Both before the arrival of European explorers and after the establishment of the royal colony, Georgia was largely populated by Native Americans. The Creek and Cherokee histories are rich in culture and tradition. Explore early encounters with Georgia settlers, notable individuals from the Creeks and Cherokees, and recurrent conflicts of interest that ultimately led to the forcible removal of Native Americans from the state.
Archaeologist John Worth of the Fernbank Museum of Natural History takes us on a dig at Raccoon Ridge near Madison, in Morgan County. He explains how the shapes, designs, and the composition of artifacts can be interpreted to tell the story of native cultures.
Native Americans used stories, many still told today, to explain the unknowable and to help them understand the world. Because they believed that everything in nature had life, even rocks, clouds, and thunder, many Indian stories or myths personify objects in their explanations of events.
Ranger Frankie Mewborn guides visitors on a tour of the New Echota Historic Site in Gordon County, which preserves what is left of the Cherokee capital. In 1835 Cherokee leaders signed the Treaty of New Echota requiring the Cherokees to leave the southeast.
Primitive cultures living in Georgia thousands of years ago made everything they needed. Today it is important to the surviving native cultures to continue practicing the skills and sharing the traditions that ensured survival. A Cherokee carver, and a storyteller and musician describe ceremonial mask, weapons, tools, and the language of Georgia's Native Americans.
Cherokee John Standingdeer describes how his family was named and why knowing it mattered to him. He explains how Native Americans were self sufficient and lived off the land prior to the arrival of Europeans and how a growing dependency on the white man’s steel tools and weapons led to Indians adopting the white man’s ways, eroding their culture further.
Cherokee stone carver Freeman Owle, Cherokee potter Amanda Swimmer, and Driver Pheasant, a storyteller, explain how prehistoric cultures taught their art and stories to the next generation, passing down cultural traditions so they will survive in the absence of written language.
Diamond Brown, a Cherokee dancer, describes how corn is the foodstuff responsible for prehistoric Native Americans flourishing in Georgia. Through interviews, reenactments, and visits to significant Native American sites in Georgia, the story of the changing culture of Indians from their arrival and existence as wandering hunters to the development of the mound building culture unfolds.
Should the Cherokee maintain their own culture resisting that of the white man, or should they give up their ways and adopt those of white settlers? They tried to adapt to white society with the ultimate result being their virtual disappearance from Georgia. Cherokee John Standingdeer recounts the legend.
This segment shows ways in which today’s Cherokees are transmitting the remnants of their culture to the younger generation in an attempt to preserve what is left. Cherokee cultural traditions in food preparation, language, and songs and dances are shown.
Creek Indian Jay McGirt discusses William McIntosh, son of a Creek woman and a Scotsman, who fought with the Americans during the War of 1812 and was given the rank of general. On February 12, 1825, Chief McIntosh signed a treaty at Indian Springs selling the remaining Creek land in Georgia. A reenactor describes his execution by his own people based on an eyewitness account.
Mavis Doering, Ramona Bear Taylor, and Creek Indian Jay McGirt recall Cherokee Indians being rounded up by U.S. soldiers under the command of Gen. Winfield Scott and herded into stockades for the four month long walk to Oklahoma known as the Trail of Tears.
Robbie Ethridge, a University of Georgia graduate student, Dr. Ray Rensi of North Georgia College, Bill Kinsland, owner of the Hometown Bookstore in Dahlonega, and University of Georgia professor Dr. Charles Hudson discuss how new people poured into central and north Georgia wanting to own land. The forces eventually driving Indian removal were largely economic.
Sequoyah, a Cherokee Indian with ties to Georgia and Oklahoma, created a system of writing for an unwritten language in 1819. Eventually Sequoyah devised what’s known as a syllabary. Within months of its introduction, much of the Cherokee Nation became literate.
From 1828 to 1860, the Cherokee people were led by the remarkable Native American John Ross. Ross presided over the birth of Cherokee Nation, the removal of his people from their homeland, and the founding of a new nation in a distant place.