TRAIL OF TEARS
No better symbol exists of the pain and suffering of the "Trail Where They Cried" than the Cherokee Rose. The mothers of the Cherokee grieved so much that the chiefs prayed for a sign to lift the mother's spirits and give them strength to care for their children. From that day forward, a beautiful new flower, a rose, grew wherever a mother's tear fell to the ground. The rose is white, for the mother's tears. It has a gold center, for the gold taken from the Cherokee lands, and seven leaves on each stem that represent the seven Cherokee clans that made the journey. To this day, the Cherokee Rose prospers along the route of the "Trail of Tears". The Cherokee Rose is now the official flower of the State of Georgia.
THE CHEROKEE NATION
The Cherokee people are located in two distinct regions representing their history under the United States. The Eastern Band of Cherokee are located in North Carolina and Tennessee, the traditional homeland of the people who call themselves "Ani Yun Wiya" or "Real People"(ENAT, 43-48). The term Cherokee was probably given to them by their neighbors in the southeast, the Creeks. The Creeks called them "Tciloki", meaning "people of a different speech".
The modern Cherokee nation has more enrolled members than any other in the United States. The 1990 census showed around 400,000 Cherokees living in the country. The Navajo, however are considered the largest tribe by many since the Western Cherokee recognize any one who has even the smallest part Cherokee in their heritage to be a Western Cherokee. The Western Cherokee philosophy is that even the smallest drop of Cherokee blood makes one a Cherokee. Most other tribes, including the Eastern Band of Cherokee, require an individual to prove to be at least one quarter or one sixteenth descended from an individual member of a particular tribe to be eligible for membership.
The major component of the Cherokee nation is found in Oklahoma. In 1830, President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act which evicted all Indians in the southeastern United States to what is now Oklahoma. At the time of this act, the Cherokee were an advanced nation having built towns and cities, having a written constitution and even printing their own newspapers in the Cherokee language. The Cherokee had been interacting with the United States government for quite some time on a true government to government relationship. Part of the fear that caused the move was that the Cherokee would actually take steps to become a truly independent nation on the western boundaries of the United States. The primary motivation, however, was greed. The whites in Georgia, the Carolinas, Tennessee and Alabama desired the lands of the Cherokee. The United States military had the might to grant the whites their wish.
The eviction of the Cherokee people and their relocation to Oklahoma has become known as the "Trail of Tears". The military did not care for the Cherokees in any way during the migration. The forced move was accompanied by disease, harsh weather, starvation and attacks by marauding whites. Over 4,000 Cherokee died on the road to Oklahoma. Every year, the "Trail of Tears'" is recalled in a pageant and remembrance ceremony in the Cherokee capital of Tahlequah, Oklahoma.
The government's treatment of the Cherokee and other tribes in the 1830s bore bitter fruit thirty years later when all five of the "Civilized Tribes", that is the Cherokee, the Chickasaw, the Choctaw, the Muskogee or Creek, and the Seminole signed treaties with the Confederate States of America and fought in the war against the Union.
Trail of Tears (artist unknown)