April, the Eastern Band of Cherokee in North Carolina and the Cherokee
Nation in Oklahoma will meet in Joint Council at Red Clay, Tenn.
This meeting marks the 25th anniversary of their first Joint Council
after the removal of the Cherokee on the Trail of Tears in 1838.
was at the first Joint Council in 1984 where I saw both sides of
my family come together formally. My fathers family is Cherokee
from Oklahoma and my mothers family from Cherokee from North
life in North Carolina was always filled with news from Oklahoma.
Sometimes that news came in letters to my Oklahoma grandmother who
lived with us or through her subscription to the Cherokee Phoenix,
which she maintained throughout her life.
made my first trip to Oklahoma as a little girl and found there
a Cherokee world familiar to me. The long trip in the car ended
at my aunts house where we were greeted with laughter, hugs
and food. It seemed like home to me. As a parade of people passed
through the house during our visit I saw faces vaguely familiar
from my grandmothers photo collection. Their jokes and conversation
revolved around family and tribal politics. But not long into the
journey I grew homesick.
distinctly remember my mother waking me from my slumber in the back
of the station wagon to see the mountains in the distance. We were
awoke the next morning in my bed, my trip just a memory. For many
years, I would make that journey with my folks as we traveled to
my dads home, and each time I felt the longing for home.
I grew older, I learned the family stories about the removal of
our people. How the women in my family fed the soldiers breakfast
before they were driven west and how a boy named Watson carried
medicinal plants on the Trail of Tears to their new home. I learned
the stories of how my grandmother and her sisters found their way
to Cherokee, N.C., and built homes and raised families here. My
aunts always talked of going home to visit, but once in the west
they talked about going home back to the east.
Council, taking place April 16-18, will bring the two sides of my
family together again. It reminds me of the longing for home which
surely was the sentiment of the Cherokees who left more than 170
years ago. Our people join in fellowship once again at Red Clay,
the site of the last council meeting of our people, and our Nation
Lynne Harlan, a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians,
works as a freelance writer, curator and tribal historian.