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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Saturday, February 20, 2010


Oh-see-yo = hello or more accurately, it is good to see you! Another easy day today--since we planned to only see one museum and travel only a few miles. Though overcast it was, at least to us, warm--56 degrees. Our room in Tahlequah was, as usual, very nice but the young lady at the front desk was sooooo incompetent. When I asked about an upgrade--being an elite customer of over 40 stays per year--she assured me that they had given me that when I reserved by phone with Choice Privileges. I said, no, that is my senior discount, not an upgrade. She made no further response and I knew she had no idea what I was talking about. Too tired to care I let it go. Later in the evening Bill couldn't get the remote to work and I suggested he go and get batteries. She gave him another remote, which also didn't work. Then she came to the room and said she HOPED she could figure it out--she did finally. Still later I realized that the message button was flashing on both phones, though I KNEW we had no messages--no one knowing where we were. I would not have cared but one phone was on the nightstand near my head and I knew I wasn't going to sleep well with a eletronic flasher in my eyes all night. I tried everything--pushing the flasher--didn't budge; retrieving messages but I needed a passcode which I did not have; dialing the front desk and asking--OMG!!!!!! She suggested I dial my own room number, which I did---got a busy signal! So I stuck the phone under the bed--where it probably is still located and moved the desk chair between me and the other extension. I was annoyed but figured these were minor events and being tired I was probably just irritable. Well, I was well rested this morning when I asked her for directions to the Cherokee Heritage Center--Tahlequah is the capital of the Cherokee Nation, for pete's sake--and this is the biggest tourist attraction in town. You guessed it--she had not a clue--not from here--no one around who can tell me--so sorry! I asked how long she'd been working here--a month! I suggested she take notes on what she didn't know and find out for the next guest. I also sent Choice Privileges a review of the staff. UGH!!After several wrong directions and turns we finally figured out where the place was--the turn to the road just two blocks from the motel!! The day from there was just fine--being old birds we only paid for one of us into the museum--55+ers get a two-fer! So $7.50 instead of $15.00! Nice. The Museum is made up of three main parts ( not including the gift shop, of course) the main museum with its Walk of Honor as its entry courtyard with busts and other monuments commemorating famous Cherokee who also were influential in the protection and promotion of Cherokee life and culture. John Ross is the only one who's name comes to mind--he was the Chief during the relocation of the tribes--we passed his home in Chickamunga two years ago but did not visit it. I bought a biography of him and will have to add it to my Goodreads to-read bookshelf. Also within this courtyard are all that is left of the Cherokee Female Seminary that was located on this exact spot and burned to the ground in 1887--three brick pillars. There are several pictures within the museum entrance of the school, including one of the first graduating class of 1850 something, I think. The second part of the facility is a recreation of a typical Cherokee settlement of the 16th C--pre-European contact. And the third is a typical Cherokee Village of the 1890's Nation prior to Statehood, which occured in 1908, I believe. Will Rogers was born in Oklahoma Territory and his father and grandfather were political figures in the Nation--but you knew that from our travels to Claremore and Oolagah last year. And so we began in the Museum--the exhibit focuses on the political maneuvering that took place and the reactions of prominent men, both white and Cherokee to it. But it actually starts with the original interaction between the Indians and the Europeans who moved into their territory---a huge area, as we shall see. Succinctly put--the white man brought many new and more useful items to the area--plows, wool cloth, axes, knives, petticoats --that appealed to the Natives to the point that they gave up many of their claymaking of pots, their weaving of baskets, the arduous task of pounding flint to make knives and arrowheads and axes etc. The whiteman asked for deerskins as payment for their new tools. Soon the Natives were learning how to make some of these things themselves and they wanted a cut of the market. Also the whites were demanding so many deerskins in payment --12 for a petticoat--the most " expensive" item, ladies--that the men were having to go farther and farther to find the deer--as the herds were being decimated. This began to cause hardship for the families because the men were now away for long periods of time. Soon added to this roiling cauldron of unease the white settlers, who were increasing in number began to covet the Indians lands. Now these Tribes are called the Five Civilized Tribes because, being Woodland Indians they were not nomadic. As a result, by the time Europeans arrived they had settlements with municipal buildings if you will, a government with laws and provisions for equal representation of men and women--actually this was a matriarchial society and women were quite powerful--an educational system, language though unwritten, quite extensive. As a result there were quite prominent members of the tribes and some, by 1837, when Andrew Jackson started the whole ball rolling that would result in the horror of the Trail of Tears, were living in rather nice brick homes with elegant European furniture and clothing. These were not aborigines living in teepees or tents or huts--though there were some primitive log cabins among the less affluent. So my hardware man the other day was right--they haven't lived in huts for a long time--LOL Anyway, Andy decided that the Indians had to go and he and Congress passed the Indian Removal Act in 1830. This was neither the beginning nor the end of the issue. This link gives a wonderful one page synopsis of the whole deal www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4p2959.html. Chief Justice John Jay ruled the Act unconstitutional but Jackson's retort was " Jay has passed judgement now let him try to enforce it!" Andy really give much creedence to the balance of powers concept. By 1838 some of the Tribes had relocated to Indian Territory but many had not--and so armed troops marched into their homes and herded them into stockades waiting to be driven on foot to Oklahoma. They were given no time to gather any belongings so many walked only with the clothes on their backs. Winfield Scott and begged the tribes to relocate--he said he'd seen enough death in the wars he'd fought and he did not want to see their slaughter. Another Federal officer whose name escapes me--after seeing a pregnant woman bayonetted to death and other Indians killed by whites who saw no wrong in the murders--requested to be relieved of duty and he was. One Nation who voluntarily moved West--the Choctaws, I think, arranged for food and provisions to be available at points along the way only to find that the men they paid left the food in the summer's heat to spoil. One pioneer who saw the masses of Indians moving in a quiet procession prodded along by state militiamen on horseback said it was though civilization had returned to the dark ages. No sooner had the tribes left their homes than the white inhabitants looted their homes, in some cases moving into them, in others destroying them. White inhabitants were expanding not Westward but Southward and as the Trail of Tears progressed 25 million acres of former Indian land was available to plant cotton and provide work for slaves. And we have the unmitigated gall to condemn Hitler as though Andrew Jackson and his cohorts were any less monstrous. These people had everything taken from them, they died at the hands of brutes who killed them as easily as if they were ants beneath their feet and others died of starvation, disease and simple weaknesses of the very old and the very young. They were not allowed to bury their dead--they could cover them with a blanket if they could give one up. Today modern descendents cover their dead with blankets before they bury them in modern coffins to commemorate that horror.One Creek chief, in chains, marched the entire way upright, looking straight ahead--he was 84 years old!!! After this overwhelming exhibit it was a relief to move outdoors for our tour of the Ancient Village with our guide --the beautiful, Feather! --who greeted us Osiyo. The village was built in 1967 based primarily on contemporary journals of people who saw the villages upon arrival to this country and sketches they left. Although there has been much archeological material unearthed since then there has not really been any updating of the original work. Feather says that there is renovation going on and it was evident as we walked about and that the intent is to update the Village to represent a 17th C village rather than a 16th C one. She spoke of a stick game--pre-cursor of LaCross--which involved the use of two shorter sticks with much smaller cup and a ball the size of a golf ball made by wrapping a nut or small stone with leather and sinew much as we construct our baseballs. The " game" was actually a war maneuver practice and as such was quite rough---if one's sticks were lost or broken one could hold the ball in one's mouth. But all was fair in getting the ball--hitting in the head, the mouth, the stomach--anything to make you drop the ball. The object was to get the ball down the field the length of a football field--though she's heard of one over a mile long!--sometimes longer depending on the number of participants. Once down the field the goal had to be circled and then the ball hit in. Only males played and some died and many lost teeth--but it was better than having the tribe beaten in battle. Today the girls play the boys--they've added another twist--a post with a fish on top that needs to be hit by the ball--in addition to goals..If you hit the fish your team gets five points and other points along the height of the pole as long as it is above the black line. These points are in addition to the single point for a goal. The men still use sticks but the women can use their hands--BECAUSE they were too MEAN and VICIOUS when they used the sticks. Also the men have to be a little gentler with the girls--they can push them but not shove really hard for example! Feather also told us of the blow guns and how they are hollowed out at the nodes where they are blocked--these are made from a type of reed. She showed us the arrows that are used and explained their structure--she then blew a dart and hit a stuffed rabbit with a deadly blow. She spoke of the weaving of baskets and the fact that they are double walled. She explained the shaping of arrow heads and the formation of a good bow from some wood they call ironwood but is not the same we have here. The construction of winter homes--the little dome shaped smaller structures ----and summer homes with the reed covered patios. Wood twigs are stacked between two walls of clay which is fired by the simple method of making fires inside and outside the new structure. We came to the stomping ground the center of which has a fire which burns 24/7 throughout the year--an eternal flame. This because it is believed prayers are carried to the gods on the smoke of the fire. The central area is surrounded by seven pavilions--for each of the seven clans. When a ceremonial time comes the head man of the village would approach the fire, singing and dancing, followed by his wife who was not allowed to sing. BUT on each leg she wore a leather girdle on which were sewn hollowed out turtle shells filled with small pebbles. Each of these musical instuments weigh at least 20 lbs!!! Behind her alternating man, woman, man, woman etc the rest of the village joined the singing dancing line--mimacing the actions and sounds of the lead man--that is to say--all dancing as he danced --men singing--women playing accompaniment on the appendage supported turtle shell rattles. AND THIS WENT ON ALLLLLLLLLL NIGHT!!! and it started in the morning.....children fit in where ever. It was here that we came across Jaime--calmly sitting with a young puppy in his arms. Feather's fiance. I wondered why he had not started the dance for us to follow him--we had a nice laugh--another couple and their little girl was in our group--so we could have had a mini demonstration--yes? At this point I asked Feather--as the puppy was being fawned over--if she was from Tahlequah. Indeed, she is and her family's association with the Center dates to its opening in the '60's. Her uncles, grandfather, father, brother, grandmother and she either have worked or work at the Center.Her grandmother was one of the original basketry instructors. Soon we progressed to the Council House--again seven sided with a fire--also kept burning--in the center. Usually the house would be eight sided so that each clan had a side and then the eighth would be the entrance wall. In front of the entrance, inside, stands a post. If the inner walls are painted white--the village is at peace---if red, at war.Although there was a Chief and a secondary Chief--one acted in peacetime and the other in wartime---there also was a woman--The Best Beloved--who had the ultimate decision making role. When a man married into a clan, his children became members of his wife's clan and he moved into her home. Her brother was responsible for teaching the children the ways of the clan and he had nieces and nephews he taught in his own clan. During meetings he sat with his clan. He was allowed up to three wives but any wife could divorce him simply by putting his things outside the home and she then could live with whomever she wanted. He could not initiate a divorce. The woman had control of her own property with no input from him. Pretty progressive! And so our guided tour ended. As we left the village a group --obviously a school group arrived. I asked where they were from and one wise guy said rehab! turns out they were from an alternative program for Cherokee boys who have gotten into trouble too much in school. Feather had a bit of a problem trying to explain but Bill and I helped her out by telling her --oh, we recognize them--Bill taught vo-ag and I had all levels of 10th grade science. The boys were fun--I said how old are you guys? 16?17? They were surprised and really were quite neat kids and it was obvious to them that I had their number but found them amusing and liked them. I said I taught you guys for 30 years--I've got you covered and we all had a good laugh. Boy I miss those boys-! They were always my real favorites--no meanness, no cattiness, just high spirits, trying to act grown up. Then we were on our own to tour the Adams Corner Rural Village--developed with and supported by money from the guy who owns the Tennessee Titans Football team. His grandmother was part of the Trail of Tears and the village is named for his mother. From the Center we headed back past the Comfort Inn and Chilies, where we ate last night to state route 51 and a neat little Mexican Restaurant. Then onward to Muskogee past the Grand River, the Vertigris River and canal system and across the Arkansas River into town. The Arkansas, like the Platte is just full of mud flats but becomes a raging maelstrom with Spring rains. Our desk clerk here, Sonia, is the complete opposite of the disaster named Crystal of last night's experience. So wonderful that we moved our stuff in and then decided to extend our stay for a second night. In addition, I gave her one of my 1000 point vouchers--Choice Privileges will give her 1000 points because I found her so helpful. Now my fingers are numb, my brain is numb and I'm ready for TV. Tomorrow the Five Civilized Nations Museum which opens at 1--so time to reorganize the car, do laundry, and plot the next leg of the trip. Don't know how to say good night in Cherokee but I'll find out tomorrow--so for now--sweet dreams, all. The almost Native American Okies from Vermont

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