Native American Heritage Month
by Richard L. Thornton, Architect and City Planner
A federal law enforcement investigator cynically asked me this question, immediately after he made contact with me. I told him that it was the Creek Spiritual Path . . . a totally unpredictable chain of events and chance encounters with certain people through the years. He had no clue what I was saying.
The Spiritual Path can be a rocky path
A year ago, a brief letter sent by a lost love of the past, living in France, triggered a period of retrospection in my life. My French soulmate could not understand how I was changed from being a successful, award-wining Architect in Virginia, who was friends with several nationally famous archaeologists and offered the position of Architect of the National Capitol . . . to being hated by contemporary archaeologists in Georgia and for over 20 years being the target of incessant contempt and harassment by several “law enforcement” agencies in northern Georgia? Once she learned that I had not been murdered in 1993, she expected me to be a wealthy, famous architect, living on a large farm and having many children. (Actually, I do have a lot of children via a fertility clinic. LOL) The result of this retrospection was a book, The Shenandoah Chronicles.
In writing the last chapter of the book, I described the horrific events following the inauguration of President George W. Bush. Almost immediately, the Asst. US District Attorney in the Knoxville, TN office was fired. In quick succession most of the “protected federal witnesses and intelligence assets” under his oversight, were murdered.
We are convinced that all of the murders of honest Federal law enforcement officers were by employees of the government. Most of the civilian witnesses were probably killed by professional hitmen or hitwomen, hired by federal or state government employees. The only reason I, as an intelligence asset in a major DOJ investigation, was alive was that when a couple of assassins from Sao Paolo, Brazil were stalking me, I attacked them first.
I realized that no one had ever said that I was no longer in the federal protection program. The Bush Administration merely stopped protecting me and somebody assumed that I soon would no longer “be a problem.” A subtle check on the situation revealed from the new Biden Administration that yes, once in the program, someone like you should be protected by the Justice Department, not harassed by any law enforcement officers at any level. However, in the Byzantine tradition of the Justice Dept. they first treated me like a suspect rather than a friend. They dispatched an agent, posing as a Midwestern university anthropology professor, to “check me out.” They also questioned neighbors.
The man apparently had been prejudiced by a briefing from someone in the DOJ hierarchy in Georgia, because he arrived at our meeting, assuming that I was a “nutcase,” who knew nothing about anthropology. He seemed to have an academic background in anthropology, but I had already “checked him out” and determined that he was not on the faculty of the university, where he said he taught.
He quickly learned that I knew much more about Southeastern and Mesoamerican anthropology than he did. So, he switched to the line of questioning that criminal justice personnel are taught to use in order to discredit a witness.
The meeting ended abruptly with him grinning as I told how I was at the Governor’s Mansion, socializing with Jimmy Carter in February 1973, when a young, recently elected Senator from Delaware, named Joe Biden, dropped by to join us and ask Jimmy, on behalf of the Democratic National Committee, to run for President. The low level investigator thought that he now had proof that I was delusional, but . . . Oops! That really happened!
About three weeks later, a woman from Washington, DC, much higher up in the pecking order, showed up on the scene – posing as a tourist and meeting me outside my own county. Since my car was bugged, they had to pick me up in one of their cars.
She was a specialist in Civil Rights violations and domestic terrorism. She took me very seriously – especially after what went on in Georgia during and after the January 6 attack on the National Capitol. They had to find someone like her with a higher security clearance, to access what actually happened in Virginia three decades ago.
First thing she said . . . while shaking her head, smiling and looking at the background report on me . . . “faking a fake affair . . . um, um . . . it’s shame you didn’t marry that pretty FBI agent and become the dynamic duo. We never could find out what happened to her in 2006 . . . sorry. Is this true that you got into a sleeping bag under a foot of snow then let a squad of rogue Army Rangers walk on top of you, in order to catch them?”
I responded, “Yep . . . young men do crazy things when they are simultaneously in love with a beautiful brunette French Surete’ agent and a beautiful blonde FBI agent.”
I told her that since September of the year 2000 (just after the Knoxville Asst. DA was fired) Republican sheriffs, local/state law enforcement and Republican district attorneys in Pickens, Lumpkin, Habersham and White Counties had spent vast sums of money and staff time to try to find some crime to charge me with. Beginning in September 2000, local and state cops in Pickens County began calling any woman I dated to tell her that I was either a serial killer, woman-beater, gay male prostitute or sexual predator of children. Very few of the women believed the crooked cops, but they didn’t want to be in a situation, where hooligans wearing badges were listening to their phone conversations or eavesdropping on their emails.
After I moved to Dahlonega, the University of North Georgia Criminal Justice Department literally used me as a criminal suspect in class assignments in which students trailed me with apps in their Smart Phones. I suppose the students had also illegally placed the tracking devices in my car that they were following. In midday, October 2013 at least three dozen GBI SWAT team members surrounded a restaurant in Downtown Dahlonega, where my co-author, Marilyn Rae and I were dining. They pointed assault rifles and semi-automatic pistols at us.
Most recently, three UNG Criminal Justice students had been hired by police to pose as fulltime employee “decoys” at a grocery store in Helen, GA. The Homeland Security officer didn’t believe me, but accompanied me on a shopping trip to Helen.
I think that I would have gone to sleep in a cave in 2000 like Rip Van Winkle, if I had known what the next two decades would be like.
Low and behold . . . just as we arrived at the grocery store’s parking lot, one of the University of North Georgia students, raced out of the store and westward along the sidewalk, to meet with a Helen, GA cop parked on the side . . . where he thought neither the Homeland Security Agent nor I could see him. As we stepped out of our cars, she said, “My gosh Richard, we drove over five miles in two counties to get here. That means that multiple law enforcement agencies have you under 24/7 electronic surveillance. You were right.” To avoid suspicion, several of her associates accompanied me on some more trips to Helen, where they observed further amateurish entrapment efforts by the UNG students.
She accompanied me to a Dollar General in my neighborhood. A young man, placed by the Habersham Sheriff’s Department . . . right in front of her . . . asked me if he could come visit me in my house. We went to a farmer’s market nearby and a 17 year old girl, pretending to be a college student, (on behalf of the same law enforcement agency), came up to me to tell me that she planned to study anthropology in graduate school and wanted to meet with me privately to learn about the Indians in Georgia. I gave her two anthropology books to read instead Then, a counter-insurgency officer accompanied me to a historic site in White County. The cops, who have tapped my phone for over two decades, then dispatched a father with a young daughter . . . in hope that I would do something weird to the little girl.
After all these bizarre events, my female Homeland Security handler laughingly commented that I was the most extraordinary non-criminal that she had ever known . . . heterosexual predator of college coeds, homosexual predator of teenage boys and perverted-sexual predator of four-year-old kids. It would be funny, except I was not the primary crime victim and the criminals were all wearing badges.
She said that what was odd is that I have never been active politically. Their division constantly investigates cases like mine, where the crimes are committed by white cops on Black or Latino Civil Rights activists. She added, “We have some people embedded in these particular agencies because of their ties to domestic terrorists. We know that the pressure to harass you is coming from wealthy Republicans in Southern Baptist churches. They are constantly putting pressure on the elected District Attorneys and Sheriffs. The only thing we can figure is that these wealthy Republicans are perverts or pretend-to-be Southern Baptists, who are really Satanists. They are obsessed with destroying you, because you want no part of everything they represent.”
“These problems you are having here with the law enforcement could be prosecuted as political terrorism. We know for a fact that the illegal foreclosure and eviction on Christmas Eve in Jasper, GA was an act of political terrorism. They wanted to use you as an example to what happens to people, who are free thinkers. Unfortunately, it is too late to prosecute anyone there, but the realtor, who illegally billed FannieMae for work, she didn’t do.”
I think I would have gone to sleep in a cave like Rip Van Winkle in 2000, if I had known what the next two decades would be like.
History of the Creek Spiritual Path
Now, for the long answer to man’s question. The Creek People’s monotheistic beliefs evolved independently from the old religion in Teotihuacan, which worshiped an invisible and benevolent Sun Goddess . . . among other lesser deities. In the earliest proto-Creek towns, such as at Ocmulgee National Historic Park, one can see the sites of temples to the Sun Goddess, plus lesser deities such as the Moon God, Corn Goddess, Sky Serpent God, Mortuary Goddess and Wind God (Kukulkan/Quetzalcoatl). However, by 1400 with the rise of the Kingdom of Apalache (Lamar Culture), there is just one temple to Amana the Sun Goddess.
At that time, they believed that the home of Amana was in southern Mexico and Central America. . . where Painted Bunting birds spent the winter months. This was also where most branches of the Creek Confederacy originated. Most Apalache temples during that era cared for large flocks of Painted Buntings during the summer months. The mountaintop or hilltop temples held services during early autumn in which Creek families would “give” prayers to the Painted Buntings, prior to their flight to Mexico.
Explorer Richard Brigstock describer Amana in 1653 as being an invisible, universal deity for all humans, who created the universe and like any good mother, nurtured the humans, who worshiped her. It was believed that people, who chose a spiritual path, rather than pursuit of power and wealth, would be guided and forewarned of danger by grandparent spirits (angels.) These grandparent spirits would also intervene against evil people, making them do stupid things that would bring about their own destruction.
By this time Amana had been complete equated to YHWH (God) in Judeo-Christian religion. In late 1565, the High King of Apalache allowed six survivors of the Fort Caroline massacre to settle in his nation, providing that they marry Creek gals. Once they saw how pretty Creek women were, that was not a problem! LOL The refugees were French Protestants. Eventually, the royal family was converted to Protestant Christianity. French Protestants had a warm friendship with Sephardic Jews and so the king also began allowing Jewish refugees to settle in their nation. Since the Apalache (Creek) state religion already believed that Amana (God) created special people on Earth to teach and help humanity, it was quite natural for them to incorporate the original form of Christianity.
In 1737, the Rev. Charles Wesley (later founder of the Methodist Church) preached to my ancestors at the Creek town of Palachikora on the Savannah River. Afterword, my ancestors asked him, “Why are you here? We believe the same things that you do. Only, we prefer to worship in the open air.” Years later, open air church services would be the hallmark of the Rev. Wesley’s ministry.
Timeline of my Spiritual Path
1966 – The Rev. Paul Harwell escorted teens of Native American heritage in my church, Red Oak United Methodist, on a tour of Creek heritage sites. Paul had worked at an archaeological site in Peru, while an undergraduate student. I still remember him pointing to a skeleton of a king at Etowah Mounds and saying, “Richard, this could be one of your ancestors.” In that group was high school classmate, Susan Muse. Remember that name!
Summer 1967 – The Rev. Paul Harwell invited me to accompany him and his two lovely teenage daughters on a visit to the newly discovered 9FU14 archaeological site near Six Flags Over Georgia.
February 1969 – While enrolled in Georgia Tech’s School of Architecture, I applied for a temp job . . . preparing a ink on mylar plastic site plan of the 9Fu14 archaeological site near Six Flags over Georgia. The client was the famous archaeologist of Ocmulgee Mounds, Arthur Kelly. Dr. Kelly taught at the University of Georgia. As a convenience for me, he suggested that I meet him at the Georgia State University Department of Anthropology in Downtown Atlanta. While I was there, Dr. Kelly showed some GSU professors artifacts that he had found on the Chattahoochee River near the attapulgite mines, which seemed to be either made in southern Mexico or copies of southern Mexican artifacts. Remember the word, attapulgite!
Spring 1969 – I visited the 9FU14 site several times to do my drawings. On one visit, I made friends with popular AJC columnist John S. Pennington. He grew up with and was a friend of Jimmy Carter. John specialized in articles on architecture, landscaping, archaeology and history. John published an article about Dr. Kelly finding Mesoamerican style artifacts at several sites along the Chattahoochee River.
June 1969 – Dr. Kelly asked me me to check out reports that Utoy Creek had flooded and exposed a burial mound. I took along Susan Muse and made it a date. It was a burial mound. However, we also observed an employee of Dr. Kelly planting a stolen artifact in the mound at 9FU14. The next day, Monday, he claimed to have found proof in the mound that 9FU14 was the oldest known agricultural village. Pennington published an article on Tuesday, promoting the discovery. Later that week, his fellow professors tried to frame Kelly for stealing the artifact and planting it in the mound. Collaborating testimony by Susan and I cleared Dr. Kelly. Somebody high up in law enforcement then scuttled the investigation so that two graduate students, who stole the stone hoe, and the professors who planned the frameup would not be arrested. The two students later became UGA professors and prominent archaeologists in the state. Crime pays!
December 1969 – Dr. Kelly endorsed my proposal for the first Barrett Fellowship at Georgia Tech. I was selected so would spend the summer, studying in Mexico. Dr. Kelly’s endorsement had a lot to do with that decision.
Spring 1970 – Archaeologist Lewis Larson was teaching an Introductory Anthropology class at Georgia Tech. Larson and Kelly were the principal archaeologists at the famous 1955-57 excavations of Etowah Mounds. He was not used to the questioning intellect of Georgia Tech students. At that time, the orthodoxy was that the first villages, mounds, pottery and agriculture was in eastern Ohio. The first large town, large mounds and corn cultivation was Illinois.
I told Dr. Larson that is was ludicrous to think that squash, bean and corn seeds could jump 2,200 miles from Central Mexico to eastern Ohio without being carried by human hands. He said that no matter what I speculated from an uneducated mind, that was the only answer that would enable us to pass the final exam. However, deep in his heart, knowing I was right, he didn’t ask that question on the exam.
April 1970 – The man selected to head the first Mexican Consulate in Atlanta was a Licensed Architect and a graduate of Georgia Tech. He arranged for me to be an Official Guest of the Department of Cultural Relations, plus have two international famous archaeologists as my fellowship coordinators in Mexico . . . Drs. Román Piña-Chan and Ignacio Bernal.
June 21, 1970 – Flew to Mexico on the Creek New Year’s Day . . . but I did not realize that until reading my journal five decades later. It was an incredible experience, which is best covered by other articles and Youtube videos.
July 6, 1970 – After Dr. Piña-Chan gave me a tour of all six levels of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, I gave him two books on the archaeology of the Southeastern Indians. He was particular fixated on Etowah Mounds and Moundville, Alabama. He first asked me why the Indians in Georgia made marble statues of Maya slaves. Later he showed me illustrations on his famous book on the Toltecs. The decorative bands and symbols on the buildings of their capital, Tula, were identical to the arty of Moundville!
Mid-August, 1970 – While at the Maya city of Palenque, I buddied up with a couple, named David and Linda from the University of South Alabama in Mobile. David was an architecture professor. Linda was an art student. I did not write their last names in my journal, even though we kept running into each other at Maya sites all month. While walking around we stopped in the courtyard of the palace and chatted with an archaeologist, named George, who said he was from South Carolina.
July 1971 – Susan Muse’s father invited me to join his daughters on a visit to their family farm in western Georgia. Knowing that I had studied in Mexico the previous summer, he want to show me several stone cairns and what appeared to be agricultural terraces formed by field stone walls. I had no clue that I would be seeing these same structures in the Georgia Mountains exactly three decades later.
June 4, 1972 – On the day after graduating from Georgia Tech, I flew off to a job in Landskrona, Sweden. On the third day of work, my boss took me by boat to Ven Island, where my project site was located. Near the project site were petroglyph boulders filled with the engraved symbols that the Creek People consider sacred. I had no explanation, but never forgot those petroglyphs.
December 1980 – I spent two weeks in Tepotztlan, Morelos, Mexico. While hiking in the Sierra de Cobres Mountains, I encountered boulders engraved with concentric circles. They seemed out of place in Mexico, but at the time I did not realize that the same petroglyphs could be found in the Etowah River Valley of Georgia, County Kerry, Ireland and Dundee, Scotland.
Fall 1983 – George Stuart and a friend showed up at my farm in the Reems Creek Valley to take photographs for a book on the Appalachian Mountains. George said that he was a nature photographer at the National Geographic Society. George’s vacation home was over the mountain from our farm. In future visits to our farm, he dressed like a farmer and only discussed “down home” topics like farming, nature, cheese-making, vegetable gardens and the weather.
Fall 1986 – George Stuart and his wife, Gene, stopped by my farm to buy goat cheese. We invited them to help us pick apples and make cider. They stayed afterward to enjoy my barbecued ribs and Brunswick Stew.
While sitting in our front yard and enjoying the fall colors, I learned much more about the real George and Gene Stuart. George mentioned that Gene had taught school in Cartersville, GA and lived near Etowah Mounds. She became so interested in Etowah Mounds that she began working on a degree in Anthropology at the University of Georgia.
Gene then mentioned at as a teenager, George had worked at the famous archaeological dig at Etowah Mounds. I then blurted, “So George you know Arthur Kelly and Lew Larson?” George said “Yes, ” but it didn’t even dawn on him at that point that I would know them too.
Gene then announced that their son David was studying anthropology at Vanderbilt University and had just received a MacArthur Fellowship. Next year, he would be working with Linda Schele in a project to finally translate the Maya glyphs.
I asked if Linda was employed at the National Geographic Society. George said, “No, she is at the University of South Alabama. However, I first met her at Palenque in the summer of 1970. The next year, she came to our Palenque workshop.” Sixteen year old bells began to ring in my head.
“George, is Linda’s husband an architect named David?” He said yes.
I then asked him, if he had black hair and a mustache in 1970. He said yes!
I then asked him, if he remembered meeting a guy from Georgia Tech, who was with Linda and David. He said vaguely. It was at that point that George and Gene realized that I was not just a farmer, but an architect with extensive knowledge of Mexico and eight years of college. It was at the same time that I realized that George was a highly respected archaeologist, who had written a famous series of articles on Maya Civilization for National Geo in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. It was reading his articles in National Geo over and over again that made me want to see Mexico. The Spiritual Path of the Creeks can be exceedingly mysterious.
George Stuart persuaded me to move our farming operation and architecture practice to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. He then introduced me to his friends at National Geo, the National Park Service, the Smithsonian Institute and the Library of Congress. They became the core of my architecture clientele and the majority of my friends.
December 15, 1990 – Friends of George Stuart, who were historians at the Smithsonian Institute, invited me to a gala Christmas party for the senior staffs of the Smithsonian and National Geo. Other guests included the intelligentsia of Washington. As usual, my estranged wife went to a another party, where her paramour would be attending.
The main topic of conversation at the Smithsonian-National Geo Party was the publishing of Linda Schele’s book, A Forest of Kings. Linda Schele and David Stuart had indeed succeeded in “Cracking the Maya Code.” This became one of National Geo’s most popular TV programs. The director of the program and some of the writers were at that party.
This party is also where I saved Vivi’s life then we fell in love with each other. She was given a cocktail of drugs known to cause healthy people to become suicidal by a doctor, employed by her own government. She was about to commit suicide, when I showed her a little kindness.
I am sure that by this time, readers of the text message generation are getting tire of reading, so let it be said that the memories of that night and the six weeks in the summer of 1992, when Vivi and her daughter stayed on my Shenandoah Valley farm, have kept me going for the past twenty years. On August 27, 1992 a Black US Marshall told me that I would have been certainly killed by the Nazis in Virginia, if Vivi and her pretty little daughter had not been living with me. If you want to learn more, read The Shenandoah Chronicles.
Autumn 2006 – Dr. Deborah Clifton of LSU-Lafayette sent me an email. Deborah is a Creek-Choctaw anthropologist, who formerly lived in northern Georgia. She had found a place name on the Gulf Coast that was definitely Chontal Maya. The Chontal Maya built and sailed large sailing boats that were similar in construction and size to Viking longboats.
The place name was Amichel, which was the Hispanization of Am Ixchel, which means “Place of (the goddess) Ixchel.” Ixchel was the principal deity of the Chontal Maya. The name was specifically applied to Mobile Bay and then also to the coast between Pensacola Bay and Apalachicola Bay. She asked me if I could think of any town sites around Mobile that could be Chontal Maya.
I got to thinking. “You know Bottle Creek Mounds on a bayou of the Mobile River is identical to the Chontal Maya ports on the coast of Veracruz State. It just never crossed my mind.” The Creek Spiritual Path was hard at work that day.
I did some deeper thinking. “Deborah, you know I now remember George Stuart mentioning something about Amichel. The tip of the Yucatan Peninsula and the Tampico Bay area in Tamaulipas State were also called Amichel by the Spanish. George wanted to know if I knew what the word meant, because he couldn’t find it in a Spanish or Maya dictionary. Now I know it was Chontal Maya, which is a different language!”
I looked at a map of the Gulf of Mexico. Amichel at Mobile Bay, Alabama – Tampico Bay, Tamaulipas and the Maya port of Holchit, Yucatan form a perfect equilateral triangle. Sheezam!
March 1, 2012 – A film crew from the Travel Channel began filming the first TV program on the Track Rock Terrace Complex. Five miles away, the tortured body of Susan Muse simultaneously died from pancreatic cancer and her soul went to live with the Master of Life. Life is indeed stranger than fiction.
The Spiritual Path of the Creeks marches onward.