Based on the name of this blog you may have realized why we were travelling back in time, to a part of history not directly tied to our area. But you see, it is!
On May 10, 1838, Major General Winfield Scott issued a proclamation compelling the Cherokee to respect the Treaty of 1835 by leaving immediately. Two weeks later, Scott led an army of seven thousand soldiers into Cherokee territory to drag families from their homes and imprison them in military camps before forcing them to march west.
The majority made the long journey to their new western lands on foot, divided into twelve detachments of about a thousand each. Among several routes, the major path led from Rattlesnake Springs near present-day Chattanooga, through Nashville and Clarksville, through Hopkinsville, and entered Illinois after crossing the Ohio River at Golconda.
The weeks spent crossing Southern Illinois were the deadliest of the march. Many landowners refused to allow the Cherokee to camp on their land or cut firewood for warmth and hot food. When they finally reached the Mississippi, it was frozen solid except for the center, where huge blocks of ice crashed together in the current. They had to wait more than a month to cross the river to Missouri.
As I was reminded recently, there were many trails for this forced march, mixing many cultures and tribes. Some did not stay on the “intended” reservation land. Many Cherokees went back with the Choctaw and other tribes to reside in Illinois.
This is where that 1,280 acres we talked about in the previous blog becomes controversial and relevant. The 1833 Treaty of Chicago did not cede the Shab-eh-nay Reservation to the United States or grant fee simple title to the Reservation to the Chief. It reaffirmed the reservation established for Chief Shab-eh-nay and his Band in the 1829 Treaty of Prairie du Chien.
This group was a part of the native bands that did not stay in Oklahoma. They returned to their lands as were given to they and their chief by the US Government. Between 1835 and 1837, Chief Shab-eh-nay and his Band voluntarily joined six other Illinois Potawatomi Bands, who subsequently merged into one government referred to by several names, one of which was the “United Bands.”
Chief Shab-eh-nay remained an important chief of the Potawatomi and so he made frequent trips to the western reservations to visit his tribesmen who had moved there and to conduct tribal political and business affairs. Whenever he did so, he always asked Illinois neighbors to look after his farm and belongings until he returned.
During one of his trips to the West, some land speculators persuaded the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to rule that the Shab-eh-nay Band had abandoned the 1829 reservation and therefore the United States could sell it to settlers, even though it was treaty reserved land, title to which could be extinguished only by treaty or an act of Congress.
In 1849, the federal authorities, without congressional authorization, did sell the Reservation to some white farmers, who immediately occupied the land. When Shab-eh-nay returned from his trip to the west to his Reservation home, he found that his home had been torn down.
Over the last two centuries, the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation has continuously returned to this land – strengthening our bond with this community.
So come on back to our young lady about 100 years or so after the loss of the last federally recognized native land in Illinois.
Changing your fulltime residence away from the Indians lands to an Irish subdivision and a Catholic school is quite the culture shock. If our young lady was anything at this age, she was resilient and seemed to understand that every coin has 2 sides.
She understands the teachings, reading writing and arithmetic, they all make sense…them along comes history class. Let’s just say she remembers sore hands and time spent in a corner more than she remembers the specifics of what she was just trying to correct the nun about.
As with many of the young from this time frame, she fled as early as she was able too.
What struck me about this was that her ancestors walked a trail leading them to where the government wanted them to live, then they walked back and brought many of the Cherokee with them. Then in her lifetime, they again were moved to where the government wanted them to be. Then due to circumstances beyond her control, she is taken to a place of learning, where they don’t want the Indian in her. She is told to suppress all the learnings from her father.
She is a mini micro chasm, repeating history in a short 14 years.
She is however hopeful to see a new chapter written in her lifetime. The Illinois House has drafted a bill proposing the support of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation’s efforts to regain possession of the Shab-eh-nay Reservation that was illegally sold by the federal government in 1849. The nation is seeking to reclaim 1,280 acres of land near Shabbona State Park in the southern part of DeKalb County.
The bill, if passed, would encourage the federal government, congress being the only governing body with this power, to enact legislation to address the ownership of the Shab-eh-nay Reservation reserved for Chief Shab-eh-nay and his descendants under the Treaty of Chicago in 1833.
Here in our own Union County, where the state recognizes the tribes, there are no Indian reservations or federally recognized Native American tribes in Georgia. Even though the Cherokee were once among the most populous and successful Indian tribes in the Southeast. The area of the Southern Blue Ridge Mountains is one of the oldest inhabited areas of Georgia with a history going back beyond the Mississippian Indian Cultures. Originally for centuries it was part of a vast misnomer of Indian culture and heritage. Once the Spanish and Europeans invaded the lands of Georgia from about 1540–1738 there was a loss exceeding 95% of the indigenous populations from diseases such as smallpox, enslavement and battles. There were twenty-one different tribal factions living across what became the state of Georgia.
As the song says “Maybe one day”. Thank you for spending some time with us today and as always
Welcome to the Mountains