American Indian Partners Work to Protect Track Rock Gap
The Track Rock Gap rock art and stone landscape sites on the Chattahoochee National Forest were created by Creek and Cherokee people beginning more than 1,000 years ago. The Forest Service works closely with Creek and Cherokee tribal governments to manage, protect and better understand these important, sacred ceremonial sites.
On December 19th, members of the Muscogee Creek Nation and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians gathered at Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests to publicly denounce recent claims that the Track Rock Gap features were created by people other than Creek and Cherokee ancestors. There is no archeological evidence of any connection to Mayan people or culture at the site. Archeological studies at the site definitively link its origins to Creek and Cherokee people, and clearly demonstrate that it was not an inhabited town site. Watch this video of the December 19th briefing to learn more from the Muscogee Creek Nation and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians about Track Rock Gap and the work to protect it. You can also read a transcript of the video.
Stone landscape sites occur throughout the region and are not unusual, but they should be respected and protected. One way the Forest Service and Tribal partners protect the very fragile, sensitive and sacred stone landscape is by not encouraging visitation or allowing commercial activities to take place there. Unauthorized, user-created trails leading to the remote site create erosion issues and increase the potential for vandalism and theft, for which there are severe criminal penalties. The nearby and easily accessed Track Rock Gap rock art site is open to visitors, displaying the fascinating story left in stone by the Creek and Cherokee for all to see and experience. For a wealth of information on the Track Rock Gap archeological site, including detailed information on origins, archeological studies, commonly asked questions, photos and other online resources, visit www.fs.usda.gov/goto/conf/trackrock.
"We know there is a fine balance in the mandates that the Forest Service has, and obligations to the general public, as well as obligations to these Federal laws, such as ARPA, and NEPA, and the National Historic Preservation Act, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. So we’re here to applaud the Forest Service efforts in the protection of these cultural sites and we would like to say that we look forward to being a continuing partner with our Federal partners here such as the Forest Service and we appreciate everything they are doing.
- Emman Spain
Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, Muscogee Creek Nation
"We have come to view the Forest Service as the standard for nation-to-nation consultation as per federal cultural resource law. We feel the Forest Service has gone above and beyond to help us do our job to protect this site; this is an example of a good-faith effort.”
- Yolanda Saunooke
Tribal Historic Preservation Assistant, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians
“The landscape is an important part of being Cherokee…the difference between being from a place and being of a place. The Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests are excellent stewards of this place that we are of.”
- Tyler Howe
Tribal Historic Preservation Specialist, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians
“The known facts concerning the stone-walled complex should be sufficiently amazing to capture the imagination of academics and public alike. Ultimately, the “out of thin air” speculations of naysayers disregard the descendants of indigenous people who built the stone features and I can fully empathize with the frustration of indigenous peoples who are continuing to be stripped of their heritage. “
- J. H. N. Loubser, PhD, RPA
Archeologist and Rock Art Specialist, coauthor of “An Archaeological and Ethnohistorical Appraisal of a Piled Stone feature Complex in the Mountains of North Georgia,” Early Georgia (Vol. 38, No. 1, p. 29-50), Loubser and Frink, 2010.
“As resource managers, we take our Congressionally mandated duty to protect cultural resources on the national forest very seriously. We stand with our Tribal partners in our common primary concern to protect this fragile and significant archeological site from damage or disturbance. All of our management actions have been in coordination with our partners to protect the site, whether by not disclosing the site location, removing evidence of user created footpaths, or denying requests to film at the site for commercial purposes.”
- James Wettstaed
Forest Archeologist, Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests, USDA Forest Service