ready to close. I bought a small book on finger weaving, which I’ve tried before, self-taught. I may try making a sash for H.o.p.

I’ve got a few pics from New Echota and will put them up later but they’re not much.

Comments 10

  1. Well, I’m glad you dropped by. It’s always good to get a comment from you. I read your blog regularly though you wouldn’t know it as I’m just not good on commenting and so don’t do it much. Really found interesting your post yesterday on how you started blogging etc.

    The name’s Juli, feel free to call me by it.

  2. I liked reading about your visit to New Echota. I hope to take a trip myself sometime in the next few months. I noted that you bought a book about finger weaving. Several years ago I had checked out a book on that subject, I think from the Dekalb library system. There were some surprisingly ( to me) beautiful and complicated patterns that could be created. I’d found it satisfying, in much the way that hand sewing (embroidery) is. I had also noticed that it’s possible to make bigger things by making narrow sashes and then stitching them together. That’s probably in your book.

  3. This is just a little book, has a few patterns but the mainstays in it are diamond and lightning bolt and variations. I’m a little concerned with how I’ll do from it as it’s all A, B, C thread instructions with no images and I learn best from pics or illustrations. A, B, C instructions throw me real fast. I’m thinking of doing a lightning bolt design for H.o.p. but probably should start with basic Chevron. But I’m already getting scared off just trying to estimate how much yarn I would need for a sash etc. I’d forgotten that about yarn.

    We need to go again. There’s a little woodsy trail you can take that we weren’t able to as it was getting too late, takes you back by an old pond.

    Make sure you get the story teller because there’s actually not that much to the interpretation center, though admittedly there were a couple of exhibits on printing that we didn’t have an opportunity to look at.

    They had a garden planted out back but it wasn’t Three Sisters style, everything was instead planted separately which was probably how it was done at the settlement considering significant assimiliation.

    I actually wasn’t expecting much out of New Echota but the buildings are nicely recreated and does give some feel of things, some of them furnished.

    Have you ever been to the Vann house?

    What I really want to do is get back to the mounds. Saving that up for the fall.

  4. I’ve been to the Vann house but it was many many years ago. I don’t have much memory of it, though I can recall driving by it many times on our way to other places. And I’m not sure I’ve ever been to New Echota at all. Seems like my Dad would have taken us but I don’t remember being there, which is why I’d like to go. And yes, the mounds. I’d been thinking I’d like to go when it’s cooler. I’ve thought about maybe even going and spending a number of hours just sitting atop one of them, just to get a taste of what it would feel like to see a day from that point of view.

    I looked at Amazon to see if I could find the finger weaving book I had checked out. I think it was the one by Alta Turner. Or is that the one you bought? The one I had did have photographs that illustrated some of the steps. I never tried to make a whole sash, though. I just made smallish things to work out the pattern and how all of the interweaving worked. Yes, there’s that problem of trying to figure out how much yarn. Seems like for loom weaving there are formulas about multiplying the finished piece by a certain number to know how long the beginning pieces need to be. You might be able to find that at a web site about hand weaving, like for a rigid heddle or back strap loom.

  5. I hadn’t mentioned it but the book I got is by Alta Turner. I’ll keep looking for instructions on estimating the yarn. I’d hate to make a mistake and end up 3/4’s of the way through and find out I’d miscalculated. And then there’s the tightness of the weave which can make a big difference.

    I’d previously thought about how it would be good to be atop a mound for either the rising or setting of the sun, but since they’re park land that’s impossible, which is too bad.

  6. Thanks, Heretik and Cruel Animal. Heretik, a while back I wrote a post that centered on Emerson’s statement, the idea of Americans as people without a country and how this has affected things.

  7. When I dug into what family genealogy I could get my hands on, it became clear how two centuries of intimate contact between our Irish immigrant family and the Cherokee of southern Appalachia provided ample opportunity for what I suspected as mixed genetic heritage. My grandmother looked very much like an Indian, as did her three daughters, including my mom.

    But that was not something encouraged in the Deep South during the era of legal segregation, and it only happened by accident that my aunt affirmed that the photo of them as kids on her refrigerator looked like Indians because they were, “a little.” Which is very different in approach to the subject by our generation that has discovered it culturally advantageous to assert a heritage that has nothing to do with how we were raised or what privileges we enjoy by generations of denying this link.

    Still, as an undocumented oral conveyance of family history, I find it bestows a healthy sense of belonging and indigenous solidarity that helps to shield me in these times of retro-racism. For that I am grateful.

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