Tuesday, May 06, 2014

North Carolina Cherokees to evict Lumbee widow from her home

[From The People of One Fire - note comments about mound building.]

Native American Brain Food
May 5, 2014
North Carolina Cherokees to evict Lumbee widow from her home
In blatant contradiction to the long tradition of the Cherokees in accepting other peoples into their communities, the EBC Tribal Council is attempting to banish a Native American archaeologist from their reservation.  The real reason is that she knows too much. A mockery is being made of the NAGPRA program in the Southern Appalachians.
Let me say first that early in my career, I was an architectural consultant to the Qualla Cherokee Housing Authority in North Carolina.  I know what the reservation used to be like.  I remember the sincere, warm hospitality of the Cherokees there.  That time is gone with the wind.  The folks that I worked with are now elders.  They weep when they see what has become of their people.
Lora-Kay Oxindine Taylor is one of those rare birds known as a Native American archaeologist. She grew up in eastern North Carolina and is a member of the Lumbee Tribe.  The Lumbees are the largest Native American tribe, east of the Mississippi River.  They are almost as large as the Muscogee-Creek Nation of Oklahoma.  On paper, they should be the “heavy-weight champion” among tribes still located in the Southeast. Politically, they are not.
Unfortunately, the Lumbee Tribe has a strange legal relationship with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. They are only partially recognized by the Federal Government. Repeated efforts to obtain full recognition by their tribal leaders and congressmen in eastern North Carolina are thwarted by Machiavellian interventions from the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and the Eastern Band of Cherokees in North Carolina.  Vast sums have been spent to pay various university professors to come up with reasons why the Lumbees are not eligible for recognition.  With card-carrying Cherokees averaging only 1 ½% Native American DNA, the efforts are rather hypocritical.  Heck, my herd dogs have more Asiatic DNA than that!
It seems that the federally recognized Cherokees are afraid that a Lumbee gambling casino 300 miles away on the North Carolina coast will hurt the business of the Cherokee casinos in the mountains.  It is the same evil greed that is corrupting and tearing the souls out of many federally recognized tribes.
Lora-Kay is an expert on Southern Siouan and East Tennessee Muskogean cultures. She was formerly employed by the Tribal Cultural Preservation Office in Cherokee, NC.  She was the only Eastern Band of Cherokee bureaucrat, who would help me while I was doing research for the former director of the National Park Service, Roger Kennedy.  I lost contact with her for a couple of years afterward until she saw my LinkedIn profile.  By then, she was a widow and unemployed.
At the time, I advised her that she needed to quickly find a job in another part of the Southeast. With endemic conjuring of demons,  bipolar behavior and organized crime going on at the Qualla Cherokee Reservation, her physical and mental health would be ruined by staying there.  She has tried, but the economy has caused the archaeology profession to have an even higher rate of unemployment than architects.  No agency wants to hire her.  She is in her 50s and her former employer is giving her bad references, so the only possible jobs are menial ones, offered by Lumbee friends back home in Lumberton, NC. She can’t afford to live in a decent house on minimum wages.
Lora’s attorneys have not sent me the paperwork yet on her eviction case, so I can only report what she told me. Legally, I am telling you hearsay.  Her late husband was a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokees. She was his second wife. His will gave the house to her.  Anywhere outside a federally recognized reservation, that would be the end of the story.
On federal reservations, the land is held in trust by the Department of Interior, so a home owner does not own the land under the house.  That is how the EBC tribal council got involved.  Her late husband’s children from the first marriage have gone through political channels on the Qualla Reservation to have her banished from the reservation on the grounds that she was not a member of the EBC and therefore cannot live there alone.  The EBC Tribal Council has the legal right on the reservation to determine the validity of her husband’s will. Is it any coincidence that her house is on Peggy Bigwitch Road?
The population of the Qualla Reservation has dropped by over 40% in recent years.  There is no housing shortage. Nevertheless, asking the EBC tribal council to interpret federal and state civil laws is the equivalent of asking the council of a small town in North Carolina to do the same. However, it is the role of the North Carolina attorneys to determine the legality of the eviction, whether or not the eviction is morally right.  It is a complex issue that pits tribal laws versus state and federal laws.
NAGPRA issues are another matter
It was a Snowbird Cherokee, who told me about the out-of-state land speculators bull-dozing Muskogean mounds in the Andrews Valley in advance of the second Cherokee casino. Since I first publicized this issue, several other North Carolinians of Cherokee ancestry have complained to me about desecration of Native American archaeological sites in their mountains.   Lora confirmed their stories.  The EBC Tribal Historic Preservation Office believes that they can only use persuasion to prevent destruction of Muskogean mounds and mound sites . . . which means that they typically get destroyed. At least, this is what EBC Cultural Preservation Officer, Russell Townsend, told the “Cherokee Scout” a newspaper in nearby Murphy, NC. 
Well, no . . . that’s caca de toro, Mr. Townsend.  I double-checked the issue with a friend in the National Park Service in Washington, DC.  The Woodland Period mounds contain the cremated remains of indigenous humans. Around 800-900 AD, the Itza Maya refugees in the Southern Appalachians introduced to us Muskogeans, the custom of burying the remains of commoners in the floors of houses and the remains of the elite in either stone box graves in the village plazas or in mounds.  So i is not a Cherokee "thing" and neither are those mounds in the Andrews Valley.   However, the United States government is paying most of your salary and by law you are obligated to protect our Muskogean burial sites.
The laws of the United States and North Carolina, governing this matter, apply equally to African, European and Native American burials.  All Muskogean villages contained human burials from end to end.  Any soil disturbance in a Muskogean village is disturbance of a cemetery. Any land owner in North Carolina, who arbitrarily destroys a Muskogean village site, is violating North Carolina and federal laws relating to human burials.  They can immediately be arrested by local law enforcement.
Seminole heritage
During the two years that I was either living in a tent or in the office of an abandoned chicken house, I was also doing important research, funded by Roger Kennedy. I proved, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the people, who built the ceremonial mounds and large town sites in western North Carolina, were the direct ancestors of the Seminoles. The only Muskogean province in Western North Carolina that did not head due south was the Tvskeke (Tuskegee).   They spoke a dialect of Muskogee and moved to east-central Alabama to become part of the Creek Confederacy.  Their cousins in present day eastern Cherokee County, NC, who spoke Itsate (Hitchiti), were called the Tvskete (Tusquitee).
The Talasee, Chiaha, Oconee, Tamatli, Tamauli, Euchee, Tokasi, Nokosee, Tusketee, Etowa, Shawnee and Echetee in Florida originated in the region of North Carolina, west of Asheville.  They were forced out of the region in the early 1700s by the new Cherokee alliance. Do these words sound familiar to our Seminole friends in Florida?  Bet they do!  
The Tamatli in the Andrews Valley, near Tomatla and Murphy, NC were a colony of the Tamatli in the famous province of Tama in southeast Georgia.  Their descendants in the mountains look very different even today than the ethnic Cherokees in the Qualla Reservation.  Their women are small-boned and gracile with small noses and no ear lobes. Their physiques are like Carrie Underwood’s. Sorry, I always liked going to the Murphy, NC Ingles Supermarket to gawk at the good looking Tamatli women, who resembled my female cousins.  LOL
Many Cherokees, in Cherokee and Clay Counties, NC, plus Towns and Union Counties, GA share a common heritage with the Seminoles.  This has been demonstrated by the DNA studies.  Those Cherokees with Muskogean-Maya-South American DNA profiles are, indeed, the descendants of the people, who built the Track Rock terrace Complex, Peachtree Mound, Murphy Mound and Talulah Mound in Graham County, NC.  Their genetic profiles are very different from most Cherokees living 45 miles away on the reservation, but there are some Snowbird Cherokees with Muskogean-Maya profiles.
NAGPRA improprieties
Lora-Kay Oxindine sent me documents awhile back that are very damning of the current cultural preservation program on the Qualla Cherokee Reservation.  This office is substantially funded by federal grants, so I have forwarded the documents to the appropriate investigative offices in Washington, DC and some senators on an oversight committee.  The EBC sends funds to archaeologists, professors, museums, Chamber of Commerce Visitors Centers, and rightwing politicians in a 300 mile multi-state radius, which protects them from regional agencies, but that won’t help them in DC.
I have known for some time that a large five-sided Oconee-Creek mound and town site in the Birdtown section of the Qualla Reservation was bulldozed in the late 1980s for real estate development and a sewage treatment plant.  The etymology of the Oconaluftee River on the reservation is “Oconee People – cut off (isolated.) “   It would have been quite embarrassing if an especially knowledgeable tourist asked what a five-sided Creek mound like the one at Etowah, was doing on a reservation where the Cherokees had lived 10,000 years.
Lora-Kay informed me about two other mounds on the reservation, one Mississippian and the other Swift Creek, which were bulldozed long after NAGPRA laws came into effect.   The crimes that these two mounds committed were that they contained artifacts (Swift Creek Complicated Stamp and Etowah Complicated Stamp) identical to those found in Georgia, which North Carolina archaeologists couldn’t possibly claim were proto-Cherokee Pisgah Phase artifacts. 
This is why about six years ago North Carolina Cherokee artisans suddenly began going around the country, claiming that the Cherokees “invented” Swift Creek pottery.  If you don’t believe me, look at this website sponsored by the Cherokee National Museum:  Cherokee Pottery Exhibit. 

Not only did the planners in North Carolina of the "Cherokee Pottery: People of One Fire," steal our organization’s name, but the traveling exhibit tells museum visitors that the Cherokees created the oldest pottery in North America, “Stallings Island - 2500 BC.”  Stallngs Island ceramics were first found near Augusta, GA. No Cherokee village was ever located there.  The exhibit also shows copies of two jars on display at Ocmulgee National Monument and labels them “Cherokee jars from around 900-1000 AD.”  Actually, the exhibit shows artifacts and reproductions from throughout the Southeast and Mississippi Basin, but labels them all “Cherokee Art.”
Where Lora-Kay first came into conflict with the EBC members in the Cultural Preservation Office was in Tennessee.  She was forced to label human remains and artifacts as being “Cherokee” that were found at locations and/or were of styles that the McClung Museum in Knoxville has labeled Muskogean, Proto-Creek or Proto-Koasati.   This was done so that the THPO’s of the Muscogee-Creek Nation, Poarch Creek Tribe and Seminole Tribe of Florida, would not become involved.  
Personally, the most shocking information provided me by Lora-Kay is that casino revenue at the Qualla Reservation has financed a million dollar a year slush fund to purchase privately owned Creek and Koasati archaeological sites in Georgia and Tennessee.  Superficially, to tree-huggers from other parts of the nation, it looks like a wonderful program to protect archaeological sites.  However, these sites are being labeled “Sacred Cherokee Heritage Sites.”  They are used to re-write history.
Only those archaeologists, who say what the EBC wants them to say, are allowed to examine Cherokee Sacred Sites.  Well, up to the time that Lora-Kay was fired, all of the sites were kept a secret.  

The archaeological study of the Track Rock Terrace Complex was primarily funded by the EBC. No wonder the archaeologist at Track Rock made a fool out of himself by calling the 300 agricultural terraces, “ceremonial platforms built by the Cherokees.”  

Part of the reason that I decided to take a high profile on the Track Rock announcement was that I “got word” that the USFS bureaucrats in Georgia were negotiating to turn over the Track Rock Archaeological Zone and Brasstown Mountain in Georgia  to the Eastern Band of Cherokees “as a reservation.”  The stated reason was to “privatize USFS recreation assets” and save the taxpayers money.  However, the real reason was that the change in ownership would effectively negate federal regulations that blocked organized crime based in Gainesville, GA from sponsoring a Cherokee casino north of Atlanta.
That gets us to the root of the problem. There is something far more sinister going on with these real estate acquisitions.   Lora-Kay pointed out several real estate tracts in Georgia and Tennessee that were of marginal importance from an archaeological standpoint.  However, their proximity to Interstates 24, 75 and 85 would be ideal locations for gambling casinos.   Federal regulations require that a tribe have a reservation in a state where a casino is planned, plus own the tract of land for the casino at least five years.
A now you know!
Richard Thornton, Editor
Architect & City Planner

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