While white Georgians were not alone in their conflicts with and ultimate removal of that native presence (in Georgia’s case, of the Creeks and the Cherokees), the tragic circumstances of the Cherokees’ forced exile from the state’s northwestern territory in 1838-39, known as the “Trail of Tears,” became a particularly potent symbol of the trauma and suffering that all such removals entailed. Men, women, and children were taken from their land, herded into makeshift forts with minimal facilities and food, then forced to march a thousand miles to Oklahoma. Under the generally indifferent army commanders, human losses for the first groups of Cherokee removed were extremely high.
The Cherokee rose represents the suffering of the women who walked on the “Trail of Tears” when it was forced upon them in 1838. Being unable to care for their children, the mothers hearts were broken. Their grieving was so deep that the Elders prayed to the Creator for a sign to give the mothers strength and faith. The next day, as they walked along the trail, a beautiful, white flower grew wherever a mother’s tear fell and touched Mother Earth. The white flower is a white rose, called the “Cherokee Rose”, which still grows along the route of the “Trail of Tears”.
Jesus, You are the Rose of Sharon blossoming in the wilderness,
Bless the descendants of those who walked the Trail of Tears. Strengthen the weak hands and confirm the weak knees. Say to these Cherokees, Be strong and fear not. Usher them along the highway of holiness, where no lion or ferocious beast may tread and guard them from wicked fools.
With Your tears, wash the spiritual landscape of Georgia. Pull up the root systems of greed, racism, and genocide. You have poured out Your life blood for this land. Dig up all bitter curses. Cleanse it, we pray. Amen.