BY TRISTA VAUGHN
CALHOUN, GEORGIA - On July 14 leaders from all three federally recognized Cherokee tribes and the Muscogee (Creek) Nation made history by joining together to receive a copy of Georgia House Resolution 1764 during a “Cherokee Homecoming” event at the New Echota State Historic Site.
House Resolution 1764 urges the public to visit the site and study its history as it relates to Cherokees and other tribes removed from the state.
UKB Chief Joe Bunch called the event “historic,” noting that New Echota was the last Cherokee Capital before removal.
In the 1830s the site was under intense scrutiny due to the state of Georgia’s need for land and the discovery of gold in the nearby city of Dahlonega.
Many Cherokees, later called Old Settlers and then eventually Keetoowahs, voluntarily left the territory for Arkansas to escape encroachment years prior.
For the smaller group of Keetoowahs and other Cherokee government that remained in the area, a minority Cherokee political faction would decide their fate by signing the Treaty of New Echota in 1835. The infamous document with the U.S. government gave away Cherokee lands in Georgia in exchange for land westward.
Afterwards New Echota would eventually become known as the official starting point to the Trail of Tears, a forced removal that killed thousands of Cherokees forced to make the journey to Indian Territory, what is now present-day Oklahoma.
The 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization Friends of New Echota, which is an operating chapter of Friends of Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites, decided to plan a “homecoming” as a way to welcome back the tribes, restore friendly relations and bring back a piece of the state’s history.
FONE Vice-President Monika Ponton Arrington, who is a delegate to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, said it was “important” to spend time coordinating with all three Cherokee tribes to unite each of its chiefs for the event.
“This event took two years to plan this event,” she said. “The inspiration for this event started back in 2013 when our organization noticed that there wasn’t a program that let you know it was a Cherokee Heritage site. There was not any Cherokee language being discussed, no history being taught, or any cultural activities happening.”
Bunch said the event was an “important opportunity” to educate the public about all three Cherokee tribes.
“It was an important opportunity for the EBCI and UKB to tell the world there is more than that of Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma,” he said. “We all have unique and distinct histories that bind us together by history, language and family. We are the remnants of the historic Cherokee Nation.”