I got to go to Scotland once and feel the wind on my face as it comes off the North Sea, looking way off and almost able to see Norway. There along the shore embedded in the sand small pieces of sea-glass left me wondering the age of each and their origin story.
And later on that trip to see the heather in bloom across acres accented by abandoned rock walls. No homes in sight out on those winding roads in the north country.
It is now when reading The Highland Clearances by Eric Richardson that I am understanding what I saw on those lonely stretches. All that was left of the lives of the indigenous people of Scotland. The saying "Leave nothing but footprints" came to mind. That is what they left. Their homes had been brought down as our Cherokee relatives' homes were taken down, burned, or in a few cases moved right into as the invader's own. But for the most part, our Scotts and Cherokees were viewed as vermin whose homes would be vile, unclean and beneath the invaders' standards. The homes gone, the shame of removing them has not been passed down through the generations. That happens when history is not spoken and truth is allowed to be forgotten as if it never happened.
Once these books are laid out and the research begins, the stories of these clearances begin to blend. I can almost hear the moans, the cries, the longing to stay put, the questions of Why? that must have been asked by the young in their own languages still in their warm beds. Those who had the knowledge the change, their removal was eminent, many may not have known to ask before the removal came to them.
They cried. That is how the Cherokee removal came to be known as the Trail of Tears. The Americans knew about Clearances. They knew how to do them, their relatives were writing the text book on how it could be done. And as it turned out many of these Scottish Clearances on the Highlanders were happening at the same time our own Trails of Tears were occurring to not only with the Cherokee, but countless other tribes in this country.
Our own Ottawa County is full of those who were removed forcibly in Clearances from their traditional territories, where they had been for the life of their tribes, where their origin stories were based.
It is a deep dive into centuries old language reading this text. Words are describing places and kinds of relationships long forgotten and keep me turning the pages of the largest, oldest Oxford Dictionary in my house in order to get the gist of the mindset of the words the writer is quoting.
That same deep dive is the origin story of LEAD Agency. We started out as a group of people wondering Why? and What? Why are we sick, how did our children get lead poisoned, how does a "cleanup" happen? Those questions took a group of us to the Miami Public Library to study the documents that resided in the "repository for the Tar Creek Superfund Site" all in large 3-leaf binders on the rolling cart, which could be pulled to the table we bellied up to read. The research meant reading and wondering, taking notes and then discussing what we each had discovered.
That repository is still there at the Miami Public Library, not on a rolling cart anymore, but on the shelves in the basement. LEAD got duplicates and keep them in our own what we call our "Toxic Library" at our office, along with more of the health studies that have been done and countless other documents on mercury in fish, lead toxicity, and all the BF Goodrich documents we were able to FOIA from the state.
The search for the truth. I have little patience for lie believers. Let's keep finding the connections from our past to our present. Let's learn from the wrongs that brought us here. Consider the new Clearances that are occurring. Not so much by man, but by what man has done to change the climate on this one precious place we all call home.
Those winds, those tornadoes did what we would have called in the past: Clearance. They took down hundreds, perhaps thousands of homes, so efficiently, all in one night, causing those same ancestral feelings that connect us to them, they are crying. And we understand the loss and the starting over that is happening with a whole swath of people, not a single tribe, but yet so much more so, our people.
After each flood event the homes you grew up looking across the street and seeing each morning of your life, are removed when they are inundated by high water. Each of those homes were ones where joy had lived, sorrows, too. There will be more clearances coming. We must plan for the new homes to be built for the high waters that will be coming, plan for the 500 year floods that are not that far into the future. Clearances have happened here in Miami, too, let's plan to have fewer.
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim