Written by Hunter Gentry
During the weekend of October 15 and 16, I was privileged to travel with Oxford’s Muscogee (Creek) Nation guests to Etowah State Park in Cartersville, Georgia. I felt an array of emotions, but was mostly honored that complete strangers would allow me to spend time and get an intimate glimpse into their culture. As I climbed into the bus, I was greeted with the smiling faces and the open arms of the Muscogees, especially by a lady named Etta. For an hour and a half, I listened and observed. While listening to two ladies speak, I learned the proper pronunciation of Etowah: “EH-DO-WAH.”
As we approached the site, I could not help but feel anxious. The park included a fifty-four acre compound composed of five earthen mounds and a central plaza with a mound over sixty feet above the ancient site. It has been suggested that the Native Americans at this site were closely related to the Native Americans at Choccolocco Park.
During our time at the park, we toured the museum that included artifacts that had been excavated from the mound and plaza sites. The western portion of the property included a creek that immediately reminded me of our own at Choccolocco Park. The museum included two statues, one a male and the other a female, which were found on the site. The most fascinating aspect of the one-hundred twenty-five pound effigies is that they were both hand carved from solid pieces of marble and contained some original pigments that were applied many centuries ago.
After spending a few hours exploring the grounds at the park, we enjoyed lunch together and journeyed back to Oxford.
Over the past few months leading to the Choccolocco Park opening, I have learned much about the people that inhabited the lands in the Boiling Springs and Friendship communities of Oxford. Natives have called Choccolocco Park and surrounding area home since about 8,000 BC, known today as the Archaic Period. Through the excavation and research completed in the past eight years, it is known that in about 100 BC work started on the mound at Choccolocco Park. Although the original mound was lost to time, archeologists were able to recreate the mound from historical accounts and research.
The Muscogee Nation, commonly known as the Creek Nation, organized themselves into a confederation in about 1730 AD for the purpose of negotiating with new arriving European settlers. At that time, most of the Muscogee population was split geographically into two areas: Upper Creeks and Lower Creeks. The Upper Creeks lived along the Coosa and Tallapoosa Rivers, while the Lower Creeks lived along the Chatahootchee and Flint Rivers. These are the residents that many modern-day Muscogees can trace as their ancestors.
During the native removal period of the 1830s, four chiefs, Selocta Chinabee, Menawa, Opotheleyahola, and William McIntosh governed the natives of the Muscogee lands. The most fascinating aspect of the ceremony was listening to one of the Muscogee speakers address the crowd in the ancient Muscogee language. I am grateful that our great city and the Muscogee people have worked closely to create such a marvelous park that can be enjoyed for generations to come.
“Hvtvm Cehecares” was the last thing that I was greeted with before leaving Choccolocco Park. Trying to recite the words back and forth in my head, I finally mustered the courage to politely ask what it meant. “I will see you again,” she kindly said with a smile on her face.