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tv   Trail of Tears  CSPAN  April 20, 2020 9:47am-10:27am EDT

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jack baker, a member of the cherokee nation, discusses his family's involuntary move to oklahoma as part of the trail of tears in the early 19th century. from the virginia museum of history and culture and the university of oklahoma center for the study of american indian law and policy. this is about 40 minutes. it now gives me great pleasure to introduce jack baker. he is a former member of the tribal council of the cherokee nation where he served for 11 years representing those cherokee citizens residing outside of the cherokee nation. he is the national president of the trail of tears association. he is also the current president of the oklahoma historical society and serves on a number of other boards. he has done extensive research -- he has done extensive cherokee research for more than 50 years and has authored various articles and
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edited various books on cherokee history. i can say that he continued his research even yesterday at the library of virginia. so, it gives me pleasure to invite jack baker. invite jac k baker. thanks, elizabeth. it is an honor to be part of this symposium. but i come before you as a citizen of the united states and also a citizen of the cherokee nation. and i'm an eighth generation oklahoman because of the trail of tears.
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at the time of our forced removal, the cherokees owned farms and even plantations. and as lindsay pointed out, our constitution was adopted in 1827. patterned after that of the united states. and with the invention of the siloby, as lindsey also stated, almost every family of the cherokee nation had at least one literate member, and it compared to the hi illiteracy rate of the states surrounding the cherokee nation. so with publication, we begin in 1828 of our newspaper, "the cherokee phoenix," the cherokees became well-informed of the issues of removal. by 1819, our people had ceded
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90% of our original lands. and lindsay pointed this out on the map also, so by the time of removal, the little dark area at the bottom is all that was left. so these remaining lands we sought to keep, while our white neighbors sought to have them removed. the u.s. supreme court in its 1832 decision, the case of worcester versus georgia, recognized the sovereignty of the cherokee nation. yet even this did not save us from the fraudulent treaty signed by a handful of cherokees. with major rich as one of the principal leaders. the signers, as lindsay stated, had no authority to speak for the cherokee nation, yet congress ratified this treaty on may 18, 1836, by only a single vote. and it was signed by president andrew jackson on may 23rd, and
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the cherokees were given two years from that date to remove. our principal chief and tribal council continued their efforts to oppose removal but to no avail. in late may of 1838, general winfield scott and his troops began to round up our people. the removal force had been constructed throughout the cherokee nation as places to temporarily contain the cherokees as they were gathered up for removal. several of these forces had been constructed a couple of years before during the creek removal. several hundred creeks had fled into the cherokee nation to avoid removal, and soldiers had gone throughout the cherokee nation in an attempt to find them. so it is sometimes questioned as to whether the cherokees did not go ahead and remove as they were
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aware of the forces being constructed. reverend stephen foreman, who was a half blood cherokee, who had been educated in the mission schools in the cherokee nation, and later at princeton, wrote the following letter to the american mission board in boston. it was may 31st of 1838. to reverend daifds green. it says, very dear sir from the date of my letter, you'll perceive that i am still in the cherokee nation's ease and still in the neighborhood of the candy creek mission. how much longer we shall be permitted to remain here in our own lands, to enjoy our rights and privileges, i do not know. from the present aspect of affairs, we shall very soon be without house and home. indeed, ever since the 23rd of may, we have been looking almost daily for the soldiers to come and turn us out of our houses.
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they have already warned us to make arrangements and come into the camps before we were forced to do so, but i have stated distinctively to the officers at headquarters what i thought of this so-called treaty and what course i intend to pursue in the event that no new treaty was made. and i see no reasons yet why i should change my mind. my determination and the determination of the large majority of the cherokees in the nation is never to recognize this instrument as a treaty, nor remove under it until we are forced to do so at the point of a bayonet. it may seem unwise and hazardous to the framers and friends of this instrument that we should pursue such a course, but i am
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fully satisfied it is the only one we can pursue with a clear conscience. reverend daniel buck tree, a new england missionary, who had been with the cherokees for almost 20 years, wrote in his journal, "in georgia, they are supposed to be 8000 cherokees. these in general were taken just as they were found by the soldiers, without permission to stop either for friends or property. as the soldiers advanced towards the house, two little children fled in fright to the woods. the woman pleaded for permission to seek them or wait until they came in, giving positive assurances she would follow on and join the company. but all were in vain. it was not until two or three days after that she would get permission for one of her two
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friends to go back after her lost children. a man deaf and dumb, surprised by armed men, attempted to escape. and then, because he did not hear and obey the commands of his pursuers was shot dead on the spot. women were seized, and men, far from their wives and children, were not allowed to return. and also, children being forced from home were dragged off among strangers. cattle, horses, hogs, household furniture, clothing, and money not with them were taken when left. and it is said that the whites enhabited around to seeds whatever property they could put their hands on. some friends who could speak for them afterwards insisted on getting some part of their lost
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goods. thus, after two or three days, about 8,000 people, many of whom were in good circumstances and some rich, were rendered homeless, house less, and penny less and exposed to all the ordeals of captivity. and a few months later, lucy haynes butler, the wife of dr. liza butler, wrote to a childhood friend in massachusetts. liza butler was in worcester and prison, and i was happy to see that lindsay mentioned him as part of this, because, i assume because of the case of worcester verse sus -- versus georgia, because unfortunately his sacrifice for the most part has been overlooked. the part of lucy's letter, "i grieve the inner missionary laborers in 1827. i arrived among the cherokees
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and engaged in teaching at brainard, and remained there until they entered into a married state in 1830 and removed to a mission station just west of georgia. here, my husband was shut up in prison by the authorities of georgia for refusing to take an oath to support their ventures against the cherokee or to leave his situation or his station, which was in the chartered limits of that state. after laboring nearly a year and a half in the pen ten chair, he returned to his missionary labo labors among the cherokees. but in a little more than a year, the same law, which had sent him to prison, found means to break up our mission station. we then had an invitation from the cherokees to commence a station at this place that is
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red clay in tennessee. and the methods of taking cherokees prisoner were various. and she goes on to state, "it was, and for a party of soldiers, with a wagon attached to the train, to be sent to a certain neighborhood. at arriving to the house, the inmates were ordered to march. sometimes they were allowed to take some light articles to be conveyed in the wagon, but many times they were not suffered to carry long enough to take as much as a change of clothes with them. if their horses were at hand, they were often permitted to ride them, but as often as not, they were driven on foot at the point of the bayonet. if parents could not convey their children on horses or on their own backs, they were ordered to get into the wagon. and if any reluctance was shown by them, they were thrown in by
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the soldiers and then driven over the rough road with such speed that in some instances they have been severely injured. and perhaps the prisoners were driven with more haste from their dwellings on account of the frequent rumor of indian hostilities. the fear of this has led the soldiers to gather some neighborhoods in the night. to accomplish this, they would enter a cherokee dwelling, and the families in the midst of their slumbers would be aroused for their march. here would be grouped together the aged, infirm, middle-aged, youth and children of all sizes. gather the people in such haste, whether by night or by day has been the occasion of much distress and loss of property. husbands and wives, parents and children have been separated and
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carried off to different camps, where they know nothing of each other for weeks or months. so they were first taken to 31 stockades constructed throughout the cherokee nation, and the conditions in these stockades were deplorable. people had no shelter, only a few blankets, what they were able to grab as they were being forced from their homes, and inadequate food. these stockades were referred to as concentration camps, and it may be the first time this term was used. from these holding stockades, the cherokees were taken to 11 internment camps. ten of these were in tennessee, and the remaining one was in alabama. on may 31st, a reverend tells of one group being taken to the
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internment camps. he states, astoundingly, a little before sun set, a company of cherokee had been driven into our lane, it had been raining, and of course all men, women, and children were dripping wet, with no change of clothing, and scarcely a blanket fit to cover them, and some of the women, when taken from their houses, had on their coarse dress. this, of course, was the amount of their clothing for a journey of about 800 miles. as soon as permission was obtained from the officers, we opened every door to these poor sufferers. mothers brought their dear little babes to our fire and stripped all their only covering to dry. oh how heart wrenching was the site of those little sufferers, their little lips blue and trembling with cold seemed yet to form a smile of gratitude for
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this kind reception. so i would like to tell you how the removal affected my fourth great grandfather, james hair. family tradition states that his mother-in-law, lindsay radley, gave birth to a baby girl right after removal or after the round ups started. and while being driven to one of the internment camps, she became too weak to go any further and refused to cross the stream. she was stabbed by one of the soldiers and died soon after. and reverend butrick at this time recorded in his journal an almost identical story but does not name the woman. he states, when we also learned when the last company were taken over the river, the woman in the pains of childbirth, stood and walked as long as possible, and then fell on the banks of the
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river. a soldier, came upon her, and stabbed her with his bayonet, which together with other pains, soon caused her death. james hair had married her daughter only a few months before, and lindsay's other five children accompanied james and his wife on the forced removal and was reared by them. so in mid june, three groups of about 800 each were started west from ross's landing in chattanooga, tennessee. two by water around markson ben, and the other crossed on the old federal road. of that group, only 635 arrived in the west, with 146 deaths and two births being reported. there was a severe drought at the time with extreme heat, and james hair's mother, katty north, along with her father,
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was in this group. her father, william nourse, was a white man, who had married a cherokee woman about 60 years before. a couple of months before, he had been described of being upwards of 100 years and completely blind for the last 25 years. there is no record of his arriving in the west, however, in a series of interviews conducted in the chattanooga area around 1900, a mr. a.g. carter tells this story. a white man named north married an indian and later became blind. he, that is mr. carter, heard that they threw him in the river and drowned him on the way west because he was so much trouble. so because of the high casualties of these first groups, permission was given to later removal of the other groups until fall, when it would be cooler. also the cherokee leaders petitioned general scott that they be allowed to conduct their
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own removal. permission was granted. james hair's father, conrad, was the leader of the first attachment to leave that fall. however, he soon became too ill to continue as its leader and had to relinquish the position. james hair's sister, betsy, the wife of ash hopper, travelled in richard taylor's detachment. and reverend butrick, who also accompanied this detachment, wrote in his journal on saturday, december 1, 1838, on thursday, two children, one a daughter of our dear sister, were called into eternity. so he lost his father, his
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mother and his niece. by this time, the extreme heat of summer had given away to an unseasonably cold winter. reverend butrick further wrote, on december 26, they have sent detachment out to mississippi, stopped by floating eyes. mr. hildebrandt's detachment stopped by the same means at the ohio river. december 27th, we proceeded with the detachment about six miles, where we camped for the week. here is a slow increase of three or four inches, and the weather was excessively cold. lucy butler, in the same letter i mentioned earlier, written on december 20th, states, my husband has preached among the cherokees and attended on them as physician since they were first taken. last summer, by their request, he was appointed a physician by general scott in a camp about eight miles from our station. and after arrangements were made for the cherokees to remove
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themselves, he was appointed by mr. ross to serve as physician and accompany on the way to the west. the last letter i had from him was mailed at jones brothboro, illinois, on the 19th of november. come about 20 miles this side of the mississippi. they did not accomplish quite half of their journey at this time they had considerable sickness. about 27 of their number lay buried between that place and the one where they commenced their journey. during this time, george hicks, one of the conductors of the attachment and a member of the church sent the following letter, johnson county, illinois, 13th of january, 1839, my dear friend and brother, we
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left the cherokee nation on the last day of november and took up the line of our march to the far west. and through the mercy of an all white providence, who is ever ready to assist the oppressed, and whose ears helped heard our cries, and have arrived thus far on our journey to the west. the following winter has been very cold, and we have suffered from exposure, from cold and fatigue. our people, a great many of them were very poor and very destitute of clothing and as a means of rendering themselves comfortable, we have done all in had our power to remedy the destitute situation and contribute very much to their
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comfort by supplying them so far as we could, with clothing, blankets, and shoes. but still, we have suffered a great deal with sickness and of losses since the 31st of october, about 35, a great proportion of than the aged and children. our numbers are probably over 1100 p,10 1,100, and to attend to and want and watch over, with great deal of industry, because it is a great signty of mine, and so much responsibility adds to the fatigue of traveling, brought upon a sickness from which i thought i should not recover, but through and always providence, i have in good deal recovered many my health. we are now ability 20 miles west of the mississippi river, which we cannot cross because of the ice. we have been traveling on account of their being ahead of us two attachments of cherokees
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who must cross before we can cross. the mississippi has large quantities of floating ice, which at times it's impassable. but still they keep crossing, and i'm in hopes we'll get over in one or two weeks. we will start in the morning again on our journey west. the roads are all in a very bad order, as the ground was frozen very deep and there's been, for the last ten days, a general thaw. not even any frost. together with a good deal of wet, which will probably make the roads almost impassable. but we must necessarily calculate on suffering a great deal from hardship and exposure before we yet reach our homes in the far west. we look to the almighty for strength and protection to enable us to reach the place of destination, as yet we are hardly halfway. and to look forward to the
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determination of our journey and our toils we could not as yet but hope for the best. respectfully george hicks. our principal chief, john ross, left last after he'd seen all the other cherokees on their way west. he travelled by team boat with a small group of cherokees, in order to take those who had been too ill to leave with the regular detachments. and while the various detachments were waiting to cross the mississippi river, he visited the camps, and he wrote the following account. on my arrival with the water detachment i received various -- excuse me, letters from various persons connected with some of the first houses in nashville, informed me that it was understood the land detachments had been stopped at the mississippi river by ice and for various reasons it would be most
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advisable to transport the immigrants from that point by water. therefore, they send me proposals for furnishing the steam boats for that purpose. at the mouth of the ohio, i received letters from mr. thomas a. clark jr., one of my principal agents on the routes and other persons all pressing on me to visit the detachments still detained at william's ferry and the mississippi river. as my presence was necessary to remove -- calculated to deter them from pursuing their journey through missouri on roads represented to be very bad and where it would be impossible to secure supplies for themselves and horses, these reports were suspected to have been put in circulation with the view of creating alarms among the people that they might insist on taking
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water at that point. and note that these rumors were started by the first families of nashville. which i'm sure most of you remember is the home of andrew jackson, and so these were his conies. so they were seeking to profit more from the cherokee removal. so it was also ross' -- it was also suggested it might be deemed as visible to transfer some of the sick to the water detachment. i therefore deemed it my duty to repair to them without hesitation. at first i determined the proprietary of running the boat up to willard's ferry with the view of receiving as much of the sick which wished to go by water. but the captain of the boat
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advised against it for reasons himself nor the pilot do anything in navigation of that part of the mississippi river. so he took passage on a boat, and leaving he has underlined, my sick family, with the other immigrants to await my return, which should be as speedily as possible. about 12:00 that night, i was landed at willard's ferry where i met with mr. clark, my brother lewis and others. to which i learned they crossed the river and were camped a short distance off. and detachments had not yet crossed but were in readiness for the purpose. i directed it to be made known that no change could or would be made from completing the journey by land. that it was evident these alarming tails about the roads
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to missouri were in great measure magnified for effect. but however true the scarcity and high prices for supplies, immediately on the road might prove to be, that supplies should be procured, cost what they would. if they were to be had at all in the reach of their route of travel. preparations were directed to be taking up the line of march the next morning, which was done accordingly. all the cherokees were in charge of their own removal, there was never any complaints of lack of food on the way. and ross goes on to say, that sending boats could not be prevailed upon me -- prevailed upon to stop and take me on board. after thus being detained two or three days, i determined not to wait any longer for passage by water and i procured the loan of
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a horse for two days accompanied by my brother. the next morning, after my return, we slipped cable. within a week from that time, the underlining is by ross, my children became mother less and the remains of mrs. ross were left in a strange land. his wife died near little rock, arkansas, and she was buried in little rock. three of the 12 detachments arrived in the cherokee nation in january did cross the mississippi before the ice stopped the other detachments. the others arrived in february and march. it's often been estimated that as many as 4,000 of the 16,000 cherokees died as a result of the forced removal. there appears to have been only about 1,200 deaths during the actual removal. however there were many additional deaths immediately following the removal that
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reduced the population of the cherokee nation by at least an additional 1,600 people. so there were at least close to 3,000 deaths caused by the removal. in may of 1825, the cherokees had passed an act imposing a death penalty on anyone who should propose the sale in exchange for their lands. after their arrival in the present cherokee nation, a group of cherokees met secretly and sentenced various members of the treaty party to death based on that law. major ridge, along with his son john ridge and his nephew elias boudinot were all executed at various places on june 22nd of 1839. and one of the executioners of major ridge was james hair.
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the trail of tears is an example of what can happen when prejudice combines with greed. it was the direct result of the supreme court decision in worcester versus georgia being igno ignor ignored. while we as cherokees forced adversement in the forced removal, we survived. we were able to adapt to our new lands and prosper in them. and after lunch, we'll talk about the rebuilding of our nation and where we are today. so this ability of our people to survive and adapt is the true story of the trail of tears and how we wish it to be remembered. thank you. >> so are there any questions?
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>> i'd like to thank you for sharing with us the tragic story. my name is steven atkins i'm chief of the choctaw trip. it shows the land grabbing invaders set forth on jamestown may 16, 1407. and by 1699, nine out of ten of the virginia woodland indians had perished. so the story you told resonates with me because forced removal for the virginia indians occurred in 1646. and the department of education, across the states, has skillfully, artfully, left out that history so we're surrounded
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by dominant culture that's largely ignorant of the tragedies that occurred among the indigenous people beginning may 14, 1607. >> thank you. we've had the same problem in our oklahoma textbooks. at least when i was growing up, there was virtually nothing about the indian tribes in oklahoma history, adversity started with the land runs on our lands in 1889. but they've improved somewhat but not to the degree that they should. >> what is the status of those cherokees that did not do the -- were not -- because of either they married a white person and did not do the trail of tears? my understanding is they're not on the cherokee register and no way those people can be on the
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cherokee register because they did not do the trail of tears for a multitude of reasons. >> right. it was mentioned earlier by lindsay in the one question about taking citizenship. the 1835 treaty provided if a person was able, that he could apply and then become a citizen of the state and remain in the nation -- or excuse me, remain in georgia or some of the other states. i think there were about 150 in georgia that elected to do this. but as lindsay also mentioned they gave up their citizenship in the tribe to become citizens in the u.s. so while they are of cherokee decent, they're not eligible for citizenship in the cherokee nation because of that. because our role is based on
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residency, and our citizens in 1902. and i liken it to the fact that i have german ancestors, and so i have some german descent. but i'm not going back to germany and declare that i'm a german citizen. so bringing this up, it was the same thing. >> thank you. i have a question regarding the native americans having plantations, you mentioned, and also, were there united states laws regarding native americans owning or having enslaved africans or african-americans? and also, were there enslaved african-americans who moved along with you during the
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migration to the north and to the west? >> yes. there were a few cherokees who did own african-american slaves during this period. the ones with the larger plantations, for the most part, shipped or made sure that their slaves, which unfortunately they considered valuable property, they made sure that they made it to the cherokee nation west without any problems. but there are a few cherokees that owned maybe one or two african-americans, and they accompanied them on the trail. and in buttrick's journal, when he was accompanying the richard taylor detachment, he described at one point where he hired an african-american lady from the owner to do washing and all for him and his wife.
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so we don't, at least -- we recognize there were many african-americans on the removal of the five tribes, but unfortunately there's not a lot of documentation or stories with them. and we would like to include more of those stories as we find them. thank you. thank you. you're watching a special edition of american history tv. during the week while members of congress are in their district due to the coronavirus pandemic. tonight programs on the 25th anniversary of the oklahoma city bombing. beginning at 8:00 p.m. east earn with an hour long program looking back at the attack, the investigation and the arrest of the perpetrators and how the attack has been remembered. american history tv, now and over the w


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