Image Source: Ashley Noelle

I am of proud American stock. Cherokee stock. My people have suffered greatly. But we remain proud.

My great-grandmother survived what we now call the Trail of Tears. Her American government passed the Indian Removal Act in 1830, forcing her people to give up their land in Alabama. Many stayed, believing the land was theirs. But the government enforced a treaty that was not signed by the leaders of her people, and she was forced by bayonet to march from Fort Wayne, Alabama, to Tahlequah in the Indian Territory, or what is now Oklahoma, in 1838.

Many thousands of Cherokee died of cold, hunger and disease during the march. And when my people arrived on their new land, which they never wanted, they had nothing.

My great-grandmother survived this injustice, and remained proud of her people. And now I remain proud as we survive these difficult times. The depression worsens by the day. Henry picks up work where he can, as a blacksmith and a grave digger, but with eleven children, it is hard to provide properly. We have not enough for food, nor an extra stitch of clothes, so often Henry and I go without.

In the cities, men set up shanties in camps called “Hoovervilles” after the former President. They walk past bread lines that stretch for blocks, and in every window is a sign saying NO WORK. Both the President and Mrs. Roosevelt have said on the radio that they wish to bring federal aid to help feed children, and would that it were so. I do not mind going without myself, but leave us provide for our children.

But I remain optimistic that things will change. This country is great, in spite of shameful chapters such as happened to my great-grandmother. And her people are great. Strong, proud, people. Pride is in my Cherokee blood.

  1. How did you put yourself in Cherokee shoes? Or not, if you are Cherokee…

    • Not Cherokee. Idunnoo, man: the images always just speak to me.

  2. This is wonderful. Thank you for the great respectfulness in which you portray my great-grandparents. Much love to you

    • Thanks for letting your family inspire me. I’m honored for their presence in my spirit.

  3. I think it is very, very difficult to write persona pieces well, and you’ve achieved so much here in such a brief space. I also admire the way you’ve slipped in crucial information about early 20th century Cherokee culture without breaking persona. That’s an amazing feat in and of itself. Wow. Just… wow.

    • !!! So funny, because this one kind of feels like a throwaway to me. Maybe not!

  4. Another well written piece Brian, this time with a lot of fact included. I guess that every nation has something to feel ashamed about, one can only feel so sorry for people who have suffered like this.

    • History and posterity reveal many black marks, for sure.

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