Thursday, April 16, 2009

Cherokee groups to reunite

This weekend, in Cleveland, Tenn., the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the Cherokee Nation will reuniteat the place where they fought government plans to send them west 171 years ago -- not one of our nation's finest moments.

"The show of solidarity and culture," says the Citizen-Times, "is only the second time the two governments have returned to the place where Cherokee Chief John Ross learned his people would be forced from their homeland.

“ 'It is a good thing for us to come together with the western tribe,' said Shirley Oswalt, who lives in the Snowbird community in Graham County. 'It is like families coming home for a reunion.'

Federal troops in the spring of 1838 rounded up about 17,000 Cherokee and forced them to walk to Oklahoma on what became known as the Trail of Tears. At least 4,000 died along the way.

Red Clay was the Cherokee capital at the time. The government had moved there from its capital city of New Echota in north Georgia after the state outlawed its meetings.

The two nations reunited for the first time at Red Clay in 1984. The events this week start today with a symposium of scholars and cultural demonstrations.

Members of both tribes will run a relay to carry a symbolic eternal flame to Red Clay from Cherokee. Eastern Band Principal Chief Michell Hicks and Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chad Smith will carry torches to lead the runners into the historic Red Clay Council Grounds.

There, leaders from both governments will meet in a joint council to pass resolutions to symbolize the reunification of the Cherokee Nation. The event ends Saturday with traditional dances, music, storytelling, a stickball game and arts and crafts demonstrations. It is free and open to the public. ...

The Eastern Band has about 12,000 enrolled members and the western Cherokee's rolls contain more than 200,000 names.

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