By WILLIAM LEDFORD
There used to be an old saying that puzzled me whenever I heard it. It pertained to finding a lost object. People said, or still say…“It was in the last place I looked”…Of course it was. I’ve always wondered if anyone would continue to look after they found it. Hmm…..
My buddy, Scott, submitted his Top Ten list of sports films in the One Feather a little while back and I couldn’t help but notice a disproportionate number of his favorites were Kevin Costner films. That suggested to me a bit of a man crush or “bromance” as it’s called by some these days. I say, that’s OK, to each his own. But, I thought about the subject and then created my own Top Ten list. It includes a few of his entries as well but alas, no Costner work. Costner’s best films are cowboy stuff like Open Range and Wyatt Earp, just my opinion, another list, another day. My list (in no particular order): 1. Hoosiers; 2. Major League I (best baseball film ever); 3. Cinderella Man; 4. Glory Road; 5. Caddyshack (best golf film ever); 6. The Longest Yard (the original); 7. Raging Bull; 8. Rollerball (the original); 9. Seabiscuit; 10. Ali.
The other day I was watching the news and listening to someone talk about a neighbor whose home had been burgled, she was saying, “I always thought it was a better neighborhood”. Well, it apparently was, why else would a thief leave their neighborhood and go to yours to rob. Better stuff in a better neighborhood.
A non-Cherokee reader wrote and inquired if I was aware that my family ancestors fought in the Civil War. I was shocked to hear the news. I thought that all of my family were florists. Kidding aside, I’m fully aware that my ancestors of both sides of my family were members of the 69th North Carolina Regiment, practically all Cherokee males took part.
Now for some background, William Holland Thomas was an adopted member, attorney and Principal Chief of the Eastern Cherokee as well as a politician. As Chief, he was instrumental in helping us get the land back that became the Qualla Reservation. As a politician he became embroiled in the Southern Cause, committed himself to raising a combat unit, obtained a military commission, then convinced the Cherokee to fight for the South in that unit, the Thomas Legion. And so, Cherokee people fought in the Civil War, not because of any eagerness to support this cause, we owed nothing to any of the Confederate States, especially Georgia. Our past dealings with the U.S. government made us wary of empty promises and backstabbers. We wanted nothing more than to be left alone. But, because we were surrounded by rabid Rebels our involvement was inevitable. My people served with distinction and fought well in many campaigns in Tennessee and Virginia. Our soldiers fired the last shots of the War. Our reward? Our returning soldiers brought back smallpox which decimated the People, we again were easy pickings for land hungry whiteskins and pressure mounted to compel us to abandon our homeland, including economic compulsion from the Western Nation to join them in Indian Territory (Oklahoma). We didn’t. The rest is the past, present and future.
I recently read a book titled “The Cherokee Americans” by John R. Finger, a UT anthropology professor. He detailed our life from 1900 to the 1980’s. Many revelations contained in the book disturbed me but one in particular stood out. I’m referring particularly to veterans like my grampas returning from serving in WWI and WWII. My Grampa Mac, McKinley Ross, councilmember and vice-chief, part of the delegation that brought the Eternal Flame back to the homeland, took part in WWI as a member of the US Navy. He wasn’t even a citizen of the US, that didn’t happen until legislation in 1924, but he still served this country proudly. My Grampa Pop, John Wahnetah, renowned woodcarver, came back from the European Theater after WWII, a member of the 82nd Airborne, he was a US citizen according to the feds only it seems. He and other “Indians” coming home from WWII and Korea weren’t allowed to vote in elections because local election boards in Whittier, Ela, Bryson City and Sylva among others, devised an “IQ” test to determine if Cherokee were “intelligent” enough to vote. Naturally, no Natives passed these tests, even when they did. I was incensed after reading this book. I grew up around some of these outside people. I’ve always wondered how long it would take for some of them to inbreed themselves into mindless mutants and they questioned our intelligence?
Another issue that irks me is many Cherokee still have to live in a county named for a savage genocidal maniac who would’ve made a great president of Serbia back in the 80s. I truly believe that we need to actively propose a name change, or propose and propel the creation of a separate county that includes the Jackson and Swain County portions of the Rez and re-name it Qualla County or some such. We now have the clout. This is a monumental insult to us as a people. What are we gonna do about it? Michell, Patrick, Missy, Tunney, are ya listening?
That’s all this time. I’m done, for now. I’ll leave you with my favorite line from that famous epic film “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai across the 8th Dimension”, “No matter where you go, there you are”…..
Ledford is an EBCI tribal member living in Albuquerque, NM.