Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 549

Plantation in the South

FYI, none of this post is fun to read, but you might learn something ūüėČ

Plantations are a part of USA history. The history of them is difficult to fully digest since they are based on slavery. It is hard to deny, however, that as pieces of land they are beautiful.

Like this one:

Wormsloe plantation

Wormsloe plantation

Wormsloe Plantation is a haven of natural beauty and is home to the tabby ruins of the 18th-century estate of Noble Jones, one of Georgia’s earliest settlers. Today it is a place for walking under a strikingly gorgeous oak-canopied avenue that leads you¬†to the ruins of the house, now Savannah’s oldest standing structure.

It’s also a place for contemplation. It sure makes you think.

The swamp

The swamp

Cherokee land

We drove seven hours to Cherokee land. Seven hours, folks. I could get to England in seven hours on a plane. So I was hoping for an Indian reservation with wigwams and buffalo and wotnot to fully absorb the culture.  But of course, Indian reservations are now made up of tourism and casinos, so we made our way around the museums and the archives.

The casino

The casino

As we did, I questioned why the reservations were as they were now and when I found out more I grew disturbed  by the history and the plight of the Indians. Over the course of the past two days, both at the plantation and at Cherokee, I had begun to struggle greatly with the actions of the white man over the past three centuries in the USA. Not to get all political about it, because we English certainly have had our less than appealing moments and are bound up in this too, since we were the settlers, but this is what I learned about the plight of the Cherokee Indians:

‘…there was an¬†effort on the part of the¬†Federal and local governments to seize by whatever means which could be¬†contrived, all the lands of the Indians…..

‘[there were] many¬†lies and deception played upon the these people, especially the Cherokee¬†in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. As always, there are¬†reasons why things happened as they did. And even though nothing can be changed, the¬†consequence for the decisions that were made were devastating for the Native¬†American. What happened to them was a terrible thing, and we should never¬†try to gloss it over.’

I’m interested in the history of how the community of the Native American Indian came to be as it is in the present day, which appears to be pretty forlorn, sitting on the outskirts of society, and attempting to live in a white man’s world. I’m no expert, of course, but I learned a lot during my visit.

The town of Cherokee

The town of Cherokee

If you’re interested, here’s the history. If not, you can just look at the¬†pictures…..

The next hundred years after the settlement of Jamestown, the Cherokee¬†were gradually pushed further and further back into the mountains. In 1761¬†Colonel Grant, destroyed fifteen of their major towns. The survivors became¬†fugitives in the mountains with little to eat and no permanent homes.¬†Hunger, smallpox, alcohol and deceitful treaties were among the white man’s¬†most successful weapons. Daniel Boone and others were soon settling down on¬†what was still, officially, according to treaty (as long as the grass shall
grow and the rivers flow, etc) the property of the Indians. Treaty after treaty was rewritten until the Indians were squeezed down into a small area and President Andrew Jackson sealed the fate of the Cherokee that were left.

On December 20, 1828 the state of Georgia passed an act that annexed all Cherokee territory within its limits. All laws and customs established among the Cherokee were
declared null and void, and no person of Indian blood or descent was to be allowed to act as witness in any suit where a white man was the defendant; all contracts between whites and Indians were ruled invalid unless established by the testimony of two white witnesses, which had the effect of canceling all debts owed by whites to Indians. The remaining Cherokee lands were divided into parcels of 160 acres each and distributed by sale and lottery among white Georgians as homesteads.

The Indians make their journey

The Indians make their journey

The Indian was allowed as head of a household to retain 160 acres but without a title. Finally, the state made it a crime for any Indian to resist the seizure of his property , even his house by a white. In short they were deprived of their property and their legal rights
at the same time. Not satisfied with the rapidity at which the Indians were closing their property the states of Georgia and North Carolina began measures to secure the complete eviction of all Indians from their ancient homelands. These efforts were fruitlessly resisted even to the point of being appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

The years 1838-39 are remembered in school book texts as The¬†Removal and by the descendants of the victims as The Trail of Tears. General¬†Winfield Scott was sent into what remained of Cherokee territory with orders¬†to round-up all the Indians. His men were to assemble them at various¬†holding points and when ready, to march them westward into Oklahoma, a¬†region that at that time was still uninviting to white people. Men, women¬†and children were rounded up. Those who resisted were destroyed on the spot.¬†Stockades were filled like cattle with some few escaping back into the¬†mountains. The Indians who remain today are the descendants of these few who¬†escaped and after many years of appeal, were finally allowed to remain in¬†the Appalachian area. Today we know them as the Indians on the Qualla¬†reservation near the town of Cherokee, NC. The main body of the Cherokees,¬†some 17,000 men, women, and¬†children were “removed”. The first group, about 5000 were marched to¬†various points on the Tennessee River, shipped by steamboat and marched the¬†remainder of the way to Oklahoma. The remaining 12,000 which left in the¬†fall of 1838 marched the entire distance by land. Approximately 4,000 died¬†en route to the destination.’

The Trail of Tears

The Trail of Tears

A Private John G. Burnett, 2nd Regiment, 2nd Brigade, Mounted infantry,¬†U.S. Army wrote this account of the march to his sons and grandsons. He¬†called it his “Birthday Story”.

Children: This is my birthday December the 11th 1890, I am eighty years old today. The removal of the Cherokee Indians from their life long homes in the year of 1838 found me a young man in the prime of my life and a Private soldier in the American Army. ..I saw the helpless Cherokees arrested and dragged from their homes, and driven at bayonet point into the stockades.

The Cherokee of NC

The Cherokee of NC

And in the chill of a drizzling rain on an October morning I saw them loaded like cattle or sheep into 645 wagons and started toward the west. One can never forget the sadness and solemnity of that morning. When the bugle sounded and the wagons started rolling many of the children rose to their feet and waved their hands goodbye to their mountain homes, knowing they were leaving them forever. Many of these helpless people did not have blankets and many of them had been driven from home barefooted. 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 that fateful journey. ..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.

At this time, 1890, we are too near the removal of the Cherokee for our¬†young people to fully understand the enormity of the crime that was¬†committed against a helpless race, truth is the facts are being concealed¬†from the young people of today. .. Murder is murder whether committed by the¬†villain skulking in the dark or by uniformed men stepping to the strains of¬†martial music. Murder is murder and somebody must answer, somebody must¬†explain the streams of blood that flowed in the Indian country in the summer¬†of 1838. Somebody must explain the 4,000 silent graves that mark the trail¬†of the Cherokees to their exile. I wish I could forget it all, but the¬†picture of 645 wagons limbering over the frozen ground with their Cargo of¬†suffering humanity still lingers in my memory . Let the Historian of a¬†future day tell the sad story with its sighs its tears and dying groans. Let¬†the great Judge of all the earth weigh our actions and reward us according¬†to our work. Children, Thus!¬†ends my promised birthday story .This December 11 1890.”

With 17,000 Cherokees surrounded by 900,000 whites in Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee, the Cherokees decided that survival required adaptation to the white man’s world.

The town today

The town today

And that is what I learned during my time in Cherokee. What did greatly¬†intrigue me greatly was the¬†Cherokees’ language – heavily poetic, metaphorical, beautifully expressive, stories in abundance, supplemented by dance, drama, and ritual, and this is what really captured my attention, and I wish I had had a chance to see this part of their history too, but, sadly, it was not to be.

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2 Responses to Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 549

  1. Maryjenmary says:

    I hear you, loud and clear. I come from a family half second generation Nordic, mostly half British, 10 of whom fought in the revolutionary war with George Washington and the remainder Mohawk Indian from Upstate New York where the soldiers settled after the revolution. To the best of my knowledge, the Iroquois Nation, which consisted of 6 Indian Nations in A Federation, were not part of the trail of tears. Yes, they were cheated, they caught European diseases, and some of the treaties were broken, while others remain in place, etc. but they also provided the model for the U.S. Federation of states. Luckily, they have retained their pride, and people around here are very proud of their Indian heritage. We have a wonderful Iroquois Indian Museum near Cobleskill, New York, well worth seeing, with a great festival every Labor Day weekend. It is a joyful experience.

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