Saturday, July 26, 2008

Death of an Indian Child

Homesteading meant displacement of native Indians. By the Treaty of Echota, the Cherokees had to leave their land under very dire conditions. Emory Stoops in Prairie Pioneers (p. 43), paints the final day and burial of a young Cherokee.

"Cherko, ten years old, tried to walk and do everything that his father, Josiah, could do. He kept up with his older brothers and sisters. [But] Before the party reached western Kentucky, his mother, Sekwana, had fallen many times with exhaustion and had to be placed in one of the wagons. Cherko’s crude shoes had worn out, and his feet were bleeding and cold. Others, too, were leaving red splotches in the snow. None of his family had been able to bring sufficient clothing to resist the bitter winds of winter. Rain, sleet, and snow bedeviled them by day and soaked their inadequate blankets by night."

"The day after Cherko’s mother, Sekwana, was placed in the wagon, his older brother awoke with a high temperature and coughing from the sleeping in wet, cold clothes and blankets. He, too, was placed in the wagon, but that night he “went out of his head” with high fever and died of pneumonia before dawn. He had to be buried. Burial was crude, hurried, and cruel. Some of the stronger men helped Josiah dig a shallow trench. The body, not quite cooled, was wrapped in his own wet and dirty blankets and lowered into the trench. A younger chief uttered a few words in Cherokee. The army bugle sounded march. Older men shoved wet and mucky dirt over his young face and his two-thirds grown body."

"Here he would lie, remembered only by his kin, in an unmarked, unremembered place."

Links of interest:

New Echota

Official site of the Cherokee Nation

History of the Cherokee

Constitution of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma

Trail of Tears National Historic Trail

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