Trail of Tears

Heather J. Kintyre

In an interview with my Red Cloud mask, I would take the announcer's voice as much as I could. It would go something like this:

RC: I don't understand. My people and all the other tribes have always helped the white man. Now you force us out of our homes, rape and beat our children. Why?

AN: Because you are not human, only subhuman. Therefore you have no soul and have the right to be treated as we deem fit and proper for such lower forms of life.

RC: That's not true. We are as human as you. When you prick us we bleed red blood, same as you. We have treated the white man so well, and now we're cast aside like dogs. I'm having trouble understanding the white man's rationale.

AN: What can I say? God in his ruling has seen fit for the white man to come to this land; it's our God given mission to try to reform whoever we can. Only in the acceptance of our Christian religion can the Indians hope to be saved. Until then, we have every right to do as we please. We will continue to rape your women and children and beat their husbands, force every infidel to eat their dead, and obey us completely. We'll decide when you have learned to become as human as us. If you bleed to death, so be it. If after we finish beating and raping, you still refuse to see and conform to our way of life, then we'll kill you like the vermin you are.

RC: This can't be. If we hadn't helped our white brothers they would have all died long before now. We saved their lives, and you turn around and take ours. Many have died in shame, taking their lives before the soldiers could have them. Others were lied to after they submitted to the soldiers."

Red Cloud shook his head baffled.

RC: I can't understand. How are we so bad? What did we do to earn such hatred from our white brothers?

AN: First off, we're none of us your white brother. Haven't you ever heard of bite the hand that feeds you? That's us. We're actually very stupid, but since we outnumber you anyway, we have the God given right to treat all Indians as we deem fit. Besides that, our lives are full of strife, worrying about our next meals. That's the American way, by the white man's standards. We see how the simple life makes you so much better than us, and we're very jealous. So we continue to hate you because of it. It's too natural, and easy. We therefore have no choice but to treat you as lower life forms than our dogs that we often kick in order to justify our treatments toward your kind.

RC: You presume to judge us?

AN: Oh yes. We're your judge, jury and executioner.

Now you and your kind are to walk this Trail of Tears to Oklahoma. The new Government doesn't want anything to do with you, and we don't want your kind around to remind us of any alternative lifestyle. We've provided some land for you far away on lands we'll never immigrate to. If you die on the way, so what. We'll be happy to feed you to another of your kind. You'll finally serve a good purpose. Now get a move on!

Red Cloud sighed in deep despair for himself and all those who would never see the end of the journey. He knew many would see the end, only to die shortly afterward. Too many have suffered such bad health that they'd never recover, no matter how much longer they lived. Death for them would be a comfort that would put an end to the extreme hardships they all were suffering because of the white man. Red Cloud started walking, as he had no choice.

I've always been sympathetic to the Native American's horrible treatments. I really do have some Native American ancestry. My grandmother used to tell me stories of her past and the relatives. I was told stories of those Native Americans that are not recorded in any history book, for obviously one-sided reasons.

Many of the men died trying to defend themselves, their women and children from being mistreated.

Abuse? Whenever one of those 'red loved ones' died, the 'Indian's' still alive, those who were closest to them, would have no choice but to eat from those dead, or starve. To the soldiers, it was better than having to take the tyme out to hunt for game instead.

'Most of those days were filled with the smell of human flesh cooking over a campfire during one of the short breaks when we were allowed to rest before having to walk more. Sometimes the 'white' man would join in and also eat some of the cooked meat. Since they knew we weren't human like themselves, they felt justified in what they did. To the 'white' man, it was no different than eating pork.'

The 'red man' would never be human until the skin became as white as their own.

There are many stories that will never be known or heard of in any history books. The story went that my great-great grandmother had to sell her still young child's body to the only soldier who would feed her for her 'services.' Everyone else would cast her aside after using her, and refuse to keep their promises to feed her and her family.

It's told that all those survivors had to sell their bodies to a Soldier in order to eat. You'd be lucky to find one that liked you enough to feed you after you 'sold' yourself to them.

So the story goes, my great-grandmother was the youngest of the children born from my Cherokee grandmother and another full blooded Cherokee within her tribe. She wouldn't allow a 'white' man's baby to be born from her womb.

How is it I know of what little I write of? My great grandmother became too hardened. When the Frenchman left, she used to tell my grandmother stories for 'shock' purposes. It was her intention to tell of those stories in order to keep her children from straying from the harsh life they still had to tread. The 'white' man had nothing but contempt for the 'red' man and others until after the 1960's, and there's still places where those olde attitudes are just as bad or worse than back in those days of my great-great grandmother and before.

The great grandmother was told of the stories her mother suffered on that Trail of Tears. Most of those who survived wanted to forget the painful memories of those days. Many of the stories were forgotten. I only knew of them because my great grandmother was told of the stories as a little child. The stories were designed to keep her from getting to friendly with the 'white' man.

It didn't seem to phase my great grandmother an awful lot, as she still married a Frenchman who became my grandmother's father. The stories were just stories to control her own children with. According to the grandmother, he tried to help her and her mother by acting as a 'buffer' in the 'white' man's social world.

The 'white' man was proud of how he treated and felt about the 'red' man. That is, with less regard than for a dog that was often kicked and abused. Anyone who thought and treated a 'red' man any differently was avoided like the plague.

After it was over, the history books were written to glorify the 'white' man. Nothing was written about the horrors, and the truth of what took place was mostly forgotten. The events were too embarrassing for the survivors, and the 'white' man didn't care. Later, the 'white' man was too proud, and refused to speak of the truth. Later much of the truth was conveniently forgotten, even if the embarrassment lived on.

What is said in every current history book is that no event was more embarrassing than the treatments the 'white' man put the Native Americans under. Oh, others came close, to be sure. That much is true, make no mistake.

I really don't have to stretch my imagination too much or too far to find enough horror for a story.