Ottawa County's tribes received slivers of land, other nations received larger swaths of land. All of our lands were deemed worthless and we were set here to be apart from the rest of the growing country. But times change and what was without worth changed, too.
There were no fences or walls around our territory, we were protected by treaties, written on paper, we found unenforced as what we had became of value to our American neighbors. This is a personal story for me, as all history can become personal.
The lands of the Cherokee Nation were partly wooded hills, but much of it was tall grass prairie, so tall the horse was not seen as a man rode through it. It was perfect for cattle and the Cherokee Nation allowed cattlemen with herds to cross their tribal lands for fees on their way to trains for market. Other non-Indians entered the Cherokee Nation boundaries to perform essential jobs. My dad's father came into the Cherokee Nation as a physician working for the tribe vaccinating tribal citizens north of the river. He met a Cherokee woman and married and was able to gain access to land for cattle on tribal lands. She was his ticket into the tribe and our rich grass lands. A number of years later she passed away, and my grandfather quickly found another Cherokee woman to marry and was able to continue to operate in the Cherokee Nation. She was my grandmother.
Women were desired that way, not to say there was not true love involved in her case or others. Other tribal women were tickets into wealth which lead me to tell the visitors about the Quapaw tribe's relations, the Osage. Some Osage women married non-Indians and were murdered for the wealth made from oil and gas found on their worthless land. Some of those murders were solved by the FBI, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and discussed in book circle a few days later.
These visitors drove through our Superfund site. They saw those orange colored water, our mine waste piles and learned about the Quapaw who was the richest woman in the world from the ores beneath her "worthless land." As we passed by the mine waste left on her land, those from Egypt, Tunisia, and the Palestinian Territories gasped as they saw what looked like their desert lands.
Our U.S. Government lost track of her wealth and much held in trust from countless other tribal people. Her family still waits for restitution, for things to be made right. But just like the land and our Tar Creek, we all wait for it all to be made right.
Lead and zinc left towns subject to cave-in. It left children lead poisoned and still being poisoned from that toxic waste. The continued hunt for oil and gas in this state through hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and the wastewater injection wells are causing earthquakes and damages to get the last dregs of fossil fuels before we all have to turn to those alternative energy sources. They had come to America to learn more about alternative fuels and our fossil fuels and mining. What we tried to show them was the other side of extraction, that industry and developers would not.
Extraction brought jobs and for some great wealth, but the remains of wasted land is left for those who follow. And ultimately will cost as much to clean up as was made. Damages done to the environment and to human health are the costs not yet calculated.
A day later 1Million Cups, Miami OK learned about our Door Mat effort. We have funding for 40 door mats for homes, but would like to make sure every home had one. Door mats? They were created to let you walk all over them. And by doing so, remove dirt or what comes with it. Door mats protect human health by being that border crossing from outside to inside. Tracked in dirt gets pulverized and particles get smaller and are more easily inhaled or ingested by us and our children.
That evening I walked around our block to invite all our neighbors to enjoy our first ever fundraiser at our June Garden Party. Walking up our ramp, reflecting on our global visitors' concern about our dust and anticipating the rest of the Garden Parties every third Thursday through September, as our garden grows so will the parties and the food we offer. On that walk around the block, it was pleasing to see many neighbors already have mats! We hadn't thought to hope that people could buy their own! Or as I suggested at the 1Million Cups, we offer all new neighbors a door mat AND a pie like the ones made specially by Jordan Barlow. Who wouldn't love a pie? and who doesn't need a mat? Think Global, Act Local.
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim