January 27, 2014
The Upson Historical Society January program, The Mystery of the Trees, is the story of curious bent trees that many believe were used by Indians as sign post across the continent. As they traveled, often great distances, to hunt, to trade, to gather medicinal plants, to communicate with other tribes, the trees guided their way. Exploring a story that has been hidden for many years, this presentation also leaves the audience with an appreciation for people who hold a great reverence for the earth and nature. This program will be held at the Thomaston-Upson Archives on Monday, January 27 at 7 p.m. It is free and open to the public.
Speaker Don Wells graduated from the University of South Carolina in 1962 with a BS Degree in Civil Engineering and spent 28 years in the Navy Civil Engineering Corps, followed by 10 years in an engineering consultant firm. He and his wife retired to Georgia in 2000 where he formed the Mountain Stewards, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization in 2003. In 2007, the Mountain Stewards launched, in conjunction with others in three states, the National Trail Tree Project to locate, document and preserve Trail Trees which are part of the heritage of Native Americans. In late 2007, the Mountain Stewards launched the Indian Trails Mapping Program to more precisely map Indian Trails from old survey maps of the 1700 and 1800’s era. In 2011, Mountain Stewards published their book, Mystery of the Trees and are now producing a documentary of the same name.
The Indian Trail Tree project of the Mountain Stewards began in March 2007 when researchers from several states gathered at Hobbs State Park in Arkansas. The group agreed to work together to locate, document and preserve those “living artifacts” that are a legacy of the Native American presence on the North American continent. These living artifacts have many names: Indian Trail Trees, Marker trees, Thong trees, Signal trees, Prayer trees and Culturally Modified trees are a few. In less than seven years, bent trees have been documented as existing or as having previously existed in 40 states.
The Indian Trail Tree project has grown into a multi-faceted program. Locating and documenting the trees led to using 1700-1800 survey maps to accurately identify old Indian trails and the trees associated with them. Working with the Eastern Band of the Cherokee to locate all of their ancestral trails, publishing the book, Mystery of the Trees and beginning the production of a several part documentary about the trees are also aspects of the project. The Mystery of the Trees presentation proposes an answer to the question of why there is a mystery. Native culture and history were transferred orally at festivals, family gatherings, and individually when the elders passed on the historical and mythological stories of their tribe.