Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Trail Of Tears

"When a white army battles Indians and wins, it is called a great victory, but if they lose it is called a massacre." Chiksika, Shawnee

The relationship between our U.S. government and the native peoples who occupied these lands before the coming of the Europeans has had many tragic moments. One of the most appalling was the removal of the Cherokee, Choctaw and others from their native homelands in the Southern Appalachians to a desolate space called Oklahoma.

In 1830 Andrew Jackson championed the Indian Removal Act which was essentially a forced deportation. There were objections raised in some quarters. Chief Justice John Marshall of the Supreme Court stated that the act was unconstitutional. President Jackson said, essentially, "Try and stop me." In other words, the president had the army, the Court had pieces of paper.

Alexis de Tocqeville, French philosopher who was studying the American experience at the time, wrote of this forced removal, "In the whole scene there was an air of ruin and destruction... one couldn't watch without feeling one's heart wrung."

Yet, amazingly, the country allowed this thing to happen. All through the 1830's the various tribal peoples were forced out and relocated to other lands. Thousands died along the way. As they made their way west from the Carolinas, however, many escaped and disappeared into the forest hills of Tennessee and fled north into Kentucky. This is when certain of my Kentucky kin appeared on the scene in Eastern Kentucky, though they probably disowned their roots at that time for fear of reprisals. Every family has its secrets.

Today, most people give little thought to this forgotten incident. Yet we honor President Jackson with his portrait on our twenty dollar bill. No wonder history is so messy and confusing.

EDNOTE: Most of the paintings and illustrations on my blog are available for sale. If you see something here that makes you say, "I gotta have it," be sure to let me know and we can negotiate a price. I am also interested in painting portraits. I am always seeking new and interesting subject matter. You can see my style here, and the prices will be very reasonable. Feel free to contact me.

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