Legend of the Cherokee Rose
Image: Cherokee Rose, Georgia State Flower
When gold was found in Georgia, the government forgot its treaties and drove the Cherokees to Oklahoma. One fourth of them died on the journey west. When the Trail of Tears started in 1838, the mothers of the Cherokee were grieving and crying so much, they were unable to help their children survive the journey. The elders prayed for a sign that would lift the mother’s spirits to give them strength. God, looking down from heaven, decided to commemorate the brave Cherokees and so, as the blood of the braves and the tears of the maidens dropped to the ground, he turned them into stone in the shape of a Cherokee Rose. The next day a beautiful rose began to grow where each of the mother’s tears fell. The rose is white for their tears; a gold center represents the gold taken from Cherokee lands, and seven leaves on each stem for the seven Cherokee clans. No better symbol exists of the pain and suffering of the "Trail Where They Cried" than the Cherokee Rose The wild Cherokee Rose grows along the route of the Trail of Tears into eastern Oklahoma today.
The Legend of the Cherokee Rose
More than 100 years ago, the Cherokee people were driven from their home mountains when the white men discovered gold in the mountains of North Carolina and Georgia. Their journey is remembered as the Trail of Tears. Some of the people came across Marengo County in West Alabama. It seems that after they had left the mountains, they came this far south so not have to climb more mountains.
It was early summer and very hot, and most of the time the people had to walk. Tempers were short and many times the soldiers were more like animal drivers than guides for the people. The men were so frustrated with the treatment of their women and children, and the soldiers were so harsh and frustrated that bad things often happened. When two men get angry they fight and once in a while men were killed on the trip. Many people died of much hardship. Much of the time the trip was hard and sad and the women wept for losing their homes and their dignity.
The old men knew that they must do something to help the women not to lose their strength in weeping. They knew the women would have to be very strong if they were to help the children survive.
So one night after they had made camp along the Trail of Tears, the old men sitting around the dying campfire called up to the Great One in Galunati (heaven) to help the people in their trouble. They told Him that the people were suffering and feared that the little ones would not survive to rebuild the Cherokee Nation.
The Great One said, "Yes, I have seen the sorrows of the women and I can help them to keep their strength to help the children. Tell the women in the morning to look back where their tears have fallen to the ground. I will cause to grow quickly a plant. They will see a little green plant at first with a stem growing up. It will grow up and up and fall back down to touch the ground where another stem will begin to grow. I’ll make the plant grow so fast at first that by afternoon they’ll see a white rose, a beautiful blossom with five petals. In the center of the rose, I will put a pile of gold to remind them of the gold which the white man wanted when his greed drove the Cherokee from their ancestral home."
The Great One said that the green leaves will have seven leaflets, one for each of the seven clans of the Cherokee. The plant will begin to spread out all over, a very strong plant, a plant which will grow in large, strong clumps and it will take back some of the land they had lost. It will have stickers on every stem to protect it from anything that tries to move it away.
The next morning the old men told the women to look back for the sign from the Great One. The women saw the plant beginning as a tiny shoot and growing up and up until it spread out over the land. They watched as a blossom formed, so beautiful they forgot to weep and they felt beautiful and strong. By the afternoon they saw many white blossoms as far as they could see. The women began to think about their strength given them to bring up their children as the new Cherokee Nation. They knew the plant marked the path of the brutal Trail of Tears. The Cherokee women saw that the Cherokee Rose was strong enough to take back much of the land of their people.
From the book, "Aunt Mary, Tell Me A Story" A Collection of Cherokee Legends & Tales by Mary U. Chiltosky