Time seems to fly by in the summer for me. Time with the grandson and discussions family have had me searching for information and getting a perspective that helps me to understand the progress made and the lack there of also.
I recently read an article on Choctaw and Irish history and how much the 2 nations have in common. Colonized by outside powers. Their ancient tongues almost became extinct and have been rescued from oblivion, made into working languages again through concerted effort and sophisticated approaches. Yes, they do indeed share aspects of a harsh past.
Having been asked to try and find some perspective regarding the Cherokee point of view about the removal, I shared the path I was pursuing with a family member. She reminded me that several of the reservations were set up near Irish communities. One being in Illinois and by the 1940’s it was not an easy place for a young girl (1/2 Irish & ½ Cherokee) to grow up. We started with the Choctaw connect in this read because it was a Choctaw settlement, and her father was Choctaw/Cherokee based on his parents’ lineage.
For our purposes today, I want to share with you a little of the history from that area.
1829– Most likely because of Chief Shab-eh-nay’s reputation as a friend to the white settlers, the federal government established the Shab-eh-nay Reservation for Chief Shab-eh-nay and his Band. Specifically, Article III of the 1829 Treaty of Prairie du Chien reserved 1,280 acres of lands for Chief Shab-eh-nay and his Band. The 1829 Shab-eh-nay Reservation was reaffirmed by the 1833 Treaty as ratified by the United States Senate and the 1846 Treaty.
Until his death in 1859, Chief Shab-eh-nay and Band members continued to return to their treaty-reserved reservation homeland in Illinois. The Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, the legal successor-in-interest to the Shab-eh-nay Band, engaged in efforts to reacquire the land after Chief Shab-eh-nay and the Band were wrongfully dispossessed of it in 1849.
1830: Choctaws sign the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek with the United States, ceding traditional lands in Mississippi in favor of new land in the west, in the Indian Territory.
1832 The Blackhawk War The fate of the Indian Nations in Illinois is sealed and to this day Illinois has no Federally Recognized tribal lands.
831-1833: Choctaws emigrate to the Indian Territory over the “trail of tears and death”.1906: Choctaw/Cherokee tribal government is dissolved in Illinois.
1907: Oklahoma becomes a state; Choctaws become citizens of the new state
All of this becomes very important to the native People living in Illinois. That small reservation of 1,280 acres brings this timeline to it’s more recent past.
Back to 1960 and the memories of a young girl living on “Reservation” land near Springfield. Things she remembers from her early years:
The Indians got electricity to the homes
Water soon followed and she remembers when her father built a bathroom in the house, they were becoming like the Irish side of her family with modern conveniences!
The Natives living on this land were removed yet again and an impressionable fair skinned, red headed young girl begins to understand how the communities’ views both her and her dark-haired siblings.
They were not actually moved very far but again they had no electricity or running water on “their” new land. Those conveniences, like the land went to developers growing the city.
As her siblings grew and went on the vision quests, they had been prepared for, her father set up a quest for her. She started at sunrise and diligently follow a path she found, which took her out to the barren lands and back. He had laid out a trail of red pistachios knowing she would follow it home. She was young enough to not understand that.
She remembers wanting very badly to go to the beach. Her father takes them and here again, she sees the community reaction to “Indians”. She easily passed for 100% Irish and could have gone to the beach designated for them, but her father and siblings could not as they were easily recognizable as Indian.
I never met her father and I regret not taking the time to go with her to see him. All I have heard tells me that he tried very hard to preserve a legacy for his children and for them to understand that their lineage. He was also a realist and needed them to know why something as small as they way they look changed could place limits on them.
A family separation takes her off the reservation to live with her mother’s side of the family. She begins going to a Catholic school.
This is where we will end todays blog and we will pick it up there next week. Although I would have loved to have written this with her father’s perspective, being first generation born into this system, I thought having her perspective might help us see what someone of our generation remembers about a time forgotten or buried by many.
Thank you again for spending time with us today and as always
WELCOME TO THE MOUNTAINS