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Thu, Sep 18, 2008 06:45 AM


Duluth
Autrey Mill Indian Village unveiled in Johns Creek
by JENNIFER CHAPMAN


(JENNIFER CHAPMAN/www.northfulton.com) Aviva, a cob artist, works with a mixture of sand, clay and straw to create the walls of the Indian hut at Autrey Mill Nature Preserve. Cobbing is a process where natural elements are used to build structures. (click for larger version)
September 11, 2008 | 03:05 PM
www.gwinnettherald.com

JOHNS CREEK - From an 1800s church to historic Johns Creek homes, Autrey Mill Nature Preserve has been trying to bring the past to the present for residents to enjoy for the last 20 years through renovating buildings and expanding nature trails.

Now, the nature preserve off Old Alabama Road has added one more piece of local history to its site: an Indian Village. And it's just in time for Autrey Mill's 20th birthday celebration Sept. 14.

The village, tucked away just beyond the Summerour House, holds a Indian hut and tepee. Southern Indians inhabited the area around Autrey Mill, according to Cheryl Bowlin, an Autrey Mill board member.

"We're trying to create a historic village," said Bowlin. She added that Autrey Mill is like a ribbon of time; visually through the buildings and verbally through informational kiosks that nature preserve supporters and board members are working hard to complete.

"We're all about local history," said Jim Perry, an Autrey Mill board member. "We'd love to expand some things into other parts of Johns Creek as well."

The Indian Village's hut was made with rivercane, mud, straw and sand through a technique called cobbing - an old English way of building structures. The layers of cob are weaved through cedar logs and support a poplar bark shingled roof.

"It's exactly like how they made it in the 1700s," said Bowlin.

The canvas tepee will sit just beside the hut and will have the capacity to fit about 30 children for educational programs and activities.

"We're hoping to use [the tepee and hut] for birthday parties and other special events," said Bowlin.

Tom Blue Wolf, founder and director of EarthKeepers One Tribe Trading Company, consulted and helped built the Indian Village project. Wolfe, a Creek Indian descendant, was a consultant for the movie, "Dances with Wolves."

"I look at this like putting our finger in the pond of the community," said Wolf. "It's a vehicle in which it carries a spirit in kids' hands. People need to know about it - these things don't get a lot of support. It hasn't been in the mainstream."

Wolf said the only gain that comes out of the project is that people learn.

"We're all related - not just to people but everything is interconnected," he said. "There's people that really want to learn about this."

Autrey Mill's Indian Village and other projects were made possible by a grant from Speaker Pro Tem Mark Burkhalter.

The nature center is not included in the city's budget. Board members said it could take a few years for that to happen.

So Autrey Mill is calling on the community for its help.

"We're looking for additional volunteers," said Bowlin. "We want people to come in and learn the history and we're looking for docents to help with that."

Autrey Mill has considered having volunteer docents offer tours to the community for a fee.

"We think it's well worth it and it's something people will be interested in," she said.

Autrey Mill will celebrate its 20th birthday on Sunday, Sept. 14 at 2 p.m. The event will include a dedication of the Heritage Village, premiere of the Indian Village, refreshments, children's activities and music by Lonesome Redwing.

For more information, call 678-366-3511 or visit www.autreymill.org.



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