It is believed that the Cherokee migrated from the north and nudged the Muscogee (Creek) Nation to the south and west. The Cherokee migrated south for the same reasons so many other northerners do: a warmer climate, and seemingly abundant natural resources (and a retreat from the European invasion). In 1825, the well armed and aggressive European immigrants were moving south at a rapid pace.
The landscape and structures of New Echota capture a key period in the history of the Cherokee. A place where they almost overcame (or assimilated). They had a government very similar to the United States: a constitution, a written language, and, as a nation, a relative amount of wealth. There were those that opposed their "progress" and newly adopted European characteristics. The opposition came from the newly-formed state of Georgia, the US government, and a good number of the Cherokee themselves. When the "friendly" European visitors discovered gold within Cherokee territory, the onslaught began. The end to any hope of peacefully coexisting with the white settlers was near.
To make a long story short, the Cherokee leaders signed a treaty that either forsook their brethren, or the chieftains sacrificed their own lives for the sake of their people. They were outnumbered and outgunned. What choice did they have? President Andrew Jackson had ignored the Supreme Court's decision to let the Cherokee keep their land, and it would be taken either by force or coercion.
The Cherokee opponents of the treaty retaliated quite violently. The endorsers of the "Treaty of New Echota" were assassinated. The remaining Cherokee were removed. Within ten years of the proud founding of a capitol city, the Cherokee were gone. The endorsers of the "Treaty of New Echota" were assassinated, and the balance of Cherokee were marched West to Oklahoma.
The march west eventually became known as the Trail of Tears. Women, children, and the elderly were forced to walk much of the way. The cruel cold of winter took about 4,000 of the 15,000 remaining Cherokee. A once proud nation was suddenly silenced. Today, New Echota is an echo of the best of times, and a reminder of the tragic end of a legacy.
Echota evokes a range of emotions from amazement and
admiration to sorrow and shame. It's a place you must
visit if at all possible. It's a history that must not
Note: The Cherokee were but one tribe of Native Americans evicted from their land in the 1830's. For information about the Creek Nation's Trail of tears, click here.
Once a year, New Echota Historical Site hosts a mid-October event called Frontier Day. The Richardson Tribe has attended several of these events over the past few years (see a few below). During this year's Frontier Day, Rebecca was feeling under the weather, so I loaded the munchkins in "Willie B" the Jeep and headed east.
Little has changed over the past few years at New Echota. There are about a dozen structures on the property. Some are replicas or transplants. Several existed during the period of the Cherokee occupation. On pioneer Day, most of the old buildings are occupied and busy. We started in the museum. Although the kids had been here before, they always seem to discover something new. We took our time in the small museum area because there was a long line of people waiting to enter the park. I was impressed at the volume of people. This is good for the Georgia parks system.
Exiting the rear of the museum brought us to the first of about 12 structures on the property. The first grouping is a sample of a Cherokee farmstead. Various volunteers and craftspeople are stationed at the corn crib and cabin. The kids got to taste real hand-churned butter and buttermilk. There was a real artist doing face painting there too. When we entered the 200+ year old cabin, we had the unique opportunity to see an elderly lady that had been born there.
From there we wandered around the property watching the demonstrations and enjoying refreshments. We all got to try some peach cobbler made in Dutch Ovens. That was yummy. As usual, there were games involving spear/javelin throwing and tomahawk chucking. The kids have all gotten pretty good with the spears since we made some a couple of years ago.
In summary, New Echota is still an awesome place to visit, especially during events like this. It's a shame their budget has left them struggling to keep the doors open. Especially in a year when the state has spent millions on a massive new state park near Newnan.
The Richardson Tribe
Mr. Le was once again demonstrating flint knapping, but he was also teaching the kids how to throw a spear as well. In the print shop, a man was showing how to set type and print a sheet. Each of the kids got a freshly printed copy of the Cherokee Phoenix, the first newspaper in the region, and the first to utilize the Cherokee's new alphabet.
Once again, the kids enjoyed the games and challenges of spear and tomahawk throwing, and archery. It was a beautiful day enjoyed by all.
The Richardson Tribe
There were a number of demonstrations of old-timey arts, crafts, music, weaponry, candle making, leather working, flint knapping, bows and arrows, blow darts, Indian jewelry making, shape note singing, story telling, Dutch oven cooking, and more! All this in one of the most significant historic sites for the Cherokee, and the south in general.
It is fascinating to learn how these people
had their own sovereign nation, right here in the Southeast, with three
branches of government (just like the U.S.), a Supreme Court, etc etc.
This is the site of the Treaty of New Echota, the treaty that resulted
in the assassination of the
tribal leaders that signed it
Grandfather of Jim
Boudinot, seen here) The treaty surrendered all remaining Cherokee
land to the state of Georgia and the complete removal of
the Cherokee people. New Echota is the origin of the Cherokee
Trail of Tears.