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Diary of Hope Georgia
Diary of Hope Georgia
To comprehend the nature of these journal entries, the reader must imagine how it must feel to be a young girl, traveling alone, to a distant and strange land, in the 1850s, a time of great racial turmoil. The following entries will attempt to examine the cultural dilemma Hope faces, as she must decide who she is. The reader must also realize that all characters are fictitious. They are inspired solely by a young girls imagination, folklore, research, and personal knowledge of this particular area and time.
Agua Bendita: February 31, 1851
We arrived here at this little city of tents, this morning. Unfortunately, I have not written since night before last because I am still sickened by a most horrible ordeal witnessed out on the road two days ago.
Our stage had just rounded a bend, when we smelled a most acrid odor; it’s essence I cannot possibly describe. There before us, lay a most horrible scene of tragedy and mayhem, I cannot adequately convey. A house had been ransacked and burned; its occupants buried in shallow graves, covered only by rocks. There were no markers to tell who lay beneath the sand. These graves lay so close to the road that our coach had barely an inch to pass. Oh, what a dreadful sight!
Now, as I sit here in front of the biggest tent, my arms covered only by this thin shawl, I have just begun reading the Daily Examiner in the dim light of the lantern overhead. Behold, on the front page is the gruesome depiction I have afore mentioned. Apparently, a family of immigrants had been massacred by a band of renegade Apache Indians. No wonder this town is in such an uproar! The article goes on to tell a grotesque story of how a young man and his family had been attacked by these awful savages, and of how his mother, father, and four of his siblings had been killed (he too, had been badly injured and left for dead), and two of his sisters captured. The young boy, although near death himself, had crawled on hands and knees for two days before getting help from a passerby. It is he who lies in the makeshift medical tent across the street. I cannot help but wonder who would inflict such pain and sorrow on such an innocent soul.
However, these so-called “savages” I see here in this place seem to be so polite that it seems hardly a justification that they would do such a dastardly deed. They seem no different than we ourselves, save for the color of their skin. Yet they are treated as if they themselves had committed this awful assault, as I hear the town folk exclaim, “The only good Indian is a dead Indian” or “Kill all the Redskins, I do not know why we put up with ‘em’ in the first place.” It is as if the whites are so vain to think that they own all of this great land, or that the color of their skin makes them better than others! Just the mention of those words strikes fear in my heart, as I sit here, huddled in my shawl, too frightened to show my face, with my black eyes and not so fair skin.
Will I be prejudiced against by the white society I have tried so hard to assimilate just as these poor souls have been? Will I be treated unjustly, as these native peoples are, simply because my eyes are black and my skin is tan, as my mothers were? She was a Cherokee maiden from Georgia. She and her people had been uprooted from their homeland during what is now called “The Trail of Tears.” Here, over fifteen thousand Cherokees were herded together by soldiers, and marched off to Oklahoma, leaving most of their possessions behind, with over four thousand dying along the way. As one white soldier later confided, “It was the cruelest work I ever knew.”
On the other hand, will I be stared upon, with hatred, from the very eyes I have sympathized with, because my skin is so fare, and there is a reddish tint to my darkened hair? This comes from my father’s side. He was born in Ireland. He came here to seek a better life, other than starvation, during the potato famine in the 1830s, in which disease had destroyed most of this important crop. Most of these immigrants were chastised, not so much because they were poor, but because they were Irish Catholics. With their unmarried clergy, and an equally strange tendency not to send their children to public schools, and be assimilated into the American culture, turmoil was inevitable.
I have decided that it is a cruel world for me. If I choose to adapt to the Indian culture, I stand to lose my social and economic status,which I have strived so hard to achieve, and the future well being of my children lies in jeopardy. However, If I choose to patronize my white heritage, I also stand to lose my social status, but I could also be branded as a traitor to my race, thus I will be hated by the very culture I would otherwise be proud to call my own.
Therefore, I sit here, hiding in my darkened corner, my bonnet pulled down to hide my jet-black eyes, my shawl hiding my lightly tanned complexion, and shiver, as the lamp light flickers.Oh, how I wish this night would quickly end, for tomorrow at sunrise, we will leave this place, to journey onward to California. I hear this land is so big, that all one need do is stake a claim, and the land is theirs, to do with as they wish. All I hope for is a small parcel of good land, to plant my grapes, of which I hear, do well in this country called “California,” for It is here that I wish to set down my roots, in this land of freedom for everyone, even for those of us who have no one people, because we are shunned by all.
Trail of Tears
- Indian Country Diaries . History | PBS
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