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Day Five:

I am sitting in our Dayton, TN hotel exhausted.  We started the day at 7am, eating, packing, and heading out to New Echota Historic Site.  We arrived there right after they opened.  I got teary eyed before we went in.  It makes me wonder about my emotional self, though I was well aware of what we would learn today.

Middle class Cherokee family homestead

Middle class Cherokee family homestead

The morning was lovely, and I was glad to get started before the heat set in.  We did a self guided walking tour of many reconstructed and original period dwellings and meeting houses in what was once the capital of the Cherokee Nation.  To think that the Cherokee were forced to leave their lands makes me think of nothing less than the holocaust.  They lived in log homes and had farms.

Inside a middle class Cherokee home... it was one large room

Inside a middle class Cherokee home... it was one large room

Another view of the same room

Another view of the same room

They had their own newspaper and printing press, printing things in both English and Cherokee.  They worked with a three house government.

The rack holding the typeface used to print The Cherokee Phoenix and other printed materials in both the Cherokee language and English

The rack holding the typeface used to print The Cherokee Phoenix and other printed materials in both the Cherokee language and English

Looking at the different homes was inspiring, especially the kitchens.  From the wealthy to the common, the simplicity felt serene.  I want to go home and work on our cabin.  Clean it out totally.

Lower class Cherokee home - one small room consisting of one bed, 2 gourd bowls, a grinding log for meal, one deer skin, and a gourd ladle

Lower class Cherokee home - one small room consisting of one bed, 2 gourd bowls, a grinding log for meal, one deer skin, and a gourd ladle

Kitchen in the lower class dwelling

Kitchen in the lower class dwelling

My favorite kitchen of the day in the Worcester House at New Echota

My favorite kitchen of the day in the Worcester House at New Echota

The cooking hearth and baking oven of the same kitchen

The cooking hearth and baking oven of the same kitchen

I am beyond hurt at how a people so established and native inhabitants of a land could be so disregarded as the sacrilege that happened with The Trail of Tears.  What many don’t know is that all this disrespect to the native people and their land began with presidents like Thomas Jefferson ( a much beloved man in our country and known as a fighter for equality) who wanted to make the Indian indebted to the U.S. so they could take their land from them and move them west.  People only think of Andrew Jackson, a man of the people, hater of the native peoples, and a president who disregarded the laws of his own nation.  They did this to a people so bent on preserving their heritage – their right to be separate but equal.  A people who, on the white man’s terms proved their civility and capacity to exist as a nation.  It’s unreal what the average American doesn’t know about that situation.

Meeting House at New Echota - where the council held meetings

Meeting House at New Echota - where the council held meetings

Inside the Meeting House

Inside the Meeting House

Courthouse at New Echota

Courthouse at New Echota

The Vann Tavern - New Echota

The Vann Tavern - New Echota

Inside the Vann Tavern - the counter and mercantile area of the largest room

Inside the Vann Tavern - the counter and mercantile area of the largest room

I’m finding it hard to even write about what we saw and learned today.  It was so extensive.  After New Echota, we went to The Vann House, which was a four story European style home built by a prominent Cherokee business man – James Vann.

The Vann House

The Vann House

He had a plantation and around 70 slaves on his land at a time, and up to 110.

View from the third floor of The Vann House

View from the third floor of The Vann House

What was outstanding was that even the wealthy Cherokee who had adpoted many of the white man’s ways were moved to Indian Territory by force.  Their money nor their “civilized” accomplishments could make them exempt from the land hungry white man.  Joseph Vann (son of James Vann and the inheritor of his estate) and his family were burnt out of their home.

The root/wine cellar - where all "cold" food items were stored

The root/wine cellar - where all "cold" food items were stored

The woman's bedroom

The woman's bedroom

There was a spinning wheel and/or loom in every dwelling from the middle class up.

There was a spinning wheel and/or loom in every dwelling from the middle class up.

A little girl's room - very few "toys" - I loved it, so simple and pure as was the boy's room

A little girl's room - very few "toys" - I loved it, so simple and pure as was the boy's room

The dining room

The dining room

When we left New Echota the walking tour ended with two quotes by Cherokee government members Elias Boudinot and John Ridge.  I copied them into a notebook.  In essence, they said that the Cherokee removed from the land God gave them would cease to exist – be blended with the white man.  That is essentially what Thomas Jefferson had promised the native peoples whom would give in to the wishes of the American government – they would blend with the white man.  And there I stood – Cherokee blood in the veins of a white woman.  A dichotomy in the flesh.

Solemn and gloomy is the thought that all the Indian Nations who once occupied America are nearly gone.  In the lapse of half a century, Cherokee blood, if not destroyed, will wind its course in the being of fair complexions, who will read that their ancestors, under the stars of adversity and curses of their enemies became a civilized nation.

John Ridge, February 27, 1826

The time will come when few remanants of our once happy and improving Nation will be viewed by posterity with curious and gazing interest as relics of a brave and noble race… perhaps, only here and there a solitary being, walking, ‘as a ghost over the ashes of his fathers’ to remind a stranger that such a race once existed.

Elias Boudinot, Nov. 21, 1836

I thought about Arizona and her place in this history.  What was she aware of?  I know she knew much of what I learned, but I wonder how she perceived it.  She lived in both Indian Territory and New Echota.  The guide at The Vann House said it was hard to believe that Arizona’s family went to Indian Territory and actually came back.  It makes me think more of her father and who he was.  Why he was what he was.

On the way to Dayton, we gradually entered into tiny rolling hills.  Both John and I couldn’t help but think of Arizona’s walk – over 80 miles from Georgia to Tennessee.  So young and strong.

After such a saturated and fun day we are all tired.  John is working on the van.  There is a hole in the radiator.  The girls are being wild with that tired irritability.  It feels good just to be.

Deladis in a smokehouse at New Echota - orbs or dust particles... you decide :)

Deladis in a smokehouse at New Echota - orbs or dust particles... you decide 🙂

kaclogo Kelli B. Haywood has received professional development funding through the Kentucky Arts Council, the state arts agency, supported by state tax dollars and federal funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Day Four:

Today started early for me.  I woke up wondering why I was wide awake and everyone else was deeply asleep.  I finally raised up off the bed and craned my head to look at the clock.  It was 5:23am.  I laid there for quite awhile before falling asleep again.  Light poured in from around the heavy curtain when we all woke at 7am.

We weren’t sure how the day would go because both museums we wanted to visit weren’t open.  I decided our best option was to start at the local library.

Calhoun, GA is like many other small towns in the south.  The buildings around town are old and in need of repair, but there was character.  Things moved slow like in a haze.  It could have been that running the air conditioner in the van has started to make it leak antifreeze and we are doing without it at a time when north Georgia had its first day in the 90 degree range.

In front of the library in Calhoun...

In front of the library in Calhoun...

John took the girls and I went to the special collections area, while they explored the kids wing of the library.  I found some interesting books that I’ve decided I’ll purchase for my collection.  They were Cherokee history and tradition books.  I was really excited about one I found on Cherokee Cooklore.

I discovered Echota (a big difference between Old/New Echota) was not only the Cherokee capital, but a city of refuge for those who had killed someone.  There were stipulations to that refuge, however.  I found it interesting and useful for my novel in that Arizona’s father went to New Echota after possibly killing his wife and young daughter.  This is speculation as no one has evidence of that, but everyone agreed that he was a violent man.  Echota gave him refuge, but not Arizona.

After looking in a few neat local shops and a folk art exhibit at the Harris Arts Center, we had lunch from the cooler and went to look for the historic sites we’ll visit tomorrow.  I’m excited about what we’ll find tomorrow.  It is bringing me closer to the past that made me.  At the Vann House, I got a short peek at an unfinished, large, woven reed basket that was abandoned in a Cherokee home during the 1838 removal – The Trail of Tears.  It brought to me a feeling of anger and grief.  I mourned for the woman who was forced from her home so quickly that she had to leave her work unfinished.

Overlook on the way up the hill to Fort Mountain...

Overlook on the way up the hill to Fort Mountain...

From Chatsworth, we moved on to Fort Mountain State Park.  Apparently, the Cherokee met up with white folks prior to Columbus who had crossed the ocean from Wales.  These men built a tower fort, which we got to see.

Tower possibly built by Prince Madoc of Wales - predating Columbus

Tower possibly built by Prince Madoc of Wales - predating Columbus

We read of the legends of the moon-eyed people who were fair skinned, light hair, and blue eyed.  It was said they were blind in the daylight and/or during certain phases of the moon.  The Cherokee claimed the Creeks annihilated them during one of their blind periods.

Probably the best thing we say today was a scenic overlook at Fort Mountain.  Flat land met the beginning/ending of the Appalachian mountains in such a way that can only be described as breathtaking.  I know John found it hard to breathe. 🙂

A start/end of the Appalachian Mountains

A start/end of the Appalachian Mountains

Overlooking...

Overlooking...

Back in town, sweaty and tired, we tried to shop at some outlet stores.  Don’t go shopping without money to spend.  It ruins the mood.  Giving up on shopping, we searched for a local establishment to get supper.  Failing at that, we pulled into Ruby Tuesday and had a wonderfully satisfying meal and spent way too much money on it.  It had been while since we had eaten at a Ruby Tuesday – prices had went up!  But, we needed a full meal, and it was delicious.  Deladis ate all of hers and some of ours.

Stopping to smell the flowers at Fort Mountain

Stopping to smell the flowers at Fort Mountain

After picking up some coffee at McDonalds, we went back to the motel for baths and rest.  I feel like things are moving sluggishly, but too fast all at once.  If you can be happy and melancholy together, that’s what I am.

On a tower window ledge at Fort Mountain

On a tower window ledge at Fort Mountain

kaclogoKelli B. Haywood has received professional development funding through the Kentucky Arts Council, the state arts agency, supported by state tax dollars and federal funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The following series of blog entries are compiled from my journal writings during my recent trip to research the historical background of a novel I am working on loosely based on the life of my Cherokee great great grandmother.  There are seven days and each has an abundance of pictures.  Hope you enjoy the ride.

Day One:

Preparing our little home for us to be away for ten days was more work than I had expected.  We woke to rain and weird red bugs all over the potato plants, feasting away.  I worked non-stop all morning and through the afternoon.  Our departure time of noon was shot down.  We left our holler around 5pm.

The trip to Spartanburg was wonderfully uneventful.  Driving through the mountains brought an easy peace to us.  The girls were happy and quiet.  My body released all the aggression I had been holding onto all day.  We had a nice dinner in Johnson City at a Cracker Barrel.  Surprisingly, I found suitable food there (or just inside good enough), and we all ate good.  Dark clouds threatened rain that never came.  We arrived at my family’s home around midnight.

Day Two:

Today, the plan was to be with our kin.  That’s exactly what we did.  Ivy and my Papaw hit it off as I thought they would.  Deladis spent hours playing with an Ewok village that I had spent hours with as a child.  She did some painting too.

art

I took a three mile run, and came back with an awful headache.  Lack of sleep really gets to me.  We didn’t get in bed until almost 2am.  That, coupled with weak coffee brought on a migraine that progressed in intensity through the day.

We lounged and talked.  My Mamaw showed me the best picture of Arizona (great great grandmother).  It gave me chills to see her in such a regal stance.  She was amazing to look upon.  Her native features were clear.  Her unsmiling lips just soft enough to reveal a proud contentment.

I found out she married around age 16 on Walden’s Ridge.  Looking at her brought new face to my journey.  I’ll never know the real story, the whole true story, but the one I will imagine will be inspired.

reconnectDay Three:

We arrived in Calhoun, GA around 7pm.  The four hour trip was interesting and felt very commercial.  When we got close to Atlanta, the interstate was lined with billboards.  Some were digital and changed advertisement every few seconds, which is something I had never seen.  Overwhelming – almost.

There is always a little insecurity that comes with traveling to a place unfamiliar.  We left my family this afternoon after a yummy lunch.  I fought tears, the urge settling somewhere in the spot where my head connects to my neck.  Deladis didn’t want to go and I didn’t want to take the girls from them so soon.

familyfamily2

I wonder how Arizona felt.  A young girl of 14 or 15 setting out alone through the mountains in an unfamiliar way.  Leaving her brothers.  The mountains here are more foothills.  I’m looking forward to seeing how they grow as we enter into Tennessee.  The motivation was apparently too strong and overshot any fear she might have had.

Mamaw shared a letter written in Arizona’s hand in 1919 to her brother Walter that she had left behind.  Her husband had been killed in the mines in 1918, and she was writing of wanting to move to a farm in Ohio from where she was in east Kentucky.  She had to be attached to the land.  She lived in town in Hazard, KY.  I know I was always finding safety and solace in the hills as a kid, when I was troubled.  I can imagine her wanting that comfort back, seeking it.  I don’t think she saw Walter again after she ran away.  It had to feel lonesome sometimes.

Now, as the girls play on the hotel beds.  I think about where she slept her first night on the run.  I’ve been disappointed with this establishment since we got here.  The place is in poor shape, the pool is closed and unkept, our coffee was an empty wrapper, so we have none, and there is some kind of reddish brown bodily fluid splattered on the bathroom door.  I wouldn’t have expected that of a hotel in this chain.  At least we’re together and safe – joyful.  I think of Arizona, alone – so young and totally alone.

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About Me

An Appalachian woman born and raised, mothering two little girls in a place that is non-existent to AT&T or UPS. Happily working toward a sustainable lifestyle and writing on the demand of a loud muse.

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