Recently my husband and I had a wonderful day of adventure by taking the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad out of Bryson City. Having never ridden on a train before this was quite the treat, relax, watch the world go by and hear a narrative of what this part of the country was like way back.
Among the most interesting part was a set of caves. If you look up you can just see the caves entrances, high up a pretty steep terrain. It was in these caves that the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation was born.
Just as you get past the caves you also see the trailhead of the trail of tears. As most of us know, in 1830 Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, setting the stage for the forced removal of the Cherokee and the infamous Trail of Tears. In 1835, a small, unauthorized group of about 100 Cherokee leaders (known as the Treaty Party) signed the Treaty of New Echota (Georgia), giving away all remaining Cherokee territory in the Southeast in exchange for land in northeastern Oklahoma. Principal Cherokee Chief John Ross collected more than 15,000 signatures, representing almost the entire Cherokee Nation, on a petition requesting the U.S. Senate to withhold ratification of this illicit treaty. The Senate, however, approved the treaty by a margin of one vote in 1836. The treaty gave the Cherokee people two years to vacate their mountain homeland and go west to Oklahoma.
When the “round up” came and the Trail of Tears began in earnest for the Cherokee nation, these caves offered the Cherokee people not only concealment from the Europeans but it is said these very caves helped save some of the traditions of the tribes. With Sequoyan Syllabary on the walls. They offer us a better understanding of the Chickamauga Cherokee, the Lower town Cherokee, and the birth of the Cherokee Nation. The writing in caves in the southeastern United States can provide missing links to historical accounts and provide new archaeological research avenues for the future to understand the world from a Cherokee point of view.
Key aspects of Cherokee life, such as the Cherokee stickball ballgame and the ritual surrounding preparation for this game, are reflected in the cave inscriptions. Signatures alongside the cave writing can be traced back to individuals who utilized the cave and for certain purposes
Although we did not stop and we were unable to explore the caves on this outing, it reminded me that our area played such a significant part of the heritage of these great peoples. It shows up, even when the outing is not geared in that direction. It reminds us to stay aware of our surroundings, to recognize the true melting pot this area was. The good, the bad and the ugly played out all around us. Maybe by recognizing it, we can assure that the good in human nature wins more often.
As always, thank you for spending a few moments of your day with us and
WELCOME TO THE MOUNTAINS.
P.S. I recommend the train rides, it was a fantastic way to enjoy a fall day with friends.