Generations of Secrets and Lies – Part 3 – #151

Generations of Secrets and Lies
by
Elizabeth Ann Johnson-Murphree
Part 3
Story told by Great Grandmother-Mary Jane Overton – “Ma”
    “My grandparents and those of my mother had been friends since their childhood years; they shared the same nightly fire on the trail that seems to have no end. They spoke often among themselves about what was happening in the strange land they were being taken too”. Ma swore many times that she would never be the captive of any white man.
Around many fires were Indian tribes from all of the Five Civilized Tribes, the greatest numbers being the Cherokee. Proud spirits of once great tribes were now faltering under degrading conditions. Soon, they had arrived in Arkansas; Sipsee would hear her mother speak about what was going to happen to them. Many people were contracting diseases that had no cure and the weather was becoming frigid, clothing worn was inadequate for the time of year and many elders’, young children and babies had already died.
The younger men talked of escaping. It was Hawk’s decision to be among those who would attempt return to their homeland in Alabama. The warriors, the men, their wives and children would escape. Hawk set with his family and the family of Sipsee around the fire on what would be their last night. He revealed to his family that he would leave after everyone had bedded down for the night, his mother feared for his life, yet his father understood of what his young son had to do.
“Being dead had to be better than living like animals herded into circles with soldiers guarding them”. Hawk said leaning close toward the families.

 

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In secret, he had sought out Sipsee and questioned her about her feelings for him. It was too late for courting rituals, or for Sipsee to be prepared by her mother to become a part of Hawks soul. The giving of gifts and of the special blessings of the elders would not take place.
Earlier when Fosee found Sipsee her thoughts was the same as his; he spoke to Sipsee’s father immediately. He wanted Sipsee to return to the homelands with him; both families agreed they should be together. Without ceremony, Sipsee and Hawk’s father blessed the merging of hearts. During the night when the fires were low, when the soldier were sleeping except for a few guards, a small band of men, women and children in the darkness of a moonless sky slipped away. They would never know if their families had paid for their freedom with their own lives.
A few families stayed together, many others ventured off to find their own place, maybe a new land. Hawk and Sipsee were among those going into Alabama. They hid among the tall bushes they passed along their way through the woods, always staying away from the open fields if possible. Finally, they made their home deep within the forest on the eastern edge of Alabama; living among a few Indians who was not forced to leave because of their decisions to live white gave them privilege to stay. Hawk and other warriors decided they must conform to some ways to remain free but in their hearts, the hate for the white people grew stronger.

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They built log cabins and were soon moving freely among the white settlers without consequence. Sipsee learn the English language from a nearby settler who hired her to clean and wash their clothes. Hawk learn the language from Sipsee but refused to speak it unless necessary to talk to a white person. Sipsee knew that times were changing and had the foresight to know it would become a white man’s world. Hawk did not approve of many things she would say, he would only look at her and try to keep his own dreams of the future alive within his spirit.

 

 

Author’s Note:
This facts of this story has two aspects, one is the presumed facts written from the annals of history; and second by the verbal history confident from the memory of Mary Jane Overton, proud Chickasaw.

Author’s Note: To be continued in Generations of Secrets and Lies – Part 4

©2020.elizabethannjohnsonmurphree

 

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Generations of Secrets and Lies – Part 2 …#150

Generations of Secrets and Lies
By
Elizabeth Ann Johnson-Murphree
Part 2
Story told by Great Grandmother-Mary Jane Overton – “Ma”

 

“My father would tell me of his childhood and becoming a man in the Tribe. He went    on a vision quest as most Indian boys did as a part of their passage from boy to manhood. Early one morning his father took him to the edge of the forest to a familiar path they often walked. The path led toward what was known as the Mississippi River, and it was at the river’s edge he would stay without water or food for several days. A rule of the ritual. On the trail, he would see many signs of small animals; he walked by bushes where his favorite berries hung in abundance. Yet, he pushed his hunger out of his mind quickly moving down the well-worn path toward the river. When the path ended, he walked through the woods west”. Ma as she remembered.

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Mississippi River

It was the middle of the day when he came into a clearing filled with tall golden grass. Laying down to rest a few minutes, he stared at the sky and the clouds. He picked out a cloud that the thought looked like his beloved grandfather; he studied it closely absorbed in its shape. The chiseled face with deep furrowed lines and long white hair cascading around strong shoulders, he drifted off to sleep when the sun became warm and welcoming. Waking to what he thought was the sound of his grandfather calling his name he realized that he had fallen asleep. The sun had moved into the western sky, he had to hurry. He walked, and then ran, pacing himself so he would be at the river before dark.

It was time for the sun to set when he stood before the bank of the river, he looked up and down the river, and the massive cliffs embraced the wide river on both sides. He then made several trips climbing to the flat surface of a big rock carrying wood and cedar branches gathered for his stay on the rock. He placed the rocks in a circle for his fire. When the fire was blazing and he had, many cedar branches to lie upon he sat looking into the fire watching the sparks float over the edge of the flat rock down the cliff into the river. He lean over as they drifted to the water then became lost in the darkness. When he was cold and tired, he moved closer to the fire listening to the familiar calls of the night until he fell asleep.

     “ My father loved nature, every morning he would meditate as the sun warmed his face and body; even as an adult continued this ritual letting his mind meld with his Soul’ continued”. Ma continued to gather her thoughts.

One day crept slowly into the next, on the third night the spirit of his grandfather came to him. His thoughts returned to the clouds that looked like the grandfather they now sat across from him. His grandfather silently stared into his eyes, penetrating his mind.

When the fourth day arrived, it would be his last night. He could no longer sleep, he lay on his bed of cedar watching visions float in front of him. Before dawn a magnificent hawk appeared. The hawk took his massive wing gliding it over the fire circle, when Fosee looked at the circle he found a rock missing. Pointing to what appeared to be the first rock of the circle the hawks; mind as one with Fosee’. As the hawk pointed he said, “This was the beginning of your life, you entered the world in peace”, then the hawk pointed to the last rock, “This is the end of your life’s circle, beware of the man who lives among the trees”. Fosee stared at the circle when he looked up the hawk was gone, as was his grandfather. He understood the message his grandfather and the hawk had given him; then he fell back asleep.

Black and White Hawk Drawings

     “My father would tell the story of his quest many times in his life”. Ma would say gently.

Fosee heard the screeching of a hawk then saw it fly directly in front of him as he walked down the path toward home. When he looked, there at the paths edge was his father. He stopped; staring in disbelief as the hawk came to rest on a piece of colored cloth wrapped around his father’s hand, and then flew away. He walked beside his father into the open Chukka yard knowing that his father was proud of him. His mother came out of their roundhouse saying his name softly, he was home, and he was safe. It was then that he told those gathering around him that from that day forward he would be known as Hawk. His father put his arm on his shoulder saying, “So you are no longer a Little Bird”.

His great tracking and hunting skills made even the eldest of the Tribe respected him. He went on Mock raids with his father, not to harm but to put fear into the white man. A source of humor to them, later the Warriors would mimic the terrifying looks of the faces of the white people as they sat around the fires at night reliving the raids.

“He would never change! My grandmother worked the gardens and gathered medicine herbs and roots with the other women; they too would discuss the white people. They were afraid that someday their men or sons would be caught and punished for their amusing antics. The white people coming into the lands were greater in numbers, Hawks mother worried for him and of how the change she knew was coming would affect him”. Ma wished she had known her grandmother, her father talked of her.

Sipsee was the young girl that would someday become Fosee’ wife she was named after the Cotton Wood Tree. No doubt, the beautiful white fine cotton like blooms of this tree that rained like snow inspired Sipsee mother or father in choosing her name. Sipsee had known Hawk since they were children playing in the Chukka yard. Her memories of Hawk went back many years; he would run up and down kicking up the dust playing on his imaginary horse. His long black hair flying in the wind, she remembers when he brought home his first deer and how proud he was of himself when he presented it to his mother. Sipsee would never forget the first time their eyes met across the glowing flames of the gathering fire in the Chukka yard and the lowering of hers in respect of his warrior status.

Sipsee with her dark amber skin, wide doe eyes and long silky black hair had been a source of interest to Fosee for many years. Before his eyes, he said that she had grown from a skinny weed into exquisite flower. She and her family were from a Cherokee Tribe. She in turn could only dream that someday the tall noble warrior would want her to walk with him through life.

“Then came the spring of 1838 and under the brutal forced march perpetrated by the United States government they were removing Hawk, Sipsee and their families from their ancestral lands . Many sold the land they lived on to the white man; others were forced off their land. My mother, father and their parents were among those forced from their land on the western edge of north Alabama”. Ma sat not showing any emotions, but her eyes burned with hate.

 

 

Author’s Note:
This facts of this story has two aspects, one is the presumed facts written from the annals of history; and second by the verbal history confident from the memory of Mary Jane Overton, proud Chickasaw.

 

 

Author’s Note: To be continued in Generations of Secrets and Lies – Part 3
©2020.elizabethannjohnsonmurphree

Generations of Secrets and Lies – Part 1…#149

Author’s Note:
This facts of this story has two aspects, one is the presumed facts written from the annals of history; and second by the confident oral history from the memory of Mary Jane Overton, a proud Chickasaw.
The Indian Removal Act of 1830 marks a dark time in American history regarding the new country’s relationship with the Native American population. It first called for the “voluntary” relocation to lands west, then the “forcible removal of all Indians”. The outcome would be that they would reside in the eastern United States to the state of Oklahoma.
May 1838 was set as the voluntary removal date, but many Cherokees remained and did not voluntarily move; many of them resided in my home state of Alabama. Eight years later, Major General Winfield Scott was ordered to round-up and remove the remaining Indians. This forcible removal came to be called the “Trail of Tears”. During those eight years, 46,000 Native Americans were forced to leave their homes in southeastern states.
Many sites in Alabama factored into the removal on the Trail of Tears. Five known routes crossed north Alabama taking many from their homeland on foot, by boat and train through towns like Guntersville, Tuscumbia, my home town of Decatur, Huntsville and Waterloo.
The Trail of Tears is roughly 2,300 miles long and passes through nine states over land and water. Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Tennessee. Many people were either murdered or relocated with very few hiding in remote locations like Bucks Pocket, Little River Canyon, the mountains, and around the Tennessee River.
Many died from exposure, disease, and starvation on their route to Oklahoma. On this forced march were my great-great grandparents. It is estimated that 4,000 Chickasaw, including any of their black slaves as well as lower class white citizens were in this movement. The Trail of Tears is one of the worst tragedies in American History.

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The Native American culture is known for its rich oral tradition – instead of using a written language to document their history, these indigenous people simply relied on their verbal language to share their history, customs, rituals, and legends through vivid narratives.
This oral accounting told to me beginning at the age of about six-years-old until my great grandmother died when I was a teenager.

Generations of Secrets and Lies
Part 1
Mary Jane Overton – “Ma”

     “Fosee, my father belonged to the Mississippi Over-Towne Tribe. In his youth, the        Tribe tried to continue their peaceful life without contact with the white man’s world.   Fosee knew that he was a descendant of many generations of Warriors. Born in a round Birch bark roofed dwelling that stood on the edge of the Chickasaw Tribes town. His parents gave their only child the name Fosee, which meant Bird. His younger days were spent hunting small animals and playing Chukka Ball in the open yard centered in the middle of his peoples circled dwellings”. Ma said in her firm no nonsense tone.
Fosse’s father a name that Ma could not remember held a place of prominence in the tribe. It was said that he was a powerful Warrior and skilled hunter, his wife; Fosse’s mother, again no known name, was said to be the most beautiful woman in the Tribe, her beauty came from Cherokee ancestors, and she was of mixed blood, Chickasaw and Cherokee. Her beauty and gentle nature were the reasons Fosse’s father had chosen her to be his wife.
“My father told me that his father remembered all of the grandparents. However, it was on his father’s side, the grandfather he remembered the most and with clarity. He remembered his elegant clothes made of the softened skins of deer. The colorful decorations sewn upon the breast of his shirts by his grandmother were elegant and of the best beads. His grandfathers white hair flowed about his shoulders and his skin engraved with the scars of many wars from his younger days”. Ma stopped for a moment staring at something no one else could see.
This grandfather Fosse’s favorite looked like nobility. It was said that he would listen intently to the stories this grandfather told around the cooking fires and see the softness in his eyes when he detailed of the loss of family and friends in battles. Within a few short years, after the birth of Fosee all four of his close grandparents had succumb to a disease brought into the town by a white man.

 

Author’s Note: To be continued in Generations of Secrets and Lies – Part 2

Wild Mountain Rose…#136

Image result for tennessee mountains art images

Wild Mountain Rose…

There is a legend up on Mossy Ridge that children hear while listening to the old folk weaves their tales around their supper table at night –

About…

Two gentle spirits walking the rutty
Mountain roads under the mystical Tennessee moonlight.

These stories begin many years ago about
An old Cherokee and a little girl
He called his Wild Mountain Rose –

Folks …

First saw her drinking from a cool mountain
Stream all legs and dirty yellow hair abandoned
By her family so the stories go, but no one is
Sure, of that if the truth is told.

The first time the old Cherokee saw her she was
Sleeping under a bush folks call the Mountain Rose –

Afterwards…

She was with him no matter where he would go.
Folks would say that without old Willie Youngblood
She would not have survived –

Willie…

Knew that without her he himself would have died,
The years went by quickly and they both grew old,
Time had touched their hair with gray –

They…

Could only dream about their younger days.
One cool spring morning Willie woke to find her gone
From his side, he sat for hours head hung low as he
Cried –

Later…

He found her lying peaceful she had died there on a
Soft bed of leaves a mournful death chant was the only
Way the old Cherokee knew how to grieve.

Now if you know where to look it is in the Tennessee
Mountains where Willie Youngblood’s Wild Mountain
Rose can be found –

Beneath…

The damp rotting forest floor in a shallow grave up on
Mossy Ridge near the entrance of Chicopee Cave.
The following winter Old Willie died and they buried
Him next to his Wild Mountain Rose –

Folks…

Say in the moonlight two ghostly spirits can be seen
Sitting on the banks of Chestnut Creek or floating along
The rutty mountain roads.

When the sun comes up, they disappear…

Or so the legend goes, but everyone on Mossy Ridge
Knows that it is Old Willie and that golden haired pup
He found those many years ago…

Wild Mountain Rose.
©2019.elizabethannjohnsonmurphree

 
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The Chickasaw Farmer…#126

 

30. Women in cottonfield

Art by Author

The Chickasaw Farmer…

“A tribute to my Daddy”

Rickety ole man stood on the cotton
Wagon a tin of yellow salve in his
Hand.

Rickety ole wagon
Rickety ole man

A hot southern sun hides behind the
Willows on muddy Flint Creek, cotton
Pickers sweat falling on parched lips
Taste like salty brine while they wait
For the ole man to call “quitting time”.

Rickety ole wagon
Rickety ole man

Young, old, children, women and men
Bloody fingers cut by the barbs of the
Cotton boll dig into the old yellow salve
Tin.

Rickety ole wagon
Rickety ole man

Tar bottom sacks filled with soft white
Gold weary feet follow two old sway
Back mules down a rutted road.

Rickety ole wagon
Rickety ole man

 
Crimson clouds from wagon wheels
Whirl around tired bodies and drained
Minds; feels like pickers been
Working in the cotton fields since the
Beginning of time.

Rickety ole wagon
Rickety ole man

Mules stop at the fork of the road as the
Cotton pickers walked into the dark of the
Night the Ole man’s heart filled with
Appreciation; cause he’s just an old
Chickasaw farmer trying to
Survive inside a “White Nation”.

Rickety ole wagon
Rickety ole man

 
©2019.elizabethannjohnsonmurphree

 
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As a Child I Prayed it was the Way…#119

 

Image result for Native American women Praying images

As a Child I Prayed, it was the Way…

Knarred pines below the mountain where we lived were living gravestones on the
land we called home high above them was the kudzu-shrouded caves where I played with constant skinned knees, Hoarfrost eyes and long black braids. Below this mountain was hallowed ground and beneath decaying pine needles the bleached bones of my ancestors lay hidden in the mounds.

My Great-grandmother whom we all call “Ma” said the mountain was like a cathedral, a place where she took me every morning to pray, she told me that it was our way. As the night shadows disappeared in the mornings golden rays, we raised our palms toward the sky to bless another day.

Ma’s voice strong and clear begin to chant in her native tongue the words robust and bold; it came from deep within her as if orchestrated by her Soul. Floating across the mountains scarred face her mantra rose to the Great Mystery – her God, she said that I must always honor this sacred place.

She told me that the sounds of a waking earth should reminded us of how the world came to be, her prayers spoke of rebirth and how our Souls would someday be free. We walked through emerald grass damp with morning dew, the unseen breeze kissed our face, and she believed that with the beginning of each morning our life was once again renewed.

We hurried to the creek behind our tarpaper shanty to wash away all of Yesterday’s sorrows. I held her hand wishing that this were how our lives would always be, that I would never grow up and she would never grow old, and it would always be Ma and me. Yes when I was a child my Great-grandmother taught me many lessons about life, it was the way.
©2019.elizabethannjohnsonmurphree

 

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In the Darkness of Night…#117

CHICKASAW NATION SEAL

“To my father and all of our Chickasaw family who walked before him on the Trail of Tears”.

In the Darkness of Night…

I hear the cries of my grandmothers and

grandfathers, I feel their fear; I walk with

them in my dreams on the Trail of Tears.

Their feet bloody as they walked the rutted

trail, every scar on their backs is another

story to tell.

 
They planted crops gave blessing and took

from the land only what they would need, a

word they did not know… greed. Strangers

with pale skin came from the east where

living off the land was unknown; my people

taught them how to live, when no longer

needed the white stranger’s drove them

from their ancestral homes.

 
The Grandfathers and their families stood

tall, their backs they refused to bend so the

white strangers herded them like cattle to

a far off land… to die in the hot barren sand.

My people believed the land belonged to no

one, given to all by the “Great Mystery”; still

they died with broken souls never knowing

that their story in time covered the blood-

splattered pages of history.

 
My people watched as women gave birth

and warriors carried the dead, the children

went to sleep hungry with the ground as their

bed. The day came when these great people

corralled on dry barren land, given musty

water and bug-infested corn meal to eat,

in a place with no hope, to the white man

they were bound; a killing field where the

blood of my family spilled upon the ground.

 
I hear you my grandmothers and grandfathers,

your cries do not go unheard in the darkness

of night; for in my dreams I walk with you,

I feel your fear; I wake each morning with the

taste of your tears.

 

©2019.elizabethannjohnsonmurphree

 
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Art and Writing…#109

I have shared below a few of my own art collection, during a time when I was in grief over the loss of my child I placed my thoughts, scenes from my childhood into painting in acrylics and watercolors.  My hope is that someday they will become family treasures.  I continue to paint today for my enjoyment.

 

 

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Bangles and Colorful Cloth for Ma…#92

 

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Bangles and Colorful Cloth for Ma…
“Dedicated to one of my mother’s, my Great-Grandmother”

When I was born, you were young ninety-years old,
your hair pulled tight at the nap of your neck, still
black and bold. At night, you let it down to braid before
you went to bed, it fell to the floor; at first I would watch
in silence from a crack in the door.

The night you caught me I was six, you called me into the
room smiling…asking that I bring you a single broomstick.
I quickly plucked it from mother’s only broom, and rushed
back into the dimly lit room. You showed me how to break
it into small pieces; when I looked bewildered your smile
accented all of your dark wrinkles and creases.

It was then that my eyes opened wide as you put the stick right
through the lob of your ears, its magic I thought; but this is my
great-grandmother I have nothing to fear. As a child, I did not
realize that there was a hole, because when I would touch the
bangles on her ear, she would quickly scold.

Just like the time when I tried to sneak a peek at her button up
shoes by raising the hem of her long dress, she did not have on
shoes, there were moccasins on those tiny feet…who would have
guessed. Yes, I was only a child without a care, and I spent many
hours sitting at the foot of her old rocking chair.

I never tire of the stories she would tell, sometimes we cried together
and now I can say it…as a child she lived in a white man’s world, she
called it “hell”. Her parents had walked on the “Trail of Tears”, proud
and strong, with every step wondering where they had gone wrong.

She help raise me and she taught me the way, and her mind was still
sharp as it was when I was a child, I use to wander in those later years,
I was sad when she would tell her stories because when she got older,
she only remembered the bad. This grand old woman dressed in bangles
and cloths of many colors, with that big ball of hair and the nap of her
neck she was a great-grandmother like no other.

She died only days before her birthday, she would have been one-hundred
and five, my father said, Ma would have scolded you saying,
don’t you ever cry. I was fifteen-year old and the world was bright and
colorful with the artwork of fall, a befitting day to bury this beautiful and
proud Chickasaw.

 

©2012.elizabethannjohnsonmurphree

 

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Wild Mountain Rose…#75

 

wild mountain rose

 

Wild Mountain Rose…
There is a legend up on Mossy Ridge that children hear while listening to the old folks weaves their tales around their supper table at night –

About…

Two gentle spirits walking the rutty mountain roads under the mystical Tennessee moonlight.
These stories begin many years ago about an old Cherokee and a little girl he called his Wild Mountain Rose –

Folks …

First, saw her drinking from a cool mountain stream all legs and dirty yellow hair abandoned by her family so the stories go, but no one is sure of that, if the truth were told. The first time the old Cherokee saw her, she was sleeping under a bush folks call the Mountain Rose –

Afterwards…

She was with him no matter where he would go. Folks would say that without old Willie Youngblood she would not have survived –

Willie…

Knew that without her, he himself would have died. The years went by quickly and they both grew old, time had touched their hair with gray –

They…

Could only dream about their younger days. One cool spring morning Willie woke to find her gone from his side, he sat for hours head hung low as he cried –

Later…

He found her lying peacefully she had died there on a soft bed of leaves, a mournful death chant was the only way the old Cherokee knew how to grieve. Now if you know where to look it is in the Tennessee Mountains where Willie Youngblood’s Wild Mountain Rose can be found –

Beneath…

The damp rotting forest floor in a shallow grave up on Mossy Ridge near the entrance of Chicopee Cave. The following winter Old Willie died and they buried him next to his Wild Mountain Rose –

Folks…

Say in the moonlight two ghostly spirits can be seen sitting on the banks of Chestnut Creek or floating along the rutty mountain roads. When the sun comes up they disappear, or so the legend goes, but everyone on Mossy Ridge knows that it is Old Willie and that golden haired pup he found those many years ago –

His…

Wild Mountain Rose.
©2019.elizabethannjohnsonmurphree

 

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=elizabeth+ann+johnson-murphree&i=stripbooks&crid=1OD253ALWH1PO&sprefix=elizabeth+ann+j%2Caps%2C198&ref=nb_sb_ss_i_1_15