Monday, August 27, 2007

local homage

East Ellijay, Georgia. Citizens of East Ellijay, Ellijay and beyond attended the dedication ceremony for the new Ft. Hetzel Trail of Tears monument, located at the corner of Hwy. 515 and First Ave., Wednesday, Aug. 15.

According to the local paper, "Honoring the memory of those who perished or suffered during the winter of 1868 on the forced walk to Oklahoma Territory. The arduous journey they made has since become known as the Trail of Tears."

After reading this story in the local newspaper, and researching the internet for history on the Cherokee removal forts, I have mixed feelings about this new monument and dedication ceremony. First of all, I believe the date was 1838.

There used to be a small marker at the corner of this busy intersection. If you were stopped at the traffic light long enough you could barely read it, something about Fort Hetzel and the Cherokees. The marker was placed by local historian Lawrence Stanley in 1982.

At least the old monument was small enough to go unnoticed, possibly so as not to advertise the part our little town played in the history of these despicable acts of cruelty. The little marker has now been replaced by a much larger one, more prominent, easily read from the busy highway that goes through our little town. Now everyone will know that right here our ancestors took part in the expulsion of the Cherokee Nation from the South. According to this account:

Conditions at the forts were horrible. Food intended for the tribe was sold to locals. What little the Cherokee had brought with them was stolen and sold. Living areas were filled with excrement. Birth rates among the Cherokee dropped to near zero during the months of captivity. Cherokee women and children were repeatedly raped. Soldiers forced their captives to perform acts of depravation so disgusting they cannot be told here. One member of the Guard would later write, "During the Civil War I watched as hundreds of men died, including my own brother, but none of that compares to what we did to the Cherokee Indians."

Are we really honoring the memory of those who perished and suffered, or are we trying to make up for our acts with pomp and ceremony, gathering of local officials and politicians, reading of scripture and prayer, and even placement of a time capsule in the monument?

National Park Service website: Cherokee Removal: Forts along the Georgia Trail of Tears

1 comment:

Motherkitty said...

The Trail of Tears passed through our area. See the attached link.