May 5, 2010

Tasalagi Tale (8/9)

   He sadly nodded his weather-worn sunburnt face and pulled the rock he had been sitting on closer to the fire, as if he needed the comfort of warmth to continue... which he did after taking a deep breath.

   "In 1828, not even a year after the founding of our so called official constitution, white men found the yellow metal on our lands. And so the foretelling was made true. This brought about the darkest time our people have ever known. In the following months and years the white men made many laws saying that our people didn't exist, that our ancient ways meant nothing, and that our homeland would be taken from us until none was left, until all we had was taken  (among those, the Indian removal bill 28 May 1830, or the enactment of 1802 compact which summarily stripped native Americans of and titles of land ownership). Yes, these laws were made only to steal the earth we dwelt on and the cursed yellow metal within it. The fighting began again, but we no longer had as many warriors as once we did. Mainly it was the white men repeatedly attacking us who did the fighting. Then came the evil year of 1835.

   The white man's greed tainted some tribal brothers, and they were lulled with lies, promises and their own foolishness so that they signed in the name of our people, whom they did not represent, a treaty (treaty of new echota) that said our people would abandon our lands for other lands far away. Those traitors got their just deserts but it was too late and the nu'-n-na' da'-ul tsu'-ni (trail where we cried aka "The Trail of Tears") was set into motion. A couple hundred were left willingly, and  all of the others paid their treason with their lives. On the trail of tears for they found sickness and disease dogged their every step. Most stayed, still unbelieving that that anyone could just take away their homes. In 1838, General Winfield Scott was ordered into action. His actions were much like other things that occurred a hundred years later in the stream of history, things that shocked white men so. They tore families, women, children away from their lands, homes, meals... whatever they were doing when the white soldiers came unannounced and unexpected. Then, they pushed our dispossessed people away from all their belongings at knife and gunpoint. Often white looters were so close behind the soldiers that while our people were being led away with only the clothes on their backs they could see the smoke rise from their homes and farms as they burned. Those looters even desecrated our tombs.

   The soldiers herded us all towards the forts and piled people into tiny cold rooms, there were so many of us that they had to stay standing. They would wait there until the soldiers decided to force them on the journey to the western lands (Oklahoma Reserve). There was terrible sickness and suffering in the forts and during the journey. Many families were broken and children lost their parents. My own great-grandfather died on the trail of tears. A quarter of our people died (4000 is the current estimation) that year on that journey and many more died later in the western lands."

   He sighed and pulled out his pipe and smoked moodily. Billy and I were on the verge of tears, we were huddled up together under the same blanket and we gazed into the fire that was slowly consuming the logs it had been fed. There were only night sounds and the crackle of the fire to be heard until Blackhair resumed his narration.

"Shadow of the owl" by John Guthrie