I noticed this sign for a small portion of the Trail of Tears, and decided to pay my respects…
I drove the entire 1/4 mile of this preserved road, which in reality is a gravel road… most likely not in the original condition, but I digress…
I was looking to see if I could perhaps see an indication of the hundreds of people who were force marched, many to their death in this very area. All I saw was gravel road… I was a little disappointed not to see more… I continued down the road for a stretch, looking for a place where I could turn around safely and not get my car tires stuck in the mud, when I came upon a small dirt road off to the left side.
I parked my car and took my phone and a small pouch of tobacco out of my purse. As I was exiting the car I saw a Golden Eagle swooping and it landed on a tree top around 50 feet away. Breathless I started to walk in a little closer, but my movement startled the bird and it flew off to perch another 100 feet away.
The eagle had definitely captured my attention and I wondered if I could get a little closer to see him a bit more clearly. As I advanced on the dirt road I noticed carcasses… there were a few… so I approached them to see what type of animal they were.
There were around a half dozen deer, killed by hunters. The best portions of the meat were taken, and the remaining parts, the hides, the heads, the bones etc. were left to rot and to be scavenged. I had long wondered why I didn’t see hunters driving home with their prizes strapped to the top of their cars or in their truck beds like I used to see when I lived up North in Montreal. Now I knew why. They were butchered on site, and their meat was put into coolers no doubt.
This was the spot which seemed the best place to make a tobacco offering, as I had been taught when I was married to a man who was Lakota trained to run Inipi ceremonies (Sweat Lodges).
I prayed for the people who had lost their lives in this atrocious and inhumane time in our history. I prayed for the animals too.
Once I was finished and safely back in the comfort of my car (yes, I’m using these words ironically) I was struck by the incongruity of the words at the end of a radio ad which was playing when I slid into my seat…
“These are your neighbors,
These are your friends,
These are your homes.”
The words rang in my head hauntingly. How about the people who had been force marched? They had lost everything. Their captors had done their very best to remove everything material from them, and to try to
reduce remove eliminate their humanity.
The juxtaposition of being on the Trail of Tears where communities, families and homes were destroyed, against the present day images of butchered deer, and my being able to easily drive the miles that had taken people months to walk were powerful in those moments.
If the Golden Eagle hadn’t shown himself to me I wouldn’t have walked down that dirt road but would have made a tobacco offering near my car… but the Eagle led me to discover the butchered deer… and I couldn’t help but think of how the first people to live on the land respected the deer, sang songs in ceremonies to the deer, needed to live in harmony with the land and the animals and never, ever would have just butchered a kill and have left the rest to rot.
As we head into the Holiday season, and we show love for our families and friends, as we feel grateful for all the good things we have in our lives, will there be any prayers for the people who first occupied our lands? Will it occur to any to do so, or will they just skirt the edges of our minds the way they were force marched miles around towns so that no inhabitants could see what was happening?
When I got home I found a package in my mailbox… it was something I had ordered from Wish.com for one of my grand-kids… it was shipped directly from China… it arrived a couple weeks from having ordered it… Imagine a package traveling much faster than those who had been marched…
These were all my thoughts today… a string of incidents to underscore the significance of that historical time…
Have you had any such incidences happen in your life? Did it have an impact in your life?
O Mitakuye Oyasin!
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If you wish to read more about the Trail of Tears:
Trail of Tears
Nevertheless, the treaty, passed by Congress by a single vote, and signed into law by PresidentAndrew Jackson, was imposed by his successor President Martin Van Buren who allowed Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Alabama an armed force of 7,000 made up of militia, regular army, and volunteers under General Winfield Scott to round up about 13,000 Cherokees into concentration camps at the U.S. Indian Agency near Cleveland, Tennessee before being sent to the West. Most of the deaths occurred from disease, starvation and cold in these camps. Their homes were burned and their property destroyed and plundered. Farms belonging to the Cherokees for generations were won by white settlers in a lottery. After the initial roundup, the U.S. military still oversaw the emigration until they met the forced destination. Private John G. Burnett later wrote, “Future generations will read and condemn the act and I do hope posterity will remember that private soldiers like myself, and like the four Cherokees who were forced by General Scott to shoot an Indian Chief and his children, had to execute the orders of our superiors. We had no choice in the matter.”
I fought through the War Between the States and have seen many men shot, but the Cherokee Removal was the cruelest work I ever knew.— Georgia soldier who participated in the removal
In the winter of 1838 the Cherokee began the 1,000-mile (1,600 km) march with scant clothing and most on foot without shoes or moccasins. The march began in Red Clay, Tennessee, the location of the last Eastern capital of the Cherokee Nation. Because of the diseases, the Native Americans (colloquially known as Indians) were not allowed to go into any towns or villages along the way; many times this meant traveling much farther to go around them. After crossing Tennessee and Kentucky, they arrived at the Ohio River across from Golconda in southern Illinois about the 3rd of December 1838. Here the starving Indians were charged a dollar a head (equal to $22.22 today) to cross the river on “Berry’s Ferry” which typically charged twelve cents, equal to $2.67 today. They were not allowed passage until the ferry had serviced all others wishing to cross and were forced to take shelter under “Mantle Rock,” a shelter bluff on the Kentucky side, until “Berry had nothing better to do”. Many died huddled together at Mantle Rock waiting to cross.
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