Visitors help celebrate state's Native American heritage
by Carly Grady
Mar 17, 2013 | 2426 views | 0 0 comments | 31 31 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Angelina Christ shows off her blowgun skills as the dart can be seen flying out the end of the blowgun at the Etowah Indian Mounds Historic Site, where visitors celebrated Native American heritage, learning about prehistoric, Creek and Cherokee Indians of north Georgia. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
Angelina Christ shows off her blowgun skills as the dart can be seen flying out the end of the blowgun at the Etowah Indian Mounds Historic Site, where visitors celebrated Native American heritage, learning about prehistoric, Creek and Cherokee Indians of north Georgia. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
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Visitors at the Etowah Indian Mounds celebrated Georgia’s Native American heritage on Saturday, learning firsthand how the natives used blowguns and the chunky stone to help build survival skills. Several other events took place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. that were designed to teach visitors how their heritage has been influenced by the Native American culture.

“The blowgun is a hunting technique that was used here, by the Cherokees and probably the Muscogee,” said Keith Bailey, President of Friends of Etowah Indian Mounds Historic Site. “As far as I know, those were the only two native tribes, in the Southeast that were known, historically, to have used the blowgun. Other than that, it’s a South American and Mediterranean thing.

“Chunky stone is also a hunting skill. It was a game that [was] played different in different Native American locations. It was a really important game in the Mississippian period. They usually have a stone, approximately the size of a hockey puck, some of them will have holes all the way through them like a donut. But the basic idea is that you roll it and all the Native Americans would throw their spear, trying to hit [the stone]. It was to show off their hunting or even war techniques; it was basically their way of doing a bragging rights.”

Children lined up to test out their blowgun and chunky stone skills, finding the hunting techniques harder than expected. That did not discourage one young lady, Angelina Christ, who was attending the event with her grandfather, John Marrow, a former history teacher who described the event as “real informative and very well done.”

“I think all history is important to know because it tells about us today from earlier times,” said Marrow. “I just want to give [my granddaughter] an appreciation of history because I don’t think it’s taught in school, to any extent, today. Kids today don’t know much about anything. I used to teach history and I was a soldier so I know something about the lack of emphasis on history. So I think it’s important for children to know history.”

The goal for the Saturday event was “to learn how your heritage has been influenced by Native American cultures.” According to Bailey, food is a big part of our heritage and some children are unaware that not long ago people had to hunt and grow their own food.

“We have some school kids, especially first and second graders, that come from inner city ... they don’t realize hamburgers come from cow ... they’re literally not exposed to [the fact that] up until 40 years ago, people hunted their food or grew their food,” said Bailey. “So it’s really important that they know where we come from so that we don’t lose, I guess, their heritage. There’s coming a point that other than people growing their home gardens, flower beds and stuff [that we] literally [won’t] know where our own food comes from.”

The Etowah Indian Mounds were home to several thousand Native Americans from 1000 A.D. to 1550 A.D., according to gastateparks.org. The 54-acre site includes six earthen mounds, a plaza, village site, borrow pits and a defense ditch.

“The biggest mound, that’s where the chief lived,” said Bailey. “He rose himself above everybody else that lived down low. He [and his family] had their own special mound that they were buried in. Everybody else buried their dead around the house. So literally the whole site is a giant graveyard; many people don’t realize that.

“There’s people that will come here and talk about what they remember doing here as a kid. You know people remember the Tumblins, when they owned this, growing watermelons and cotton on the top of the mound and then now, today, we cannot even allow a spear to be thrown [in a demonstration] and let it puncture the ground on the other side [of the defense ditch]. We have come around to the idea and acceptance that there’s still people that consider this a special place within their own culture and we try to respect that. In the past, we’d literally plow over other people’s past and didn’t respect it. It’s an interesting thing.”

The day also included a heritage workshop, tools and weapons demonstration, kids games, a lecture by Dr. Max White of Piedmont College speaking about Georgia’s Native American Heritage as well as a guided tour of the historic grounds.

Etowah Indian Mounds Historic Site is open Wednesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; for information on upcoming events, call 770-387-3747 or like Friends of Etowah Indian Mounds Historic Site on Facebook.