"We want to offer it to the public on Saturdays now while it's kind of slow and [try] to get people to come to the park," said Steve Hadley, Resource Manager II for the Etowah Indian Mounds, a 54-acre site where several thousand American Indians lived from A.D. 1000 to A.D. 1550. "And this way we get a lot of the ... local [community] that may not have been here [before] or people that have been here before and are coming back and didn't get a program when they were here on a Saturday. ... Some of the interpretive programs might be the tools and weapons program and it also might be an interpretive hike around the site and maybe a guided, personal tour through the museum."
Regarded as the most intact Mississippian Culture historic site in the Southeast, Etowah Indian Mounds at 813 Indian Mounds Road in Cartersville features six earthen mounds, a village area, a plaza, borrow pits and a defensive ditch. Along with examining artifacts in the museum, other notable features at the site include a dugout canoe and a reproduction of a wattle and daub hut.
For Steve McCarty -- interpretive ranger for Etowah Indian Mounds -- providing interactive programs for the public enhances their overall experience at the historic site.
"The tools and weapons program is a hands-on demonstration and explanation of the usage and care of these tools and weapons that [they] used during this time period, things that they would have used to survive with, to hunt with, to work with," McCarty said. "It's to give the visitor an idea of what it was like to use these, how they worked and how difficult sometimes they were to use. Basically some of the main things will be the spear and throwing the spear with a spear thrower. [Other weapons include] the bow and arrow and the blow gun and there's some hand-held items that we actually do give them the opportunity to touch, not the sharp ones but some of them. They're all replicas, most of which greatly resemble the actual tools and weapons.
"The tools and weapons program actually has a lot of interest and creates that interest simply because this is something that was done many, many years ago. These are ancient ways of hunting, of getting food, of making things. It's things that we don't do today. It's something that's very interesting because we see how people would do something when they had to provide for themselves, when they could not go and purchase it at a store. We see how innovative man was at one time. Hopefully, [a program like this] gives them some insight as to how these people lived and will make the visitor want to know more about the day-to-day lives of the people here and the operation of the village."
Over the past couple of years, the Cartersville venue has been trying to sustain its programming despite budget cutbacks following the Georgia Department of Natural Resources' restructuring of its state parks and historic sites. Implemented July 1, 2009, the plan was in response to a 24 percent forecasted loss of revenue and about a 39 percent decrease in state appropriations. Along with looking into the privatization of lodges and golf courses, other reorganization steps included cutting 12 percent of the system's labor force and utilizing furloughs one day each month, diminishing the services at five state parks and reducing operations at 12 historic sites.
Along with downsizing personnel, the Etowah Indian Mounds' operating hours initially were reduced from six days a week to three. Now open Wednesday to Saturday, volunteers are assisting the venue's staff, enabling guided tours to be conducted for school groups Wednesday through Friday.
"We're getting volunteer support and Friends of Etowah support," Hadley said about the scheduled programs on Saturdays. "That way if we've got one staff member here, then the volunteers and Friends of Etowah [members] will enable us to be able to present a program. If we've just got one staff [member], then all we can do is run the cash register, answer the phones. So a lot of the programs will be volunteer and Friends of Etowah supported."
For more information about the upcoming Saturday programs, call 770-387-3747. Admission will be $5 for adults and $3.50 for youth.