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“The Crying Post Project: Post #2, Trail Where They Cried.” Gore, Oklahoma, USA.
Post Notes
This was a trip filled with excitement and coincidences. I had been invited to put up a multi-media installation at The Living Arts Gallery in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Remembering the tragic Trail of Tears, I thought that this would be a good time to put up another Crying Post. So once again, I'm driving thousands of miles with a long post. This time fortunately it was across the roof of my car, instead of sticking out the window. 

The show went off without a hitch (thanks to the help of Steve Liggett and his student helpers), and I met many interesting people and artists. As my negotiation with the Choctaw Indians had not gone well, I was looking for other connections. I had several options, but decided to go camping for the weekend in south-eastern Oklahoma (Ouachita National Forest) before making any decisions. On the way down, I passed an exit for The Tahlonteeskee Cherokee Courthouse Museum. I decided to check that out. And although I didn’t remember it at the time, Frankie Sue Gilliam, the manager of the site was on my list of people to contact. In short, we connected, and she volunteered the site as a location for the second Crying Post. She also brought the Kerr-McGee fiasco across the road to my attention, which was exactly the extra connection I needed for the post. Frankie was not only a great help, but a great resource, as some of the other documentation here will attest to. 

The camping trip? Well, there were tornadoes and a bear tipped over my tent with me in it. What can I say -- this is my idea of fun.
Trail Where They Cried 

On May 23, 1838, the United States Army under the command of General Winfield Scott and augmented by militia units from the states of Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, and North Carolina, to a total strength of 9,494 men, began evicting from their homes 19,00 Cherokee Indians and driving them into stockades. Then, after some unforeseen delays, the Cherokees were removed to lands west of the Mississippi River. In the roundup and in the stockades, and on the journey of over eight hundred miles, 4,000 Cherokees -- more than one-fifth of their Nation -- died of cholera, dysentery, fever, exposure, improper care of mothers giving birth, and, especially in the aged, loss of the will to survive. 

The Cherokees had been living at peace with their neighbors for over two generations. Though some were hunters, trappers, and herb gatherers, they were not warriors or wanderers. Many were planters, tradesmen, herdsmen, craftsmen, artisans, teachers, living in a settled way of life, as they had been advised and encouraged to do, by each successive President of the United States from George Washington to John Quincy Adams. In adapting themselves to an agrarian economy and a settled existence, the Cherokees were succeeding so well that repeatedly they were visited by white people of American cities, and by Europeans, curious to observe what seemed to be a cultural and ethnological phenomenon -- the assimilation of an Indian nation as it adopted the life-style of the larger, white society around it. 

The sudden, forced expulsion of the Cherokees from their homeland was observed with horror by the whole civilized Western world. It was denounced in newspapers in America and Europe, and in the Congress of the United States. Even in Tennessee, a state that wanted the Indians to remove beyond her borders, Governor Newton Cannon declared the Treaty of Removal an "outrageous document, obviously a fraud, not the proper instrument to accomplish the desired end." 

So, in the face of all this opposition, how did it happen, and why?

The Cherokee Removal/ Glen Fleischmann

The land of Oklahoma rises gently to the west from an altitude of 87 meters (287 feet) at Little River in the southeastern corner to a height of 1,516 meters (4,973 feet) at Black Mesa, on the tip of the panhandle. Four mountain ranges cross this Great Plains mountain state. 

Not quite two-thirds of the state is drained by the Arkansas River, and the remainder by the Red River. There are few natural lakes. 

Oklahoma has a continental climate with cold winters and hot summers. Normal daily mean temperatures in Oklahoma City range from 3°C (37°F) in January to 28°C (82°F) in July. Dry, sunny weather generally prevails throughout the state. Precipitation varies from an average of 38 cm (15 in) annually in the panhandle to over 127 cm (50 in) in the southeast. Snowfall averages 23 cm (9 in) a year in Oklahoma City, which is also one of the windiest cities in the US, with an average annual wind speed of 20.6 km/hr (12.8 mph). Oklahoma is tornado-prone. 

Grasses grow in abundance in Oklahoma. Bluestem, buffalo, sand lovegrass, and grama grasses are native, with the bluestem found mostly in the eastern and central regions, and buffalo grass most common in the western counties, known as the "short grass country." Deciduous hardwoods stand in Eastern Oklahoma, and red and yellow cactus blossoms brighten the Black Mesa area in the northwest. 

White-tailed deer is found in all counties, and Rio Grande wild turkeys are hunted across much of the state. Pronghorn antelope inhabit the panhandle area, and elk survive in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, where a few herds of American buffalo (bison) are also preserved. The bobwhite quail, ring-necked pheasant, and prairie chicken are common game birds. Native sport fish include largemouth, smallmouth, white, and spotted bass; catfish; crappie; and sunfish. 

Among the state’s endangered or threatened species of wildlife are the leopard darter, Ozark big-eared bat, red wolf, black-footed ferret, Indiana bat, southern bald eagle, whooping crane, ivory-billed and red-cockaded woodpeckers, Bauchman’s warbler, American peregrine falcon, Eskimo curlew, and American alligator. 

Toxic industrial wastes remain an environmental concern, and old mines in the Tar Creek area of northeastern Oklahoma still exude groundwater contaminated by zinc, iron, and cadmium. Three hazardous waste sites placed on the EPA’s National Priorities List for Superfund cleanup were Compass Industries, Sand Springs Petro Chemical Complex, and Criner. There are 11 hazardous waste sites in Oklahoma.  

Worldmark Encyclopedia of the States
Post Place
N 35° 30.752' 
W 95° 04 .919' 
Elevation 178 m (583') 
The Tahlonteeskee Cherokee Courthouse Museum was the first capital west of the Mississippi for the Western Cherokees. As early as 1800, many Cherokees moved from their ancestral homelands in the East because of White encroachment. This group was called the Western Cherokees or Old Settlers. It was here that Sam Houston lived among the Cherokees as the adopted son of the Chief John Jolly. Sam took a Cherokee wife, the niece of Chief Jolly, Tiana Rogers.

Cherokee Ancestry Resource Guide/ Frankie Sue Gilliam

Sequoyah was born in Taskigi near present-day Vonore, Tennessee, of a Cherokee mother, Wurteh, and a white father, probably the trader and Revolutionary soldier Nathaniel Gist. As a boy of 12, having moved to the vicinity of Willstown, Alabama, with his mother, Sequoyah built a milkshed and leaned how to care for cows and make cheese. He also learned how to break horses and plant corn. He then took up hunting and trading in furs. An injury to his leg from a hunting accident troubled him for the rest of his life. There followed a period of heavy drinking, after which Sequoyah became an accomplished silversmith. 

Sequoyah served under General Andrew Jackson in the Creek War of 1813-14. The next year, he married a Cherokee woman by the name of Sarah (Sally). In 1818, he and his family emigrated to present-day Pope County, Arkansas, as part of Chief John Jolly’s band. 

Earlier, in 1809, although he knew little English at the time, Sequoyah had begun working on a written version of the Cherokee language so that his people could have a written constitution, official records, books, and newspapers. In his first attempt, he made use of pictorial writing, but abandoned it after reaching 1,000 symbols. He eventually reduced the Cherokee language to first 200, then 86 characters representing all the different sounds, some similar to English, Greek, and Hebrew characters. His efforts met with opposition among tribal members, some of whom suspected him of witchcraft. Fellow Cherokees burned his home, destroying his notes. 

In 1821, 12 years later, Sequoyah finally finished his vast project, becoming the only person in history to singlehandedly invent an entire alphabet (or a syllabary because the symbols represent syllables as we know them). During a trip East in 1821-22, he demonstrated the practicality of his system by carrying messages from the Arkansas Cherokees to their eastern relatives. The Cherokee Council officially adopted the alphabet and later honored Sequoyah with a silver medal. With translations of parts of the Bible into Cherokee by 1825, white missionaries came to support use of the system. In 1827, through the missionary Samuel Worcester, the Cherokees acquired a printing press made in Boston, equipped with the syllabary font. That same year, the Cherokees wrote down their constitution. In 1828, the first Cherokee newspaper -- the Cherokee Phoenix -- was published in their language, with Elias Boudinot as editor. Also in 1828, Sequoyah was part of an Arkansas Cherokee delegation to Washington, D.C., where he was celebrated for his invention. 

Sequoyah moved from Arkansas in 1829 with his wife and children to the Indian Territory near Sallisaw in present-day Sequoyah County, Oklahoma. As President of the Western Cherokees, he helped unite Eastern and Western factions in the 1839 Cherokee Act of Union. In 1841, the Cherokee National Council voted him a pension, the first member of any Indian tribe to be so honored. 

In 1842, Sequoyah organized an expedition to locate through a study of Indian speech patterns a lost band of Cherokees who had migrated west during the American Revolution. The trip though the Southwest aggravated Sequoyah’s already poor health and he died near San Fernando, Tamaulipas, in Mexico. 

The state of Oklahoma honored Seqoyah by erecting a statue in the national capitol and by making his farmstead a state historical shrine. Furthermore, the giant redwood trees of Coastal California were named in his honor by Stephen Endlicher, the Hungarian botanist who discovered that they were a distinct genus.

Who Was Who in Native American History: Indians and Non-Indians from Early Contacts through 1900/ Carl Waldman
A Grave Danger

Many modern residents of North America are themselves unaware of the phenomenally rich linguistic diversity indigenous to their continent. We will never know exactly how many languages were once spoken in North America, but documentation survives of around 270 distinct, mutually unintelligible languages north of Mexico, and there were once many more. A third of the known languages are in grave danger. Only a handful will survive far into the next century. 

Language represents the most creative, pervasive aspect of culture, the most intimate side of the mind. The loss of language diversity will mean that we will never even have the opportunity to appreciate the full creative capacities of the human mind. The hundreds of North American languages that are currently disappearing or that have already disappeared differ in a vast variety of ways, some fundamental, some subtle, many both. We have seen differences in the segmentation of experience into word-sized categories: languages do not contain perfectly equivalent vocabularies. We have seen differences in the features selected as most salient to describe certain concepts: languages differ in the repertoires of grammatical categories. It is this diversity, the result of millennia of development, that makes the loss of these languages irreparable.

Endangered Languages, Current Issues and Future Prospects, ed. by Lenore A. Grenoble, and Lindsay J. Whaley/ Marianne Mithun
Nine Legged Frogs

6 January 1986 
A container of highly toxic gas exploded at The Sequoyah Fuels Corp. uranium processing factory in Gore, Oklahoma, causing one worker to die (when his lungs were destroyed) and 130 others to seek medical treatment. In response, the Government kept the plant closed for more than a year and fined owners Kerr-McGee $310,000, citing poorly trained workers, poorly maintained equipment and a disregard for safety and the environment. 

24 November 1992 
The Sequoyah Fuels Corp. uranium processing factory in Gore, Oklahoma closed after repeated citations by the Government for violations of nuclear safety and environmental rules. Its record during 22 years of operation included an accident in 1986 that killed one worker and injured dozens of others and the contamination of the Arkansas River and groundwater. The Sequoyah Fuels plant, one of two privately-owned American factories that fabricated fuel rods and armor-piercing bullet shells, had been shut down a week before by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission when an accident resulted in the release of toxic gas. Thirty-four people sought medical attention as a result of the accident. The plant had also been shut down the year before when unusually high concentrations of uranium were detected in water in a nearby construction pit. A Government investigation revealed that the company had known for years that uranium was leaking into the ground at levels 35,000 times higher than Federal law allows; Carol Couch, the plant's environmental manager, was cited by the Government for obstructing the investigation and knowingly giving Federal agents false information.

U.S. Nuclear Accidents/allen lutins
Earth Making

Earth is floating on the waters like a big island, hanging from four rawhide ropes fastened at the top of the sacred four directions. The ropes are tied to the ceiling of the sky, which is made of hard rock crystal. When the ropes break, this world will come tumbling down, and all living things will fall with it and die. Then everything will be as if the earth had never existed, for water will cover it. Maybe the white man will bring it about. 

. . . . 

There is another world under this, and it is like ours in everything -- animals, plants, and people -- save that the seasons are different. The streams that come down from the mountains are the trails by which we reach this underworld, and the springs at their heads are the doorways by which we enter it, but to do this one must fast and go to water and have one of the underground people for a guide. We know that the seasons in the underworld are different from ours, because the water in the springs is always warmer in winter and cooler in summer than the outer air. 

. . . .

Told at a Cherokee treaty council meeting in New York City, 1975: American Indian Myths and Legends/ Edited by Richard Erdoes and Alfonso Ortiz 
and Myths of the Cherokee/ James Mooney

The Oak Tree

The Oak Tree is quite tall with a stout trunk and a rounded, spreading crown. Its branches have a very distinctive way of spiralling toward their ends, which makes the oak easy to recognize in winter. Oaks are particularly long lived and it takes around sixty years for them to produce a full crop of acorns. The oak tree is also renowned for the huge range of wildlife it supports: many insects, birds, plants, and animals depend on the oak for both their food and shelter. 

A sacred fire was kept perpetually burning in the "town house" at a central point in the [Cherokee] Nation. The Live Oak, the principle hardwood timber of the Carolinas was used in this fire. In connection with this fire, the oak was a symbol of strength and everlasting life. The Oak represents the seven Cherokee clans. Because the oak tree is associated with the mysteries of the sacred fire, the wreath of oak leaves symbolizes the dauntless spirit of courageous Cherokee people. 

In Europe, many of the early Christian teachers used sacred trees as places from which to preach. They erected altars next to the most venerated trees, and often placed crucifixes and images of the Virgin Mary near trees where people used to worship tree and forest spirits. A unique example of a tree shrine that actually became a church is the oak of Allonville-Bellefosse, perhaps the most famous living tree in France today. Estimated to be over a thousand years old and with a trunk measuring some 45 feet in circumference, this stately tree contains two chapels, one of which is superimposed on the other. The lower chapel can accommodate five worshipers, while the upper chapel is somewhat smaller. The Allonville Oak has been a Roman Catholic church since 1696, when it was consecrated to the Virgin Mary by a local priest.

1. The Wisdom of Trees/Jane Gifford 

2. Cherokee Ancestry Resource Guide/Frankie Sue Gilliam 

3. Sacred Trees/Nathaniel Altman

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