Track Rock Gap – 2012 . . . when the U. S. Forest Service took bureaucratic politics to the level of insanity

The craziness that swirled around a then little known archaeological zone in the Georgia Mountains, covering a half square mile (130 hectares) had nothing to do with partisan politics and everything to do with a federal agency and a profession that had become neurotically dysfunctional There was something that the USFS bureaucrats, the Cherokee tribal bureaucrats, the National Security Agency contract employees, the Georgia archaeologists and the University of Georgia anthropology professors had in common . . . they knew absolutely nothing about the subject! Literally, only a couple of them had actually seen the stone ruins at Track Rock Gap.

The primary archaeologist spokesman, a South African, was a supporter of the Apartheid Regime. He was a former intelligence asset for the National Security Agency in Africa, who then worked for the NSA in Atlanta and Augusta. He had never been in Mexico or worked on a Creek town site. His back up was actually a wildlife biologist, who had spent most of his adult life out west, studying elks and bison. None of the Cherokees, archaeologists and anthropologists involved even knew who the Itza Mayas were, whereas I am part Itza Maya and even spent time among them.

Track Rock Gap . . . 10 years later – Part Two

by Richard L. Thornton, Architect and City Planner

Keep in mind that I never intended to be involved with any research related to the Mayas or any of the other topics now seen in the The Americas Revealed, other the Early American Architecture. I merely posted an article on the Track Rock ruins in my National Architecture column on December 21, 2011, hoping that some universities would see it and then start archaeological investigations of the massive archaeological zone. The only reason that I dived in almost full time into the study of Georgia’s ancient past was that US Forest Service officials and Georgia archaeologists were slandering me professionally in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper. The Americas Revealed was developed several years after the Track Rock controversy.

Life can stranger than fiction

Shortly after the startup of the US Forest Service’s “Maya-Myth-Busting-In-The-Mountains” in March 2012, the email address that I used while president of the Georgia Chapter of the Trail of Tears Association was added to their mailing list. On the few occasions, when I was asked direct questions, which I had to answer, I used the moniker, “Mountain Lion” and mixed in some Cherokee words in the text like any good wannabe Cherokee.

A considerable number of the young women, who attended occult rituals at our farms in North Carolina and Virginia were US Forest Service employees. My former wife called it a “sisterhood,” but it was something far more sinister than a professional sorority. I was supposed to leave the farm before and during their rituals, but I would sometimes plant tape recorders or sneak around through the woods to watch the rituals with binoculars. They wore black robes and black hats. They placed candles in circles then chanted strange words and performed ritualistic dances.

These neurotic women hated both other women, who achieved respect through their own merit, and men with personal integrity. Novitiates must break up a marriage by seducing and ruining the husband, in order to be fully initiated. This is described in my online book, The Shenandoah Chronicles.

Their primary objective, however, is for women to gain total control of our society, while men became servants and breeding stock. That’s why my ex-wife would mockingly call me “a stupid plow mule, who no other woman would have.” Once a sister rose to administrative status in a government agency, she would get rid of undesirable male and female employees, so they could be replaced by members of the sisterhood.

Well, several of these women from the farm rituals began showing up on the email exchanges. They were administrators at the state and regional level of the USFS. One was director of the USFS office in a state other than Georgia. She even contacted me to find out if Richard Thornton, whom everybody in the USFS didn’t know, but now hated, was a member of Georgia Trail of Tears Association.

Most of the emails were generated by the public relations personnel at the USFS regional, state and Gainesville offices. They knew nothing about the Creek Indians, the Track Rock archaeological site, Maya Civilization or me, professionally . . . but they hated me with a passion. Their hatred grew through the remainder of 2012. They painted me as a dangerous, right wing anti-government terrorist and a danger to the national forests everywhere. They obviously had no clue that I was being supported financially by former National Park Service Director Roger Kennedy, when I stumbled upon the Track Rock site and once upon a time had been offered the position of Architect of the National Capitol . . . but my estranged wife didn’t give me the letter.

They were so strung out by the Track Rock thing that they did not pay attention to who was receiving reply messages with multiple addressees. Eventually I was being forwarded something akin to Instant Messaging or texting. The little messages read like gossipy notes passed between 15 year old girls in a high school algebra class.

A couple of days before the premier of America Unearthed, the Athens (GA) Banner Herald ran an interesting article about the Sandy Creek Park Terrace Complex, six miles NE of Athens. It had one sentence, mentioning the Track Rock Terrace Complex . . . stating that the stone walls looked similar. There was no mention of the Mayas, my name or the forthcoming TV program.

Early the next morning, the PR lady at the Gainesville, GA USFS office sent a nasty email to the Banner-Herald’s Online Edition Editor, which accused the editor of distorting history. She imperially demanded that the newspaper remove the article from their electronic edition and place a retraction in the next printed edition. This, of course, was totally inappropriate behavior for a federal government employee and possibly in violation of the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution.

The walls at Sandy Creek Terrace Complex are in much better condition than those at Track Rock Gap. The difference is that the US Forest Service allowed bulldozers and logging equipment to run over the walls at Track Rock Gap, while this property stayed in private ownership . . . owners who loved the walls.

The ultimate federal boondoggle

Athens, GA – December 2012 – A series of budget cuts during the Bush and early Obama Administrations had left the US Forest Service with inadequate funds to maintain the public, gravel-paved roads in the Chattahoochee National Forest. The formerly popular Nimblewill Creek campground near Dahlonega, GA, where I spent my first night of being homeless on December 24-25, 2009 was now was totally inaccessible due to washed out roads. Yet the Atlanta and Gainesville offices of the USFS continued to send its white collar personnel to conference gambits in other parts of the nation and sponsor an enormously expensive conference of its own in regard to a topic, which it had no constitutional jurisdiction.

Beginning on December 17, 2012, your tax money funded a week long conference at the University of Georgia’s Department of Anthropology to condemn the yet unseen premier of “America Unearthed” on the History Channel on December 21. (Yes, really!) Invited to the conferences with all travel, motel and food costs covered were representatives of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, the Kituwah Band of Cherokees in Oklahoma, the Muscogee-Creek Nation of Oklahoma and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina.

  • No Native Americans living in Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina or Florida were invited to the Conference. The region includes four federally-recognized tribes, 24 state-recognized tribes and at least a half million Native American descendants. The Itsate-speaking Creeks, Seminoles and Miccosukees in Florida and Georgia are the direct descendants of the people who built the 24+ terrace complexes in Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina.
  • No Mayas living in Georgia were invited. Georgia now has over 1,000,000 Latin American residents, the majority of whom are Indians from southern Mexico and Central America. No Mexican archaeologists were invited.

Extreme details of the conference were published in the Atlanta Journal Constitution by Mike Torpy, without any fact-checking or questioning of the appropriateness of the USFS funding a $100,000+ conference to criticize a TV program that had not been broadcast. That won’t happen again.

In 2017, the future Publisher of the AJC, Jim Cox, was a guest at my former cabin near Amicalola Falls. Now that was a “trip.” At the time, he was worth about $6.5 billion and I was worth about $100 and had a big hole in the floor of my only bathroom. LOL

This Itza Maya terrace complex that I studied on my fellowship, was almost identical to the one at Track Rock, except that it was being actively cultivated. Just like at Track Rock Gap, there were ruins of an acropolis that had once contained temples, plazas and houses. Only one extended family occupied the complex, when this color slide was made.

The Sounds of Silence

Those few people in Maya-Myth-Busting-In-The-Mountains, who actually watched America Unearthed realized that they had made fools of themselves. I received no more emails from the participants. The PR ladies at the US Forest Service shifted into damage control . . . trying their best to conceal the lies and false history, the public had been told.

Johannes Loubser had one more speech to make . . . at the January 2013 meeting of the Atlanta Historical Society, where he had expected to receive adulations for being right. Apparently, he didn’t watch the premier of America Unearthed either. He gave the same speech that he gave at the Maya-Myth-Busting conference in December. The Atlantans didn’t buy it and reminded him that the program had proved that Mayas came to Georgia often for hundreds of years. Loubser became confused.

Exactly forty years earlier, I gave a slide lecture to the Atlanta Archaeological Society on my travels through the Maya Country on the Barrett Fellowship. It ended with a standing ovation. Guess, everyone in Georgia had forgotten that evening.

Details of the conference . . . archaeologists living in denial

Initially, representatives of the Georgia Council of Professional Archaeologists announced that they had unanimously adopted the two USFS archaeological reports, which stated that the Track Rock petroglyphs were graffiti by bored Cherokee hunters . . . the cairns were burial markers for Great Cherokee chiefs . . . and the terraces were platforms for Cherokees to dance sacred dances.

Johannes Loubser’s speeches primarily railed against a white man, who was stealing the history of the Cherokees. The un-named white man was of course, me . . . descendant of several Creek mikkos, a architectural history researcher for five years for the Muscogee-Creek Nation and myself, architect of Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial. Loubser’s pronouncement was endorsed by the three Cherokee tribes in joint press release. No one thought it odd, that a Dutch Jew, whose family had lived in South Africa for many years, would make such a statement.

Loubser then railed against me calling the huge settlement a town site. He called the half square mile site a ceremonial center and denied that the agricultural terraces were used for terraces.

Loubser then railed on about me saying that the Mayas died out. I never said such a thing. As you can see in my videos about the fellowship in Mexico on the People of One Fire Youtube Channel, I spent considerable time among the Mayas. My fellowship coordinator, Dr. Roman Pina-Chan, who was half Maya, became a father figure to me. The Mayas liked me and I liked them. I even knew two mixed-blood Maya women, biblically.

In continuing on his theme that I knew nothing about Mexico, Loubser seemed to be totally unaware how much time I had spent down there. There are probably very few people in this planet, who have studied in person as many Mesoamerican city and town sites as I have.

Cherokee Directors of Tribal Cultural Heritage agencies at the USFS conference, issued a press release stating that a white man in Georgia was trying to steal the Cherokee’s heritage. It was obviously a case of the white pots calling the Native American bowl white. LOL See below:

Since the tribal bureaucrats obviously knew nothing about the Mayas, on the left is a young Highland Maya and on the right is a closeup of me running a track meet at a age 17. I think that I am part white. I just can’t prove it!

The joint Cherokee and Creek representatives then endorsed a joint press release. which had earlier been written and distributed by the Museum of the Cherokee Indian in Cherokee, NC.

The most obvious flaw in this white man’s very dubious theories is that the Maya people did not “die out” as he claims, and relocate to Georgia.  More than four million Mayan people live in central America and continue to speak their ancestral Mayan language. Georgia archaeologists tell us that Mr. Thornton has never been in Mexico, knows nothing about the Mayas, never been near a Maya and wouldn’t know a Maya, if he saw one. 

Thornton claims to be Creek, but the Muscogee Nation and Poarch Creek Nation, the two federally-recognized Creek tribes, do not recognize him.  Both they and they and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians have serious concerns about his work.

Facts – In 2003, six members of the MCN National Council asked me to drop conventional architecture work and devote five years of my career to the study of my own heritage. The Muscogee-Creek Nation paid me handsomely for over a dozen of research projects over a five year period. I am currently on the tribal council of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe and Director of its Cultural Resources Preservation programs. My selection to be the Architect of Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial along with Creek sculptor, Dan Brook, was endorsed by the Muscogee-Creek Nation.

In addition to erroneous details, his work shows a lack of understanding of the broad principles and findings of the fields of archaeology, anthropology, and history. He does not do even the basics of fact-checking. None of his amateurish writings accurately reflect Cherokee history and pre-history in north Georgia.  Richard Thornton’s work is not creditable regarding the Maya, Creeks or the Cherokees.  The Cherokee Nation and Muscogee-Creek Nation urge that you ignore whatever he says.

Never been in Mexico? Can you tell which mixed-blood Maya archaeologist really, really likes mixed-blood Georgia Creek architects? No, I did not pay Alejandra to sneak a hand around my neck. LOL

Of course, the MCN National Council had no say in this manifesto. It was the mischief of low-ranking bureaucrats. One of the Creek delegates was fired, when he got home. Virtually all newspaper editors instantly recognized it as a group of nobodies trying to appear important. In fact, I don’t know any newspaper that printed the press release other than the AJC, plusCherokee and Creek tribal newspapers.

No one likes to be slandered, but I also knew what was going to be broadcast that Saturday night on the History Channel. One of Mexico’s most respected archaeologists and the Director of Archaeology at Chichen Itza would say, “Did Mayas settle in Georgia and Florida? It is a fact, not a theory. Recently, we have translated Maya writing that say that chiefs from Georgia and Florida visited Chichen Itza!” Our Native American visitors from Oklahoma and North Carolina had made fools of themselves.

This is a screen shot of an official US Forest Service website. None of the out-of-state Native Americans in the photo were physically able to climb up to the ruins. so they had their photo made in front of the sign. Yet, ten years ago this week, they adopted a joint resolution, written by the USFS Public Relations personnel, which stated that “the Cherokees and Muskogee-Creeks jointly built the structures at Track Rock Gap.” Track Rock Gap was not in Cherokee territory until 1785 and no Muskogee-speaking branches of the Creek People ever lived in the Georgia Mountains.

Track Rock Gap is located in the Chattahoochee National Forest near Blairsville, GA. I live exactly one mile (1.6 km) from the headwaters of the Chattahoochee River. Perhaps the most extraordinarily absurb aspect of the US Forest Service’s “Maya Myth-Busting in the Mountains” program in 2012 was that Chattahoochee is the Anglicization of the Itza Maya words. Cha’ta Hawche, which mean “Ancient carved stone – shallow river.” A couple of years ago a Guatemalan Maya, living near me, told me that the words mean the same in his Maya language, too!

After being not fit enough to visit the archaeological zone for which they were holding a five day conference, the out-of-state Native American delegation was then bused to a restaurant in Gainesville, GA where they were treated to a feast. At the end of the banquet, the US Forest Service’s guests held a brief meeting where they formerly endorsed the joint statement, claiming that the North Carolina Cherokees and Muskogee Creeks jointly built and occupied the Track Rock ruins..

Showtime!

Due to political pressure, most of the TV cable services in northern Georgia, where Track Rock Gap, is located, blacked out the prime time premier of America Unearthed on Friday, December 21, 2012. I did see the program because I didn’t own a TV. Reporters began calling me the next day with questions about the program and I couldn’t answer them. The film company had promised to give me a CD of the premier, but it did not arrive for another week.

Most Georgians did not know about or see the premier of America Unearthed until seven years later, when it was purchased by the Travel Channel then broadcast repeatedly, because of its popularity. The History Channel then posted the show on Youtube. It has become the most watched program ever broadcast by the H2 History Channel.

I was the only person on the program, not paid, even though the entire program, including the Maya Blue thing, was based on a book that I had published in April 2012. The film company promised to promote my book in lieu of paying me but never mentioned the book at all. They also cut out about 95% of my interview, which told you that I was a Creek Indian, that I was also part Maya . . . that I had received a fellowship to study Mesoamerican civilizations in Mexico, had eight years of university education and had taught the subject at Georgia Tech.

I have never met any Georgia archaeologist, who admits to watching the program in the past ten years. So to this day, they don’t know that University of Minnesota scientists found a 100% match between a Georgia mineral and Maya Blue. They ask where I heard that. They also don’t know that Mexican archaeologists are taught in the university that the Ceremonial Mound Culture in the Southeastern United States was kicked off by Mesoamerican commoners, who immigrated northward . Yes, they are THAT weird.

More weird facts

Alfonso Morales looks older than me in the TV program, but actually, he was about 14 years younger. I say was, because I just sadly learned that he died from bacterial cellulitis in his legs on September 22, 2022.

Alfonso waited on my table when I visited Palenque, while on the Barrett Fellowship. His father, Moise, was the guide for Linda Schele, her husband, David, and I. Moise and his Canadian wife ran the Palenque Inn, which back then was more or less a youth hostel. His mother was an incredible cook.

Her first visit to Palenque inspired her so much that Linda Schele embarked on a career in anthropology. She was a key member of the team that finally translated the Maya writing system.

My eternal French soulmate, Vivi, visited Palenque several years after me. She is also 14 years younger than me. Alfonso was home on summer vacation from the University of Texas. Vivi had a crush on him. Having just graduated with honors from the Sorbonne with a degree in Early European History, Vivi seriously considered enrolling at the University of Texas to also become an archaeologist. However, she received a telegram that a song which she had recorded at age 18 was now a top 10 hit in Europe. She raced back to France.

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