* * *
Murder is murder and somebody must answer, somebody must explain the streams of blood that flowed in the
Indian country, in 1838. Somebody must explain the 4,000 silent graves that mark the trail of the Cherokees
to their exile. I wish I could forget it all, but the picture of six-hundred and forty-five wagons lumbering
over the frozen ground with their Cargo of suffering humanity still lingers in my memory.
Let the Historian of the future day tell the sad story with its sighs, its tears and dying groans. Let the
great Judge of all the earth weigh our actions and reward us according to our work.
-John C. Burnett, U.S. Army and interpreter on the Trail of Tears, ca. 1890.
They walk right by me, as if I was a wooden Indian, which is what I am, to them. A statute, someone they
need not even think about or consider, for I am, you see, an old man; I have lived for almost 100 moons,
but that does not matter to the white man, for they do not respect age, on the contrary, they disdain it.
I am writing this on a paper, in Cherokee, for if the white soldier-coats are able to read it they will
surely destroy it, just as they are destroying our lands and my people.
* * *
It will soon be the cold months, it is now what the white men call September, in the year they call 1838
and it is as good a day as any for me to fight and as good a day as any for me to die. I have lived many
moons and am ready to meet my maker, the Great Spirit, for I know he is very upset with these white soldier-coats,
because they are imprisoning the Cherokee people for no reason but to steal our lands, lands that the Great Spirit
has given to us to live upon in peace. These white soldier-coats have their orders from the Great White Father, in
Washington, to move us across our lands onto other lands, because the white men want the lands that they call
Georgia and Carolina and don't want as much the lands that they call Oklahoma.
I see in the eyes of these soldier-coats how they look upon us, as they look at dogs and as they look upon the
blacks they bring from a faraway land to enslave also. I will not bow to any of them and I refuse to go on their
long walk to the Oklahoma territory.
I am called Black Eagle, and I am a brave warrior of the Cherokee People, and I will die here, upon this land,
where I have lived my entire life; where my people have lived from days beyond history's records. I will die here,
in my native land, by the streams where I have hunted and fished for all my days upon Mother Earth.
I, Black Eagle, have seen many of these same soldier-coats taking our young Cherokee children from their play to
the soldier-coats' place that they call the stockade, and I have seen the soldier-coats taking Cherokee families
who were eating their meals and braves at work. They take them to their stockade-house, that has bars on it, and
they throw them inside, where they treat them worse than they treat their dogs and horses, which they also abuse.
I have seen many braves die in battle with these soldier-coats and I have seen too many surrender to them. I,
Black Eagle, will not surrender to them, for my heart will not surrender my spirit.
I have seen these soldier-coats, along with other white's, go into our sacred burial grounds and rip open coffins,
in search of the yellow rocks that they call gold; I have seen them imprison as many of my people as there are ants
in a colony. They have brought nothing but shame and dishonesty to my land, they have brought a way we do not wish
to live by, a way of clocks and calendars, and account books and selfish, greedy men that they call lawyers, who
wish to rule everything with their money and possessions, and wish to force every human being to be like them. The
Real People do not believe like these whites believe; we believe that every rock, every mountain, every tree and
every living thing has a soul and the Great Spirit flows through them, but the whites are different and their
soldier-coats have no beliefs but money and will not accept us or leave us alone to live as the Great Spirit meant
for the Real People to live. They show no respect for anyone or anything, unless they can profit from it, themselves.
They are greedy and selfish and they cheat each other and are proud of themselves when they lie or cheat or steal,
to their gain.
These same white people go to their churches and they pray to a God that they say is good and just and they say everyone
is equal, but then they enslave anyone who is different from their culture, as they enslave blacks and Indians to do the
labor they wish not to do and they use their guns and force to make us bend to their wills, saying this is God's will
but, I, Black Eagle know that this is not the Great Spirit's will, and I will not bend; I have lived many moons, almost
100 of them, and I am ready to die this day.
The white men are wrong and they must know it, for they bring us rules and laws that we do not know of and then they put
us in the house with bars on it when we do not obey them. They did not even ask us if they could live here, they just
moved in and then stole our lands and made up rules and laws that all Cherokees know that the Great Spirit does not want
us to obey. They rape the earth as they rape our women; they do not realize that the earth is filled with the Great Spirit
and they will kill their own souls if they continue to dig and cut and bleed the earth, for the earth is all human beings' Mother.
They do not understand that because of their deeds they will have to go and live with the dragon, where he is buried, deep
beneath the mountains, where he rumbles, even to this very day.
Now I, Black Eagle, hear them talking about me, for I understand some of their words, and they are coming towards me and I
am going to hide this paper, under this rock below me, and even though I can speak some of their talk I am only going to
speak Cherokee. I am going to die today because the Great Spirit has told me this. I, Black Eagle, am a great and brave
warrior and I am going to take a soldier-coat with me, for I see the one with the many stripes on his coat coming towards
me and he has done many bad things to my people, he has raped my granddaughter and he wishes to go and live with the dragon,
in the fire beneath the earth.
And, now I will go to join the Great Spirit soon, and so, I feel my spirit is joyous.
I look upon you as a good being. Order your people to be just. They are always trying to get our lands, they come upon our
lands, they hunt on them; kill our game and kill us. Keep them on one side of the line, and us on the other. Listen, my
father, to what we say.
-Kaskaskia leader to George Washington.
"Hey Sarge, let's git this ol' chief off'n the ground," the private said. "He's givin' me the creeps; way he sits there
starin' at the crik."
* * *
"Ah, hail Buck, he ain't starin' at the creek, he ain't even a real Injun, he's a statue, a wooden Injun, is what he is."
"Yeah, that right Chief, you a wooden Injun?" Private Buckwalter Phillips yelled at Black Eagle and then kicked him on the
leg with his boot, causing a deep gash to appear on his knee.
Black Eagle stood up slowly, his knee dripping blood as he did so. He clenched the knife in his right hand and slid it
underneath his buckskin shirt, then spoke to the soldiers, in Cherokee, "Today is as good a day as any for me to die; I
never liked the cold."
"Wha'…what'd he'd say Sarge? Gola? He thinks we want 'is gold, huh Sarge?''
Sergeant Terry 'Red' Calahan smiled a grisly, greedy smile, one with which Black Eagle was more than familiar. "Heh, we
do want his gold, Buck." Calahan stepped towards Black Eagle with the skull smile of death on his face and Black Eagle
saw the twisted mask of inhumanity and prepared himself. Calahan raised his musket towards Black Eagle and Black Eagle
smiled, causing Calahan to hesitate just long enough for Black Eagle, who, despite having lived almost a century, was
still strong enough to twist his body to the side and arc his knife up and into Calahan's chest, where it plunged towards
his black heart, even as Calahan's finger pulled the trigger on his musket and the musket-ball entered Black Eagle's
throat and exited through the top of his head, taking with it clods of bloody brain matter and Black Eagle's husk of a
withered old body.
The Pueblo have no word that translates as "religion." The knowledge of a spiritual life is that of the person 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Religious belief permeates every aspect of life; it determines man's relation with the natural world and with his fellow man. The secret of the Pueblo's success was simple. They came face to face with nature but did not exploit it.
-Joe S. Sando, Jemez Pueblo.
Well, God's above all; and there be souls must he saved, and there be souls must not be saved.
-Shakespeare, Othello. Act ii, sc. 3, 1. 105.
"Sarge, SARGE! Gee-zuz,he ain't comin' to. I think this here Injun done kilt 'im. I, I think they done kilt each other."
* * *
Sergeant William McGuire glared at Private Buckwalter Phillips and kicked him in the backside. "Go git the doc, Private, NOW!"
Sergeant Terrence 'Red' Calahan stared up at the Indian and couldn't believe his eyes. He thought he must be
hallucinating because he could swear that the Indian was floating in the air. Then he saw the doctor bending
over him and nodding at Sergeant William McGuire.
"Hey Mac, go get some men to get rid of the ol' Injun's corpse and then take Calahan's body to the morgue."
Calahan watched as his old buddy, Bill 'Mac' McGuire, ordered Phillips to drag the Indian's corpse away and
then saw the doc throw a blanket over his body. He couldn't believe his eyes; did they think he was dead or
something? Not him, not old Red Calahan; why, he had killed more Injuns than half the men in his company
combined. His name was a legend among enlisted men and anyway, he was up for a promotion, he couldn't die,
could he? He looked up again and saw Black Eagle smile and disappear, even as he felt as if his body was
in quicksand and he slowly sank deeper and deeper, into the deep dark pit that his soul had garnered for itself
in his twenty-plus years in the Calvary and his forty-plus years on the planet earth.