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Cherokee Nation seal and stars

At the edge of the flagstones in front of a smoldering fire in the fireplace, Little Wolf sat on the wood floor playing with pick-up sticks, listening to the older men who sat around. They took turns talking, with the silences longer than the sentences. Uncle Jack’s general store was a low-ceiling cabin with shelves covering the outside walls, filled with bolts of fabric, tools, cans of coffee, tea, and tobacco, herbs and spices, guns and ammunition.

The half-breed Jim Stone[i] spoke, drawing from his long-pipe after every few words, and letting the smoke out as he spoke, “It was not enough for them… to take the gold from the mountains. They had to take the mountains, too. Then they wanted the fields and barns… the houses and towns and rivers. They want it all, make no mistake. Until they eat it all up, eat the people, too. Like a monster alligator, crawling from the swamp.” Then he accented his words with a “Hummph,” the signal that he was done and another man could speak.

Jack Dougherty was next to speak, “There’s no one left to stand with us. Jackson took his soldiers home to Washington. Georgia does whatever it wants. They even threaten to put the preachers in jail—Worcester, Thompson, Mayes, Trott, Butler, Clauder. It doesn’t matter what church they come from, they will take them all to court, threaten to keep them in jail if they stand with us. We have to stand alone. Hummph.”

Then Young Turkey took his turn. “We have a good crop this year. We could take the corn and buckwheat and our animals into the hills, and make our stand there. We know the land better than the Georgia boys. There we have a chance even when they outnumber us. Hunh.”

“That works for us, but what about our wives and children, our old people?” Wat Sanders asked. “This has been our land for many generations. This has been our town since our grandfathers fought the Creek and won it. How can we run away from the graves of our fathers? When we leave this place we will not be able to come back, even if we make a stand in the mountains. I think we must stay as long as we can, stay in our houses, stay on our farms, until they force us out. Hummph.”

[i] This name and the other names of Coosawattee Town citizens are borrowed from  Don L. Shadburn, Cherokee Planters of Georgia, 1842-1838 (Cumming, Georgia: Don Shadburn, 1989), pp. 241-246. The personal characterizations are fictional.

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