Sunday, January 27, 2013

Looking for Heritage Along the Chattahoochee River, National Heritage Area Study,

Riverfront Mills, Columbus Georgia
Another aspect of my work with the National Park Service involves the National Heritage Area Feasibility Study program.  

These studies are conducted to determine the potential for regions of the country to share nationally significant stories about their local history, historic places, and distinctive cultural landscapes. 

There are over 49 National Heritage Areas in the United States and they all have a special story to tell, contributing to the unique mosaic that is our national heritage.

Recently, I had the opportunity to work with a study of the Chattahoochee Trace region. This area runs between the boarder of Georgia and Alabama, where the Chattahoochee River flows  over the Piedmont’s fall line, eventually draining into the Gulf of Mexico. Lining the banks of the river are remnants of the southern textile industry where hydroelectric cotton mills once formed the backbone of many small rural communities.

Statue of Marquis de Lafayette
LaGrange, Georgia
Eufaula, Alabama

These massive structures are hard to miss, but just below the surface lies a richer heritage. 

Fort Mitchell, Alabama
Starting Point of the Creek Trail of Tears
Once known as the old Southwest, this area also saw the clash of European powers as England, France, and Spain battled for control of the New World.  

Caught in the middle of this global conflict were the Native American tribes that called the Chattahoochee Trace home. With the independence of the American colonies in 1776, settlers flooded into the region. This led to bloody conflicts with the Creek Nations and other Native American tribes. The first Creek Wars boiled over into the War of 1812 and resulted in the forced removal of many tribes to the Oklahoma Territory.

One of the goals of this National Heritage Area Feasibility study was to engage with many of the Creek Nation tribes for a better understanding of their connections to this area and its heritage. Although many of these tribes are now in Oklahoma, they still maintain strong ties to their ancestral homeland along the Chattahoochee River.    

A special thank you to the Cultural Resource Management Division at Fort Benning for allowing us to be a part of their bi-annual tribal consultation meetings. Hopefully this study will open a door to a fuller understanding of what National Heritage truly means.

Creek Trail of Tears Monument
Chattahoochee Indian Heritage Center

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