"The American Beech Tree stands witness to events across the woodlands and streams of the south eastern United States. They stand as unspeaking witnesses to sunlit mornings, lashing storms, nocturnal secrets, birth, death and historic occasions of celebration and despair. Voices from the past still speak through the bark of these trees
.... Carved images holding vital information and historical memory
............messages spanning the revolutionary war, the trail of tears, the war between the states and up to the present day... Soon these voices will be silenced and their messages lost. Due to a natural end of lifespan, clear-cutting, acid rain, storms and their status as a non-timber "trash tree", there is a very little time left to listen and document these "Witness Trees". Today's remaining arborglyphs are not only historical artifacts and national treasures, but are art forms from the Cherokees, Creek Confederacy, nameless soldiers, settlers and other travelers on the trails of our past, who left no other visible legacy.When the U.S. Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, the Southeastern American Indians were faced with, "pack what you can carry, gotta' leave the rest." In some cases, this notice was only a few days or hours. Historically, the trees along the rivers and streams stood as silent sentinel witnesses, to sunlit mornings, lashing storms, nocturnal secrets, birth, death, and occasions of celebration and despair. At the time of removal, "Arborglyphs," hastily carved into Beech trees, marked vital travel information like escape routes or spots where possessions were buried. Today, nearly all these markings have been destroyed by timbering and natural life spans, only a few remain.
Alabama Shoot and Film Promotion Images
The slide show below contains images from the Alabama shoot and the
Off and on for over 8 years, Sandy Corley (based in Atlanta, Georgia) and Eric Mofford, who is based in Los Angeles, California have been developing the film, "Witness Trees". The title for the film is derived from the visual art installations that Corley has been exhibiting (locally and internationally) since 1993, addressing environmental and historical issues.
Corley has been researching, gathering endorsements, shooting still photos... and interviewing (on consumer digital & Hi 8) historians, authors, activists, wilderness magazine publishers, Georgia trail trees experts, director of Indian education programs, Georgia land lottery experts, anthropologists, archeologists, etc. about this uniquely southern, endangered treasure. The treasure is ARBORGLYPHS. CARVINGS ON BEECH TREES.
Documentation is an URGENT ISSUE due to development, clear-cutting, forestry service priorities and natural lifespan. It is an issue of the historical legacies mostly hidden in the bark of these trees. Symbols and information that span the Revolutionary War to Trail of Tears to modern boundary markers throughout the Southeast. It is an ENVIRONMENTAL story, an AMERICAN INDIAN story and a "Di Vinci Code" story.
Eric Mofford, veteran of many years of film and TV credits, will be directing the film. His most notable current work includes: First Assistant Director, TV series "24", Coordinating Producer: FX series "Black/White". http://www.ericmofford.com
The filmmakers already own all music and all visual (cover etc) art (which Corley created) for the project. A package consisting of musical CD, coffee table book and DVD are part of our project plan. Much excitement in Scandinavia and Europe has been already been expressed about the marketing of the project.
Recently, the Colorado Basque Sheepherders' trees were investigated and it was determined that the variety and historical span of Southeastern Arborglyhs is phenomenal in comparison.
The urgency to document Southeastern Arborglyhs is reaching crisis stage. Since starting the project many sickening losses have occurred.
Little time is left to document the voices of these silent sentinels in order to preserve and pass on their messages to future southeastern generations and the world.
This is an important and exciting story!
"CREEKWALKER" (stage production/feature film)
Creekwalker" is a contemporary story about removal and the remaining "Witness Trees". Cheney Locklear is a quiet, decent, middle-aged American Indian male who drives a big rig through the Carolinas, Alabama, Georgia and Florida. His whole life is the road and an annual vegetable garden. His son is grown. He was divorced years ago. The sight of his rig pulled over by the creeks and streams has caused his fellow truckers to call him "Creekwalker." This name is also a cautious acknowledgment of Cheney's heritage. In this day and age, that's okay, but he can still feel the sting of being called "red nigger" when he was young.
Cheney's denied being an Indian for a long time. Now, he's thinking about people he hasn't seen in 30 - 40 years. The music at the Saturday night get-togethers, boasts made by the men while night fishing, rememberance of scraps of conversations from the women heard while playing under a table or a chickee floor as a kid.
One day, Cheney finds a symbol cut in the bark of a Beech tree. It was done a long time ago, he can tell by the growth pattern of the tree. He remembers his Granny Bert saying that "back then, the woods was a regular road map for them that knowed how to read it." He decides to seek out the old home place. Turns out Ila Mae is still alive and lives in a trailer in the old yard. Yuni is too feeble to get out of her room.
The reunion feels so good, he begins to stop by whenever his route brings him this way. He eats Ila Mae's hoecakes and listens to Yuni's wandering narratives that go between then and now as if there were no time boundaries. By the third visit, it's like no time has elapsed, they're family. When the home place is threatened with a new government road, Cheney Locklear decides to fight instead of replaying the Southeastern Indian's history of removal. He joins the movement, meets a woman lawyer and learns to care for a teen boy in a way he never did with his own son.
It changes his life forever. The Arborglyphs that assisted his people in the past, help Creekwalker rediscover his past and in the end, save his home