Who was Crane Eater and why does his life matter?
Crane Eater was a full blood Cherokee and he was born in the old Cherokee Nation East. He served in the War of 1812 with a Cherokee regiment and did battle with Andrew Jackson against the Creeks. He was active in Cherokee politics and in 1835, he was living on the Coosawattee River in Georgia. He wasn't a rich man. Just a man of humble means living in his small home with 10 others in his full blood family.
Though he, along with nearly 16,000 others, signed a petition to remain in the east, his beloved homeland, he and the others were forced out; rounded up, arrested by the military and taken to the dreaded, horrific stockades where the Cherokees were held for months. He, like the other Cherokees, left on the now infamous Trail of Tears. He traveled through Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, and Missouri before finally reaching the Indian Territory. The weather and cold was nearly unbearable. The detachment he traveled with, just like those ahead of them and behind them, was forced to stop due to the frozen Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. People were suffering all around him. Everyone was sick. Many died.
Finally, in the early spring of 1839, he reached the Indian Territory. He settled on the Caney in Flint District with the surviving members of his family. Later, in 1842, he filed a claim against the United States government for the property he was forced to leave behind in the old nation. He was forced to abandon nearly everything he owned and never had a chance to retrieve it or sell it. Though under less than desirable circumstances, he did rebuild his life.
That life, the life of Crane Eater, matters because he is just one of many Cherokees from the old days whose lives are now being investigated. Sometimes their lives are studied by Cherokees but many times, their lives and history are studied by other people. Often those other people study our ancestors because they believe they, the other people, are Cherokee. Too many times, those other people are wrong.
Today, in the year 2012, one hundred and seventy four years after the Trail of Tears, there are a lot of rumors about Crane Eater that are not true. There is a white family who claims to have come from him. He did not know them and he never knew any of their people, yet they say he was the father of one of them. This is not true. He never knew the man they claim was his son. He was not married to the woman they claim was his wife. I imagine he would not like it that they try to give him children and a wife that were not his. I doubt he could ever understand why they do it. He had his own family. I believe he probably loved his family. This is why the story of his life matters.
Crane Eater was a full blood Cherokee man who had a family. For a white family to claim he was their ancestor and that his children were their ancestor's children is an outrage. By doing this, they are trying to erase the real Crane Eater and his family from history and replace them with James Keith, a white man, and his family. This is unacceptable and it is very disrespectful. Crane Eater deserves better than that. He stayed with his nation, through thick and thin, helping, as an average Cherokee citizen, to build it into what it is today. He never abandoned his nation or his people. He was one of those who signed the petition to try to keep their homeland. He was one those who was forcibly rounded up and removed. And he was one of those who survived to start over. It is important that people know the truth about Crane Eater and his life. If he is to be remembered, then he would want to be remembered for who he really was. To remember him any other way is a shame and dishonor to both him and the Cherokee people.
Those are my thoughts for today.
Thanks for reading.
For the truth about Crane Eater and the never ending saga, please read:
copyright 2012, Polly's Granddaughter - TCBTweet