Thursday, April 26, 2007


In his 1942 painting Cherokee Trail of Tears, Robert Lindneux depicts the forced journey of the Cherokees in 1838 to present-day Oklahoma.

"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."
a woman survivor, 1839

I saw a History Detective Episode a while back where they tracked down someone’s ancestor that had been on the Trail of tears. It seems that the ancestor was not a Cherokee, but one of the Wagon masters that had contracted to help move the Indians who had been effectively screwed out of their land.
I don’t know that much about the ‘Trail of Tears” and believe it or not, my other historical Posts have been done more or less off the top of my head, with research being done to verify quotations I used.
For my new friend ‘Anonymous” who is home schooling 2 girls, I found this ‘Teachers Aid” that seems to be as directed towards the “how to’s” concerning a research project as much as it is about the “Trail of Tears”.
I've done pretty good with a 5th Grade Education and a good Christian raisin', but I am no researcher. Yet.

What I learned
I had thought the removal of the Cherokee from lands in the Southeastern United States was based on gold being discovered there. Gold was only one part of the equation. The removal of the Cherokees was also product of the demand for land during the growth of Cotton Agriculture (fueling Slavery in the land of Freedom) in the Southeast, and the racial prejudice that many white southerners harbored towards but did not limit to American Indians.

From the ‘New Georgia Encyclopedia”
“In the late 1780s U.S. officials began to urge the Cherokees to abandon hunting and their traditional ways of life and to instead learn how to live, worship, and farm like Christian American yeomen. Many Cherokees embraced this "civilization program." The Cherokees established a court system, formally abandoned the law of blood revenge, and adopted a republican government. A Cherokee man named Sequoyah created the Cherokee syllabary, which enabled the Cherokees to read, write, record their laws, and publish newspapers in their own language.” (the last paragraph in the Sequoyah link is very telling)

It is my understanding that the literacy rates in some Cherokee communities surpassed that of the white settlers encroaching on their land. Most Cherokee Communities were publishing newspapers. If ever there was a group of people willing to embrace a new lifestyle even while in the clutches of an Imminent Domain “ issue, I give you the Cherokee

General Andrew Jackson called for the United States to end what he called the "absurdity" of negotiating with the Indian tribes as sovereign nations. Thomas Jefferson wanted to move all Indians West of the Mississippi and the Louisiana purchase was a big step towards doing that. When the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Cherokee nation to keep their land, it was Jefferson who said ‘Let them try to enforce that ruling”.

The bottom line of all this is that some 15,000- 16,000 (estimated)Indians were forced off their lands and made to walk 1000 miles to lands unknown, some in the middle of Winter while boats for transport were frozen fast in rivers, and others through the brutally scorching sun and humidity of Gulf States.
An estimated 5,000 Cherokee died during this forced march that is now known as the "Trail of Tears”

For many years previous, treaties were made and broken, almost exclusively by the White man and always to the benefit of the White man. It is the under handed nature of the way this was done that I find unsavory.
Racial prejudice was nothing new to our Founding Fathers and it is still a huge global issue.
The idea that a cultures Art and the way they worship should be eradicated is a policy against which we are involved against the Taliban. It was also "Part and Parcel" our policy and practice against the Native Americans.

The term ‘Imminent domain” would be a whole research subject itself. I wonder if there is a way to inflict Imminent domain that is not underhanded.
Another Chapter in this story is that of Cheif Joseph and the Nez Perce, who had their own sort of Trail of Tears 50 years later and 2000 miles to the West.
A wound to the heart.

I never taught my people to trust Americans.
I have told them the truth - that the Americans are great liars.
I have never dealt with the Americans. Why should I?
The land belonged to my people.

sitting bull, 1883


GEWELS said...

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
speaking of The Trail of Tears, Nov. 4, 1838

Have we not learned?

Barbara said...

i find our treatment of the American Indians to be one of the things I am most ashamed about. From the time when I first read about the "Trail of tears" at the age of 6 or 7, I have regretted our treatment of these original occupants of our land. We succeeded in killing their spirit as we dispossessed them of their land and moved them westward. The sad truth is that it would be no different today if we had it to do all over again.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the history lesson. Loved the Teacher's Aid link from pbs-- will put it in my favorites. When we do research-- great tool!!

I do hope that we learned as a nation-- I hope that wouldn't happen today, knowing that Indians are PEOPLE. I think the mindset of the people in the 19th cent. and earlier were that the Europeans were "civilized" and were treating Indians and blacks like "barbarians".

Dave said...

My ancestors were diggin' spuds in Tralee when all this stuff was going on so I have a hard time mustering any feeling of shame for it. Fortunately, I don't have to because we are doing plenty of things right now that we can all be ashamed about. I'll leave that to the million-or-so bloggers that are already tackling the subject. For now, I'll just be happy for my Cherokee friend who shoots deer off of the back porch of his 3,000 sq. ft. house in senic Pea Ridge, Arkansas.

steve said...

tHANKS FOR ALL OF YA'LLS (excuse me) comments. good to know that i'm not the only one that gets a sense of incredulity concerning this topic.
When I was in School I didn't quite realize how much the past ties in to the present, and how much in common the civil war and the american Indian story have with the reasons for and against being in the War we find ourselves involved with now. i leave it to you to put the three issues together more coherently than I can try to explain at peresent. invoved with now.
Looli- I thought you would be able to get some mileage from the PBS link....if you havent seen the ken Burns "Civil War" and "The West "
series, you should; both are the best.

Rod's Duck Farm said...
is kind of interesting about various peace-loving folks who kill one another for fun and profit. Indians fighting the War against the Confederacy, Black folks fighting the War against the Confederacy, Black folks fighting the Indians .... not too much about Indians fighting Indians or Black folks fighting Black folks.
They ALL killed ducks!!!!
The mile-wide swath, 100 miles long, that Sherman cut through Georgia will burn in the hearts of Confederate posterity. Yankees believe in the glory of divorce unless it is the Confederacy wanting the divorce.
I learned stone masonry from a Cherokee who was born in 1900 and had been a stone mason all his life. I learned to use a shovel to dig ditches from a black ditch digger who was born at or slightly before 1900. My Scottish ancestry arrived in North America as indentured servants. I think maybe life is hard for folks. I don't think it helps to cry for others anymore than it helps to sit around crying for oneself.
Quack, Quack!

Old Lady said...

Some of my relatives didn't do such good things.

kissyface said...

First, let me say that what I am about to say in no way undermines the horror or injustice of all that happened to the native peoples of this "Turtle Island," as some indigienous people refer to it, the United States of America.

Secondly, I have a documented Cherokee great-great grandmother, which makes me about a sixteenth tar brush, certainly enough in a system of apartheid to get me on the wrong side of the gates, or stuck in a boxcar to who knows where. I am also overwhelming white enough to "pass" without question. Nor was I raised with any real sense of indian cultural identity, though there were smatterings. On the other hand, many people visibly "Indian" enough to bear the onus of discrimination, have little sense of their culture either. It was washed away by the legacy of the Mission schools, a place my gg-grandmother almost certainly matriculated, branded as she was with a "Christian" name.

None of the above makes me an expert on native history, or my opinion worth anything more than your own. I would, however, like to point out a couple of things that are easily verified, one about the Cherokee and the Five Civilized Tribes, which is that they were slave owners. I also understand that they harbored and inter-married with fugitive slaves, but they were "Masters" nonetheless. The second is that the Cherokee Nation has recently decided to omit their black descendent bretheren from the ranks of membership. This discrimination is obviously a financial motive, and it is quite sickening to me. I see it along the same lines as the more extreme Israeli/PLO conflict. I have utmost compassion for oppressed peoples. But look how readily the victims become victimizers - it's human nature, I reckon. Again, the massacres of the Indian Wars and the TOT and the colonial slavery trade (you know that African Americans have been here since the 1660s - how many WASPs can link their "Heritage" back that far?), are nothing to be diminished, but it is easy to romanticize the sufferings of people, while forgetting their faults. I don't know what the answer is, and maybe all I've said is headed nowhere at all, but I don't think there is such a thing as too much compassion.