Cherokees eye state funds to restore historic sites

Cherokees eye state funds to restore historic sites

August 25th, 2009 by Kelly Jackson in Georgia

Contributed Photo Budget cuts have left state historic sites across the state like the Chief Vann House in Chatsworth, Ga., with less staff and fewer operating hours.

Contributed Photo Budget cuts have left state historic sites...

CHATSWORTH, Ga. -- The Cherokee Nation has sent a funding proposal to the state, hoping to return two historic sites -- the Chief Vann House in Murray County and the New Echota site in Gordon County -- to full hours and staff.

Both were among 12 of the state's historic sites and five parks affected by a 39 percent budget cut handed down to the Parks, Recreation and Historic Sites Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. Reduced hours and staffing went into effect mid-June.

At the time, Cherokee Nation Council representative Jack Baker said both sites are along the historic Trail of Tears and important sites for Cherokee Indians.

On the Trail of Tears, which took place in late 1830s, about 15,000 Cherokees were moved from the North Georgia and Southeast Tennessee area to Oklahoma, with about 4,000 dying along the way.

Lauren Curry, director of public and government affairs for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources commissioner's office, said the department recently received a funding proposal from the Cherokee Nation.

"We just got that this week," she said. "We haven't gotten back to them in any formal way."

After the cuts, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chad Smith met with Gov. Sonny Perdue to talk about his concerns for the sites, she said.

"At that meeting they discussed (that) we would welcome any support we could get," Ms. Curry said.

Representatives from the Cherokee Nation could not be reached for comment before press deadline.

According to an article at the Cherokee Phoenix Web site, the Cherokee Nation proposed $40,000 to help both sites. The proposal stipulates all transferred and terminated employees must be offered their jobs back with the same pay and benefits.

In addition, administrative authority must be restored to the Chief Vann House site instead of Fort Mountain State Park and that no budget cuts can be imposed for either site in fiscal year 2010, according to the article.

Tim Howard, part-time employee at the Chief Vann House, said Friday he'd not yet seen the proposal nor heard anything from the Cherokee Nation or the state.

"We knew they (Cherokee Nation) were going to make a proposal," Mr. Howard said.

He said his understanding is that the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma and Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina want to supply the $80,000 it would take to return both the Vann House and New Echota to normal operations.

"It has been a busy summer and it's been pretty rough to cover and do all that needs to be done at a historic site," Mr. Howard said. "It (the Cherokee Nation proposal) is about our last hope."