Building a legacy for Georgia
On my trip to Arizona, I bought one of those little beaded necklaces with a beaded doll like you find in Cherokee, N.C.
I gave the “Indian necklace” to my five-year-old cousin and was promptly informed that I can’t use that word.
I suggested “Native American,” but that didn’t sound right to her, either, so for now we can’t call it anything.
It’s a good thing she’s a pilgrim in next week’s school program or else I suppose she’d be having an identity crisis trying to remember what she’s supposed to be called.
Years ago I wondered if Rock Eagle 4H Center would have to drop the Native American summer camp theme with the trend to political correctness.
Thankfully, 4-H put together a committee including members of the Southeastern tribes and was able to determine that the theme itself wasn’t offensive, but that some of the culture and images presented could be adapted to be more representative of the Southeastern tribes.
Formerly called chiefs and princesses, camp counselors in leadership are now micos, and the outfits were modified to more accurately represent our own Native American heritage.
I’m glad the theme survived because it serves an important purpose in reminding 4-H’ers that we weren’t the first people here.
My family has been in Newton County for about 200 years, but of course that’s nothing in the grand scheme of Georgia history.
Each time I take 4-H’ers up the tower at the Rock Eagle to look down on the rock effigy, I wonder about the people who originally built the mound.
No one knows for sure why, or even exactly when, it was built.
I can’t think of anything I’ve helped create that will still be around in hundreds or even thousands of years for people to puzzle over, wondering why we built it.
I’ve always heard about a second effigy in Putnam County similar to the Rock Eagle, but wasn’t aware that you could visit it.
Last Friday the ribbon was cut on the viewing tower and interpretive center at the Rock Hawk effigy, just 20 miles past Rock Eagle 4-H Center.
To reach the park, follow U.S. Highway 441 past Rock Eagle, then turn left onto Jefferson Avenue into downtown Eatonton.
As you pass through the square, turn left onto Georgia Highway 16 and follow it for about 13 miles.
Rock Hawk Park is on the left, and includes some nice hiking and birding trails as well as the historical exhibits.
Each speaker at the ribbon cutting referred to the long history of the effigy, and cited various estimates given by archaeologists that varied from as little as 500 years to as much as a few thousand years.
In the end, though, each seemed to agree that it really didn’t matter how long ago the effigy was built by Native American tribes — the end result is the same.
Today we can look at the mound and remember that we’re not the first ones here, and we won’t be the last ones here.
For those of us who have seen the Rock Eagle, the Rock Hawk comes as a little bit of a surprise.
There’s no carefully restored effigy here — it clearly shows the ravages of time and people.
The vegetation has been cut back better to see the effigy, but from old sketches and surveys of the site it is clear that over time the original shape has been somewhat lost.
Ditches from archaeological studies of the mound are also still evident.
Rather than restore the effigy to what we believe it looked like, however, it is being preserved as it currently exists, following today’s historical preservation practices.
It’s almost more interesting, really, to see it and try to imagine it as it was being constructed so long ago.
From my vantage point atop the tower, it makes me think about how hard it must have been to construct such an effigy.
Perhaps that’s exactly what we’re doing in Georgia 4-H right now.
Instead of building our lasting legacy in rock, painstakingly dragged, rolled, or lifted into a meaningful shape — we’re investing our time and talents to build our legacy for Georgia one 4-H’er at a time.
Terri Kimble is the 4-H Educator for Newton County 4-H. She can be reached at (770) 784-2010.
The new view: Terri Kimble, above, at Rock Hawk Park in Putnam County for the ribbon cutting on the new viewing tower and interpretive center. (Left) The Rock Hawk effigy in Putnam County as observed from the new viewing tower.