Monday, October 10, 2011

Columbus Day Musings

I read a poster online today that says something to the effect, "In honor of Columbus Day, go straight into someone's house and tell them you live there now."

Food for thought there, and I've done a lot of thinking, especially in relation to what I've heard from people I've interviewed during this project.

By the time their ancestors, the Eurpoean settlers, arrived in the Pilot Mountain area, the native Americans had already lived there for thousands of years. Well, they had not exactly lived there as in huge villages, because that very spot had become a neutral territory between two tribes. Both had agreed to disagree and maintain a buffer between them, the Cherokee in the higher Appalachians and the Catawbas in the piedmont. The South Mountains and the foothills between were designated hunting grounds by a treaty.

The few families that did live there eventually adapted and intermarried into this new society or moved on when they saw their land taken over. Those that chose to remain were eliminated by the notorious "Trail of Tears," the process in the early 1800's by which the Cherokee tribe was relocated to land further west.

But there was one man who refused to move from the South Mountains, refused to be dragged away from what he had known his entire life. He lived alone, hiding in a cave under Raven's Rock. I heard his story from a man who was a student in the early years at Pilot Mountain. His grandmother told him. Her grandmother told her.

He had explored this cave and found a knife, showed it to his grandmother. That's when she told the story of this unnamed Cherokee. He had hidden alone in the cave for years and when he became too old to survive in the ruggedness of the mountains, he found shelter in a white man's cellar. The family took him into their home, into their lives. They weren't making any political statements. They were answering the pleas of a fellow human being.

Today in honor of Columbus Day, I honor this Cherokee who wouldn't give up.

Catch of the day,


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