Pastor Samuel Mosteller (left) and Tom Bluewolf (wearing the black hat), both of Native American ancestry, sign a declaration of peace symbolizing reconciliation between both victims and perpetrators of the Trail of Tears, inside the council house at New Echota, Saturday, June 8, 2013.
A small band of seven people are on one big mission; “to help bring about national reconciliation with America’s First People.”
Traveling from places as far away as Virginia and Albany, N.Y., this small group came together Saturday, May 8 at New Echota, the first capital of the Cherokee people, along with other participants representing many cultures and ethnicities, with a plan to end their pilgrimage of peace in Tahlequah, Okla., the new capitol of the Cherokee Nation, Saturday, June 15.
Known as the Peacemakers for Sacred Healing the group began the more than 1,000 mile journey, along one of the infamous Trail of Tears routes, with a ceremony in the council house at the historical site. The group listened to speakers such as Pastor Samuel Mosteller, President of the Georgia Southern Christian Leadership Conference and descendant of both Creek and Cherokee Native Americans; and Tom Bluewolf of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.
The group delivered the message that in order to keep the atrocities of the past from occurring again, listening to the stories of the Native American’s journey of suffering, passed down from generation to generation, must be retold, and listened to.
“This is really about coming together as a family,” said the groups spokesperson Rev. Claire Daugherty. “A big part of healing is listening to someone’s story. Anyone who has suffered trauma needs to talk about it. On this journey we are listening; listening and saying we are so sorry. We want to hear those stories and we want to repent and work together for a brighter future, we cannot undo the past, but the future is a blank slate. We can learn from the past.”
Tom Bluewolf performed a “song of honor through the mouth of the Sassafrass Tree,” a flute created by a fellow Native American, from the bark of the Sassafrass Tree, inscribed with ancient Creek symbols of the wind and star clans.
The group performed a symbolic “cleansing” ceremony by writing past transgressions on flash paper to be burned, leaving behind no ash, to the quiet notes of Bluewolf’s flute and the soft beat of the drum.
The group then collectively signed a declaration of peace which reads:
Peacemakers for Sacred Healing Trail of Tears Journey June 7 – 15, 2013: Georgia, Tennesee, Arkansas, Oklahoma
We, the undersigned, are the Peacemakers for Sacred Healing between Native Americans and non-Native Americans.
We free ourselves from the pain and anguish of our past.
Our committed friendship is bound on earth and in heaven in the spirit of our ancestors.
We continue to respect our sacred earth, especially our love for America and will together serve the world as one family under God, Great Spirit, Yahweh, Allah, Jehovah, Heavenly Parent, Creator, True Parents.
Amen, Aho, Aju!
After the ceremony, the group convened for a picnic of a diverse spread of food and toured the rest of the grounds at New Echota before departing to their next location.
According to Daugherty many different Native American descendants and tribes along their journey hosted the group allowing them to hear the stories of generations past.
Many groups co-sponsored the pilgrimage including the United Native American Council; The American Clergy Leadership Conference; Family Federation for World Peace; Kingmaker Magazine; Women’s Federation for World Peace; and the Sufi Order of Villa Rica.
Along their journey, the group prayed and asked for forgiveness for the wrong done to the Cherokee along the trail of tears, however this was not their first journey for peace.
Though plans for the pilgrimage along the infamous Trail of Tears route began approximately six years go, according to Daugherty, since 2007, the group has been to Jamestown, Plymouth and others have also traveled overseas to the Middle East on missions of peace.
“We are seed droppers and hopefully you will continue this type of reconciliation work. I hope that in your communities you will continue, and that as you are inspired you will do more and that the pains of this nation can be bound up and we really can live in peace,” said Daugherty. “The bible says the sins of the father are vested on the seventh generation. If you think of a generation as 25 years those seven generations have passed. 175 years, seven times 25. To me that is great news, that means now we can be freed from this painful burden. It’s not just the victim, but the perpetrator, the trauma comes back to them as well, so we must heal together.”
The group’s journey ended Saturday in Tahlequah with a sacred “Wiping of the Tears” ceremony at the new Cherokee Capital.
Daugherty says she hopes this will be an annual event to help continue to tell the story of what happened to the Nation’s First People, so that it will never happen again.
Rev. Tom Cutts, National Executive Director American Clergy Leadership Conference, helped bring the group to Gordon County and New Echota to begin their pilgrimage.