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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Cherokee Tribes, East And West, To Celebrate Their Connection
by Lynne Harlan for the Asheville (NC) Citizen-Times

This April, the Eastern Band of Cherokee in North Carolina and the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma will meet in Joint Council at Red Clay, Tenn. This meeting marks the 25th anniversary of their first Joint Council after the removal of the Cherokee on the Trail of Tears in 1838.

I was at the first Joint Council in 1984 where I saw both sides of my family come together formally. My father’s family is Cherokee from Oklahoma and my mother’s family from Cherokee from North Carolina.

My life in North Carolina was always filled with news from Oklahoma. Sometimes that news came in letters to my Oklahoma grandmother who lived with us or through her subscription to the Cherokee Phoenix, which she maintained throughout her life.

I made my first trip to Oklahoma as a little girl and found there a Cherokee world familiar to me. The long trip in the car ended at my aunt’s house where we were greeted with laughter, hugs and food. It seemed like home to me. As a parade of people passed through the house during our visit I saw faces vaguely familiar from my grandmother’s photo collection. Their jokes and conversation revolved around family and tribal politics. But not long into the journey I grew homesick.

I distinctly remember my mother waking me from my slumber in the back of the station wagon to see the mountains in the distance. We were nearing home.

I awoke the next morning in my bed, my trip just a memory. For many years, I would make that journey with my folks as we traveled to my dad’s home, and each time I felt the longing for home.

As I grew older, I learned the family stories about the removal of our people. How the women in my family fed the soldiers breakfast before they were driven west and how a boy named Watson carried medicinal plants on the Trail of Tears to their new home. I learned the stories of how my grandmother and her sisters found their way to Cherokee, N.C., and built homes and raised families here. My aunts always talked of going home to visit, but once in the west they talked about going home back to the east.

Joint Council, taking place April 16-18, will bring the two sides of my family together again. It reminds me of the longing for home which surely was the sentiment of the Cherokees who left more than 170 years ago. Our people join in fellowship once again at Red Clay, the site of the last council meeting of our people, and our Nation is one.

B. Lynne Harlan, a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, works as a freelance writer, curator and tribal historian.

Red Clay State Historical Park, Tennessee map
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