This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
This story is copyright by Owen Hudson, all rights reserved. Distribution, including but not limited to: posting on internet sites, newsgroups, or message boards, or in book form (either as a whole or part of a compilation), or on CD, DVD or any other electronic media, is expressly prohibited without the author's written consent.
It was the beginning of fall in 1838 when the long trek of the Cherokee Removal began. The journey that was later known as the nv-na-da-u-la-tsv-yi (Trail of Tears) was a bittersweet one for Isaac. He was no longer within the confines of Fort Butler, but he was forced to leave his beloved homeland. He loved adventure, but he would have rather been able to choose his own adventure.
Isaac hated the yo-ne-ga a-s-ga-ya (white men) for what they had done. His Ah-lee-see (grandmother) would be alive if the white men hadn't come and forced them into the stockade. When he told his mother how he hated the white men, she reminded him, "You are half white, Isaac."
"I'm Tsa-la-gi (Cherokee)," Isaac insisted. "You can be a yo-ne-ga (white) if you want, but I'll be Tsa-la-gi." Sarah could not understand her son's hatred for the white men, nor could he understand her not hating them. They argued often about this as they were driven toward the west.
The hardships of the march were coming to be more than Sarah's health could endure. Isaac could see her weaken more each day. Often she would sit and say, "I can go no more." In spite of their disagreements, Isaac loved his mother and it pained him to see her suffer. When he saw her stumble, he put his arm under hers and supported her as she walked. He knew that if she became so weak that she couldn't walk the soldiers would leave her to die as they had others. He saw a pregnant woman stumble and fall. The trauma caused her to miscarry, and as she lay on the ground bleeding the soldiers left her there to die.
The government seemed ill prepared to move the thousands of Cherokees to the west to what is now Oklahoma. Each day became more miserable than the previous and the number of Cherokees dwindled. Daily there were more deaths. Some faded away into the woods and began the long walk back to their homeland. Isaac thought of this himself, but knew his mother would surely die if he wasn't there to help her.
As Sarah grew weaker each day, Isaac found himself supporting her more. He was a strong young man, but he wasn't sure how much longer he could continue. When that time came he would just sit beside her and die with her, as he would no longer have any family.
One would think the hardships could get no worse, but the snows that came were wet and heavy, and walking became even more difficult. Isaac soon found himself mostly dragging his mother rather than assisting her. He came to realize that he couldn't go another day, and resolved that he would die with his mother. He then heard his Ah-lee-see (grandmother) say, "I will send you a gi-ne-li (friend) to help you. Isaac thought the winter wind was tricking him. Then he remembered Ah-lee-see saying, "My ah-doe-nuh-doe (spirit) will always guide you."
Isaac turned to see Nathan, a young mixed breed Cherokee boy about his age, on the other side of Sarah. Nathan gave a half smile and said, "I'm here to help you." He looked more white than Cherokee. However, he was considered Cherokee because his Cherokee lineage was through his mother. He was as proud of his Cherokee blood as was Isaac.
When Sarah noticed Nathan helping Isaac, she weakly stated, "What a handsome white boy."
Nathan hated being called a yo-ne-ga a-s-ga-ya, but for some reason Sarah's statement didn't bother him. He was there to help Isaac.
The boys found themselves becoming friends as they mostly carried Sarah. They chatted about their homeland and what the land to the west would be like. It was as if Sarah wasn't between them. Nathan explained how his father had died in the stockade, and later his mother and little sister had died on the trail.
Soon after crossing the Mississippi River Sarah died. They hardly had time to bury her before they were forced to continue on with the march. The weather turned more brutal, and the government's poor planning allowed for only one blanket per individual. Furthermore, there was no shelter and most had to sleep on the cold ground.
Isaac could not remember ever being so cold. His body was shivering violently from the cold. He thought of his warm home back in North Carolina when suddenly he sensed another blanket over him and another body press against his. He immediately began to feel warmer. It was Nathan, he had taken his blanket and covered Isaac and then slipped in next to him to keep each other warm.
Nathan pushed himself next to Isaac and put his arms around Isaac pulling him closer. Nathan pulled Isaac's face to his and kissed him. Isaac didn't expect this, but didn't resist. Had there been any chill left in his body it was warmed by that kiss. Isaac pulled away from Nathan's lips wondering if anyone saw them, but he really didn't care. The soldiers were far enough away that they couldn't see or hear, and the Cherokees wouldn't care. They fell asleep wrapped in each other's arms.
During the remainder of the journey, Isaac and Nathan were inseparable and continued to share their blankets for warmth and more. The soldiers thought nothing of this since they were orphans and many shared blankets for warmth. The Cherokees for the most part accepted this. A few who had accepted the white man's way and religion did gossip about them.
It was March when the surviving Cherokees arrived in the new land. Isaac and Nathan were surprised at how much it resembled their homeland. They recognized many of the same trees and plants.
More than 3000 Cherokees had died on Trail of Tears, 1600 in stockades and about the same number in route. Eight hundred more died in 1839 soon after arriving in the new land. Isaac and Nathan had survived the journey by sharing their warmth and love under the blankets.
The supplies promised by the government were slow in arriving. What few supplies did arrive were of poor quality. The meal was full of weevils and the meat was half rotten pork. The only people who benefited from this were the contractors who made a fortune at the detriment of the Cherokees.
The Cherokees soon realized that if they were to survive in this new land they couldn't depend on the government. The Cherokees began to build houses, clear land, plant crops, and rebuild their nation. The most difficult part was rebuilding their nation.
The Treaty of New Echota was a removal treaty signed in New Echota, Georgia on December 29, 1835 by officials of the United States Government and several members of a faction within the Cherokee Nation. The treaty was never signed by Chief John Ross, but signed by the faction led by Major Ridge, his son John Ridge, and nephews Elias Boudinot and Stand Watie. They became known as the Ridge Party.
The Western Cherokee, as part of the Ridge Party had come to be known, had arrived in Arkansas and then later present day Oklahoma before the forced removal. The Western Cherokees invited the new arrivals to meet and to establish a united Cherokee government. The new arrivals wanted no part of a government involving the Ridge Party. They were very bitter over their signing away the Cherokees' homelands. John Ridge, Major Ridge, and Elias Boudinot were assassinated. Stand Watie, brother of Boudinot, pledged revenge for the deaths of the party leaders. The killings led to years of revenge killings within the Cherokees.
Nathan and Isaac built a cabin near the Barren Fork Creek and its convergence with the Illinois River. They even managed to get a small area of land cleared for a crop. Both were skilled hunters and were soon living very comfortably in the new land. They wanted it to always be like this. Their days were filled with hard labor, and their nights were filled with passionate love making.
Isaac hoped that his grandmother could see how happy Nathan and he were. He was thankful that she had sent Nathan to be his friend and lover.