Monday, April 23, 2012

T is for Trail of Tears and Tiiiiiiired!

This weekend was the Pikes Peak Writers Conference, my third attended. It was also the first I'd worked as a staff volunteer. I am thoroughly exhausted, but it was well worth it. Maybe I'll be recovered by tomorrow.

In the meantime, what an awesome weekend! I did an impromptu table pitch (didn't get an ask, but we had an interesting conversation about my book), visited with friends, dressed up all purdy (yes, I misspelled that on purpose...), rubbed elbows with authors I respected, had dinner with Jeffrey Deaver, and worked in the pitch room. I also moderated a session and messed it up a bit, but I think I fixed it in the end, so...yay? I'm incredibly shy, and speaking into a microphone in front of a room of people was a bit freaky Eek! At least my mistake is recorded on the DVD that anyone can order, so everyone and their mother can hear me bungle up the intros. Look at the positive. Hahaha!

I think each conference I attend draws me out of my shell a little bit more. For instance, I couldn't mention this in advance since it was a surprise for the Pikes Peak Writers Conference, but I participated in a flash mob where I had to sing! In front of a crowd! Ack! I haven't sung in front of anyone other than my kids since high school. I'm in my the math. I was utterly terrified. The pitch I made was spontaneous, which was a big deal. The good thing was that I was so incredibly nervous about the flash mob I was waiting on, that I completely forgot to be nervous about pitching.

Moving on...

rail of Tears.

In Cherokee: Nunna daul Tsuny (The Trail Where They Cried)

This topic was requested in my comments on several posts during the A-to-Z. It's a subject I find hard to think about. Before I start, I think it's important to point out that the Trail of Tears was not the only forced removal that involved a long, intense and deadly walk. It's also important to point out that the trail refers to the path taken, not to one single walk along it. The Choctaw, Seminole, Chickasaw and Creek tribes were also forced along this path at various times. In fact, the Choctaw walked the trail first. I believe the reason the Cherokee are most often affiliated with the Trail of Tears is due to the fact that, unlike three of the other tribes, the tribe did not agree to move. A group of traitors, under the leadership of Major Ridge, Elias Boudinot and Stand Watie agreed to the removal for financial and property gain, behind the backs of the vast majority of their tribe, including the Principal Chief, John Ross. They felt they were doing what was best, but it was a betrayal that led to many deaths.

One thing that many don't know about this time is that the Choctaw and Cherokee had attempted to assimilate and embrace the European culture that had taken over. Sequoyah (see photo below), a Cherokee, had created a written syllabary for the Cherokee. They had a constitution, their own set of laws, and their own newspaper, The Cherokee Phoenix, which the queen of England was known to have imported and read, along with many in New England. It is said that they were more literate than the local European settlers. Not only were they literate, but they were landowners. They imported high quality goods for their homes (yes, homes...not tipis, not wigwams, homes). They were successfully farming their land and dressing like the European settlers. They had schools and churches. I'm not proud of this, but they also had slaves.

Andrew Jackson desperately wanted the land these tribes were living on. People in the area were clamoring for the fertile farmland offered available in Georgia, as well as the path needed for railroads and water sources. Despite their assimilation, settlers were angry that they got this choice land, and felt they had rights to it. President Jackson was in agreement, and he signed the Indian Removal Act of 1830 into being. Many whites were against this, but they simply could not fight Andrew Jackson. One noted person who was against it was Davy Crockett, who was serving as a congressman in Tennessee. Ralph Waldo Emerson also fought it, writing letters to the president and newspapers.

In brief, before I cover the Cherokee removal, I will detail the removal of other tribes. The Cherokee were the last of the "five civilized tribes" to travel the Trail of Tears.

Trails of Tears en

The Choctaw

The Choctaw signed the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek in 1831, ceding all of their lands. They felt they would be allowed to be free if they moved to the new Indian Territory, that they would no longer be under the legal thumb of the Europeans. It was this that caused them to sign and leave. They were removed in three parts, three separate journeys, and were allowed to sell off their property before leaving (minus livestock, which was to be replaced upon arrival in Indian Territory). They faced starvation along the way due to incompetence and poor planning. Ice clogged a river they had to ferry across, making it impassable for about a week. One steamship due to carry them downriver burst into fire before they could get onto it. Some Choctaw were allowed to live in their old area, and others stayed in Mississippi, becoming the Mississippi Band. The Arkansas Gazette quoted the Choctaw Chief as saying it was a "trail of tears and death," thus solidifying the name as the Trail of Tears. Records were not well kept on the number of Choctaw who died, and it is estimated at 2,500-6,000 killed. Nearly 17,000 survived (which is still a dismaying number). The whites gained 11,000,000 acres from their removal.

The Seminole

The Seminole resisted their removal. It was the Spanish who ceded the lands to the U.S. with the Adams-Onis treaty in 1821, agreeing that the Seminoles would move west to live with the Creek. Several Chiefs went to peruse the new site, signing an agreement March 28, 1833 that they had checked out the land and it was okay. When they returned, they recanted, though many tribal members went ahead and left in 1834. The military prepared for war, and it was a war they got. Black slaves joined the forces of Seminole Indians, raiding and striking at surrounding towns, farms and military groups. The Dade Massacre of 1835 left 107 out of 110 U.S. Army soldiers dead. Though some Seminole moved to Creek lands, the government gave up in 1842, almost a decade later. They were no match for the Seminole.

The Creek

The Treaty of Fort Jackson, signed in 1814, was the beginning of the end for the Creek. Andrew Jackson was intent on punishing the Creek for what he saw as their misdeeds in not taking out Tecumseh, and he told them the price was their lands: 23,000,000 acres. The Creek Confederacy passed a law stating that no one was to cede further land, but they were unable to control the Chiefs, so they continued to cede lands. The 1825 Treaty of Indian Springs gave up much of the remaining land in Georgia. Menawa and his Creeks assassinated McIntosh, who was one of the signing Chiefs. Yohola and the Creek Council went to President John Quincy Adams, who agreed that the Treaty of Indian Springs was fraudulent; he nullified the treaty, but the Governor of Georgia ignored it, forcibly removing them anyway. Adams tried to intervene, but the Governor called in his militia. Adams felt the Indians weren't worth a civil war, and let it drop. The Treaty of Cusseta was signed March 24, 1832; it divided the remaining Creek land into allotments, that they could either keep or sell. People began stealing these allotments, and the Creek War of 1836 broke out, which caused the government to forcibly remove them to Indian Territory.

The Chickasaw

The Chickasaw received $530,000 for their land, and were able to take all of their belongings, including livestock and slaves, to Indian Territory with them. They left for Indian Territory July 4, 1837, and joined the Choctaw.

The Cherokee

In 1829, gold was discovered in Georgia. This was to be the first Gold Rush of the U.S. The Cherokee tried to fight their removal of lands in the Supreme Court, losing Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (it was declared they were not sovereign), but winning Worcester v. Georgia, which declared that only Federal government had authority over Indian lands. A small group of Cherokee defied Principal Chief John Ross (see photo at left, late 1800's) and traveled north to sign the Treaty of New Echota in 1835, handing Andrew Jackson exactly the weapon he needed to get them out. John Ross fought the treaty, to no avail. Andrew Jackson and President Martin Van Buren ignored the Supreme Court ruling, allowing a multi-state militia to stick 13,000 Cherokee in concentration camps (see "blockhouse" below; one of the buildings they were kept in). Their homes were auctioned off in a lottery, with the remainder being burned to the ground. Many died in the concentration camps, of starvation and illnesses like dysentery, with the remainder being removed to Indian Territory.

In the meantime, the members of the Treaty Party, those who had supported signing the Treaty of New Echota, willingly traveled to Indian Territory, getting settled safely before the forced removal. Three of those who led this party were assassinated at a later time: Major Ridge, John Ridge and Elias Boudinot.

In addition, there were some Cherokee who owned private land, not pieces of tribal land, and they were allowed to keep their land. There were also some who were allowed to stay for helping the military hunt down a prophet named Tsali. Not to mention, those who successfully fled and hid.

The removal began in 1838. The initial removal had to be postponed, due to desertions and deaths. It was also requested because the weather was insanely hot, so they wished to wait until November, for cooler weather. Chief John Ross fought to be able to direct how the removal would go, splitting the Cherokee up into groups of approximately 1000. He acquired wagons and a ship, though the ship was for his and other higher ups' families. He made sure each group had the necessary people, like doctors. As they had been removed from their homes with no belongings, they were given blankets retrieved from a hospital with a smallpox outbreak. Knowing full well the blankets had been exposed to smallpox, they refused to allow the Cherokee to go through any towns, forcing them to march around any towns they came to. They were marched all the way up to Illinois, where they had to pay $1 per head of their own money to take a ferry over the river. Despite paying $.88 more than the whites crossing, they were forced to wait until no one else needed to cross, meaning they were stuck for days in the cold, snowy temperatures. They found Mantle Rock and took shelter there, many freezing to death while they waited to cross.

Eventually, they did cross, arriving March 26, 1839. It is often felt that there would have been a much greater loss of life had Chief John Ross (see image to left, 1843) not finally been allowed to take over, choosing who would lead each group. He had no control over what happened once the groups separated or before he was given the allowance to take over. Ultimately, 4,000 of the 15,000 Cherokee died on this journey. That's nearly one-quarter of the population of the Cherokee tribe (not counting those who escaped into the mountains and down south, whose ancestors make up the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation). Think about how that would impact the population of the United States were one-quarter of the population to die. That is an astounding number.

Something that has always bothered me is the fact that people came out along the trail to gawk at the Cherokee (and I'm sure the others) as they were marched by outside the towns. Very few ever offered any sort of assistance. In fact, they complained if they were too close to their towns.

Interesting (and disturbing) to note, is that Hitler studied Andrew Jackson's Indian Removal policies and treatments before figuring out his Final Solution, that being the Holocaust. Not only that, but it was also used as the model for apartheid by the National Party in South Africa. The same can be said for various regimes in Central and South America. About 13 million more people were killed in the American Holocaust than in the Nazi Holocaust. Both are shameful examples of the horror people can inflict upon each other.

*** *** *** *** *** ***

I know this was long, but I wanted to do the subject justice. Thank you if you stuck through this far. I wanted to leave you with a Cherokee blessing and a video entitled American Holocaust of Native American Indians, which can be found at the bottom of the post.

May the warm winds of Heaven blow softly on your home,
And the Great Spirit bless all who enter there.
May your mocassins make happy tracks in many snows
And may the rainbow always touch your shoulder.

Were you surprised by the information that they were fitting in with society before the removal? Did the photos/images surprise you at all?


May you find your Muse.

*Letter T courtesy of Dawn at
**Sequoyah with a tablet depicting his writing system for the Cherokee language. 19th-century print of a painting; By Lithographer: Lehman and Duval (George Lehman (d.1870); Peter S. Duval) Painter: Henry Inman (1801-20-28 - 1846-01-17); copy after a painting by Charles Bird King (1785 - 1862) which was lost in a fire in the Smithsonian in 1865. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
***Trail of Tears map; By User:Nikater [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
****Cherokee Principal Chief John Ross, late 1800's; Public Domain; Wikimedia Commons
*****Fort Marr Blockhouse, Benton, Tennessee-The last surviving remnant of the forts used to intern the Cherokee in preparation for their forced removal west; Public Domain; Wikimedia Commons
******John Ross, a Cherokee chief / drawn, printed & coloured at the Lithographic & Print Colouring Establishment. Published in History of the Indian Tribes of North America; 1843; Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division: LC-USZC4-3156; Transfered from en-wiki; Author Unknown, Published by Daniel Rice & James G. Clark; Permission; The Library of Congress offers broad public access to these materials as a contribution to education and scholarship; By unknown; Published by Daniel Rice & James G. Clark [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Rebecca said...


Elaine L. Bridge said...

I know it’s not May 7th yet, but in line with my “T” post today I just wanted to take a moment now, before we reach the end of The Challenge, to thank you for co-hosting it all. While exhausting it has been yet exhilarating, and in some ways life-changing for me, as well. Much of that was due to the help, hope and incredible encouragement you offered along the way. Simply put, I’m grateful, and wanted to say thanks!


A Beer for the Shower said...

Hey, it was great to meet you at the conference if only for, oh, ten seconds, but we've been asked to present a Write Brain some time soon, so maybe we can actually chat if you attend those. We were busy as hell at the conference, but it was awesome and we made a lot of great things happen.

Also, kudos for the singing. I was not expecting that. On the plus side, at least you didn't have to rap Shakespeare.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Dinner with Jeffrey Deaver? Wow!

Julie Flanders said...

I second Alex's comment. Sounds like you had such an amazing experience at the Conference, that's awesome!

Peggy Eddleman said...

I love conferences! It sounds like that one was a great one! I've never been on staff for one, but I totally admire everyone who does. It's so much work! Just know that people like me are incredibly grateful for people like you.

mshatch said...

I knew most of this from courses taken in college. The settlers' and later the US govt's treatment of the native Americans is pretty shameful. I know that's just how things were then but it doesn't make it any easier to stomach.

And congrats to you for getting out of your shell! You're much braver than I!

Andrew Leon said...

Davy Crockett has been one of my heroes since I was a kid.

Did you meet Bryan and Brandon?

Shannon Lawrence said...

Becca, thank you.

Elaine, how wonderful to come on and find this comment. Thank YOU for your supportive and kind comments, and for your participation in the A-to-Z.

B&B, I'll definitely try to attend! I meant to catch you before we all left and say goodbye, see if you guys pitched and how that went, but you were always surrounded. The Shakespeare rap really put things into perspective, haha! Oh my.

Alex, yes!! I got my picture with him, but won't have it for a week or two. I fully intend to post it when I get it.

Julie, I really did, thanks!

Peggy, thank you for your kind words! It was a blast.

Mshatch, sounds like good courses! It was always a bit hazy in my learning until I looked it up. My twisty stomach before everything says I was not so brave, haha!

Andrew, he rocked! I didn't know how much he rocked until I read how he tried to stop the Indian removal. I did get to meet them, though briefly. They were usually surrounded by people. Popular guys!

Andrew Leon said...

Well, bah, if I'd paid attention to the comments, I would have seen that!

Ladydragonfly1958 said...

The Trail of Tears. Such a sad, sad story. The indians are still not being treated fairy.
Sounds like you had fun at the conference. I hope you are a good tired. :)

Shannon Lawrence said...

Andrew, that's alright; who expects you to read all their comments, too? Not me!

Ladydragonfly, I'm definitely a good tired! And I agree that they are still not treated fairly.

The Poet said...

Visiting from the A-Z Challenge.

I felt quite sad reading this. Injustice still exists today not only for Native Americans, whom I refer to as Americans because they are just as American as any one else, but the Aborigines too.
Thought-provoking post indeed. Thanks for sharing.

Thanks also to you and the other co-hosts for bringing this event to us. I'm a first-time participant having lots of creative fun.

Day 20 (23): Tearful Maiden

Chuck said...

Fascinating and educational...I knew so little about this. As a side note, I knew Hal Holbrook was old but not THAT old!! Tell me you don't see it...

loverofwords said...

I'll add my thanks as well. Not only do you write interesting blogs, you found time to participate in a writer's conference,handle family matters and be part of the editing team. Well done.

Shannon Lawrence said...

Andy, I'm so glad you're enjoying yourself! You're absolutely right that others are suffering in much the same way. My husband's business trips to Australia have been very eye opening, for instance.

Chuck, I completely see it! Perhaps he is a vampire...?

loverofwords, I'm a lover of your words! Thank you so much for your nice comment.

Anonymous said...

Interesting post. Sounds like the conference went quite well. CONGRATS for everything you did to help with it.

Shannon Lawrence said...

Susanne, thanks! It did go well.