This morning at sunrise a procession of our people moved slowly and silently to the Tennessee River. Below the head of the Great Bear we dipped in the water and cleansed ourselves. Some of the women elders shed tears, knowing they will never return to this land of our ancestors.
Father tells me that we will travel several days along the river. After we leave it far behind, it will curve around so we will cross it once again in central Tennessee. Today feels like the day we have been preparing for all my life, when we leave our land behind. We embark on a long journey to a new land to call our own. Will it be a Promised Land? Will the Great Spirit provide for us as we wander through the wilderness? Will many of us die on the way?
As I watched people the last three days, I could tell that a lot of our people are weak and sick. Measles, whooping cough, bloody bowels are among the sicknesses that still are showing up. Several of us are just weak and worn out from being sick, and not having enough good food and shelter. Many of us do not have strength for such a journey. It is not a good beginning.
Grandfather was with the lead wagons today. Some people were slow to get underway, and Udoda, Jack, and even the soldiers came back and forth trying to get the slowest ones started. Uloghi Jennie—I can’t call her Uji yet—, the children, Ezekiel, Will and I are still at the tail. I began to feel impatient with those who were slow to move, because they made us wait too.
The wagon path on the south side of the river is sometimes in sight of the water. Sometimes the path moves up the mountainside into rocky areas and brush under the trees. The mountains are steep on the other side of the river. With the rocky narrow road and slow start we barely made four miles today. We cannot see the Great Bear’s head anymore.