Saturday, July 4, 2009

Cherokee Removal Memorial Park

"In 1838-1839 U.S. troops, prompted by the state of Georgia, expelled the Cherokee Indians from their ancestral homeland in the Southeast and removed them to the Indian Territory in what is now Oklahoma. The removal of the Cherokees was a product of the demand for arable land during the rampant growth of cotton agriculture in the Southeast, the discovery of gold on Cherokee land, the racial prejudice that many white southerners harbored toward American Indians, and the illegal actions of the Georgia legislature to pass unethical and unjust laws against these people."

"The stated goal of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions regarding the Cherokee was 'to make the whole tribe English in their language, civilized in their habits and Christian in their religion'.”

Cherokee removal memorial Park

One of the worst acts of “man’s inhumanity to man” took place when an entire race of peoples were driven from their lands in 1838. It was here at the Blythe Ferry that approximately 9,000 Cherokees and Creeks camped while waiting to cross the Tennessee River on their forced removal. They had been held captive in stockades a few miles back. Many books have been written on the heart wrenching description of what is now called “The Trail of Tears.” Butrick’s Journal describes their condition in the camps as, “very much like brute animals-being down on the naked ground exposed to wind and rain-like droves of hogs.” Butrick also states, “But not only the Cherokees-the dear Creeks and Seminoles have fallen by the same means, fictitious treaties.” He speaks of “Nanny as a slave” so this shows the diversity among the attachments.

A mental picture of what happened here at Blythe Ferry can be drawn from these excerpts:

Oct. 16th, 1838-“10 o’clock AM,” “We have only succeeded in getting some twenty wagons across the river--proprietors of the Ferry are determined to retard all exertions.” J. Powell

The last detachment crossed November 12, 1838. “I reached Blythe’s Ferry on Saturday, November 10-found the great body of Mr. (Peter) Hildebrand’s detachment of emigrating Cherokees quietly encamped--about twelve wagons had crossed--at dawn four boats were put in requisition and continued until dusk--close of the day about sixty wagons across--this morning before 12 o’clock eighteen wagons and all the people were over to Winsfield Scott.”

This park is dedicated in memory to these peoples. May it serve as a touchstone for this generation and future generations.

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