Samuel Cloud turned 9 years old on the Trail of
Tears. Samuel's Memory is told by his great-great
grandson, Michael Rutledge, in his paper
Forgiveness in the Age of Forgetfulness. Michael,
a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, is a
law student at Arizona State University.
"It is Spring. The leaves are on the trees. I am
playing with my friends when white men in uniforms
ride up to our home. My mother calls me. I can
tell by her voice that something is wrong. Some of
the men ride off. My mother tells me to gather my
things, but the men don't allow us time to get
anything. They enter our home and begin knocking
over pottery and looking into everything. My
mother and I are taken by several men to where
their horses are and are held there at gun point.
The men who rode off return with my father,
Elijah. They have taken his rifle and he is
walking toward us.
I can feel his anger and frustration. There is
nothing he can do. From my mother I feel fear. I
am filled with fear, too. What is going on? I was
just playing, but now my family and my friends'
families are gathered together and told to walk at
the point of a bayonet.
We walk a long ways. My mother does not let me get
far from her. My father is walking by the other
men, talking in low, angry tones. The soldiers
look weary, as though they'd rather be anywhere
else but here.
They lead us to a stockade. They herd us into this
pen like we are cattle. No one was given time to
gather any possessions. The nights are still cold
in the mountains and we do not have enough
blankets to go around. My mother holds me at night
to keep me warm. That is the only time I feel
safe. I feel her pull me to her tightly. I feel
her warm breath in my hair. I feel her softness as
I fall asleep at night.
As the days pass, more and more of our people are
herded into the stockade. I see other members of
my clan. We children try to play, but the elders
around us are anxious and we do not know what to
think. I often sit and watch the others around me.
I observe the guards. I try not to think about my
hunger. I am cold.
Several months have passed and still we are in the
stockades. My father looks tired. He talks with
the other men, but no one seems to know what to do
or what is going to happen. We hear that white men
have moved into our homes and are farming our
fields. What will happen to us? We are to march
west to join the Western Cherokees. I don't want
to leave these mountains.
My mother, my aunts and uncles take me aside one
day. "Your father died last night," they tell me.
My mother and my father's clan members are crying,
but I do not understand what this means. I saw him
yesterday. He was sick, but still alive. It
doesn't seem real. Nothing seems real. I don't
know what any of this means. It seems like
yesterday, I was playing with my friends.
It is now Fall. It seems like forever since I was
clean. The stockade is nothing but mud. In the
morning it is stiff with frost. By mid-afternoon,
it is soft and we are all covered in it. The
soldiers suddenly tell us we are to follow them.
We are led out of the stockade. The guards all
have guns and are watching us closely. We walk. My
mother keeps me close to her. I am allowed to walk
with my uncle or an aunt, occasionally.
We walk across the frozen earth. Nothing seems
right anymore. The cold seeps through my clothes.
I wish I had my blanket. I remember last winter I
had a blanket, when I was warm. I don't feel like
I'll ever be warm again. I remember my father's
smile. It seems like so long ago.
We walked for many days. I don't know how long it
has been since we left our home, but the mountains
are behind us. Each day, we start walking a little
later. They bury the dead in shallow graves,
because the ground is frozen. As we walk past
white towns, the whites come out to watch us pass.
No words are spoken to them. No words are said to
us. Still, I wish they would stop staring. I wish
it were them walking in this misery and I were
watching them. It is because of them that we are
walking. I don't understand why, but I know that
much. They made us leave our homes. They made us
walk to this new place we are heading in the
middle of winter. I do not like these people.
Still, they stare at me as I walk past.
We come to a big river, bigger than I have ever
seen before. It is flowing with ice. The soldiers
are not happy. We set up camp and wait. We are all
cold and the snow and ice seem to hound us,
claiming our people one by one. North is the
colour of blue, defeat and trouble. From there a
chill wind blows for us as we wait by a frozen
river. We wait to die.
My mother is coughing now. She looks worn. Her
hands and face are burning hot. My aunts and
uncles try to take care of me, so she can get
better. I don't want to leave her alone. I just
want to sit with her. I want her to stroke my
hair, like she used to do. My aunts try to get me
to sleep by them, but at night, I creep to her
side. She coughs and it wracks her whole
body. When she feels me by her side, she opens her
blanket and lets me in. I nestle against her
feverish body. I can make it another day, I know,
because she is here.
When I went to sleep last night, my mother was hot
and coughing worse than usual. When I woke up, she
was cold. I tried to wake her up, but she lay
there. The soft warmth she once was, she is no
more. I kept touching her, as hot tears stream
down my face. She couldn't leave me. She wouldn't
I hear myself call her name, softly, then louder.
She does not answer. My aunt and uncle come over
to me to see what is wrong. My aunt looks at my
mother. My uncle pulls me from her. My aunt begins
to wail. I will never forget that wail. I did not
understand when my father died. My mother's death
I do not understand, but I suddenly know that I am
alone. My clan will take care of me, but I will be
forever denied her warmth, the soft fingers in my
hair, her gentle breath as we slept. I am alone. I
want to cry. I want to scream in rage. I can do
We bury her in a shallow grave by the road. I will
never forget that lonesome hill of stone that is
her final bed, as it fades from my sight. I tread
softly by my uncle, my hand in his. I walk with my
head turned, watching that small hill as it fades
from my sight. The soldiers make us continue
walking. My uncle talks to me, trying to comfort
me. I walk in loneliness.
I know what it is to hate. I hate those white
soldiers who took us from our home. I hate the
soldiers who make us keep walking through the snow
and ice toward this new home that none of us ever
wanted. I hate the people who killed my father and
I hate the white people who lined the roads in
their woollen clothes that kept them warm,
watching us pass. None of those white people are
here to say they are sorry that I am alone. None
of them care about me or my people. All they ever
saw was the colour of our skin. All I see is the
colour of theirs and I hate them".