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It’s been an emotional experience being here in Tahlequah. Similar to how I felt in the Smokey Mountains visiting the Eastern Band of Cherokee. Similar in how the physical reality simply won’t connect the dots across this river of time to prove what I know in my bones, blood and heart: I am Cherokee.

What’s different this time visiting the lands of my ancestors is my remembrance of another life on the Trail of Tears. Mine or my ancestors…it is one and the same.

I know who I am. I feel my ancestors and I hear their guidance.

More deeply troubling is how the stampede of colonization swept through the native heart of these lands, destroying the meaningful in favor of the “progress” of capitalism.

My ancestors weep. I feel their despair. Without a sacred tree and the community gathering around the fire in remembrance of the ancient ways, they are forgotten. The ancestors are not allowed in the doors of the Christian churches. They are reduced to whispers on the wind.

Yet a tiny ember burns here, and there, and there… the ancestral winds blowing these embers to spark in the hearts of the living. My heart wakes from the flames of these tiny embers and I follow to the fire people of the Andes, the medicines of the jungle, and the wisdom of the sacred mountains.

Now I have a torch burning in my heart, and I bring it home to the lands of my ancestors.

To the Christian God I say: “I am not afraid of hell…my ancestors have been living it for centuries.”

To my Mother Earth I say: “My ancestors have woken me from a nightmare, and I am grateful. For now I remember that I never left the Garden. I promise I will spread this flame far and wide to help us all remember the sacred wisdom.”