Ft. Mitchell Indian Heritage Center

Story By: Michelle Zauzig and Taylor Anderson.

The quiet lull of an Indian prayer, the distant cries and chants of a hunting ritual, and the complete silence of the forests describes the setting of the Chattahoochee valley when its only inhabitants were the Creek Indians. This scene is abruptly shaken with the beginning of the War of 1812. The first step in the removal of the Indians was the signing of a treaty that created a path known as the “Federal Road” to assist with the moving of supplies and soldiers during battle. 1813 saw the construction of Fort Mitchell on Native American land.

Fort Mitchell became a trading center between Indians and new settlers; it was a place where harmony could be found between two diverse groups. When Alabama became a state in 1819, more settlers moved in, inevitably pushing more Indians out. The Indians were finally gathered at Fort Mitchell in 1836 where they were forced along the “Trail of Tears” to Oklahoma Territory. A total of 8,522 Native Americans were forced to leave. Now, all that can be seen of this once richly inhabited land is the Fort Mitchell site, a Native American museum, The Crowell/Whittiker Cabin and the Eternal Flame Monument.

Walking through the museum allows one to quickly and accurately learn the rich history of the are of Fort Mitchell. It walks through Fort Mitchell’s history, beginning with its construction in 1813. It walks through the gradual removal of the Natives, up until the Indian Removal Act, which was signed by President Thomas Jefferson in 1830. It finally took full effect on the Creek Indians in 1836, when they were all forced from their homes onto the Trail of Tears.

The Crowell/ Mitchell Cabin was built in 1840 and is still standing today. Walking through this old log cabin, one can revert to more simple times. From the primitive furniture to the herb garden in the back yard, it is not hard to picture pre-Civil War families co-existing here at this trading post with local Creek Indians. Sadly, only six years after its construction, the Native Americans were forced to leave.

The Eternal Flame Monument was built to represent the ceremonial fire the Native Americans would build in the center of their villages. Every village had a “town square” in the center where rituals and religious ceremonies were held and important decisions were often made. Most town squares were actually a square shape, so this monument has four sides to accurately represent the structure of a town square. The eternal flame in the middle represents the fires that would be constructed during these ceremonies. It represents the Creek Indians and their life within Fort Mitchell and the surrounding areas. As the flame symbolizes, their spirits will live on forever.