“My father was David Israel, a full-blood Cherokee and my mother was Martha Jane Miller Israel, a quarter Cherokee. They were born in Georgia. My mother in 1836 and my father in 1837. They were brought to Indian Territory by their parents over the “Trail of Tears” when the Indians were driven from their eastern homes by the United States Troops. They were too young to know of the tragedies and sorrows of that terrible event. My aunt, who was 15 years old at the time, told me of the awful suffering along the journey. Almost everyone had to walk as the conveyance they had were inadequate for transporting what few possessions they had and their meager supply of food. Only the old people and little children were allowed to ride. They died by the hundreds and were buried by the roadside. As they were not allowed to remove any of their household goods, they arrived at their destination with nothing with which to start housekeeping.”
~ from Life and Experience of a Cherokee Woman
More than 100 years ago, the Cherokee people were driven from their home mountains when white men discovered gold in the mountains of Tears. Some of the people traveled across Marengo County in West Alabama. It would seems that they left the mountains and traveled far south so not have to climb more mountains.
It was early summer and very hot, and of the people had to walk. Tempers were short and the soldiers that were supposed to be traveling as guides were mean and relentless as they pushed the people towards their destination. Men were so frustrated with the treatment of their women and children. The soldiers were unhappy about the fact they had to travel with the Indians that often it was the women and children that would suffer for it. Men would get short tempered and angry, so often fights would break out and many men were killed in the process. Many people died from illnesses due to hardships. Women wept for their losses, their ways of life, homes and dignity. The Elders knew that they must do something to help the women to maintain their strength if they were to help the children survive.
One evening after everyone had made camp along the Trail of Tears, the old men sitting around the dying campfire called up to the Creator in Galunati (heaven) to help them all and bring hope and faith back to the people. They spoke and prayed for the people, for the suffering and the little ones they feared would not survive to rebuild the Cherokee Nation.
The Creator spoke to them, “Yes, I have seen the sorrows of the women and I can help them to keep their strength to help the children. Tell the women in the morning to look back where their tears have fallen to the ground. I will cause to grow quickly a plant. They will see a little green plant at first with a stem growing up. It will grow up and up and fall back down to touch the ground where another stem will begin to grow. I’ll make the plant grow so fast at first that by afternoon they’ll see a white rose, a beautiful blossom with five petals. In the center of the rose, I will put a pile of gold to remind them of the gold which the white man wanted when his greed drove the Cherokee from their ancestral home.”
The Creator explained that the green leaves would have seven leaflets, one for each of the seven clans of the Cherokee. This plant will begin to spread out all over, a very strong plant, a plant which will grow in large, strong clumps and it will take back some of the land they had lost. It will have small thorns on every stem to protect it from anything that tries to move it away.
The next morning the Elders told the women to look back for the sign from the Creator. So the women looked and found the plant beginning as a tiny shoot and growing up and up until it spread out over the land. They watched as a blossom formed so beautifully that they forgot to weep and they once again felt beautiful and strong. By the afternoon they saw many white blossoms as far as they could see. The women began to think about their strength given them to bring up their children as the new Cherokee Nation. They all understood that the plant marked the path of the brutal Trail of Tears and it would not be forgotten. The Cherokee women saw that the Cherokee Rose was strong enough to take back what they thought they had lost and renew their lives as Cherokee People once again.
~ bear Medicinewalker