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Cherokee Nation laurel and starDavid stood behind the counter with his hands in his pockets, looking uncomfortable, and wishing he was working in the field instead of listening to several angry and raucous men.

“What does your brother think he’s doing, joining the protest against Chief Ross at Council?” Young Turkey said, louder than necessary in the small store cabin.

“Well, what do you expect him to do?”  Jack Daugherty yelled. “Ross is a dreamer, but he doesn’t see the plain truth staring back at him. We don’t stand a chance of keeping our nation together here. They’re picking us off four and five at a time, people seizing the house and land as soon as one of us leaves to go hunting, or to visit a friend. We could go home right now, and find our wives and children kicked out and crying.”

George Arnold spoke more evenly, trying to calm the waters.  “Even Ross’ brother Andrew, and his nephew Cooley disagree with his position. Major Ridge spelled out the whole story at the Council. He went into great detail and made the case. So I don’t blame Jack for signing the petition asking Ross to explain himself and stop delaying. We’ve got to get the best deal we can, before we can’t make a deal at all.”

“Wasn’t Chief Ross trying to do that when he went to Washington? I heard he tried to get twenty million at least, since there’s that much gold in the mountains, let alone the value of the land,” said John Otterlifter as he tipped the chair he was sitting in, balancing on the back two legs.

Quickly Jim Stone slipped in, “Then why won’t he admit it and get it out in the open?”

“He’s afraid of losing the support of most of the fullbloods, I say.”

“He’s not going to make us leave without a fight. He’s not going to settle for a pittance like his brother, either.”

“We’re not going to fight. Ross is no fighter. Can’t you see that? Ask Black Hawk and the Sauk tribe how much good it did them to fight out in Illinois. I just don’t see why Ross doesn’t knuckle down and negotiate a good price. He knows how to make a bargain. If he can’t, get his brother Lewis to do it. He could dicker the shell off a turtle. ”

“You’re much too quick to give up.”

“Why did Jack and the others agree to let Ross wait until the October meeting to explain himself?

“They don’t know what to do either.”

Little Wolf looked from man to man as they responded so fast to each other. He hadn’t heard men talk so quickly to each other before, even interrupting each other, and not allowing one man to finish before another spoke. It was confusing. Why were they so angry with each other?

Finally there was a quiet moment and several of the men were looking at David. “I don’t know what to tell you. I’ve tried to stay out of it, and I haven’t had a chance to talk to my brother. I think everyone is just trying to do the best job they can, and time is running out.  Now, I’m going to go home to Allie, and try to explain to her what’s going on, when I don’t know myself.”

He started blowing out the oil lamps, and putting away the record book, and making it clear that it was time to close the store. “You can stay and talk as long as you want, but I don’t know what good it’s going to do us. I know it won’t help if we come to blows. Fighting each other is the last thing we need at a time like this.” The men were headed toward the door, and David had Little John’s hand in his own.  Soon they were walking toward home.[1]

“Why is everyone so mad all the time?” Little Wolf asked his father.

“I think it’s because no one knows exactly what to do. When people are afraid and don’t know where to turn, they get angry and upset. Instead we should keep alert and watchful, like the owl and the hawk, to see what’s happening and when to take to wing. We have to see the whole view like the eagle, and every little thing that happens like the hawk. If we fuss with each other and don’t use our brains, we’ll act more like frightened mice or rabbits, and fall prey to people who would hurt us.”

[1] John Ehle, Trail of Tears, p. 265

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