The Trail of Tears Indian Village in Stone Mountain, Georgia. Photo: JOSHUA

Steve Russell: All the Oklahoma tribes came with their own Trail of Tears stories

The Trail of Tears isn't just known to the Five Civilized Tribes. All tribes in present-day Oklahoma experienced genocide, removal and loss. Steve Russell, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, shares some history:
I had to leave Oklahoma to find out I’m an “Oklahoma Indian.” My grandparents, who did not drive and had no access to a car, raised me. In my childhood, a road trip was a big deal but the destination was typically “up to Osage” or “over to Cherokee or Sac and Fox” for the purpose of visiting relatives. Cherokee by birth, I was born and raised in the Creek Nation because my Cherokee grandfather had come to Bristow chasing work in the oil patch. Both of my parents were born in the Creek Nation.

My family had been there long enough that both my non-Indian grandparents had vivid memories of Indian Territory, memories they shared with me. I knew that Indian Territory became Oklahoma in violation of treaties with the Five Tribes before I went to public schools where they did mention the Trail of Tears but not the treaties.

There was a lot I didn’t know. I don’t think it was taught in high school but I’m no authority on what was taught there because my misadventures with Oklahoma public schools ended in the ninth grade. I did learn in junior high (what they now call middle school) that there was another tract of land, Oklahoma Territory, peopled by Plains Indians of various tribes that was combined with Indian Territory to form the state.

I did not fully appreciate that all the Oklahoma Indians had stories similar to the Trail of Tears, and it’s hard to look at those stories and construct some objective scale of horror.

Read More on the Story:
Steve Russell: Oklahoma Indians Braving the Racist Culture (Indian Country Media Network August 28, 2017)