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  • New Trees, New Medicines, New Wars:The Chickasaw Removal*
  • Linda Hogan

Trail of Tears: Our Removal

With lines unseen the land was broken.When surveyors came, we knewwhat the prophet had said was true,this land with lines unseen, would be taken,and we’d never see pay.

So, you who live there now,don’t forget to love it, thank itthe place that was once our forests, the ponds, the mosses,the swamplands with birds and more lowly creatures.

As for us, we walked into the military strength of hungerand war for that land we still dream.As the ferry crossed the distance,or the walkers left behind their loved ones,think how we took along our cats and kittens, the puppieswe also loved, and the horses, so many,one by one stolen, taken by the many thievesalong the trail. We took clothing, dishes,thinking there would be something to start new life,believing justice lived in the world,So have compassion for that land at least.

Every step was one away from the songs,old dances, memories, some of us dark and not speaking English,some of us white, or married to the dark, children of the translators [End Page 121] the half-white, all of us watched by America, all of uslonging for trees for shading, homing, rooting,even for food along this way.

You would think those of us born laterwould fight for justice, for peace,for the new land, its trees being taken.You would thinkthe struggle would be overbetween the two worlds, in this placethat is now our knowledgeour new belonging, our being,and we’d never again care for the notion of mapsor American wars, or the god of their sky,thinking of those things we were forced to leave behind,moving country, stolen home,the world measured inch by inch, mile by mile,hectares, all measurements, even the trail of our tears.

With all the new fierce light, heat, droughtthe missing water, you’d thinkin another red century, the old wisdommight exist if we considered enoughthat even before the new beliefswe were once whole,that now our bodies and minds remainthe measured geography.                                                                L.H.

New Trees, New Medicines, New Wars: The Chickasaw Removal

We do not want the land of any red people; the United States have land enough.

(Andrew Jackson, US President)

In spite of President Jackson’s words, promises, and a stack of treaties with us, he forced through The Indian Removal Bill in 1830. Tribal nations from the entire country were to be removed into what is now called “Oklahoma,” beginning with the major Southeastern Indian nations. At the time, the new location was known only as “Indian Territory.” The U.S. government’s plan was to eventually place all the indigenous peoples into this territory and to build a large fence around it so none could leave or escape.

Removal began almost immediately with our sister nation, the Choctaw, and [End Page 122] continued with smaller parties of other tribes. Nearly all of the removals were difficult, some by water, some by land, but all crossing the Misssissippi River. After one boatload of people drowned, water travel was not a frequent choice. The Cherokee Removal is the most documented, for they declined to leave. The people were finally forced to leave at gunpoint, rounded up and penned in stock pens. This took place at the time gold was found in Cherokee country. New laws were enacted, so they could not take their case to court or appeal to the federal government for their own safety. Their removal is the most well documented one, with a great loss of life, but certainly not the only tragic journey to the new lands. All the forced removals resulted in deaths and trauma.

As for us, the Chickasaw, we prolonged our departure. Our leadership had journeyed to the new region more than once to find suitable lands. Finally, after several trips across the great artery of water, the Mississippi River...


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pp. 121-129
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