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How much history do you really know?
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Sometimes I wonder how much of the history of our area that today's young people are knowledgeable about.

They don't learn very much about local history in regular social studies curriculum, particularly if a major effort is to be sure that students can pass all the standardized tests.

That question came into focus during the past week because of the "formal launching" of the new Dawson County history book at a reception and book signing, and because I spent a day with my granddaughter visiting Chief Vann House and New Echota historic sites.

She had learned a bit about the Cherokee Indians years ago and was excited now to have these up-close experiences.

I was remiss in not making them available to her earlier.

Most of North Georgia was populated by the Cherokee tribe when white settlers arrived.

For a time after Georgia became a state, an area was even officially recognized as the Cherokee Nation.

In the early 1800s, the clans began using a Council system of governing, finally adopting a Constitution and creating a National Capitol at New Echota (near Calhoun).

Also in the early 1800s, in the same general area (at a settlement called Spring Place), James Vann, son of a Scottish trader and his Cherokee wife, had amassed great wealth by placing a number of businesses along the old Federal Road and by cultivating several hundred acres of fertile land.

His handsome brick home, finished in 1805, was called the showplace of the Nation.

In the meantime, both the Georgia and the United States governments were beginning to take over lands claimed by the Cherokees, resulting finally in the Indian Removal Act of 1830 and the final forcible removal in 1838 of the remaining Cherokees (except the few who escaped).

Visiting these two sites, among others, can be a sober reminder of a period of American history in which we can take little pride.

But it is history of which we should be aware.

And, of course, we should be aware of our own Dawson County history.

I am pleased to know that a number of people attended the courthouse reception for the authors of the new history.

I honestly think that every school in the county should have at least one copy (and, actually, also a copy of the Dawson County Heritage book), so that each teacher can be more familiar with that information. Even those who don't have a local background (and I am one) are living and working in the culture that grew out of that history.

Our streams and mountains carry Cherokee names, and many of our pioneer families have mixed Cherokee origins.

We may hang our heads for the shameful way some of our ancestors treated those Native Americans, but we may point with pride to part of their legacy.

And, believe me, there are many interesting stories involved in all that history.

Helen Taylor's column appears periodically in the Dawson Community News.