Townsend is responsible for tribal resources in portions of eight Southeastern states which include Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia.
Melissa Woody, vice president of the Convention & Visitors Bureau for the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce, introduced Townsend and thanked the host committee for everything they had done to make the exhibit a success so far.
Townsend spoke on “The Trail of Tears: A Single Journey With Many Destinations.”
The Cherokee solidified as a nation in 1817, Townsend explained. He said the 1820s was a prosperous time for the Cherokee. However, by 1830 they were being forcibly removed from their homes. Although 16,000 Cherokees were forced west as part of the Trail of Tears, Townsend said every Cherokee had to make a journey of some kind — the destination being a place or time where they had to adjust to a new way of life. Many Cherokee had actually moved west before the Trail of Tears by agreeing to treaties that gave them land there.
“It’s a miracle that the Cherokee are still around,” Townsend said, commenting that their history is full of struggles for survival and a series of miracles.
For Townsend, the greatest miracle was when the Cherokee were forced to move west on the Trail of Tears, they did not fight the U.S. soldiers.
“For the Cherokee, not to resist is mind-boggling,” Townsend said.
The Cherokee did not resist because they did not want the U.S. Army to kill them all.
The community will have a chance to experience part of Cherokee culture first-hand on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. with Jaimie Russell, Cherokee flutist.
For those interested in learning to tell their own family’s history, the Cleveland Storytelling Guild will be holding a storytelling workshop on Saturday in the community room of the Cleveland Bradley County Public Library. The “Journey Stories” exhibit and events are free to the public.