My last post was about a fall outdoors. This post builds on that a bit. I’ve been reading three books that relate to the outdoors and this place:
Each educated me. All three focus on the region in which I know find myself; one, On Trails, noted that many of the Cherokee people who lived here for centuries consider a place south of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Kituwa, to be their ancestral homeland. This fact struck me like one hundred before couldn’t.
If you look at a map of the region closely, the location alone seems special:
It is south of what is now a National Park, along a river, tucked in between more mountains.
What struck me when reading about Kituwa and the people that lived and lived there was how special the place is. I feel a connection with the region after a few dozen days outdoors, but many of the people who lived there for centuries were connected in a categorically different way. I can start to map out the ridge lines across the Smokies; for those who lived here for centuries (before it was disrupted - even in the National Park - by the westward expansion of the United States, and the side-effects of that expansion, including the spread of disease, invasive species, logging, and pollution), the ridges and valleys had a degree of meaning I couldn’t imagine.
The Trail of Tears involved forcibly relocating people who were from the Cherokee nation, and also other independent nations in the southeast.
The point - or my reflection (I have one) - is that this was devastating, for moral reasons and also because relocation was not like having to move from one place to an equivalent other. This place was their home. It is a special - and sacred - place. As I and others trounce through the mountains, I think it’s worth considering this; as much as this is our National Park, it’s also not ours in a very meaningful and important way. It’s also the land of the people who were here first; who were forcibly removed; and who survived and still live in and around where Kituwa was. That’s all; this post, I think is just a brief and initial appreciation of those things.