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Sequoyah Pilgrimage 2002(See also Sequoyah Pilgrimage 2003
and Sequoyah Pilgrimage 2004)
by: Al Kinsall
(See also Search for Sequoyah)
What makes a man or woman of Cherokee ancestry make the trip to Eagle Pass Zaragoza Coahuila? It´s in the blood. The Second Annual Sequoyah Pilgrimage and Frontier Festival February 2-3 brought not one but two busloads of Cherokees to the Hampton Inn at Eagle Pass for the two-day visit. Most arrived on Friday February 1 and could be seen lolling around the lobby of Eagle Pass´ newest hostelry carved out of the aide of the hill east of town. Holding court was the chief Cherokee mover and shaker in this part of the world, Dr. Charles Rogers of Brownsville Matamoros.
The doctor has cancer patients at his St. Joseph´s Hospital in Matamoros from as far away as the Netherlands. But his main passion is the preservation of the Cherokee legacy on the Texas Mexico border which culminated last August With the Cherokee trip to the Governor´s Palace in Saltillo for Coahuila Governor Enrique Martinez y Martinez´ Recognition Proclamation of the Cherokee Nation of Mexico.
“This Cherokee Mexico relationship goes all the way back to 1839,” Dr. Rogers told the newest members of the Cherokee delegation making the Sequoyah Pilgrimage for the first time this year, “when Mirabeau B. Lamar exercised his ethnic cleansing of East Texas of all Indian tribes, especially the Cherokees.”
“The newly elected Texas Governor who succeeded Sam Houston, had his own agenda, and was unwilling to recognize either the Coahuila y Texas government´s establishment of the Cherokees on what was then Mexican territory, or the November 13, 1835 Agustin Viesca document,” Dr. Rogers outlined.
“In order to secure the peace and tranquility of the state, the government is authorized to select, out of the vacant lands of Texas, that land which may appear most appropriate for the location of the peaceable and civilized Indians which may have been introduced into Texas.”
It shall establish with them a line of defense
along the frontier, to secure the state against the incursions of the
The real crusher, Doctor Rogers emphasized, was Governor Lamar´s scrapping the pledge of the consultation with the Cherokees and associated bands the following year. He had a copy of that important document for those who wanted to make it a part of their personal Cherokee heritage:
Resolved, that all the members of this convention,
now present sign this declaration and pledge of the public faith, on
the part of the people of Texas.
“Everyone here is familiar with the events of July 19, 1839,” Dr. Roger; said, and the scattering of the Cherokees to the four winds as the result. Thus a portion not only of Cherokees but also of our friends the Kickapoos was forced to take refuge in Indian Territory, the East Texas woods and in Mexico. “We know that a portion of the refugee Cherokees was at Muzquiz Coahuila in 1841 or 42,” Dr. Rogers reviewed, “from a Mexican document which affords the listing of extranjeros (foreigners) living in the Valle do Santa Rosa (Muzquiz) in 1844, which includes James Van and his family,” Dr. Rogers explained, “and Doctor John Long was at the top of the list. I can tell you with little doubt that this entire listing in this document represents refugee Cherokees or their neighbors.” We also know from United States Senate Documents that Maverick County pioneer ranchman and builder Green Van was a resident of Muzquiz from 1842 1855.
“We now know that another group of Cherokees settled southwest of San Fernando de Austria (present day Zaragoza) during this same time frame, for we have not only the Epigmenio Rodriguez family tradition but also that of his wife Gloria Salinas Rodriguez, who grew up at the Hacienda Patinos nearby.”
The February 2001 trip to the area revealed much local lore concerning the presence of the revered Sequoyah, prompting the First Annual Sequoyah Pilgrimage to the site of the cave believed to be the final resting place of the famous inventor of the Cherokee alphabet on March 17, 2001.
“We found the people of Zaragoza most hospitable and receptive to our efforts,” Dr. Rogers underlined, “Just as they had done to our ancestors 160 years ago.”
The 2002 Pilgrimage was not disappointed. both busloads rumbled across the Rio Bravo and down to Zaragoza´s arena where the 249th Anniversary Cabalgata had come together. Upwards of 2,000 horsemen had gathered a the arena which proclaims “San Fernando de Austria, Valle de las Animas, de Febrero 1753” “Epigmenio´s family goes all the way back to Vicente Rodriguez, the chief founder of the Spanish settlement in the Valle de las Animas.” Doctor Rogers told the amazed Cherokee delegation which included representatives from Washington State, San Jose California, De Rio, Clinton Missouri, Fayettville, Arkansas, Tahlequah Oklahoma and various points in north and East Texas as well as the Layton clan from Corpus Christ and Austin.
The afternoon of February 2 was spent visiting the sulphur spring a Hacienda Patinos and Epigmenio Rodriguez´ narration of the family traditions regarding the Cherokee Mexican inter relationships which involved his own family at the end of the 19th century. Normally, Gloria Rodriguez, his spouse was the spokesperson for the English speaking Cherokee delegation, but a translator Angel Garcia was on hand to make Epigmenio understood. “In 1842 this hacienda was made up of fifty families,” Epigmenio told the Cherokees gathered for the occasion. “they grew crops, raised cattle and horses, and had a commerce going with the United States. My family (Rodriguez) traded corn, beans and sugar for the Cherokee horses. They had the best horses in all the region. My grandfather´s brother Albino Rodriguez married a Cherokee woman.”
Earlier, with the gurgling sounds of the spring at Hacienda Patinos in the background, he said “when the sun went up, these people were already at the water bathing, and they would say this had to be the best water to bath in, because in the winter time it was warm. They would go to water in North Carolina or Oklahoma or wherever, even when you had to break the ice to go down to the river. If you are going to go to water, that´s it.” As for the aged Sequoyah, he pointed out, “this had to be quite a reward for Sequoyah with his (infirmity of) tuberculosis in his old age, to have 98.6 water running by his cabin.” This reference would underline Epigmenio Rodriguez´ family tradition of why Sequoyah would want his people to remain in the San Fernando de Austria area.
Following a roast cabrito and fried cornbread luncheon at the Rodriguez ranchito nearby, the Cherokees again visited the cave where the famous, Sequoyah is believed to be buried. It is now sealed permanently with concrete, and the rattlesnake guardian inside of a year ago presumably with It. Cherokee story telling by the famous Cherokee storyteller Greg Howard around the welcome camp fire then followed as the sun nestled snugly it the cloud bank over the Burros mountains to the west. Capping off the day´s Pilgrimage festivities Saturday evening was a Cherokee Six Nation stomp dance around the camp fire, your faithful scribe tapped to add more wood several times to maintain it. Although the air was chilly, the southeast zephyrs died down after sunset, and there was thankfully no hint of the bone chilling mist which had plagued the March 17 2001 gathering here.
But the best was yet to come.
The Zaragozans, having welcomed Dr. Rogers and the Cherokees with open arms and a Mexican hospitality never experienced, were clearly warming up for their 250th Anniversary celebration next year, and were eagerly inviting the Cherokees to return to be a part of it.
(Continue to Sequoyah Pilgrimage 2003
and Sequoyah Pilgrimage 2004)
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