My name is Tsali and I am a Cherokee. I lived on a farm in
Georgia with my parents and baby sister. The Cherokee Nation was in Georgia and
the Carolinas before Christopher Columbus discovered America. When the white
settlers came to the area, the Cherokees were friendly and helpful. In the
1800s, the Cherokees lived peacefully with their neighbors. They had farms,
lived in log houses, and went to school.
I’ll never forget one afternoon in the summer of 1838 when
I was 10 years old. I came home to find a soldier with a gun talking to my
parents. My dad looked angry and my mother was crying. They told me to get my
jacket because we were leaving. I had no idea they meant we were leaving
They took us at gunpoint to a prison-like fort. I asked my
dad why they were taking us to the stockade. He said that the white men wanted
our land because they found gold in the mountains. They had uniforms and lots of guns.
The “removal fort” was horrible. They rounded up 14,000
men, women, and children for no reason other than they were American Indians. We
lived locked up in pens as if we were animals. We weren’t allowed to leave and
we had little to eat. We stayed there all summer. It was hot and dirty.
The guards told us we were going to be “re-located.” We
heard that white people were living in our log houses and using our tools. Then
winter came, and it got cold. We did not have enough blankets or jackets. My
baby sister got sick and died. I don’t think my mother ever smiled again after
that. And still we waited – dirty, hungry, and cold.
It was about November when the march started. They lined us
up at gunpoint and told us to start walking. We had to walk for many weeks. In
fact, we walked 1200 miles to Oklahoma – that’s halfway across the United
States. It was cold, and we did not have warm coats. My mother started coughing
after a few weeks. The cough got worse, and she died somewhere in Missouri.
I cried the rest of the way to Oklahoma. Many people saw us
walking in the snow without coats, but no one helped us. Over 4000 of our people
died before we got to Oklahoma. In Cherokee, the journey became known as the
Nunna daul Tsuny, which means the Trail Where They Cried.
During the Trail of Tears, the Chiefs prayed for a sign to lift the crying
mothers’ spirits and give them strength to care for their children. It is said
that on that day and ever since, a white rose grows where the tears of the
mothers fell. The white peddles on the rose stand for the mothers’ tears. The
gold in the center of the rose stands for the gold that was stolen from the
Cherokee lands. The seven leaves on the rose represent the seven clans of the
Cherokee that made the journey.
The story about the roses is known as the Legend of Cherokee Rose. The
roses still grow along the route of the “Trail of Tears.” The “Cherokee rose”
is the state flower for Georgia.
Map and flag of Georgia. Atlanta is the capital.