The Beginning of the Trail...

“We are now about to take our leave and kind farewell to our native land, the country the Great Spirit gave our Fathers, we are on the eve of leaving that country that gave us birth, it is with sorrow we are forced by the white man to quit the scenes of our childhood…we bid farewell to it and all we hold dear.” Charles Hicks, Tsalagi (Cherokee) Vice Chief of the Trail of Tears, November 4, 1838

The “End of the Trail” is a symbol of the fate of Native Americans, a sculpture completed in 1915 by James Earle Fraser (Sioux) felt the Native Americans were treated unfairly and developed a lot of compassion for them. A dejected Seneca Chief John Big Tree was the model for the figure, sitting upon a horse, and has since been reproduced in many art forms, in remembrance of the animosity and separation from mainstream America…

The Cherokee were a tribe of the Iroquoian family. They formerly held all of the land from southern Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and over into Ohio. The name Cherokee variously means “the cave people”, “real people”, “Inhabitants of the cave country”. Our language, customs and other archaeological evidence points to our origins as being from the North. The most well known Cherokee was Sequoya, who invented the Cherokee alphabet.

The “Trail of Tears” was the forced removal and journey of the Cherokee Indians from their homelands in the East to the Indian Territory. In 1830, President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act to relocate the eastern tribes west of the Mississippi River. Although the principal Chief of the Cherokees, John Ross (supported US forces in the Creek War of 1813-14), argued against forced removal before the Supreme Court of the United States and won, the decision was ignored. Soldiers began rounding up Cherokee families and taking them to internment camps in preparation for the journey westward. With little food and unsanitary conditions, many Cherokees died. The first forced 800-mile journey began in the Spring of 1838 and lasted into the heat of summer. The second mass exodus took place in the fall rainy season, when the wagons bogged down in the mud, and in the winter of 1839, during freezing temperatures and snow. The Cherokees suffered from exposure, inadequate food supplies, disease and attacks by bandits. During the period of confinement, and the two trips, about 4,000 Cherokees died (that were counted), more than a quarter of those relocated. More Cherokees died after arrival in the Indian Territory because of continuous shortages of food and epidemics. Other tribes endured similar experiences, including the Chickasaws, Choctaws, Creeks, Seminoles, also in the 1830’s, and the “Trail of Tears” has come to be symbolic for forced removals of all Indian peoples.

I was taught to know my ancestors’ past, “If you don’t know the past, you won’t have a future. If you don’t know where your people have been, then you won’t know where your people are going.”

This was reiterated and orated in a most wonderful story called, “The Education of Little Tree”, written by Forrest Carter in 1976, it was also adapted into a movie. His re-telling of the events concerning the “Trail of Tears” will never leave my memory…
“To know the Past… How the government soldiers came, and told them to sign the paper. Told them that the paper meant that the new white settlers would know where they could settle and where they would not take the land of the Cherokee. And after they signed it, more government soldiers came with guns and long knives fixed on their guns. The soldiers said the paper had changed its words. The words now said that the Cherokee must give up his valleys, his homes and his mountains. He must go far toward the setting sun, where the government had other land for the Cherokee, land that the white man did not want. How the government soldiers came, and ringed a big valley with their guns, and at night with their campfires. They put the Cherokees in the ring. They brought Cherokees in from other mountains and valleys, in bunches like cattle, and put them in the ring. After a long time of this, when they had most of the Cherokees, they brought wagons and mules and told the Cherokee they could ride to the land of the setting sun. The Cherokees had nothing left. But they could not ride, and so they saved something. You could not see it or wear it or eat it, but they saved something; and they would not ride. They walked.
Government soldiers rode before them, on each side of them, behind them. The Cherokee men walked and looked straight ahead and would not look down, nor at the soldiers. Their women and children followed in their footsteps and would not look at the soldiers. Far behind them, the empty wagons rattled and rumbled and served no use. The wagons could not steal the soul of the Cherokee. The land was stolen from him, his home; but the Cherokee would not let the wagons steal his soul. As they passed the villages of the white man, people lined the trail to watch them pass. At first, they laughed at how foolish the Cherokee was to walk with the empty wagons rattling behind them. The Cherokee did not turn his head at their laughter, and soon there was no laughter. And as the Cherokee walked farther from his mountains, he began to die. His soul did not die, nor did it weaken. It was the very young and the very old and the sick.
At first the soldiers let them stop to bury their dead; but then more died – by the hundreds – by the thousands. More than a third of them were to die on the Trail. The soldiers said they could only bury their dead every three days; for the soldiers wished to hurry and be finished with the Cherokee. The soldiers said the wagons would carry the dead, but the Cherokee wouldn’t put his dead in the wagons. He carried them. Walking. The little boy carried his dead baby sister, and slept by her at night on the ground. He lifted her in his arms in the morning, and carried her. The husband carried his dead wife. The son carried his dead mother, his father. The mother carried her dead baby. They carried them in their arms. And walked. And they did not turn their heads to look at the soldiers, nor to look at the people who lined the sides of the Trail to watch them pass. Some of the people cried. But the Cherokee would not cry. Not on the outside, for the Cherokees would not let them see his soul; as he would not ride in the wagons.
And, so they called it the “Trail of Tears”. Not because the Cherokee cried; for he did not. They called it that for it sounds romantic and speaks of the sorrow of those who stood by the Trail. A death march is not romantic. You cannot write poetry about the death-stiffened baby in his mother’s arms, staring at the jolting sky with eyes that will not close; while his mother walks. You cannot sing songs of the father laying down the burden of his wife’s corpse, to lie by it through the night and to rise to carry it again in the morning – and tell his oldest son to carry the body of his youngest. And do not look…nor speak…nor cry…nor remember the mountains.

TK Rosevear

The Beginning of the Trail...

tkrosevear

Joined February 2008

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coppertrees and myself are connected to the ways of Nature, the cycles of life, the rhythm of the planets, stars and the Sun and Moon, and the collective energy of humans, animals and all the inhabitants of our planet and Universe overcoming fear, embracing change and living with appreciation and gratitude for each breath we take and each moment we are alive!
We are ALL ONE Tribe…

Amazing Grace

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