New Echota Historic Site & Museum; Calhoun, GA

A memorial to, and attempted recreation of, the former capitol of the Cherokee nation (before it was uprooted and moved west during by President Andrew Jackson‘s trail of tears — one of the more disturbing events in US history).

I have very mixed feelings about places like this. On one hand, its good to see the dirty linen being laid out in the open, an attempt at some sort of ‘mea culpa‘ by the people of Georgia (yes our forefathers were dirt bags) … on the other hand, it’s a state park, and this benefits the state of Georgia and helps bring tourist dollars to the area. Because, let’s be real, the state of Georgia, and the ‘founders’ of the town of Calhoun, GA are the same people who eradicated the town in the fist place (of course with the help of Jackson, everyone’s favorite president–NOT!) and while I’m glad they built/are building this place, and I doubt it’s much of a money maker… I question the motives that created it as much as I appreciate the results.What I would have liked to see but didn’t (which does not mean it isn’t happening, just that it wasn’t front and center in the museum) evidence that tribal elders are somehow involved in this site, etc.

However, that said…

 

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The New Echota site and museum is open Thurs-Sat, the web site says it’s open on Wednesdays, but the one time I went there on that day it was closed. The visitor’s center includes a small museum, and a 17 minute movie (also visible here) but most of it is outdoors, where they have tried to recreate some of what was there, and you are left to walk it alone at your own pace (as such, it’s better for a nice weather excursion). It’s a Georgia State park and marks some of the land that was supposedly the location of the national Capitol of the Cherokee nation before they were forcibly removed during the Trail of Tears. Counter to the Hollywood stereotype, they lived in western type wood homes, grew crops, had their own written language developed by Sequoyah, their own newspaper which had a world wide distribution (according to the docent), and literacy within the nation actually was higher than among the surrounding white communities (but at the time that wasn’t all that hard to achieve). During my second visit there (when it was open) It was Spring Break for a lot of the schools around the country, so there were a lot of kids and parents even though it was mid week.

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Essentially its part of the land that they historically know the town was built on, and they’ve managed to rebuild a few of the building, etc., except for the home of the local missionary, which I believe may still be the original although massively refurbished. According to the docent the most accurate re-building is the printing house, because the soldiers who destroyed it had thrown all the metal print blocks out the windows before burning the place, and when archeologists did a dig they found them marking an almost perfect square on the ground. In addition the state’s historian had found that the missionary had sent in highly detailed requests for what had been needed to build the place, so that there are records of how many nails, sheets of wood, dimensions, etc.

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One of the really cool things about the place is there’s a website they’ve created with a narrated walking tour for almost every building on the site that you can load to your smartphone/tablet at the ‘entrance building’, and then pull up each description when you reach that particular building.

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