Red Clay State Historic Park encompasses 263 acres of southern Bradley County. The park site was the last seat of the Cherokee national government before the 1838 enforcement of the Indian Removal Act of 1830 by the U.S. military, which resulted in most of the Cherokee people in the area being forced to emigrate west. Eleven general councils were held between 1832 and 1837.
"The state of Georgia didn't want the Cherokee there so they passed laws stating they could no longer meet there unless they were going to discuss giving away their land,” explained park manager, Erin Medley. “Obviously the Cherokee were not gonna do that so they had to move their capital here to Tennessee."
One of the main reasons the Cherokee chose this spot was for the Blue Hole or the Council Spring. The Blue Hole Spring rises from beneath a limestone ledge to form a deep pool that flows into Mill Creek, a tributary of the Conasauga and Coosa River system. The spring was used by the Cherokee for their water supply during council meetings.
"It is an underground limestone spring and springs are very sacred to the Cherokee people,” said Medley. “Today you can come down here and view it and it's beautiful but we do have a fence around it, no trespassing signs. Because the water is still very sacred to the Cherokee and they are the only ones we will allow in that area."
Today, there are paths around the Blue Hole and its distributary for walking, riding and relaxation.
Inside the main visitor center, you can get in-depth education about these grounds and the subsequent pain millions of Native Americans were forced to endure. The James F. Corn Interpretive Facility contains exhibits on the 19th century Cherokee, the Trail of Tears, Cherokee art, a video theater, gift shop and small library.
"You know so many times in school there's maybe a paragraph or two about that we learn about the Trail of Tears. It's so much more complicated than that and so much more tragic than it's portrayed in schools."
There were a lot of misconceptions about Native Americans when Europeans set foot in North America. A severe lack of acceptance and education.
"When the Europeans came to this land, you know they see these people interacting that they don't understand and therefore it must be wrong,” said Medley. “They weren't savages, they just didn't understand what they were seeing. They have a different relationship with each other and the world, with nature. They just didn't understand what they were seeing."
The staff at Red Clay says there are still many lessons to be learned from this, some 190 years later.
"Don't just, judge too quickly,” pleads Medley. “Try to get to know someone. Learn more about a people or a culture, before you make decisions about what you think they are. You know, inform yourself, educate yourself about what cultures are about before
you make a decision about how you feel and think about them."