The Georgia Trail of Tears Association met in Rome on Saturday for their first meeting of the year at Chieftains Museum to talk about Native American history and to connect with their heritage.
There are five meetings a year which are free and open to the public, said Walter Knapp, vice president of the Georgia chapter of TOTA. Last year the organization focused on learning about one subject throughout all of their meetings, and they plan on doing the same this year.
Former Georgia Trail of Tears president and current Funk Heritage Museum Director Jeff Bishop gave Saturday’s historical presentation on the Creek Native Americans who will be the focus of the group’s study this year. Bishop was there to specifically talk about the Red Stick War, also known as the Creek war in the early 1800s. Several of the Creek Native Americans decided that they had enough of the new ways imposed on them by the newly formed U.S. government and decided to revolt against Americans and other Native Americans.
The story had local ties with Major Ridge, who resided by the Oostanaula River in the house that is now Chieftains Museum. Ridge was publicly against the radical Creek tribe and was nearly killed for speaking out against them. The new ways were good for Major Ridge, Bishop said. He had a plantation, slaves, orchards and ferries.
“He was fully invested in this way of life,” Bishop said. “He had a lot to lose.”
The Red Stick War spilled over into Alabama and was eventually ended by a combined effort of Cherokee, Creek and the Tennessee Volunteers led by Andrew Jackson, who would eventually become president and sign the Indian Removal Act.
After the presentation was over the TOTA members voted on an updated brochure of the Trail of Tears which will be distributed by the National Park Service. The group is not exclusively Rome-based, said Knapp, who is from Roswell.
A visitor to the meeting, Woodstock resident Betsy Ludlow, said she is trying to find out more of her family’s Cherokee heritage. She said she has traced family records to the Rome area but said the government did not keep records on Native Americans prior to 1920.
“I am still in the information-absorbing stage,” she said.
A California man who now lives in Georgia said he is part Shawnee and Cherokee, and calls himself a 21st century Native American. Green Eyes Walking said he feels more at home in Georgia and harbors no ill will against white people, although he understands there is a lot of bitterness felt by Native Americans.