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Poems by Murray Poets and Poems About Murray County
Tsali (SAH-lee)
by Del “Abe” Jones, early 2000s

The Treaty of New Echote Back in Eighteen thirty-six
Another promise by the white man
From his bag of dirty tricks.

The Government deemed removal
Of all the Cherokee from their land
Not what our Founding Fathers meant
And not at all, what they had planned.

General Winfield Scott soon arrived
With the seven thousand troops he led
He was known to have preferred force
And not some peaceful way, instead.

More than twenty-five stockades
Were constructed along the way
"Holding pens" for those Cherokee
So they weren't able to run away.

Taken to Rattlesnake Springs
From there to "The Trail of Tears"
Whose horror stories still survive
Even after all of these many years.

A "traditional" Cherokee, Tsali
Who had three sons and a wife
He farmed a small hillside plot
His family lived a very simple life.

They lived outside the boundaries
Of most the "progressive" Cherokee
Who accepted the white man's way
He much preferred the wild and free.

They rarely learned of any news
Of goings-on from the outside
Existing in their peaceful ways
While tempered by Cherokee pride.

In May of Eighteen thirty-eight
The Federal roundup had begun
And soon after it had started
Tsali's family was on the run.

At first they went peacefully
And did what they were told
Trying to understand why
Thinking of treaties of old.

Along with his wife and sons
Her brother and his family
They began the trek to Bushnell
With no idea, what was to be.

But then, as the story goes
To speed the family along
A soldier tried a cruel tactic
That was definitely wrong.

He prodded Tsali's wife
With the bayonet on his gun
That proved to be too much
As it would be, for anyone.

Tsali said in Native tongue
He would fall down in a ruse
The rest should take the soldier's guns
If to escape, is what they'd choose.

In the scuffle that ensued
A soldiers gun was fired
He shot himself in his head
Not at all, what they'd conspired.

Tsali wanted no bloodshed
And as these things usually go
The Army told a different version
Completely different, don't you know?

They claimed someone had a hidden ax
And sunk it in the soldiers head
To take away the Army's blame
And blame the Indians, instead.

Sounds like the leader of those troops
Was trying to save his own hide
Just another lie in history
That often stains our Country's pride.

They all escaped into the woods
And made their way to Clingman's Dome
They found a cave under it
Where they would make their new home.

General Scott gave out the order
To Colonel Foster, to hunt down,
And shoot all the "murderers"
As soon as they all could be found.

It seems many took the Army's side
Some, maybe to keep the peace intact
Chief John Ross even apologized
Said, don't blame all for how some act.

Foster used some "white man Indians"
From the Quallatown Band
Who dodged the emigration rules
Because they took the white man's stand.

One of those men was actually white
Adopted by Chief Drowning Bear
Will Thomas was his real name
And the Army did enlist this pair.

Thomas had convinced Tsali's band
If they helped out in the chase
They could stay in North Carolina
And remain in their home place.

The Indians chased the Indians
And soon, some "murderers"were caught
And by a firing squad of Cherokees
Three of those men tied to a tree and shot.

The women and children were spared
Which was not always the case
Sometimes, it seemed the white man
Would kill all the American Native Race.

Thomas had convinced Foster
That Tsali had played a minor role
So Foster and his troops departed
Claiming, he'd achieved his goal.

He said removal was completed
And those still out on the run
Could all return to Quallatown
Because his work there was done.

After Foster had left Bushnell
Some other Quallatown Cherokee
Who had Tsali, brought him in
And shot him like those other three.

Drowning Bear was commended
Fugitives who helped hunt the others down
Were kinda pardoned and allowed
To stay with the rest in Quallatown.

The story of Tsali became a legend
It is said that he turned himself in
So troops would leave the other Cherokee
And end a war they could not win.

They say he gladly gave his life
So that his people might remain
In their homes there in the mountains
And end their suffering and pain.

So now, a Hero of his proud people
Who number around ten thousand strong
Still living on their Native Land
And knowing that's where they belong.

NOTE: This poem by poet Del "Abe" Jones is from his book, "Of Native American" copyright 2005, all rights reserved.

It is being used here by permission of Del "Abe" Jones.

An online copy of this entire book can be read for free by using this link:

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