As I have for many years now, this past Saturday, September 11th to be exact, I and a friend attended the Trail of Tears Pow Wow in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. I can’t really pinpoint why I have such a keen interest in this particular time from our history, but I know this story moves me, as it should everyone. Native Americans were here first, and it blows my mind to think about how they were treated on their own land. May God have mercy on us for our past sins, and if we aren’t careful, history has a way of repeating itself. I just felt led to share a poem I wrote a few years back, trying to imagine how these precious people must have felt during their ‘relocation’. The pictures provided are from this past Saturday. I hope you enjoy the poem and the pictures, but more importantly, I hope you are enlightened.
The Journey We Must Not Forget
Long ago you docked your ships
Upon our peaceful shore.
Our differences, misunderstood,
And so we went to war.
We finally chose to accept and try
To learn each other’s way.
We helped each other hunt and plant,
We watched our children play.
Over time we tried your ways,
And even dressed like you.
We wore white wigs like gentlemen,
Built towns and houses too.
We learned to speak your language,
We learned to read and write.
Our separate worlds became as one.
True peace was in our sight.
Promises were broken again,
Just as they’d been before.
Counted now as animals,
Not people, anymore.
You took away our food and homes,
Left us desolate and bare.
You separated families,
With no evidence of care.
Forced to leave ‘for a better life’,
The great lie so often told.
But you forgot you taught us well,
We knew it was about the gold.
You stripped our dignity and our spirit,
Led like cattle, to walk in rows.
You tied our feet, all bruised and bloody,
You stripped us of our clothes.
Cherokee people, once proud and strong,
We walked for thousands of miles.
We watched and wept on that endless trail,
Leaving our dead to rot in piles.
We walked in the heat, both parched and thirsty,
With rays of sun blazing down.
Mercifully we’d stop at night,
As we slept in the rain on the ground.
When the chill of winter had come upon us,
We still had no shoes on our feet.
We continued to walk in the freezing cold,
With barely enough food to eat.
We walked on land and rode on ferries,
As the white man pushed further west.
Hatred burned deep within our hearts,
Beating drums inside our chest.
As much as we were filled with anger,
Some whites became our friends.
They even fought and died for us,
Praying for the nightmare to end.
So many people grew very sick,
Many thousands of us died.
You know this story as the Trail of Tears,
The place where my people cried.
This tragic part of history,
Shows the best and worst of men.
Today you can follow the trail we walked,
But pray this never happens again.
LJH 11/3/2016 ©
In the years 1838 and 1839, the town of Port Royal in Adams, Tennessee, served as a stopover and resupply station for the Chickamauga Cherokee along the march to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears and was the last of such in Tennessee on the northern route of the Trail. It is said that Chiefs Fly Smith and White Path became ill on the trail while stopped in Port Royal. Later, both chiefs perished on the trail while in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, and are buried there still. This location is known as the Trail of Tears Commemorative Park.