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Copyright 2001 Bruce Ling
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From the C.D. "How It All Started"
This is one of my favorite tunes to play, and also one which causes me to send a prayer every time I play it.
During the years of 1838 and 1839 there was, here in the United States, a genocidal movement that almost eradicated an entire civilized people. They conducted business much in the same way that their white counterparts did, i.e. established towns with elected governments, land deeds and other forms of record keeping, houses of Worship, even going so far as to declare themselves a Sovereign Nation, much in the same way the U. S. had done not so many years in the past from that time period. Their goal was to remain on their land, in spite of all the hardships the white race was causing them. It was to no avail. They could not stop the expansionistic fervor of their western European neighbors, and they were driven from a place that they had occupied with grace, and with harmony, for thousands of years. It took the greed of evil men a few short decades to accomplish this.
President Andrew Jackson was at the bottom of all this. There was a need for land, and through the anti-Indian legislation that he was able to push through both Houses of Congress, he opened up around 25 million acres of land that had previously been occupied by Native Peoples. By 1837 his policies had removed some 46,000 people (Creek, Choctaw, Seminole, Chickasaw) from their homes, and had them resettled west of the Mississippi. The rationale behind this was that the U.S. probably would never grow beyond the river, and therefore the Native Peoples wouldn't be a problem.
The Cherokee were tricked with an illegitimate treaty. In 1833, a small faction agreed to sign a removal agreement: the Treaty of New Echota. The leaders of this group were not the recognized leaders of the Cherokee nation, and over 15,000 Cherokees, led by Chief John Ross, signed a petition in protest. The Supreme Court ignored their demands and ratified the treaty in 1836, despite the fact that the petition met the legal demands for an appeal. The Cherokee were given two years to migrate voluntarily, at the end of which time they would be forcibly removed. By 1838 only 2,000 had migrated, 16,000 remained on their land. The U.S. government sent in 7,000 troops, who forced the Cherokees into stockades at bayonet point. They were not allowed time to gather their belongings, and as they left, their white neighbors looted their homes.
Then began the march known as the Trail of Tears, in which 4,000 Cherokee people died of cold, hunger, and disease on their way to the western lands. The tears were not the tears of the Cherokee, but were the tears of the townspeople as the Cherokee passed through their towns carrying their dead, and dying along the way.
"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 wagons and six hundred and forty-five 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..."
by Bruce Ling 3-2002