New Echota Historic Site & Museum; Calhoun, GA, (2 years later)

This was my second visit to the New Echota historical site. A memorial to, and attempted recreation of, the former capitol of the Cherokee nation — a city that was modern for it’s time ….  until it’s people were uprooted and moved west during the trail of tears — one of the more disturbing events in US history — even after they had fought their case all the way to the Supreme court (at the time headed by John Marshall) and WON their case, to which President Andrew Jackson replied:

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My first visit was by myself in 2016, this time I was touring around my childhood best friend (who has joined me previously in my travels, but only ever for a few days at a time, in: Victoria, Washington D.C. and DisneyWorld; usually we’ll go to do a High-Tea together when she visits, but this time I wasn’t able to find a good one nearby). She had asked if she could visit me wherever I was going to be in March…  at which time I was planning on staying not at an Airbnb, but at the home of another old friend who lives in Dalton (I said, “you can, but you’re going to have to find someplace else to stay”).

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As such, since this is a second visit… I’m not going to repeat what I wrote then, but rather focus on any updates and or changes I find interesting or relevant.

As I commented last time I was here, “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.” So, … it’s been two years… what’s new you ask? Not much. There was evidence of some construction/repairs going on at the front entrance/ roadway, but even though the last time I was there they said they were going to add to the “reconstructed” homes of the town, I didn’t see ANY evidence of said additional homes being built.

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Picture from last my 2016 visit, the area was JUST as empty in 2018….. except for more grass

That said, there seems to have been cuts to their budget, as evidenced by not only the lack of developing the property, but also they are now selectively mowing the lawns, rather than doing it regularly and completely (like in the picture above from 2016)

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Rather than mowing all the lawn, they’re just clearing paths

… and in the age of a high risk of catching Lime disease (which has serious derailed a few of my friends lives, one of whom used to be a researcher for NASA and now can’t hold down a job) from something as simple as a SINGLE tick bite, that’s a MAJOR issue

Please note the OLD picture on the left, the lawn was mown all the way out to the far trees, while in the most recent photo (on the right) they are only mowing the most high traffic areas and cutting some narrow paths for people to walk on. This is a problem because, to quote this website: “Ticks are attracted to areas with tall grass, moisture, and shade, so keep your grass cut short, your shrubs trimmed and your leaves raked up.” The first things I asked the park staff member when we were paying our entrance fee was how bad the ticks were in the park were… she responded that just yesterday she had pulled three of them off her body, and she didn’t remember going into the deeply wooded areas that day, i.e., she probably got it just by walking through the unmown lawns.

Last time I talked about how one of the coolest elements was they had created a narrated walking tour that you could call up with your phone, or by scanning the QR code with an application in your smart phone. What I hadn’t mentioned at the time was that you of course had to do it with your phone, and the free WiFi that is in the building (and insanely slow) does not extend outside of the that build’s four walls. As such, you’re reliant on your phone’s data signal to be able access it… and on while it had worked relatively well the first time I was there, this time… not so much. That said, the grounds are small enough, that it would be relatively easy and inexpensive to create free WiFi that covered that grounds… again, hasn’t happened (as I noted in my update on Ruby Falls, which is located about a half hour drive away, they HAVE wired all the caves for free WiFi).

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The first time I was here I commented about how “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.” Again, I really didn’t see much of that. However, one thing I noticed (it wasn’t new, but last time I didn’t really notice it) was this one hand cranked device that included descriptions voiced by individuals with distinctly Native American accents… that said, it would be SO easy to attach a solar panel to this…. cranking it was kind of a pain (we ultimately figured out you can crank it slowly).

As I said last time: “Counter to the Hollywood stereotype, The Cherokee lived in western type wood homes, grew crops, had their own written language using a unique alphabet (actually a syllabary) developed by Sequoyah;

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That said, a few weeks after visiting New Echota the first time (back in 2016) and learning about Sequoyah and his invention of the Cherokee syllabaryI was able to visit his birthplace.

So, not only did the Cherokee have their own democratic government systems, but they also had their own newspaper called the Cherokee Phoenix (written half in English and half in the Cherokee language) edited initially by Elias Boudinot  (the paper is still active) which had a world-wide distribution (according to the docent), and literacy level among their people that was actually was higher than among the surrounding white communities (but at the time that wasn’t all that hard to achieve).”

Another difference I noticed between the two visits was when visiting the Print shop, which in my mind is probably the highlight of the who park; last time, visitors were allowed full access to the print shop to the extent that children and parents were even allowed try their hand at using the printing machine (under supervision)

This time, we were kept firmly behind various barriers (one being a rope extended across the work space), even thought there were only two of us, both adults. And when the guy printed something he did not ask us if we wanted to try our hand.

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That said, I did learn a bunch of interesting printing related fact from him, a collection of everyday phrases that were inspired by printing,

 

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.

Roland Hayes Museum; Calhoun, GA

Local boy does good “museum” dedicated to a now mostly forgotten African American vocalist. Honestly, you’ll learn more about the man via Google than from this place. NOT worth the trip.

This place to be blunt about it pissed me off. I had seen pamphlets for it around town which looked professional and inviting, so even though I had initially gone to Calhoun with the intent of seeing New Echota only to find it closed (they’re only open Wed-Sat), I tried this place instead because of the misleading brochures. I found it to be a pathetically weak excuse for a museum.

Firstly, there is NO signage in front of the building telling you the Roland Hayes museum is in there (or if there is I couldn’t find it), rather you see a prominent sign for the Harris Arts Center in front of an historic looking hotel, located on the towns main street next door to the county government building, that seems to be recently, and (more importantly) expensively renovated. In retrospect, this fact betrayed what I believe to be the museums true purpose … which was NOT to honor Roland Hayes. After much confusion, and second guessing myself as to was I in the right place,  I went in.

Essentially, I found a mid sized room set off to the side of the front door, inside of which was mostly just some randomly placed pictures and documents on the walls of the room. The place was so haphazardly ‘hung’ that it took me a full 20 minutes to even figure out who the guy was (as a former art major and history major I was getting really pissed off, a five year old could have done a better job of organizing the place so that it told a story). Considering he was a recording artist whose work was now in the public domaine you would think they would at least have someplace where you could listen to his music —  you can on their web site — but NO. And when I say the ‘documentation’ was hung haphazardly, I mean it… they ACTUALLY buried the lead, to use a journalism term; at the far end of the room, and around a corner into a hallway that leads off to some meeting rooms (which don’t feel like they’re part of the museum, so that you get the sense you should not go there) I found a framed newspaper article about the man saying he was the top selling African American vocalist of his day — THAT should have been front and center, as it answers the all important question of, “as a total stranger whose never heard of the guy, why should I care?”

Afterwards, while searching the internet I found recordings of his in the public domain, were they available to hear at the museum? NO… I found a documentary shot in 1990, had they made a deal with the filmmaker to show it at the museum, of course not. I did however spot these things available for purchase on a display in the far corner of the museum store behind the other goods they were working hard to sell, which was mostly what I think may have been art made by locals… or it could have been from China, I didn’t look too closely.

To be perfectly honest, the more I looked at this excuse of a “museum” and compared it to the rest of the very large space in which it was placed — that was being actively used by a bunch of local (dressed to the hilt and bouffant haired) society women’ (not one of which was a person of color) on that Tuesday afternoon, I developed a theory as to why it was there at all. I think the town leaders wanted to convert an old hotel in the center of town into a ladies art center and, looking around for external grants, realized their town had a famous POC and they could get government and other funding for the building’s renovation if they simply devoted one room of that building to him —  I’m sure their grant proposal said something to the effect that the rest was intended to honor him by promoting the arts (and I’m sure they throw in just enough yearly events ‘in his memory’ to ensure that funding is not revoked). Did I mention there isn’t even an easily visible sign on the exterior of the building saying the museum is in there?  I honestly think more money was spent advertising the space via pamphlets than on actually creating something for people to see once they got there… because, and of course this is all my personal opinion, their real purpose was to renovate the building for the elites of the town and to draw in some tourism dollars to the city — hoping that the ‘hooked fish’ who have driven all this way, after having spent 10 minutes (maximum) walking around the room and finding little to see, will then explore the town a little and hopefully spend some money in the local economy.