The Creek Indians spent hundreds of years in Colquitt County and now a documentary film crew has spent time filming a museum of their artifacts on Old Doerun Highway.
“It really is a treasure for Colquitt County,” said Don Wells of the Mountain Stewards, a group of enthusiasts who visited Moultrie along with members of the Creek nation.
Their interviews included one with Dolores Cooper, who owns the property where Creek Indians hunted and fished, and South Georgia educator Joe Bodecker. Cooper and her late husband Leon had collected arrowheads, pottery fragments, bone tools and spear points. They collected enough artifacts on the property to fill a small museum that is open to visitors by appointment. School children visit the site during the year.
Despite her husband’s death in May, Cooper said the museum will be maintained.
“We’re going to keep it up and do as much with it as we can. Anyone who wants to see it can come,” she said.
The documentary film crew came to south Georgia as part of a nationwide effort to identify and document native American historical sites. They do not suspect that a significant settlement sat on the Coopers’ property but the physical evidence points to active hunting and fishing along the banks of the Ochlocknee River on that property.
The Coopers bought the land in 1987 and began finding artifacts as they were moving dirt.
“And we found more artifacts than we knew what to do with,” she said, adding that she found an arrowhead this month. Her husband, who had retired from the construction business, pieced together a small structure that houses relics dating back to 12,000 years.
“That is a very important site to keep as it is,” Wells said.
The Mountain Stewards found the location through research of maps of Indian trails matched with Google Earth data used to come up with GPS numbers.
The Stewards had met in July with elders of the Comanche, Muskogee Creek and Osage nations to begin developing partnerships for support of those nations in finding historical sites. Members of the Creek nation began making trips back to their homeland in Georgia this summer in an effort to recover information about their cultural history.
Among those visiting Colquitt County were Ted Isham, executive director of the Muskogee Language Institute; Sam Proctor, Muskogee Creek elder; and Sam Curren, a Creek and Choctaw historian.
The group also visited two Creek village sites in Leesburg, one of which was named Chehaw.
The locations were found on maps of lands ceded by the Indians in the early 1800s. The maps included many Indian trails, Wells said.
Ten such trails have been identified west of the Cooper property in Colquitt County.
“That’s the site where Indians had fish traps. it was a location for hunting and fishing. There were not a lot of villages,” he said.
The Creeks began leaving and heading west after ceding land orginally designated as Early and Irwin counties, an area broken down into smaller counties that now encompasses southwest Georgia. The Indians were removed by the military and some left on their own.
“We only hear about the Cherokee Trail of Tears but the Creeks had their own trail,” said Wells.
The Stewards have 80 hours of film they plan to edit into a 3-hour production to be released in spring 2013.
In December 2011 the Stewards publshed “Mystery of the Trees,” a book based on research they have been doing over the past five years.