New South Associates, working with the Georgia Department of Transportation, developed a Traditional Cultural Property (TCP) study of New Echota, the capital of the Cherokee Nation from 1825 to 1838. TCPs have been defined by the National Historic Preservation Act as sites that have religious and cultural importance to the identity of a group of people. Work on the New Echota TCP represented a proactive effort by GDOT. While no new highway construction projects were imminently scheduled for the area, GDOT recognized that a future bridge replacement had the potential to affect New Echota. Having learned from an earlier TCP for the Ocmulgee National Monument in Macon, where the evaluation of a site for TCP status when highway planning was well advanced led to difficult negotiations, GDOT called on New South to conduct the New Echota TCP evaluation well in advance of road planning.
Most of the TCPs that have been identified to date have religious and ceremonial associations. New Echota was a new type of property to receive TCP evaluation, as this historic capital of the Cherokee was also the site of the Treaty of New Echota, which led to the expulsion of many of the Cherokee from the southeast. New South’s work involved consultation and interviews with representatives of three federally recognized Cherokee tribes: the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, in Tahlequah, Oklahoma; the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma; and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, of Cherokee, North Carolina. While the TCP study also incorporated the site’s history and prior archaeology, it was the tribes’ opinions that carried the greatest weight in making the determination. The three tribes had different relationships to New Echota, but all recognized the site as being a defining place in their histories with a strong cultural identity, and New Echota was determined to be eligible for the NRHP as a TCP.
Recognizing that few TCP studies have been conducted in the east, and also seeing the benefits of GDOT’s proactive approach, GDOT and the Federal Highway Administration provided funding for the development of a video on the New Echota TCP study. New South Associates worked with the documentary’s producers, Omega Media, to develop a script and coordinate filming. The resulting film does an excellent job of relating how TCP studies are done, as well as the history of New Echota, the Cherokee’s relationship to New Echota, and the New Echota TCP study. The video can be viewed on The Archaeology Channel—www.archaeologychannel.org.
New South’s work on the New Echota TCP was recognized as a contributing factor in GDOT’s and the FHWA’s receipt of the National Association of Environmental Professionals Award of Excellence in 2004, as well as their receipt of the National Partnership for Highway Quality’s “Make A Difference Award.” These awards recognized GDOT’s Office of Environment and Location, the FHWA, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Division of Parks and Historic Sites, the Cherokee tribes, and New South Associates for working cooperatively at New Echota in the conduct of the TCP study and the preservation of the site. The project and New South Associates also were recognized by a 2004 Award of Merit from the American Association for State and Local History, as well as by the receipt of a Certificate of Appreciation from the National Historic Landmarks Program of the National Park Service.