Men, women and children were forced to march thousands of miles under horrible conditions. Â Â While the exact number is not know, it is saidÂ that over 4,000 Cherokee's died during this journey. Â Â Â Â
The loss of such life brought tears to the Cherokee Nation.Â Â "Nunna daul Tsuny,"Â is the Cherokee translation forÂ "Â The Trail Where They Cried". (1)Â
Â Â Over the years this saying was shortened and became known just as " The Trail of Tears."Â Â Â Â While this was a very sad time inÂ history for all who were forced into theÂ march,Â something beautiful hasÂ flourishedÂ andÂ bloomed.Â Â Â Â That is The Trail of Tears Iris.Â
The following story is one that hasÂ been passed around.Â I know not the original writer,Â but it is the story that those of us who have been lucky enough to have and grow this Iris tell and display. Â Â
Â Â Â Â "A young Cherokee Indian couple, the Hillhouse
family, left Georgia on their journey to the designated
Indian Territory with a bag of money from the US
government purchase of their land, a rifle, a blanket
in which to wrap their possessions, two babes in
arms, and a toddler at hand. One of the possessions carried was a start of a white iris.
Along the way, the money was viewed as a burden to carry, so was buried. In north Arkansas, seeking food, a bear was shot and wounded. The wounded bear made its way to a cavern where Mr. Hillhouse finished it off. Mr. Hillhouse decided the cavern would provide shelter for winter so the young couple and their young family did not continue their journey to the Indian Territory.
This story was passed down to family decendents by the family member who was the toddler at hand.Â A division of the Iris was shared with the cousin, Judy Ann Jantz of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma who has, in turn, shared divisions with fellow gardeners and thus the journey of this special Iris continues and those of us who grow it know it as The Trail Of Tears Iris."
Originally, The Trail of Tears Iris was passed down generation to generation from mother to daughter.Â It is my understanding from the cousin,Â Judy Ann, that now holds this Iris, that when their were no daughters left, it was passed to the female cousin.Â Judy Ann, knewÂ how much I appreciated history and trying to saveÂ historic plants and so shared a division of her precious Iris with me. Â Â
From my division, as it has increased enough, I have been planting divisions of this Iris back in places where the Cherokee Nation resided.Â How could I grow something so beautiful and not plant a piece of it back from whence it started. Â Myself and others who have been lucky enough to be recipents of this IrisÂ have also been sharing this Iris with others who share our love of preserving historic plants, thus keeping this Iris and it's journey alive for generations to come.
Photo courtesy of Louise James of Cedarthorn GardensÂ Â Â ...
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