The Conclusion of the Bells Bend Archaeology Study

We went to hear about it.

I honestly find the whole reality of people just tossing aside bones to get at the things people’s loved ones put in the grave with them so upsetting I about can’t stand it. Anderson also said that he’s seen looting of historical graveyards, but I wasn’t clear about whether he meant in the Bend or just in general, so I didn’t include it.

But it’s not like the Muscogee aren’t historical residents of Bells Bend, you know? And they’ll have to come over and deal with those bones.

I don’t know.  I might be in favor of guns in parks if people felt empowered to shoot grave robbers.

And woo-woo wise, it just freaks me the fuck out. You’re going to rummage around in someone’s grave, toss his or her bones aside, and steal the stuff their loved ones intended for them and you think what you’re doing can be offset or mitigated with a cigarette?

Motherfucker, please.

Mom and I had a long talk on the way home and she wondered if there’s not so much brazen looting because the economy is so bad. I don’t know. You’d kind of hope that people would only be up to that bullshit because they’re desperate.

I don’t know.

It’s just a shame.

It’s not much different than what’s always happened in Nashville, but yuck, nevertheless.


12 thoughts on “The Conclusion of the Bells Bend Archaeology Study

  1. I don’t think it’s the economy. There’s always been a lot of looting. Maybe it’s been made worse with the rise of the internet as a tool to sell looted artifacts.

    It still sucks. For all of the reasons you’ve listed, and because looting destroys archaeological evidence that can never, never, never be replaced. Bastards.

  2. The cigarette cracks me up, in a bitter and cynical “did you really think that was going to work?” way. Why would you go out of your way to ask for a cosmic beat-down?

  3. I don’t think it’s the economy either – I think it’s “some people are just assholes”

    Are you sure it’s Muscogee (synonymous with Creek Indian)? B/c my 5th great-grandfather was a Creek Indian Chief (“Bird Tail King”) — but my understanding is the Creeks resided in Northern Alabama. I had no information that they had come as far north as Nashville.

  4. Bridgett, I know! I was all “you want to sneak something out of a dude’s grave without being noticed, so you summon him?” It’s like, um, learn a little about basic magic before you practice it. Lesson one, if you’re trying to avoid the notice of a supernatural being, do not do supernatural things near his natural remains.

    Beth, Bridgett’s going to do a better job of explaining this than I will, but here’s my understanding. The Creek do now reside in parts of Northern Alabama and Georgia (and maybe a hair in Mississippi). They have a reservation out in Oklahoma.

    But they are the direct descendants of the Mississippian mound builders who were basically all over the eastern US and, after the early explorers destroyed that Mississippian culture, a confederacy of Indian groups emerged in the upper Southeast west of the Appalachians under the umbrella term “Muscogee.” They lived here for hundreds of years (as “Muscogee,” they lived here hundreds, if not thousands, of years before that as whatever they called themselves as Mississippians) and then this is the part I’m not exactly clear on.

    I think, during the Revolutionary War, the Cherokee had a falling out. And some of the Cherokee fought with the British against the U.S. and some fought with the colonists. The Creek, I think, fought with the British, so that, when the British lost the war, the Creek lost a lot of their upper South territory to the Cherokee, who then made their way further into this part of Tennessee, while the Creek moved mostly to their more southern territories.

    So that, by the time your grandpa came along, the Creek would have been primarily in northern Alabama.

    But let’s see what Bridgett says.

  5. Anyway, I should add, when I was doing all the May Town stuff, I talked to a representative of the Creek Nation out in Oklahoma and she said that the Muscogee do consider anyone found buried in the Bend who is Indian to be theirs and they get directly involved whenever remains are found.

  6. Actually – my grandpa was hanging out with George Washington – he was sketched by John Trumbull – the guy who did the etching on the back of the $2 bill.

    See here: — he’s even wearing a British style jacket of the time.

    Not sure if he fought with the colonists – never have heard that part. But he was born in northern Alabama and died there as well.

    Also, the Creek were divided in two sections – The Upper Creek and the Lower Creek. Not sure what the difference was but I found that out a few years back.

  7. Betsy, you were doing great up to the Rev War, when things admittedly got kind of screwy for the southeastern tribes. Yes, the Cherokees had a civil war between the warriors of Dragging Canoe (mostly younger men and their families who rejected appeasement in the form of land cessions to pushy Americans — they called themselves the Chickamaugua) and the older folks of Little Carpenter’s generation who were trying to preserve peace and strong trading relations before all hell broke loose. Basically, the South Carolina government’s first declaration of hostilities in the Revolutionary War was against the Cherokee. The early battles in SC are all in the backcountry, aimed at gaining farms for poor white guys. The Cherokee got really sick, they were under attack, they were starving, and they had no young troops — being quadrupley screwed, they were forced to cede millions of acres of land even though they had done their best to be neutral. The Chickamaugua weren’t in much better shape. The Chickamaugua needed guns, gunpowder, and ammo — the British had it and needed military support in the southeast. Because the Chickamaugua accepted British aid and took part in battles as allies, Patriots argued that the entirety of the Cherokee Nation were “defeated people” and…yep, took a lot more land, including the bit that is Nashville.

    The Muscogee, as Beth notes, refers to the Upper Creek and the Lower Creek. The Upper Creek (in Tennessee) joined up with the Chickamaugua and were robust in their support of the British. The Lower Creek attempted to remain neutral until it was clear which empire would gain advantage; when the British took Savannah, they decided that the trade benefits of being British allies outweighed the risks. That was, in retrospect, a bad bet. They were somewhat more successful in hanging onto some of their homelands after the Revolutionary War (long story behind that) and were targeted by Washington and Henry Knox as one of the first groups to undergo “civilization.” They lost the majority of their lands after the War of 1812 and the Redstick War, as southern cotton planters were increasing the pressure to expand cotton culture in Mississippi and Alabama.

    Hope that helps.

  8. bridgett – can you elaborate on the Muscogee and the Upper Creek? Were the Upper Creek the Muscogee or were both the Upper & Lower considered Muscogee?

  9. Both were part of the Muscogee Confederacy, which was a loose amalgam of survivor peoples who came to live together in the river valleys of the interior southeast after the 16h century pandemic collapse. The “upper” and “lower” refers to the location of towns that were proximate to one another and whose people had greater linguistic and cultural similarities to one another. The Lower people lived in the towns on the Chattahoochee, Apilachicola, Flint, Oconee and Ocmulgee rivers. The Upper people lived on the Coosa, Tallapoosa, and Alabama. However, all the towns (even within that division of Lower and Upper) were politically autonomous. They collaborated in trade and political negotiations and tended to have similar cultural outlooks and econ/political interests, but they were independent operators.

    Some historians also throw in the Seminole when they are talking about the Muscogee Confederacy, but I don’t. While they had amicable relations with the Muscogee, they have different homelands, different histories, and different trajectories of dealing with the US empire.

  10. Thanks – that’s really interesting.

    I asked for the info b/c years ago I designed a book cover – the author’s 3rd or 5th great grandfather was a Creek, but he was “lower Creek” – my ancestor was “Upper” and the author had initial reservations (no pun intended) about me designing it as my relative came from the other band. I found that sort of odd, but didn’t question it as I didn’t know the difference.

  11. There is some historic strains between the two groups, especially during the Creek (or Redstick) War. The Lower Creek and US troops led by Andrew Jackson took it to the Upper Creek in some really vicious fighting. The Lowers leaders believed that they could be part of the US, that the “civilization” program would be their gateway to citizenship and at least the elite slaveholding planters and merchants among them were totally sold on the republican ideal of politically autonomous states who cooperated on key issues. The Uppers were (due to their disadvantaged interior location) not reaping huge econ benefits from the US expansion and instead were getting flooded by a lot of aggressive US settlers. They wound up rejecting the civilization program and had a sort of revival movement in which they allied with Tecumseh, Tenskewetewa, the Indians of the Upper Mississippi Valley and the British (who promised arms and material support). Lowers technically won the civil war but lost the peace; when it came down to it, the US forced all Creeks to cede their lands in an extortive treaty in 1814. Considering how very loosely the Muscogee were ethnically and politically related, it came as quite a surprise to all that the US government now decided that (close enough) they were all one people to be removed from those wonderfully rich cotton lands.

    Anyhow, as you can imagine, there was some bad blood there and some longstanding stereotypes in the Muscogees about behavioral attributes associated with either group.

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