The next meeting of the Georgia Chapter of the Trail of Tears Association will be held on Saturday, July 12, 2014 at 10:30 AM in the Council House at New Echota State Historic Site near Calhoun, GA. The speaker will be Dr. Jack T. Wynn. Dr. Wynn is Professor of Anthropology at the University of North Georgia in Dahlonega. He is also advisor to the Blue Ridge Archaeology Guild. He will speak about the native peoples of north Georgia, from prehistory to time of contact.
By the early 19th century, the Cherokee Nation had developed a government similar to that of the United States. During the fall of 1819, the Cherokee Council began holding their annual meetings in Newtown in present-day Gordon County. On November 12, 1825, the council passed a resolution making Newtown the Nation’s capital and changing the name to New Echota in honor of Chota, a beloved Cherokee town that was located in present-day Tennessee.
A major development in the Cherokee culture occurred when a mixed-blood Cherokee named Sequoyah invented a written language. Although he had no formal education, he worked 12 years to isolate and assign a symbol to each syllable in the Cherokee language. This enabled the Cherokees to begin printing their own newspaper called the Cherokee Phoenix. A reconstructed print shop and replica of the printing press are located at New Echota.
On December 29, 1835 the Treaty of New Echota was signed unlawfully by a small group of leaders of the Cherokee Nation. The treaty ceded all the Cherokee lands east of the Mississippi River for lands in present-day Oklahoma and Arkansas. Although the treaty was contested by most Cherokees, it was approved by a one vote margin in the U. S. Congress. In May of 1836, President Andrew Jackson signed it into law, giving the Cherokee two years to vacate their land. Most Cherokees refused to leave. Beginning in May of 1838, these Cherokees were rounded up and forced to begin their journey west. This became known as the “Trail of Tears” because of the widespread suffering and death. Some signers of the Treaty were later assassinated because of their involvement in selling Cherokee land.
Following the removal of the Indians, the town of New Echota disappeared and all buildings except one destroyed. In the 1950s the state of Georgia began excavations to determine the location of the original buildings and roads. In addition to the surviving home of Rev. Samuel Worcester, a missionary who had lived in New Echota since 1827, several of the destroyed buildings have been reconstructed and other buildings from that time period have been moved to New Echota. These include Vann’s Tavern, the Supreme Court House and a common Cherokee homestead.
The Trail of Tears Association was created to support the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail established by an act of Congress in 1987. The TOTA is dedicated to identifying and preserving sites associated with the removal of Native Americans from the Southeast. The Association consists of nine state chapters representing the nine states that the Cherokee and other tribes traveled through on their way to Indian Territory.
Our meetings are free and open to the public. You need not have Native American ancestry to attend our meetings, just an interest and desire to learn more about this fascinating and tragic period in our country’s history. For more information about the TOTA, visit the National TOTA website at www.nationaltota.org and the Georgia Chapter website at www.gatrailoftears.org. For more information about the July meeting, contact Leslie Thomas at email@example.com.
To reach New Echota, take I-75 to Exit 317. New Echota is a mile east on Ga. Hwy. 225. The entrance to the site is on the right side of the highway. Their telephone number is 706/624-1321. Please plan to attend and show your support for one of Georgia’s most treasured and threatened resources.