Issues Affecting American Indians in Tennessee
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American Indians in Tennessee government volunteer service
TN Archaeological Advisory Council
mandated 3 Native American representatives
  • Michael Lynch, West Tennessee (2008-12)
         member, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma
  • Pat Cummins, Middle Tennessee (2004-08)
         descendant, Cherokee
  • Mark Cantrell, Middle Tennessee (2010-14)
         unknown tribal affiliation
  •   TN Historical Commission
    mandated inclusion of person/s
    of Native American ancestry

  • Brent A. Cox (2008-2012)
    444 Cades Atwood Road
    Milan, Tennessee 38358
    731-723-9994

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    Commission terminated     30 June 2010


    Issues Affecting American Indians in Tennessee


    Issues Affecting American Indians in Tennessee
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    The Hebrew Cherokee Myth, Where It All Began??

    About 25 years ago, S.D Dean, a local archaeologist and friend, loaned me an original copy of the Smithsonian Annual Report dated 1889.
    I was allowed to keep the book only a short while and read mainly the southeastern Native mounds survey conducted by Professor John Emmert.
    Emmert led a small team of laborers who he oversaw as they located and destroyed Indian mounds beginning on the upper Holston and ending in middle Tennessee.

    The first indication that I had that Emmert was "embellishing" his surveys was his reports on two mounds supposedly located only a mile from my home on the south fork of the Holston River.
    In this first few pages, Emmert had drawn a crude map showing the exact location of the two mounds on opposite sides of the river and along the confluence of the Big Sinking Creek.
    I have been to these exact spots which have never been farmed and show no evidence of the alleged mounds that Emmert claims were there.
    Secondly, He depicted conical mounds that when excavated showed equidistant "cells" much like drawing a beehive, filled with large river stones and seated burials with one in the center which he noted was a leader or Chief.
    Knowing what I know about culture phases and burial customs, there was no way that a mound would have been constructed in this way. Futher, both of these alleged mounds were on hilltops far away from any huge river rocks that Emmert stated was the fill for these burials.
    Emmert depicted a early woodland period obtuse angle trowel/platform pipe as belonging to the central burial. As we now know, the early woodland people did not construct mounds in this area. That came much later in the Mississippian period. That is odd as well since there are ZERO Mississippian sites on the entire length of this river fork.
    Across the river at the other alleged mound, Emmert claimed to find only a long copper awl on the central burial and no other artifacts of any kind.
    What is odd about this is the fact he reports no shell beads, no pottery, no lithic materials(which is always present in any burial) which is draws into question that he actually did any excavating here at all.
    My guess is that some farmer had sold him the artifacts he claimed to have excavated from his alleged mounds.

    Much later in Emmert's expedition, he ended up near Vonore/Loudon on the Little Tennessee River.
    It was here that he allegedly found the famous "Bat Creek Stone" which some now think(and Emmert hoped) his peers would believe was ancient Hebrew. It is now suggested that Emmert himself found a piece of siltstone and carved the characters into the stone himself.
    During this excavation, Emmert supposedly found bronze arm bands which he supposed (and reported) were also of middle eastern design.
    With his shoddy work obvious, one might assume that Emmert had "borrowed" these arm bands from the Smithsonian prior to his expedition south? If he did find these in situ, may we not assume they were simply trade items since the site contained reported European trade goods?

    Futher along in Middle Tennessee, Emmert again embellished his reports to include outstretched burials in "clay canoes" which is as we know today,is quite impossible.
    Emmert was in Lawerence County where I understand another stone much like the Bat Creek stone was allegedly found. I can find no reference to it anywhere since the Hebrew-kees took down their original web site. I would rather suspect that this alleged stone has not been forensically studied to see if the inscriptions are actually old or of a more modern creation.

    This all leads back to Emmert himself and his imfamous expedition of 1889.
    Shortly after returning to Washington, Emmert was either fired or forced to give up his job with the Smithsonian.
    According to SD Dean, Emmert was an alcoholic and a devout Mormon. Researching the man himself leaves little doubt that he had an alterior motive in wanting to prove the Mormon beliefs that the lost tribe of Israel had indeed been on this continent for millenia. Maybe he was just getting old and wanted to make a name for himself thru his embellishments?
    His shoddy and questionable reports raise so many suspicions that one might suspect that he himself was the father of the Hebrew myth in Tennessee.
    News of these "amazing finds" would have spread like wildfire in the 1890s'and over the years to come the fabrications became local legend and with some uneducated, a matter of fact. After all, this is exactly how all lies become truth isn't it?
    We all sit here knowing from recent experience that false claims, outright fabrications and bad science always leads us into a fight to protect and preserve the truth, even from a 122 year old lie....

    Re: The Hebrew Cherokee Myth, Where It All Began??

    I think John Adair had this report beat by several years. He was the first Indian agent among the Cherokee, his office was at Knoxville in the late 1700s. He wrote a book called "Out of the Flame" in which he desperately tried to show correlation between the Cherokee belief system and the Hebrews. He was the first to try to say the Cherokee people were a "lost tribe of Israel." The book is difficult to read, I bought a copy out of curiosity, but it is written in the old style of English, boring to read and hard to follow. If anyone is interested, I found a link at Amazon.com -- I'm sure I didn't pay that much for my copy. And Amazon is touting the book as an anthropological look at true Cherokee beliefs--it is not. But read the comments, it's worth the visit.

    http://www.amazon.com/Out-flame-Cherokee-practices-ancients/dp/B0006R1C4U

    Re: The Hebrew Cherokee Myth, Where It All Began??

    Just goes to prove that it always seems to be one person's personal agenda, regardless of truth, to start a myth, legend or what I like to call a "living, breathing lie".
    Isn't ironic how much this issue sounds like a battle we all just fought for the last few years, truth against plain old lies??

    Re: The Hebrew Cherokee Myth, Where It All Began??

    The beat goes on...we just have to have faith that the truth will triumph in the end.


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