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|THE LEGEND OF ROLAND THE CHEROKEE |
June 28, 2006
|This Nation will soon celebrate its 230 birthday with fireworks and parades. But for Native Americans, the 4th of July isn't necessarily a happy holiday, considering this land was taken from us at the cost of so many lives. Whole families, whole Nations have been sacrificed in the name of God for greed. |
And it continues today from coast to coast and ocean to ocean. Entire forests are being slaughtered and when the rains come and wash the hillside away and the earth flows into the rivers and streams, people wonder why our waters are polluted. Sacred
sites are paved over, sacrificed to the gods of greed. People clamor for higher wages and watch in dismay as our jobs disappear into other countries that don't even pay their workers a living wage. Drug companies develop drugs for diseases unheard of just a few years ago and convince people they need them, but many can't afford the high prices they must pay.
Our People understood what it meant to live in balance. They knew that to destroy the Earth meant to destroy her children. It is very tempting to say, "I can't do anything about any of this. I'm only one person." But let me tell you a story about one person - a man named Roland, a Cherokee, who saw something wrong happening to his People and their Homeland and, knowing he could not
win, chose to fight the battle anyway.
In the 1960's, the Federal Government decided to build a dam on the Tellico River in Tennessee which would flood the ancient
Peace Town of Chota along with many other Cherokee towns and sacred places.
Billed by the government and environmentalists as a move to save the "snail darter" many people who lived in the area sued to stop the dam project. But the government would not be deterred and passed a law, known as the Duncan Amendment, which exempted Tellico Dam from all federal and state laws including religious freedom, historical and environmental laws. Jimmy Carter signed this bill into being on September 25, 1979.
Three hundred and forty families, many of them Cherokee, were displaced. Not only was 16,000 acres of land stolen for the lake, but an additional 22,000 acres was taken and turned over to wealthy and politically connected people. Yet little mention of it was made in the papers of the day.
Goliath George, an elder of the Cherokee Nation, told this story of an elderly medicine man he had listened to as a boy. "He would talk to my people from atop a hickory stump, notched so he could climb on top and look out over the valley. He talked about what would happen in four or maybe five generations. He said the valley would be covered with water - our forefathers would be on the bottom of the valley looking up through a wall of glass. Tears rolled down his cheeks when he said that one day the people would once again be put to the test of holding on to that which is sacred or giving up forever another part of their lives." (as quoted therein, from The New York Times, November 11, 1979)
Graves of white people were moved to higher ground, but a judge ruled that Indian graves would remain. On a cold December night, Roland decided he could stand by no longer. He ignored the No Trespassing signs and walked to the old archeological dig at
Chota. Soon the dam would close and the graves of our ancestors and their Sacred City would be no more.
Roland climbed through the barbed wire fence and approached the site of the ancient council house. A granite boulder marked the site of the Ancient Fire. Taking his pipe from his jacket, he began a prayer ceremony which lasted through the night as the waters began to spill over the banks of the river. Then, stripping off his clothes, Roland tied himself to the ancient boulder.
"In silence Roland listened to the sigh of rising waters and watched the light in the eastern sky deepen from rose to powerful
crimson. Fixing his eyes on the crest of the mountain, he aimed his spirit to the mark. 'You profane the sacred bones. You pour concrete on the living. I, Roland the Cherokee, call this ground sacred. I set myself an arrow to the bow."
"On a distant hill, as he'd promised Roland he would do, an old kinsman sat in the notch of a tall oak stump and kept the watch until the young man's spirit arched into the sky. Then the old man climbed down from the stump and took the message to the
people: "Begin again."
Facts and quotes taken from Marilou Awiakta, "Selu: Seeking The Corn
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