Trail of Tears Commemorative Motorcycle Ride
Trail of Tears Commemorative Motorcycle Ride
About 7 years ago, I reluctantly sold my Norton. Jerri felt I was
just too old to ride; so I gave in. However, as it rolled out of
sight, I immediately regretted parting with it. So, I began looking
for another...& looking & looking. About the time I was
ready to give up on finding another, eBay once again helped out.
Right up the road in Tennessee was the bike I was looking for. So, a
quick phone call and I was on the road to bring it home. About the same
time, I also ran across a program booklet from the 2002 Trail of Tears Ride and
knew it was something I had to do.
You see, my maternal grandmother who raised me was half Choctaw Indian, a
heritage of which she was justly
A brief synopsis of Choctaw Indian history during the Trail of Tears
period can be found at http://mshistory.k12.ms.us/features/feature34/choctaw.html.
Below is an excerpt from that site:
| "As the United States of America came into being,
however, the expansion of the new nation brought pressures for more land
and the federal government turned its attention to land held by American
Indians. Like other Southeastern tribes, the Choctaws were placed in the
position of negotiating over their lands. In fact, after the formation of
the Mississippi Territory in 1798 and the election in 1800 of Thomas
Jefferson to the U. S. presidency, the federal government had an
increasing hunger for Choctaw land. President Jefferson issued his
military strategy that the federal government acquire all the lands
bordering the east side of the Mississippi River for purpose of defense
against France, Spain, and England.
"Shortly thereafter, in 1801, the Treaty of Fort
Adams was signed in which the Choctaws ceded to the United States
2,641,920 acres of land from the Yazoo River to the thirty-first parallel.
That was the first in a series of treaties between the Choctaws and the
United States. More and more Choctaw land was ceded to the federal
government with each successive treaty ó between 1801 and 1830, the
Choctaw ceded more than 23 million acres to the United States. The Treaty
of Dancing Rabbit Creek in 1830 marked the final cession of lands and
outlined the terms of Choctaw removal to the west. Indeed, the Choctaw
Nation was the first American Indian tribe to be removed by the federal
government from its ancestral home to land set aside for them in what is
"When the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek was
signed, there were over 19,000 Choctaws in Mississippi. From 1831 to 1833,
approximately 13,000 Choctaws were removed to the west. More followed over
the years. Those who chose to stay in Mississippi are the ancestors of
today's Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.
"The ancestorís decision to remain in Mississippi
came at a high cost. The Choctaws who stayed did so because of the promise
of land as outlined in Article 14 of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek.
To remain, Choctaw families or individuals were required to register with
the Indian agent within six months after signing of the treaty or be
forever barred from registering under Article 14. Each adult who
registered was entitled to 640 acres of land; each child over ten who was
living with a family was entitled to receive 320 acres, and each child
under ten living with a family, 160 acres. Although the Choctaw families
who managed to register and be allotted land by the illusive and
antagonistic Indian agent, William Ward, many had to sell their property
to survive. Consequently, most of the remaining Choctaws were removed to
Indian Territory. Others fell prey to unscrupulous business practices and
were cheated out of their property."
FOOTNOTE: Despite the entitlements of the Treaty of Dancing
Rabbit Creek only about 1,300 of the Choctaws who stayed in
Mississippi were actually given the parcels of land guaranteed by the
treaty. By 1850, virtually none of the Choctaw who had been given
land in Mississippi still retained it. They had been systematically
swindled out of or simply forced off the land by unscrupulous white
settlers. Many of them then went to Oklahoma because they had no
place else to go, but many still stayed on, unwilling to leave their
homeland. The ones who stayed eked out a meager existence throughout
the rest of the nineteenth century by living off the land and by becoming
tenant farmers and sharecroppers on land that had once been theirs.
MY FAMILY STORY
I never knew any of my Indian relatives as my maternal
great-grandmother, a full-bloodied Choctaw Indian, died during childbirth
in 1903 when my grandmother was 7 years old. And her parents - my
great-great-grandparents - were killed when my she was still
an infant. However, the story of my Indian relatives - handed down to me from my grandmother -
is a story that deserves to be told. Join me, now, as we relive
those days of old:
Around 1878, when my great-grandmother was just an infant, her parents
joined a group of Indians who left
the reservation in Oklahoma, Indian Territory and returned to the Choctaw Nation in
Mississippi. Most probably my relatives were not part
of the original Trail of Tears removal from Mississippi to Oklahoma; but,
had, instead, remained behind in Mississippi and were
removed to the Indian Territory in one of the later movements when things became intolerable for Indians
there (see my footnote above). For whatever reason, however, life in Mississippi no matter how bad was preferred over life on the
reservation in Oklahoma.
Further proof, I think, that my grandmother's relatives were
removed to the Indian territory in Oklahoma is that, during her
life, she never had any interaction with the Choctaw on the
Mississippi reservation. The Choctaw in Oklahoma and the
Choctaw in Mississippi consider themselves 2 different
nations. Therefore, a lack of interaction says she either
considered herself to be white or she wished no interaction
because she didn't considered herself a part of the Mississippi
Choctaw culture, holding instead to the Oklahoma heritage.
After a long and arduous journey on foot from Oklahoma, my
great-great-grandparents were only a short distance from their ancestral home on the banks of
the Nanawaya River in Winston County not far from Nanih Waiya, the 'Mother
Mound' (Inholitopa iski), when they were brutally attacked and
massacred. Nobody knows who the killers were but everybody
speculated it was either white men who didn't want Indians returning from
the Indian Territory to reclaim their land or soldiers who had pursued
the party from Oklahoma.
Most probably, local whites committed the atrocity as its
doubtful the Army would pursue a small band of renegade Indians so far.
Plus, Choctaws who had remained behind in Mississippi if they swore
allegiance to the United States were attacked daily by whites who
wanted the land they were given under the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek. Thus,
this particular massacre wasn't anything out of the
ordinary during Mississippi's era of White planter capitalism (called the "flush times"
in Mississippi's early history).
Today, who committed the atrocity is irrelevant. What's relevant is that everyone in the
party was murdered save my great-grandmother who was hidden in her pouch
under her mother's body. More importantly, within a short time after the massacre, some
white people - a family named Williams - came along and heard the baby
crying. They rescued her, named her Kate, and took here home to
Attala County where they raised her as their own.
In 1896, when Kate was around 17 or 18 years old, she married John Ray the son of
Leonard (aka 'Lenard') Lafayette Ray of the Doty Springs area of Attala
County. Her marriage certificate, the only proof she ever lived
other than her daughter and her grave, is registered in Kosciusko, Attala
County, Mississippi That interracial marriage did not sit well with the Rays'
- pious, churchgoing people who had been instrumental in the establishment
of Doty Springs Baptist Church where members of the family have served as
deacon, elder, and minister since 1851. So, John and his new wife
along with his father and family moved to Sturgis
where my grandmother - Daisy Pearl Ray - was born in 1897.
Seven years after her
daughter's birth, in 1903, my great-grandmother, Kate - the Indian, died shortly
after the birth of her
son, Samuel, who also perished with her. It was a hard time to give birth.
Medicine was not as advanced as we know it today, the area around Sturgis was more rural
and isolated now, and there was a yellow fever epidemic sweeping the
area. Most probably, her weakened state after the delivery allowed
the epidemic to take her and her newborn son's lives as my grandmother often spoke of the epidemic that claimed their
lives. Kate and her son are both buried in the Presbyterian cemetery in
We don't know where her parents or any of the other Indian members
group who were massacred are buried. We're not really certain of the
exact location of the massacre, just that it happened.
After her mother's death, my grandmother grew up in the Sturgis
area, raised by
an aunt and uncle, the brother of her father, who remained sympathetic with my
great-grandparents. Eventually, in 1913, she married my grandfather - Joe
White - who was part Indian on his mother Malissa Jane Hammill's side and Scottish on his father John Baxter White's side.
So, my Trail of Tears ride - while part of the larger
commemoration and remembrance of the thousands of Indians removed from
Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and other states - was privately
dedicated to my grandmother and her parents. Wherever she is, I'm
sure she enjoyed the day.
1963 MG1100 Hunting:
In 1983, while still in the Army, I was assigned to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Driving my MGB through the wheat fields one weekend during "top down"
weather, I spotted a little 1963 MG1100 2-door sedan sitting on the edge of a
sea of wheat. Stopping at the nearest house to inquire got me a curt "not
for sale." Within a year, I was transferred to Alaska and thoughts of the
little 1100 vanished.
Three years later, I was back in Kansas. My first weekend outing was to check on
the 1100..."I told you several years ago it wasn't for sale and it still
isn't." But, I decided to persevere. Whenever I took a drive in my
"B," I made a point of stopping by to say "hello" and visit
for a while, never asking about the 1100.
Then, one day in 1990, the old farmer told me that if I could get the car out of
his field that day, it was mine!! Jumping for joy, I scurried off to get my
truck and trailer. Returning, the old guy told me the car had been sitting in
that spot since 1968 when he got disgusted with it. Seems he had bought it new
in 1963, had a record of everything done to the car (to include every 25-cent
gallon of gas ever put into it!!) and the dealer in Kansas City couldn't get it
to run exactly right so he just parked it.
We hooked a chain to the little car and pulled the rubber tires off the rims and
left them glued to the wheat field as we rolled the car to my trailer. Uh-oh,
wouldn't go on trailer without tires...hydrolastic suspension was down. Have you
ever tried to buy 12" tires in Kansas on a Saturday afternoon?
Sears finally saved me with 4 whitewall 12"-ers. Mounted on the wheels
(that took hours to get off the car), we rolled it onto my trailer just as the
sun went down over the waves of grain. Then the old guy surprised me with a
stash of parts and stuff that made me want to cry!
The first thing that came out was a dealer's fiberglass and plexi-glass hood
("thing was on the car in the showroom and I told Joe Engle I wouldn't buy
the car without the damned thing!") in great shape painted to match the
Next came an original orange three-ring binder shop manual!
The one the dealers
used. Then came 4 original hubcaps (with MG octagon), a couple of extra engines,
carburetors, intakes, and last...a complete body tub--rusty floor and all!!
("Never got around to replacing the bent grille or straightening the bumper
after my wife hit a tractor. Throw this thing away for me after you get the
parts you need.")
The first thing we did was purge and re-pressurize the suspension; and have
never done anything to it since!
The next thing we did was pull the head, reset the timing (30-degrees off),
build the carburetors (yep, twin babies!!), fire her up and run around the block
without brakes...who cared, she ran just like she was new. And, the engine is
still the strange light green color as shiny as when new!!
New brakes and exhaust ensured the neighbors wouldn't be too angry having it in
my driveway. And, my daughter named it the "Beaver Cleaver car."
Unfortunately, all those years in the Kansas sun had cooked the interior. So,
the little "Beaver Cleaver car" went into storage until 1995 when we
stripped her and applied a new coat of British Leyland factory original lacquer
paint. Then it sat in my garage 1998 when we pulled her out, buffed her new
paint to a high sheen and reassembled the body.
The speedometer was sent off for a rebuild with strict instructions not to turn
the odometer back (car has less than 64,000 original miles!!), the dash sent to
be re-laminated with burled walnut, and the interior completely replaced.
During the time the car sat in storage, I was able to come up with every piece
of rubber I needed to replace everything except for the rear window and the two
quarter window rubber.
Finally, (and for 4 months), the car was in the upholstery shop having
everything rebuilt to original specifications. When it came out, I drove it
around the block, took it to a car show in Florence, Alabama, and parked it in
the garage under a cover....after all, it saw too many Kansas summers sitting in
the wheat field watching cereal grow.