Recently, I was intrigued when the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that half of Oklahoma belonged to Native Americans, and that was just for one tribe! So, on yesterday, we drove just about an hour from our house to the New Echota Historic Site in Calhoun, Georgia, that used to be the seat of the Cherokee Nation before President Andrew Jackson ordered them off their land in Georgia and to Oklahoma.
What is amazing and sorrowful for me was that the Cherokees had tried to assimilate to White culture, in hopes of saving their land and being accepted by Whites. They learned to speak English, dress like whites, and even created a government similar to that of Whites, with legislative, executive, and judicial branches, including a Supreme Court.
Yet, becoming like Whites did not keep them safe from harm. In fact, the Cherokees won two rulings in the U. S. Supreme Court recognizing them as a sovereign and separate nation, but President Jackson wouldn’t honor them, stating the Chief Justice Marshall could not enforce the rulings. With total disregard, he called for the removal of the Cherokees that became the Trail of Tears, in which 4000 Native Americans died in route from the South to Oklahoma, much of it in the winter months. Many of the native Americans did not have blankets and some were even bare-footed. How appalling and sad!
The idea that America was always a White country is not supported by history, but then the history taught in schools tends to be written by Whites. I was also mesmerized to learn that many Native American farmers had slaves, and that they imitated the prejudice and discrimination that they saw displayed by the Whites. In the place where provisions and alcohol were sold, there was a window for black men to obtain their purchases, as they weren’t allowed in the store. That saddened me terribly!
Several homes and buildings have been reproduced on the land, but one house remains, as it was the home of Reverend Samuel Worchester, a missionary living among the Cherokees, who was arrested and put in prison for not applying for a permit to live in the Cherokee Nation, as he saw it as unnecessary because the U. S. Supreme Court had ruled in favor of the Cherokees. This house was used by the Army as headquarters during the removal process.
The Cherokees had a newspaper, a written alphabet, and became quite assimilated, but it wasn’t good enough, because people of color have never been seen as equal to Whites in America. Whites have felt entitled to land, and rendering Native Americans as inferior and not quite human justified the horrors visited upon a people who lived a different life, but no less important or relevant than the Whites who wanted their land.
The land was divided into lots, and a lottery was held to obtain the land. White males, some married to Native American women, bidded on the land previously occupied by law-abiding people. The removal of Native Americans and the subsequent land-grab by Whites is the history of America, one in which genocide, violence, and disregard for the physical or emotional welfare of people of color have been the norm.
Below, I have included other pictures taken at the historical site. Some are of houses that were reproduced. The tour takes about an hour or so, according to how slow or fast you walk or the time taken to see as much as possible. It was so hot yesterday that I was tired very fast, but I am thankful that this place exists for the history to be learned.
In these days when we are so divided about the pandemic and racial tensions, it is important to know the truth of history, but it would take someone greater than me to do justice to it. I am so disheartened at the response to the pandemic by our elected officials here in Georgia and in the White House. Because of the disproportionate numbers of Black and Brown people dying, it seems as if there is less concern than if Whites were more effected. To see that this is historical doesn’t give me warm and fuzzy feelings in 2020.