Cherokee Rose

An Oklahoma Legend

      We lost everything after the treaty was signed.  The white men wanted the Indian’s removed, and so we were Removed.  We lost our homes, our sacred lands, our way of life.  We were thrust out by greed, and our hearts broke on the long, long journey west.  We only had the few precious belongings we could carry, and many of us were not even given time to fetch that much from our homes before we were forced into camps and then marched west. 

    The weather turned cold, and still we marched, without adequate shelter, without blankets.  Our men were grim with anger and pain.  Our children were crying for comfort we could not give.   Many were dying.  And we Cherokee women, we wept.  Our hearts were broken.  Our spirits were drowning in pain.  Our hope was gone.  Such terrible grief made us neglect our families, our appearance.  We were ready to die rather than go another step. 

     Seeing our pain, the Elders gathered together and began praying that some sign would come to ease the heart-numbing horror we felt at our loss, so that we might once again care for our children, comfort their tears, and walk proudly beside our men during this terrible journey.  And the Elders were answered! 

     The very next morning as we began our long hard journey once again, we began to see white roses growing along the trail.  They seemed to have sprung up overnight, and they were very beautiful.   The petals of each rose were white like our tears.  The center was yellow like the gold the greedy white men took from our hills.  And we counted seven leaves on each stem — just as there were seven clans in the Cherokee nation!  The sight of the roses brought a strange peace into the hearts of the Cherokee women who saw them.  There was a particularly large patch of them in the small glen where many of us had sat weeping the previous night.  I paused to pick one, and one of the Elders stopped beside me and told me there was a rose for each team we had shed during the journey.  His words stayed with me as I took up my small parcel of belongings, hurried my children into line, and set out behind my husband.  A rose for every tear.  Could it be possible?  In my heart, I already believed him. 

     It was a small wonder.  A tiny miracle.  But the best parts of our lives are made up of small miracles and tiny wonders.  It gave us heart.  Though we suffered much in the rest of the journey to Oklahoma Territory — a journey later called the Trail of Tears — and though we lost many children along the way, somehow we had hope that a better day was coming for the Cherokee.  And so it has. 

    But the Cherokee rose continues to grow along the route of the trail today, as a reminder of the past and a hope for our future.