The Cherokee Trail of Tears

By the first part of the nineteenth century, many non-Indians in the United States, particularly in the southern states, felt strongly that there should be no Indians in the United States. They felt that all Indians should be forced to move from their ancestral homelands to new “reservations” located west of the Mississippi River. In general, the concept of removal stemmed from two concerns of the Southern non-Indians: economics and race. Southerners lusted for the farm lands held by Indians and Indians were felt to be racially inferior.

The primary argument in favor of Indian removal claimed that European Christian farmers could make more efficient use of the land than the Indian heathen hunters. This argument conveniently ignored the fact that Indians were efficient farmers and had been farming their land for many centuries. Historian David La Vere, in his book Contrary Neighbors: Southern Plains and Removed Indians in Indian Territory, writes:  “It mattered little that the Southeastern Indians had long been successful agriculturalists; in the government’s eyes they were still ‘savages’ because they did not farm the ‘correct’ way, as women still controlled the fields and farming.”

In 1830, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act. The Act passed 28 to 19 in the Senate and 102 to 97 in the House. In making the case for Indian removal, Lewis Cass, the Secretary of War, wrote in the North American Review:  “A barbarous people, depending for subsistence upon the scanty and precarious supplies furnished by the chase, cannot live in contact with a civilized community.”

In 1838, General Winfield Scott began preparation for the removal of the Cherokee. He explained to the Cherokee that there would be no escape: his troops were to gather up all Cherokee. If they attempted to hide in the forests or mountains, he told them that the troops would track them down. He drew up plans to gather the Cherokee in a few locations prior to sending them west. Brian Hicks, in his book Toward the Setting Sun: John Ross, the Cherokees, and the Trail of Tears, writes:  “Soldiers were told to swarm Cherokee houses without warning, giving the Indians no time to put up a fight or even pack their belongings. Families would be taken at once and brought into one of several camps. The men must be polite and not use profanity.”

The United States Army rounded up the Cherokee who were living in Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, and Alabama. Mounted soldiers, using their bayonets as prods, herded the Cherokee like cattle. One of the soldier-interpreters for the Army wrote:  “I saw the helpless Cherokees arrested and dragged from their homes and driven at bayonet point into stockades. And in the chill of a drizzling rain on an October morning I saw them loaded like cattle or sheep into six hundred and forty-five wagons and headed for the West.”

If there were no adults home when the soldiers came to the Cherokee farms, then the children were taken in the hopes that their parents would follow. The vacant farms were then occupied by non-Indians who took over the Cherokee houses, used Cherokee furniture, utensils, and tools, and harvested the crops which the Cherokee had planted and tended. They also robbed Cherokee graves, stealing the silver pendants and other valuables which had been buried with the dead. One non-Indian observer wrote:  “The captors sometimes drove the people with whooping and hallowing, like cattle through rivers, allowing them no time even to take off their shoes and stockings.”

There were 3,000 regular soldiers and 4,000 citizen soldiers who assisted in the expulsion of the Cherokees. These soldiers often raped, robbed, and murdered the Cherokee. Some of the soldiers who were ordered to carry out the forced removal refused to do so. The Tennessee volunteers went home, saying that they would not dishonor Tennessee arms in this way. Many civilians who witnessed the treatment of the Cherokee signed petitions of protest.

The Cherokee were herded into animal corrals with no sanitary facilities. The stockades were so overcrowded that it was difficult to find room to sit down. They were not provided with adequate food and water. Brian Hicks writes:  “These stockades were like fortresses, two hundred feet wide and five hundred feet long with walls between eight and sixteen feet high. There was a single gate. Inside each of these camps a few small cabins ringed a great field.”

The Cherokee were then force-marched some 1,500 miles to Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River (now the state of Oklahoma.) During this march, 8,000 Cherokee died. The Cherokee call this episode in their long history Nunna daul Isunyi, which means “trail where we cried”. Others call it the Trail of Tears and often refer to it as the most disgraceful event in American history and as one more piece of evidence about the genocide which was attempted against American Indians.

The Cherokee were not at war with the United States. At this time, there was no American who could remember any unprovoked violence by the Cherokee. The Cherokee were known to be good neighbors and had adopted much of the European manner of living, including Christianity.

In Georgia, however, the press reported on the Cherokee removal with these words:  “Georgia is, at length, rid of her red population, and this beautiful country will now be prosperous and happy.”

The Cherokee were not the first tribe that was moved in this fashion, nor were they the last. The Trail of Tears was not an event which suddenly happened: rather it was the culmination of more than 30 years of actions and attitudes. It was an expression of states’ rights; it was an expression of greed for land; it was a denial of Native American tribal sovereignty; and it was an expression of the government’s inability to understand Indian people. One of the important points of conflict was the government’s concern for individually owned land and the Indian view that land was not to be owned by the individual, but by the tribe.

We talk about the Trail of Tears and similar events so that others may not repeat the errors of the past. It is important that we remember and that we talk about this today. In many ways the political climate of the United States today is similar to that which led up to the Trail of Tears. Let us recall these things now so that we can say: “Never again!” Never again should the United States act in such a callous manner toward those who gave this country so much of its heritage.

Preparing the Cherokee for Removal

Since its founding, the United States, and particularly the states that compose it, has been uncomfortable with having Indians nations within its boundaries. Motivated by a combination of greed, racism, and religion, non-Indians debated two basic solutions to the Indian “problem”: removing Indian nations from the United States by relocating them west of the Mississippi River, and/or genocide. These solutions began with law in 1830 with the passage of the Indian Removal Act.

In 1835, American settlers invaded Cherokee territory and filed lawsuits against the Indians. The Indians, under state law, were not able to testify against the Americans so the Indians always lost. Some Americans stripped Indian men and women and flogged them. When General Ellis Wool attempted to protect the Cherokee, the state of Alabama accused him of disturbing the peace and interfering with the rights of Alabama citizens.

In 1835, the United States presented the Cherokee with a new treaty. The offer which the United States presented to the Cherokee was simple: if the tribe signed the treaty, the Cherokee would surrender their ancient homelands and move to the west. If the Cherokee did not sign, then the United States military would herd them at bayonet point from their homes and move them to the west.

Seeing no realistic alternative, some Cherokee leaders – primarily Major Ridge, John Ridge, Elias Boudinot, Andrew Ross, James Starr, Stand Watie, James Rogers, Thomas Watie, Archilla Smith, John A. Bell, Charles Foreman, George W. Adair, and others of the Treaty Party – signed the Treaty of New Echota.  None of those signing the treaty had been authorized by the Cherokee Nation to sign it. In signing the treaty, all realized that they had violated Cherokee law, a law with a death penalty.

Under the terms of this treaty, the Cherokee were to give up all of their lands east of the Mississippi and to move to what is now Oklahoma and Arkansas. Cherokee Principal Chief John Ross repudiated the treaty because it had been signed by a minority of the Cherokee leaders. The United States, however, contended that they had informed the Cherokee that all leaders who did not attend the treaty conference would be considered to have approved any document signed by the negotiators.

In 1836, Cherokee Principal Chief John Ross met with President Andrew Jackson in a courtesy visit. Jackson brought up the issue of removal, indicating he would be unable to protect the tribe as long as they lived among non-Indians.

That same year, Cherokee Principal Chief John Ross addressed the U.S. Senate, providing them with an outline of the abuse and injustice done to the Cherokee. He presented them with two protest resolutions – one signed by 3,250 North Carolina Cherokee and one representing more than 12,000 Cherokee – asking that the Treaty of New Echota not be ratified.  While the government claimed that the Cherokee General Council had approved the treaty and that 500 Cherokee were present when it was adopted, neither was true. It had been signed by a few dozen Cherokee, many of whom had already agreed to emigrate. The Senate, by a margin of one vote, ratified the treaty.

As soon as the new treaty was ratified by the Senate, President Andrew Jackson issued a proclamation that the United States no longer recognized the existence of any government among the Cherokee in the Southeast. Furthermore, the Cherokee were warned that any resistance to removal would be met by force through the army.

In 1836, General Ellis Wool forwarded Cherokee protests over removal to Washington, D.C. He explained:  “It is, however, vain to talk to a people almost universally opposed to the treaty and who maintain that they never made such a treaty.”  He also reported:  “Many have said they will die before they will leave the country.”

In response, President Jackson rebuked the General for forwarding the Cherokee protests, declaring them to be disrespectful of the President, the Senate, and the American people.

In 1836, Major W.M. Davis, appointed to enroll the Cherokee for removal, reported that the removal treaty  “is no treaty at all, because it is not sanctioned by the great body of the Cherokee and made without their participation or assent. I solemnly declare to you that upon its reference to the Cherokee people it would be instantly rejected by nine-tenths of them, and I believe by nineteen-twentieths of them.”

In 1936, Cherokee Principal Chief John Ross visited the Western Cherokee. He conferred with the chiefs and visited relatives. The Indian agents in the area had been ordered to arrest him and so Western Cherokee Chief John Jolly met with Ross in private to avoid any possible legal trouble.

In 1837, Cherokee Principal Chief John Ross was denied a meeting with President Martin Van Buren. He found that the new President was intent on retaining President Andrew Jackson’s policies regarding Cherokee removal.

The Cherokee National Council sent a delegation which included John Ross, Elijah Hicks, Situwakee, and Whitepath to Washington, D.C. in 1838 to present Congress with a petition signed by 15,665 people protesting their removal treaty. However, the governor of Georgia has informed the President that any delay in Cherokee removal would be a violation of the rights of the state. President Martin Van Buren refused to grant the Cherokee request for a delayed removal. With this the stage for a rapid removal of the Cherokee to the west was set. The event which would become known as the trail of tears would follow.

First Nations News & Views: Tribes Work to Return the Bison

Welcome to the first edition of First Nations News & Views. This weekly series is one element in the “Invisible Indians” project put together by navajo and me, with assistance from the Native American Netroots Group. Each Sunday’s edition will include a short, original feature article, a look at some date relevant to American Indian history, and some briefs chosen to show the diversity of modern Indians living both on and off reservations in the United States and Canada.

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“The buffalo are disappearing rapidly, but not faster than I desire. I regard the destruction of such game as Indians subsist upon as facilitating the policy of the Government, of destroying their hunting habits, coercing them on reservations, and compelling them to begin to adopt the habits of civilization.”

 – Secretary of the Interior Columbus Delano, Testimony to Congress, 1874

“We recognize the bison is a symbol of our strength and unity, and that as we bring our herds back to health, we will also bring our people back to health.”

 – Fred DuBray, former president Inter Tribal Buffalo Council, 2005

By 1870, the great herds of buffalo, or American Bison, that had in the 1500s roamed everywhere except present-day New England, were limited to 11 Western states and territories. There were still millions of them, perhaps 40 million. The massive slaughter that began in earnest in 1874 ended nine years later. By 1890, only 500 bison remained, and the devastated, decimated tribes who had depended on them were confined to reservations and a hard-scrabble existence.

Today, however, there are around 500,000 fenced bison in commercial herds, many of them genetically intermixed with cattle breeds and sold for meat domestically and abroad. There are also some 20,000 genetically pure bison in free-roaming herds, like the 3000 in Yellowstone National Park. The biggest fenced herds are in Nebraska, Colorado, North Dakota, and South Dakota, the leader, where there are about 40,000 head of bison on private ranches and tribal land.

As NPR reported early last year, the demand for bison meat is rising, and not just for burgers. And the demand in 2011 kept up the pace.

“Five years ago, I spent 90 percent of my time trying to get people to eat bison. Now, I spend 90 percent of my time getting people to raise bison,” said Dave Carter​, executive director of the Westminster-based National Bison Association.

Among the bison raisers are the 56 tribes of the non-profit Inter Tribal Buffalo Council, which got its start in 1990. Some tribes started as early as 1971 to reintroduce bison and, collectively, they now have herds totaling about 15,000 head in 19 states. The idea behind this is far more than economic. As the ITBC web site states, the “reintroduction of the buffalo to tribal lands will help heal the spirit of both the Indian people and the buffalo.” For Indians of the Plains and far beyond, the bison was woven into every aspect of their lives and was an integral part of their philosophy and religion.

ITBC Cultural Education Coordinator Carla Rae Brings Plenty (Lakota-Cheyenne River) recently wrote:

[The council] is committed to reestablishing bison herds on Indian lands in a manner that promotes cultural enhancement, spiritual revitalization, ecological restoration, and economic development. ITBC is governed by a Board of Directors, comprised of one tribal representative from each member tribe.

The role of the ITBC, as established by its membership, is to act as a facilitator in coordinating education and training programs, develop marketing strategies, coordinate the transfer of surplus American buffalo – also known as bison – from national parks to tribal lands, and provide technical assistance to its membership. The ITBC works collaboratively with members to develop sound management plans that enable tribal herds to become successful and self-sufficient operations.

Among other reasons for restoring the bison herds is some hope for change in the diet of many Indians, on and off the reservation, who have high rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease as consequence of both poverty and a poor understanding of nutrition. Bison meat is extremely lean, with less than a third the amount of fat and cholesterol and less than two-thirds as many calories as beef. It also has more iron an vitamin B12 than beef. But it is a very long way from providing more than an occasional meal on any of the reservations.

The process of restoration is slow, but growth in tribal herds steadily continues. In early December, the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission approved the removal of 68 quarantined bison to the reservations at Fort Belknap (A’aninin-Gros Ventre and the Nakota-Assiniboine) and Fort Peck (Assiniboine-Sioux). About 700 now graze at Fort Belknap and another 200 can be found Turtle Mound Buffalo Ranch on the Fort Peck reservation.  

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Cherokee leader John Ross

This Week in American Indian History in 1833:

It can be said that the non-violent resistance campaign by the Cherokee nation against removal and relocation to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) began on Jan. 28, 1833. Tribal leaders, including John Ross, the principal chief of the Eastern Cherokee, met that day with Secretary of War John Eaton to say they would not negotiate with the federal government about removal because Washington was not living up to previous agreements to protect them since gold had been discovered on Cherokee land in 1829. Murderous white “pony clubs,” a kind of pre-Civil War Ku Klux Klan killed Cherokee men, raped Cherokee women and burned their houses and entire towns, allowing whites to stake mining claims. The Cherokee delegation in Washington had reason to be worried because President Andrew Jackson, was no friend, having betrayed the Cherokee by forcing the cession of more than 2 million acres of their land after the Red Stick War ended in 1814 even though they had allied themselves with the federal government against the rebellious wing of the Creek tribe in that conflict. Moreover, as soon as gold had been discovered in 1829, Jackson had removed all federal troops from Georgia and let state authorities and the ad hoc “pony clubs” to act they wished.

Eaton told them their only hope was removal. Jackson offered the Eastern Cherokee $3 million for all their lands east of the Mississippi except those in North Carolina if they would move. The delegation said the illegal Georgia gold mines alone were worth more than that. Thus began a five-year effort of sophisticated non-violent resistance which appealed to both moral and political authority. Ultimately, it failed and 16,000 Cherokee were removed across the Mississippi, at least 4,000 of their number dying along what is now known as the “Trail of Tears.”

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Susan Allen

Susan Allen (Sicangu-Oglala Lakota) Wins Seat in Minnesota Legislature

Susan Allen of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party won a special election for district 61B seat of the Minnesota House of Representatives on Jan. 10. The race was notable because Allen, an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux tribe, is the first lesbian American Indian elected to any state legislature. The impoverished district in south-central Minneapolis has many problems with which Allen is familiar. She was born on the Uintah and Ouray Ute reservation in northeastern Utah, moved around to many reservations as a young girl because her Oglala Lakota father was an episcopal priest. She saw much social and economic injustice, which has played a major role in determining her political views.  

She says she will focus on investing in jobs, education, tax reform, as well as creating a single-payer health care system, preserving the environment, and saying no to the anti-gay marriage amendment on the state ballot next November. “We’re thrilled for Susan and the remarkable progress her victory represents,” said Tiffany Muller, vice president for political operations for the Victory Fund. “This is our first win of 2012, and it’s a fantastic way to start off what will be a very exciting year for LGBT candidates.”

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Cartoon by Marty Two Bulls

U.S. Supreme Court Takes Indian Casino Case

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on two petitions related to a decision by the federal government to take the Bradley Tract, a parcel of Pottawatomi-owned land in Michigan, into trust. The petitions were brought by Interior Secretary Kenneth Salazar and by the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band, also known as the Gun Lake Tribe, which seeks to have the land taken into trust so they can build a casino on it. David Patchak, a private individual who lives near the land in question, filed a complaint alleging that a casino would destroy the peace and quiet of the area and create pollution. The tribe won a judgment in U.S. District Court on the grounds that Patchak had no “prudential” interest in the case. But the Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that decision. The case may boil down to an interpretation of whether putting the land into trust can be done by the Interior Department for tribes that were not yet recognized by the federal government in 1934 at the time of the Indian Reorganization Act. The Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band did not receive federal recognition until 1998.

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Maryland recognizes the Piscataways

After years of struggle and appeals, as well as an internal schism, the Piscataway tribe of southern Maryland has gained state recognition. The tribe’s ancestors have lived in the area for as much as 12 millennia. But Maryland officials previously said documentation connecting today’s Piscataways with Indians dating back before 1790 was inadequate for recognition and had rejected their applications. One motivation behind the rejection was the view of some citizens that the tribe is only interested in recognition so they could build casinos. The Piscataways, of whom there are now about 5,000, renounced any right to casinos in the negotiations to get recognition.

Mervin Savoy, the 68-year-old chairwoman of the Piscataway-Conoy Confederacy, had waited a long time for the day Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley to make the recognition official.

“A reporter once asked me what it felt like to be an Indian,” Savoy says, laughing. “You might as well ask me what it feels like to be a woman. I don’t know; I’ve never been anything else.”

Savoy didn’t see anything unusual in the way her grandparents lived off the land. Her grandmother picked mint and peach leaves to flavor food. For a headache, she prescribed bark from a weeping willow tree. For a bee sting, she rubbed the irritated skin with three types of grass.

“All of these things, you could just walk out to the yard and get,” Savoy says.

The struggle for federal recognition, which would provide the Piscataways with funds for education, housing and public health, continues.

-News & Views h/t to Bill in MD

Piscataways in traditional cloth regalia. Left to Right: Piscataway Tribal Spokesman Rico Newman, Diona Kakinohana, Desiree Windsor, Provisional Tribal Council Chairwoman Mervin Savoy, MCIA Vice Chair Thomas Windsor, Linda Proctor, Argentine Newman, Piscataway Communications Director Chris Newman (Photo courtesy of Shikya Wilson)
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Do Congress and Obama Really Support the Tribal Law and Order Act?

The 2010 passage and signing of the Tribal Law and Order Act was viewed by many Indians as a major step forward and the keeping of one of the promises made by the Obama administration to pay attention to Indian voices about our needs. But, as Rob Capriccioso reports, TLOA is being undermined by budget cuts and an apparent lack of seriousness in pursuing key aspects of the legislation. In November $90 million was cut from the Department of Justice’s programs. “There continues to be a public safety crisis on our Indian reservations, and the lives of women and children are in danger every day,” said retired Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND), a key promoter of the TLOA when he chaired the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

“Unlike other areas of government spending, the federal government has a distinct legal, treaty, and trust obligation to provide for the public safety of Indian country,” wrote [Ryan] Dreveskracht, a lawyer with the Galanda Broadman Indian-focused law firm in an article posted on his firm’s web site. … This obligation was made explicit in section 202 of the TLOA and was thoroughly discussed in the congressional record. That that same Congress is absolutely ignoring those duties now makes it that much worse. As a result, people are literally dying,” Dreveskracht added. “While crime outside Indian reservations has declined in recent years, the violent crime rate in Indian country has increased dramatically over the same time period – with homicides increasing by 14 percent in just four years.”

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Wisconsin Fights Suit Over Law Banning Indian Mascots

The state of Wisconsin wants the courts to dismiss a challenge to the constitutionality of a 2010 law that allows the state school superintendent to ban American Indian mascots and logos. The Department of Public Instruction ordered the Berlin School District to drop its “Indians” nickname and logo by Sept. 16, 2012, because its promotes stereotyping, discrimination and pupil harassment. The state had received a complaint from a district resident regarding the Berlin Indians’ nickname. The state also plans to appeal the decision of a judge to overturn his ruling rejecting a previous DPI order that the Mukwonago High School ditch its mascot and the “Indians” name of its athletic teams. That judge called the law, Act 250, “uncommonly silly.” It was passed when Democrats controlled the legislature. Republicans are now in charge, and some seek to repeal the law.

Barbara Munson (Oneida) chairs the Wisconsin Indian Education Association’s Indian Mascot and Logo Taskforce. She says 33 of the 65 Wisconsin schools with Indian-related team names have dropped them, or changed their logos since 1994. That was the year Marquette University dropped its Warriors team name and mascot and became the Golden Eagles. Wisconsin’s 11 tribes, through their Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council, are on record opposing the names. “These images are archaic,” she says, and “should have left our culture as a whole along with Sambo’s restaurants (and) blackface minstrel shows.”

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Saginaw Chippewa Tribe Holds Repatriation Ceremony

The Michigan Anishinaabek Cultural Preservation and Repatriation Alliance and the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan held a repatriation and reburial ceremony at its Nibokaan Ancestral Cemetery Dec. 19. The remains of an indigenous woman who died before the arrival of Europeans but was dug up in 1905 and wound up in the Museum of Vancouver, BC, were buried along with 256 funerary items.

Nibokaan was established in Mt. Pleasant, Mich., in 1995 specifically for the purpose of reburying indigenous ancestors. Such repatriations were made more possible by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990. From the time of the tribe’s initial request until reburial, such repatriations 10 years or more. Fourteen months ago, the Saginaw Chippewa reburied the remains of 144 indigenous individuals who had been dug up in the 1960s by Central Michigan University for use as a teaching tool for its archaeological program. The bodies had been placed in a storage room ever since.

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Tohono O’odham Shadow Wolves Patrol Border for Drug Contraband

The Shadow Wolves is an elite force that patrols the Arizona-Mexico border and uses traditional tracking methods to find drug smugglers and their goods. The force comprises nine members of the Tohono O’odham tribe, whose 28,000 members have the second largest tribal land base in the United States. The technique used is known as “cutting for sign.” It is taught from childhood, says one of the wolves, Jason Garcia: “This takes a lot of patience. You’re looking for something that’s almost invisible.”

A reporter traveling was astonished when Garcia told him from looking at the signs that the quarry they were hunting “had passed by only minutes before in an SUV, probably a Chevrolet, heading directly north towards Phoenix 100 miles away.”

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A new group has launched a web site, The Last Real Indians, readers may find to their liking. Here’s an excerpt from one of the team of five writers, Ruth Hopkins (Sisseton Wahpeton/Mdwakanton/Hunkpapa), whose tribal enrollment is at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation:

Indigenous peoples are always on the precipice, so it should come as no surprise that we are making good use of social media and the blogosphere as well.  Facebook helped The Indigenous Environmental Network mobilize American Indian and First Nation citizens to protest against fracking on Tribal lands, and the Keystone XL pipeline.  If implemented, the pipeline would transport toxic fossil fuel from Canadian Tar Sands to the Gulf of Mexico- traveling directly through the Ogallala aquifer, the source of pure drinking water for millions.  Buffalo Nickel Creative (BNC3) and its affiliate, the 1491s, is an indigenous social media powerhouse.

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Prison Camps & The Trail Of Tears (Part 2)

( – promoted by oke)

(this is a repost)


Mark Anthony Rolo: Recalling the Trail of Tears

“The Trail of Tears began 170 years ago this week. We should recall it not as an aberration but as a logical outgrowth of an inhumane policy. And we should insist, in its memory, that Indian treaties and Indian sovereignty be honored.

When President Andrew Jackson ordered the Cherokee Nation off its Georgia homelands, the U.S. government signed a treaty with the Cherokees, promising them a $5 million payment upon successful removal west of the Mississippi.

October: For most Cherokee, the “Trail of Tears” begins.



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The Legend of the Cherokee Rose.

SOURCE

No better symbol exists of the pain and suffering of the Trail Where They Cried than the Cherokee Rose(pictured at top of page). The mothers of the Cherokee grieved so much that the chiefs prayed for a sign to lift the mother’s spirits and give them strength to care for their children. From that day forward, a beautiful new flower, a rose, grew wherever a mother’s tear fell to the ground. The rose is white, for the mother’s tears. It has a gold center, for the gold taken from the Cherokee lands, and seven leaves on each stem that represent the seven Cherokee clans that made the journey. To this day, the Cherokee Rose prospers along the route of the “Trail of Tears”.

TRAIL OF TEARS MAP

Military forts were already in place when theroads leading to those forts were being made more passable. Yet with no “removal treaty” known to Cherokees, settlers sarcastically made references to the military forts becoming the Cherokee’s new homes. Principle Chief John Ross was so alarmed by the forts, roads, and cruel teasing that he traveled all the way to Washington to express his grave concerns to Andrew Jackson.

Jackson hypocritically told them:

“You shall remain in your ancient land as long as grass grows and water runs.”

Principle Chief John Ross also tried desperately to escape the peril of Treaty of New Echota (the “removal treaty” which no true representative of the Cherokee Nation ever signed) for his people by sending a letter to the U.S. Senate and House, dated September 28, 1836:

Cherokee letter protesting the Treaty of New Etocha  from Chief John Ross, “To the Senate and House of Representatives”

LETTER

By the stipulations of this instrument, we are despoiled of our private possessions, the indefeasible property of individuals. We are stripped of every attribute of freedom and eligibility for legal self-defence. Our property may be plundered before our eyes; violence may be committed on our persons; even our lives may be taken away, and there is none to regard our complaints. We are denationalized; we are disfranchised. We are deprived of membership in the human family! We have neither land nor home, nor resting place that can be called our own. And this is effected by the provisions of a compact which assumes the venerated, the sacred appellation of treaty.

The U.S. Senate and House ignored his plea, and when 31 forts with adequate roads were in place to be transformed into prison, concentration, and death camps…the Cherokee received this letter from General Winfield Scott on May 10, 1838:

Address to the Cherokee Nation

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“Cherokees! The President of the United States has sent me with a powerful army, to cause you, in obedience to the treaty of 1835 [the Treaty of New Echota], to join that part of your people who have already established in prosperity on the other side of the Mississippi. Unhappily, the two years which were allowed for the purpose, you have suffered to pass away without following, and without making any preparation to follow; and now, or by the time that this solemn address shall reach your distant settlements, the emigration must be commenced in haste, but I hope without disorder.


Being Forced by the U.S. military to the internment, concentration, or death camps:

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During the roundup intimidation and acts of cruelty at the hands of the troops, along with the theft and destruction of property by local residents, further alienated the Cherokees. Finally, Chief Ross appealed to President Van Buren to permit the Cherokees to oversee their own removal. Van Buren consented, and Ross and his brother Lewis administered the effort. The Cherokees were divided into 16 detachments of about 1,000 each.

“I saw the helpless Cherokees arrested and dragged from their homes, and driven at the bayonet point into the stockades. And in the chill of a drizzling rain on an October morning I saw them loaded like cattle or sheep into six hundred and forty-five wagons and started toward the west….On the morning of November the 17th we encountered a terrific sleet and snow storm with freezing temperatures and from that day until we reached the end of the fateful journey on March the 26th 1839, the sufferings of the Cherokees were awful. The trail of the exiles was a trail of death. They had to sleep in the wagons and on the ground without fire. And I have known as many as twenty-two of them to die in one night of pneumonia due to ill treatment, cold and exposure…”

Private John G. Burnett

Captain Abraham McClellan’s Company,

2nd Regiment, 2nd Brigade, Mounted Infantry

Cherokee Indian Removal 1838-39

The military forts which were transformed into prison, concentration, and death camps were naturally armed with rifle towers and weaponry.1100 Cherokee were held as prisoners for almost 6 months at FORT HETZEL with no restroom facilities and little nourishment.

SOURCE


STARVATION

Starvation is a severe reduction in vitamin, nutrient, and energy intake, and is the most extreme form of malnutrition. In humans, prolonged starvation (in excess of 1-2 months) causes permanent organ damage and will eventually result in death.

I would be tempted to say that the soldiers intentionally fed the Cherokee less in order to alleviate sanitation problems, if it weren’t for the facts that several Cherokee died in the internment camps and on the Trail of Tears, due to a murderous philosophy:

Extermination:


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Eugenics is a new term for an old phenomena which asserts that Indian people should be exterminated because they are an inferior race of people. Jefferson’s suggestion to pursue the Indians to extermination fits well into the eugenistic vision. In David Stannard’s study American Holocaust, he writes: “had these same words been enunciated by a German leader in 1939, and directed at European Jews, they would be engraved in modern memory. Since they were uttered by one of America’s founding fathers, however…they conveniently have become lost to most historians in their insistent celebration of Jefferson’s wisdom and humanity.” Roosevelt feared that American upper classes were being replaced by the “unrestricted breeding” of inferior racial stocks, the “utterly shiftless”, and the “worthless.”

The soldiers must have wanted them dead, for transferring dead bodies out of the internment camps and disposing of them must have been more inconvenient, than giving a prisoner a shovel to cover up feces, while they also died of diseases.

Having given Wilma Mankiller’s book away last summer, I think an earlier paragraph from my last diary referred to what occurred at Fort New Echota (at least), because the Cherokee were supposed to have been given corn, I remember:

Fort New Echota (Fort Wool):

General Scott was shocked during a trip to inspect Fort New Echota when he overheard members of The Guard say that they would not be happy until all Cherokee were dead. As a result, he issued meticulous orders on conduct and allowed actions during the action. Troops were to treat tribal members “with kindness and humanity, free from every strain of violence.” Each Cherokee was to receive meat and flour or corn regardless of age. Scott’s orders were disobeyed by most troops that were not directly under his control.NEW ECHOTA

Here was the paragraph:


Source

The reader needs to understand that the Cherokee are a matriarchal society. Plainly put: the clan mother can trump the chief, women choose HER mate based on HIS cooking skills, and a man knew he was divorced if all his things were outside when he got home. So when the soldiers raped the women in the prison camps and on the Trail of Tears, they raped the tribe’s leaders as well. It was about taking away power. When the soldiers passed the women around like whiskey bottles raping them, it was about taking away power. When the soldiers scalped the women’s genitalia and wore their vaginas on their hats, it was about raping power to the most excruciating degree imaginable. I think it’s common knowledge how soldiers identified “leaders” in concentration camps and killed them, in order to keep the hostages under control. Still, one hundred and fifty-one years later nuns are raped and tortured…

Last of all, what happened in Fort Cumming may be ambiguous, but let us assume the “horrors that occurred inside the walls” were similar and at least equal to the extermination via internment camps and relocation against the Cherokees that occurred at the other forts, if not worse.

Fort Cumming:


Source

…Strangely missing from detailed physical description of the fort is any mention of the horrors that occurred inside the walls.

The 13 groups of 7 clans left in late August through late September of 1838, arriving January through March of the proceeding year.

http://www.rosecity….

They would lose their land 50 years later with the Land Run of 1889. While 12 groups traveled by wagon on land, Chief John Ross’s group traveled by water by boat.

Strong seasonal rain made the dirt roads too muddy to travel, their horses could not graze enough to be sustained, and hunting was scarce. The U.S. government gave them very little food to take. Even if they had been able to maintain their horses and wagons, they still would have had to walk across the frozen Mississippi or Ohio River, or be trapped in between them.


http://www.rosecity….

Looking across the river today, one can only imagine the suffering that was taking place more than 150 years ago. Disrespectfully uprooted, homeless, they were embarking on a long journey in worn-out moccasins in the unforgiving dead of winter.  Enduring river crossings, ice floes and relentless winds, they had only a blanket for warmth – if they were lucky.  You imagine huddling around a fire, comforting your mother while she gets weaker and weaker … wondering, as she, when the suffering would end, and whether she would even live to see it.

I forgot that was why they walked with little or no shoes across jagged ice and snow for miles upon miles. You only get that at the museum, because there is a large approximately 6 x 4 picture of the Mississippi River in the winter covered in snow with jagged ice. I don’t know how as many survived as they did; nearly 2000 Cherokee died on the Trail Of Tears. The least number of reported total deaths is 4000, combining the deaths at the internment camps. The greatest estimated number is 8000.


http://www.rosecity….

Two-thirds of the ill-equipped Cherokees were trapped between the ice-bound Ohio and Mississippi Rivers during January. Although suffering from a cold, Quatie Ross, the Chief’s wife, gave her only blanket to a child.

“Long time we travel on way to new land. People feel bad when they leave Old Nation. Women cry and make sad wails, Children cry and many men cry…but they say nothing and just put heads down and keep on go towards West. Many days pass and people die very much.”

Recollections of a survivor:

She died of pneumonia at Little Rock. Some drank stagnant water and succumbed to disease. One survivor told how his father got sick and died; then, his mother; then, one by one, his five brothers and sisters. “One each day. Then all are gone.”

The last things I remember about going through the exhibit are the stories constantly being told through audio with representative statues. Voices are heard over each other, yet surrounding voices are soft enough to hear the one you’re currently at with clarity.


SOURCE

The soldiers forced the Cherokees to abandon their dead at the side of the road.

Amidst the surrounding voices in the museum was the voice of a Cherokee survivor expressing how her grandfather died. Her grandfather had to sneak away for a couple days to hunt for food, so that she and others could live. The few soldiers wouldn’t notice, apparently. She tells how as a little girl, she knelt beside him as he died. What I recall the most was her saying, “Grandfather, Grandfather?” I think a soldier hit him, but I can’t exactly recall. She had to just keep walking.

An elder once told me how some still walk the Trail Of Tears, to remember and honor their ancestors by their graves of stones. “But it takes about 6 months to do it,” he said. I heard another elder tell a group about his family’s forced relocation, “When my relative’s relatives died, they buried them, picked up their pipes, and moved on.”

Now I know why I repeated that to myself over and over again.

Mitakuye Oyasin

(All my relations)


Detailed map:

TRAIL OF TEARS MAP #2

Remember that the small groups of Cherokee would forage for food as they proceeded, so the map is only a general representation of the routes.

http://s45.photobuck…

Cherokee Prayer:


Source

As I walk the trail of life

in the fear of the wind and rain,

grant O Great Spirit

that I may always walk

like a man

The Cherokee Prior to the Trail of Tears

( – promoted by navajo)

In 1830, the United States passed the Indian Removal Act which called for the removal of all Indians to lands west of the Mississippi River. The rationale for removal rather than “civilizing” the Indians in their homelands is explained in one letter to the Cherokee agent:


An Almighty hand has stamped upon every creature a particular genius, propensity and leading traits of character. The polish of education may improve, but cannot change, for the imperishable seal is there; bars and dungeons, penitentiaries and death itself, have been found insufficient, even in civilized society, to restrain man from crime, and constrain him to the necessity of moral and virtuous action. How then are we to look for, or expect it, in a community made up of savage and illiterate people?”

In 1838, the United States Army rounded up the Cherokee who were living in Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, and Alabama and forcibly removed them to their new home in Indian Territory. This became known as the Trail of Tears.  

The Cherokee were not nomadic hunters and gatherers depicted in the most common stereotypes of Indians. They were farming people and had been farming people for more than a thousand years. They did not live in teepees, but had permanent villages with substantial houses. At the time of their removal, the Cherokee had a higher literacy rate than the non-Indian Americans. However, they were literate in Cherokee which doesn’t count as literacy in the minds of many Americans.

Like most Indian people, the Cherokee were progressive and eagerly borrowed new things from their neighbors, including the European settlers. The Cherokee adopted many things from the Europeans and have been often characterized as a “Civilized Nation” because of this.

In 1808 the Cherokee enacted their first written laws. The laws provided for the organization of a national police force to protect property and to insure the inheritance rights of widows and orphans. Since the Cherokee held real estate in common, the protection of property refered to chattel and improvements.

A census of the Cherokee nation done by the Indian agent in 1809 counted 12,395 Cherokee, 583 Negro slaves, and 314 Europeans living in the nation. The census also found that the Cherokee had 19,165 black cattle, 19,778 swine, 6,519 horses, and 1,037 sheep.

In response to the Cherokee chiefs who visited Washington, D.C. in 1817, the Niles Weekly Register reported:

“These chiefs, by their manners and deportment, exhibit a practical proof, to those who may have had doubts on that head, that the natives of this country only want the means of improvement to place them on an equality with the intelligent part of our citizens.”

The paper went on to call for the “civilizing” of the Cherokee through a commitment to agriculture and Christianity.

In 1820 the Cherokee reorganized their government by dividing the nation into eight districts and organizing a new standing legislative body. The legislature, with a 13 member upper house and a 32 member lower house, was to meet each October in Newtown, the newly created Cherokee capital. In this reorganization, the villages were no longer recognized as the primary political unit.

The federal government completed a new census of the Cherokee Nation in 1824. It found that the Cherokee population had increased by 30% since the 1809 census and was now 16,060. The number of Negro slaves in the Cherokee nation had increased by 119% and was now 1,277. Spinning wheels were found in nearly all Cherokee homes; the number of wagons had increased by 473%; and the number of plows had increased by 416%. The character of the material goods possessed by the Cherokee clearly suggests that they were becoming a nation of Anglo-style farmers.

In Oklahoma, the Cherokee “Old Settlers” (those who had moved from the southeast in 1810 and in 1817) formed a constitutional government with an elected chief and legislature in 1824.

In 1825 the Cherokee National Council authorized the treasurer to make loans to Cherokee citizens. The loans required “two good and sufficient securities”.

The Cherokee National Council also passed a law decreeing the death penalty for those who sold land to non-Indians. All Cherokee land was held in common and was not privately owned by individual tribal members.

The Cherokee Nation became a republic in 1827 with a president (called “chief”), a bicameral House (called the “council”), a constitution, and a codified body of laws. While the constitution called for an annual tax of fifty cents per family, this was seldom collected. Funding for the government came from the United States as income from old land sales. John Ross was elected president.

In opposition to the new Cherokee Constitution, tribal traditionalists spoke out against the Constitution, the move to acculturate, and the Christian missions. The rebellion was non-violent. The two Cherokee factions met and reconciled some of their differences.

In 1829 the Cherokee National Council passed a law that forfeited the rights and privileges of Cherokee citizenship to all Cherokee who emigrated or agreed to emigrate. In addition, Cherokee who sold their improved property to anyone who had enrolled to emigrate was to be fined and punished with 100 lashes.

In an 1830 article published in the Niles Weekly Register, Colonel Gold (whose daughter was married to Elias Boudinot, the editor of the Cherokee Phoenix) reported that the Cherokee afforded

“strong evidence that the wandering Indian has been converted into the industrious husbandman; and the tomahawk and rifle are exchanging for the plough, the hoe, the wheel, and the loom, and that they are rapidly acquiring domestic habits, and attaining a degree of civilization that was entirely unexpected, from the natural disposition of these children of the forest.”

In 1835 a new census counted 8,936 Cherokee in Georgia. The average size of the Cherokee family was 6.6 persons and the family cultivated an average of 11.1 acres. About one-fourth of the Cherokee corn crop was sold.

The Cherokee in Georgia owned 776 slaves, but only 7% of the Cherokee families had slaves. Most of the slaves were owned by mixed bloods.

The Cherokee Trail of Tears

In 1838, the United States Army rounded up the Cherokee who were living in Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, and Alabama. Mounted soldiers, using their bayonets as prods, herded the Cherokee like cattle. One of the soldier-interpreters for the Army wrote:

“I saw the helpless Cherokees arrested and dragged from their homes and driven at bayonet point into stockades. And in the chill of a drizzling rain on an October morning I saw them loaded like cattle or sheep into six hundred and forty-five wagons and headed for the West.”

If there were no adults home when the soldiers came to the Cherokee farms, then the children were taken in the hopes that their parents would follow. The vacant farms were then occupied by non-Indians who took over the Cherokee houses, used Cherokee furniture, utensils, and tools, and harvested the crops which the Cherokee had planted and tended. They also robbed Cherokee graves, stealing the silver pendants and other valuables which had been buried with the dead.

There were 3,000 regular soldiers and 4,000 citizen soldiers who assisted in the expulsion of the Cherokees. These soldiers often raped, robbed, and murdered the Cherokee. Some of the soldiers who were ordered to carry out the forced removal refused to do so. The Tennessee volunteers went home, saying that they would not dishonor Tennessee arms in this way. Many civilians who witnessed the treatment of the Cherokee signed petitions of protest.

The Cherokee were herded into animal corrals with no sanitary facilities. The stockades were so overcrowded that it was difficult to find room to sit down. They were not provided with adequate food and water.  

The Cherokee were then force-marched some 1,500 miles to Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River (now the state of Oklahoma.) During this march, 8,000 Cherokee died. The Cherokee call this episode in their long history Nunna daul Isunyi, which means “trail where we cried”. Others call it the Trail of Tears and often refer to it as the most disgraceful event in American history and as one more piece of evidence about the genocide which was attempted against American Indians.

The Cherokee were not at war with the United States. At this time, there was no American who could remember any unprovoked violence by the Cherokee. The Cherokee were known to be good neighbors and had adopted much of the European manner of living, including Christianity.  

In Georgia, however, the press reported on the Cherokee removal with these words:

“Georgia is, at length, rid of her red population, and this beautiful country will now be prosperous and happy.”

The Cherokee were not the first tribe that was moved in this fashion, nor were they the last. The Trail of Tears was not an event which suddenly happened: rather it was the culmination of more than 30 years of actions and attitudes. It was an expression of states’ rights; it was an expression of greed for land; it was a denial of Native American tribal sovereignty; and it was an expression of the government’s inability to understand Indian people. One of the important points of conflict was the government’s concern for individually owned land and the Indian view that land was not to be owned by the individual, but by the tribe.

We talk about the Trail of Tears and similar events so that others may not repeat the errors of the past. It is important that we remember and that we talk about this today. In many ways the political climate of the United States today is similar to that which led up to the Trail of Tears. Let us recall these things now so that we can say: “Never again!” Never again should the United States act in such a callous manner toward those who gave this country so much of its heritage.  

Prison Camps & The Trail Of Tears (Part 2)

( – promoted by navajo)

October: For most Cherokee, the “Trail of Tears” begins.

http://s26.photobuck…

The Legend of the Cherokee Rose.
SOURCE

No better symbol exists of the pain and suffering of the Trail Where They Cried than the Cherokee Rose(pictured at top of page). The mothers of the Cherokee grieved so much that the chiefs prayed for a sign to lift the mother’s spirits and give them strength to care for their children. From that day forward, a beautiful new flower, a rose, grew wherever a mother’s tear fell to the ground. The rose is white, for the mother’s tears. It has a gold center, for the gold taken from the Cherokee lands, and seven leaves on each stem that represent the seven Cherokee clans that made the journey. To this day, the Cherokee Rose prospers along the route of the “Trail of Tears”.

TRAIL OF TEARS MAP

Military forts were already in place when theroads leading to those forts were being made more passable. Yet with no “removal treaty” known to Cherokees, settlers sarcastically made references to the military forts becoming the Cherokee’s new homes. Principle Chief John Ross was so alarmed by the forts, roads, and cruel teasing that he traveled all the way to Washington to express his grave concerns to Andrew Jackson.


Jackson hypocritically told them:

“You shall remain in your ancient land as long as grass grows and water runs.”


Principle Chief John Ross also tried desperately to escape the peril of Treaty of New Echota (the “removal treaty” which no true representative of the Cherokee Nation ever signed) for his people by sending a letter to the U.S. Senate and House, dated September 28, 1836:

 

Cherokee letter protesting the Treaty of New Etocha  from Chief John Ross, “To the Senate and House of Representatives”


LETTER

By the stipulations of this instrument, we are despoiled of our private possessions, the indefeasible property of individuals. We are stripped of every attribute of freedom and eligibility for legal self-defence. Our property may be plundered before our eyes; violence may be committed on our persons; even our lives may be taken away, and there is none to regard our complaints. We are denationalized; we are disfranchised. We are deprived of membership in the human family! We have neither land nor home, nor resting place that can be called our own. And this is effected by the provisions of a compact which assumes the venerated, the sacred appellation of treaty.


The U.S. Senate and House ignored his plea, and when 31 forts with adequate roads were in place to be transformed into prison, concentration, and death camps…the Cherokee received this letter from General Winfield Scott on May 10, 1838:

Address to the Cherokee Nation

SOURCE

“Cherokees! The President of the United States has sent me with a powerful army, to cause you, in obedience to the treaty of 1835 [the Treaty of New Echota], to join that part of your people who have already established in prosperity on the other side of the Mississippi. Unhappily, the two years which were allowed for the purpose, you have suffered to pass away without following, and without making any preparation to follow; and now, or by the time that this solemn address shall reach your distant settlements, the emigration must be commenced in haste, but I hope without disorder.


Being Forced by the U.S. military to the internment, concentration, or death camps:

http://www.powersour…

During the roundup intimidation and acts of cruelty at the hands of the troops, along with the theft and destruction of property by local residents, further alienated the Cherokees. Finally, Chief Ross appealed to President Van Buren to permit the Cherokees to oversee their own removal. Van Buren consented, and Ross and his brother Lewis administered the effort. The Cherokees were divided into 16 detachments of about 1,000 each.

“I saw the helpless Cherokees arrested and dragged from their homes, and driven at the bayonet point into the stockades. And in the chill of a drizzling rain on an October morning I saw them loaded like cattle or sheep into six hundred and forty-five wagons and started toward the west….On the morning of November the 17th we encountered a terrific sleet and snow storm with freezing temperatures and from that day until we reached the end of the fateful journey on March the 26th 1839, the sufferings of the Cherokees were awful. The trail of the exiles was a trail of death. They had to sleep in the wagons and on the ground without fire. And I have known as many as twenty-two of them to die in one night of pneumonia due to ill treatment, cold and exposure…”

Private John G. Burnett

Captain Abraham McClellan’s Company,

2nd Regiment, 2nd Brigade, Mounted Infantry

Cherokee Indian Removal 1838-39


The military forts which were transformed into prison, concentration, and death camps were naturally armed with rifle towers and weaponry.1100 Cherokee were held as prisoners for almost 6 months at

FORT HETZEL with no restroom facilities and little nourishment.

SOURCE


STARVATIONStarvation is a severe reduction in vitamin, nutrient, and energy intake, and is the most extreme form of malnutrition. In humans, prolonged starvation (in excess of 1-2 months) causes permanent organ damage and will eventually result in death.


I would be tempted to say that the soldiers intentionally fed the Cherokee less in order to alleviate sanitation problems, if it weren’t for the facts that several Cherokee died in the internment camps and on the Trail of Tears, due to a murderous philosophy:

Extermination:


SOURCE

Eugenics is a new term for an old phenomena which asserts that Indian people should be exterminated because they are an inferior race of people. Jefferson’s suggestion to pursue the Indians to extermination fits well into the eugenistic vision. In David Stannard’s study American Holocaust, he writes: “had these same words been enunciated by a German leader in 1939, and directed at European Jews, they would be engraved in modern memory. Since they were uttered by one of America’s founding fathers, however…they conveniently have become lost to most historians in their insistent celebration of Jefferson’s wisdom and humanity.” Roosevelt feared that American upper classes were being replaced by the “unrestricted breeding” of inferior racial stocks, the “utterly shiftless”, and the “worthless.”

The soldiers must have wanted them dead, for transferring dead bodies out of the internment camps and disposing of them must have been more inconvenient, than giving a prisoner a shovel to cover up feces, while they also died of diseases.

Having given Wilma Mankiller’s book away last summer, I think an earlier paragraph from my last diary referred to what occurred at Fort New Echota (at least), because the Cherokee were supposed to have been given corn, I remember:

Fort New Echota (Fort Wool):

General Scott was shocked during a trip to inspect Fort New Echota when he overheard members of The Guard say that they would not be happy until all Cherokee were dead. As a result, he issued meticulous orders on conduct and allowed actions during the action. Troops were to treat tribal members “with kindness and humanity, free from every strain of violence.” Each Cherokee was to receive meat and flour or corn regardless of age. Scott’s orders were disobeyed by most troops that were not directly under his control.NEW ECHOTA


Here was the paragraph:


Source

The reader needs to understand that the Cherokee are a matriarchal society. Plainly put: the clan mother can trump the chief, women choose HER mate based on HIS cooking skills, and a man knew he was divorced if all his things were outside when he got home. So when the soldiers raped the women in the prison camps and on the Trail of Tears, they raped the tribe’s leaders as well. It was about taking away power. When the soldiers passed the women around like whiskey bottles raping them, it was about taking away power. When the soldiers scalped the women’s genitalia and wore their vaginas on their hats, it was about raping power to the most excruciating degree imaginable. I think it’s common knowledge how soldiers identified “leaders” in concentration camps and killed them, in order to keep the hostages under control. Still, one hundred and fifty-one years later nuns are raped and tortured…

Last of all, what happened in Fort Cumming may be ambiguous, but let us assume the “horrors that occurred inside the walls” were similar and at least equal to the extermination via internment camps and relocation against the Cherokees that occurred at the other forts, if not worse.


Fort Cumming:


Source

…Strangely missing from detailed physical description of the fort is any mention of the horrors that occurred inside the walls.


The 13 groups of 7 clans left in late August through late September of 1838, arriving January through March of the proceeding year.

http://www.rosecity….

They would lose their land 50 years later with the Land Run of 1889. While 12 groups traveled by wagon on land, Chief John Ross’s group traveled by water by boat.

Strong seasonal rain made the dirt roads too muddy to travel, their horses could not graze enough to be sustained, and hunting was scarce. The U.S. government gave them very little food to take. Even if they had been able to maintain their horses and wagons, they still would have had to walk across the frozen Mississippi or Ohio River, or be trapped in between them.


http://www.rosecity….

Looking across the river today, one can only imagine the suffering that was taking place more than 150 years ago.  Disrespectfully uprooted, homeless, they were embarking on a long journey in worn-out moccasins in the unforgiving dead of winter.  Enduring river crossings, ice floes and relentless winds, they had only a blanket for warmth – if they were lucky.  You imagine huddling around a fire, comforting your mother while she gets weaker and weaker … wondering, as she, when the suffering would end, and whether she would even live to see it.

I forgot that was why they walked with little or no shoes across jagged ice and snow for miles upon miles. You only get that at the museum, because there is a large approximately 6 x 4 picture of the Mississippi River in the winter covered in snow with jagged ice. I don’t know how as many survived as they did; nearly 2000 Cherokee died on the Trail Of Tears. The least number of reported total deaths is 4000, combining the deaths at the internment camps. The greatest estimated number is 8000.


http://www.rosecity….

Two-thirds of the ill-equipped Cherokees were trapped between the ice-bound Ohio and Mississippi Rivers during January. Although suffering from a cold, Quatie Ross, the Chief’s wife, gave her only blanket to a child.


“Long time we travel on way to new land. People feel bad when they leave Old Nation. Women cry and make sad wails, Children cry and many men cry…but they say nothing and just put heads down and keep on go towards West. Many days pass and people die very much.”

Recollections of a survivor

She died of pneumonia at Little Rock. Some drank stagnant water and succumbed to disease. One survivor told how his father got sick and died; then, his mother; then, one by one, his five brothers and sisters. “One each day. Then all are gone.”

The last things I remember about going through the exhibit are the stories constantly being told through audio with representative statues. Voices are heard over each other, yet surrounding voices are soft enough to hear the one you’re currently at with clarity.

SOURCE

The soldiers forced the Cherokees to abandon their dead at the side of the road.

Amidst the surrounding voices in the museum was the voice of a Cherokee survivor expressing how her grandfather died. Her grandfather had to sneak away for a couple days to hunt for food, so that she and others could live. The few soldiers wouldn’t notice, apparently. She tells how as a little girl, she knelt beside him as he died. What I recall the most was her saying, “Grandfather, Grandfather?” I think a soldier hit him, but I can’t exactly recall. She had to just keep walking.

An elder once told me how some still walk the Trail Of Tears, to remember and honor their ancestors by their graves of stones. “But it takes about 6 months to do it,” he said. I heard another elder tell a group about his family’s forced relocation, “When my relative’s relatives died, they buried them, picked up their pipes, and moved on.”


Now I know why I repeated that to myself over and over again.


Mitakuye Oyasin

(All my relations)

Detailed map:

TRAIL OF TEARS MAP #2

Remember that the small groups of Cherokee would forage for food as they proceeded, so the map is only a general representation of the routes.


http://s45.photobuck…

Cherokee Prayer:


Source

As I walk the trail of life

in the fear of the wind and rain,

grant O Great Spirit

that I may always walk

like a man