American Minute with Bill Federer
Trail of Tears, Oklahoma, Land Rush, Oil, & Cherokee Cowboy Will Rogers
Gold had been discovered in Dahlonega, Georgia, in 1828.

It was the first major gold rush in America.
Unfortunately, most of the gold was located on Cherokee land in what is today north Georgia.
Conflict between gold diggers and Indians resulted in the Democrat-controlled Congress rushing through the Indian Removal Act in 1830, passing by a single vote.
It was signed by President Andrew Jackson, the founder of the Democrat Party, and carried out by Democrat President Martin Van Buren.
Prominent Cherokee leaders John Ridge and Elias Boudinot felt that the Federal government would not change its decision, and that Indian removal was inevitable.

Though unauthorized by the tribe, they took it upon themselves to negotiate with Washington politicians to sign the Treaty of New Echota of 1835.
Elias Boudinot was the publisher of the Cherokee Phoenix -- the first newspaper published by an American Indian tribe.

He wrote editorials that the best foresight for the tribe was to have land west of the Mississippi which the Federal government promised would never be taken from them.
Opposing Indian removal was the Scot-Cherokee Chief John Ross, founder of Ross' Landing in Tennessee, which was later renamed "Chattanooga."

He collected over 12,000 Cherokees signatures and presented a petition to Congress protesting the Indian Removal Act.
Others who condemned the Federal Government's mandate were members of the National Republican (Anti-Jacksonian) Party and the Whig Party, such as:

  • Senator Henry Clay (KY);
  • Senator Daniel Webster (MA); and
  • Senator Theodore Frelinghuysen (NJ);
  • Abraham Lincoln (State Representative, IL); and
  • Congressman Davy Crockett (TN).
Crockett gave an impassioned speech in defense of the Indians, stating:

"I believed it was a wicked, unjust measure ... I voted against this Indian bill, and my conscience yet tells me that I gave a good honest vote, and one that I believe will not make me ashamed in the day of judgement."
The Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek , and Seminole made up the Five Civilized Tribes, who had:

  • written constitutions;
  • centralized governments;
  • market economics;
  • intermarriages with Americans of European descent;
  • Christianity; and
  • literacy.

A Cherokee silversmith named Sequoyah even created a distinct Cherokee alphabet in 1821.
Christian missionaries, such as Jeremiah Evarts, led the resistance to the Federal Government's removal of the Indians.

Many Christian missionaries were arrested by the State of Georgia and sentenced to years of hard labor.
Missionaries Samuel Worcester and Elizur Butler brought a case against Georgia that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In their case, Worcester v. Georgia, 1 832, Chief Justice John Marshall ruled in favor of the Cherokee.

He declared that the Cherokee Nation was a "distinct community" with self-government "in which the laws of Georgia can have no force."
Justice Joseph Story wrote March 4, 1832:

"Thanks be to God, the Court can wash their hands clean of the iniquity of oppressing the Indians and disregarding their rights."
Democrat President Andrew Jackson ignored the Supreme Court decision.

Noting that the Supreme Court had no power to enforce its opinions, but had to rely on the President to implement them, Jackson was attributed with saying:

"John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it!"
Choctaw Indian leader George W. Harkins wrote a Farewell to the American People, 1831:

"Having determined to emigrate west of the Mississippi river this fall, I have thought proper in bidding you farewell ...
... We as Choctaws rather chose to suffer and be free, than live under the degrading influence of laws, which our voice could not be heard in their formation."
Alexis de Tocqueville, the French philosopher, witnessed the Choctaw removals while in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1831, writing:

"In the whole scene there was an air of ruin and destruction, something which betrayed a final and irrevocable adieu; one couldn't watch without feeling one's heart wrung.

The Indians were tranquil, but sombre and taciturn.

There was one who could speak English and of whom I asked why the Chactas were leaving their country. 'To be free,' he answered."
General John E. Wool had sympathy for the Indians and hesitated carrying out the inhumane removal, resulting in Democrat President Martin Van Buren replacing him with General Winfield Scott.
46,000 Indians were removed by 1837.

Then came the freezing weather of 1838-1839.
The last 17,000 Cherokee Indians were forcibly removed by the Federal Government from:

  • Georgia,
  • Tennessee,
  • Alabama, and
  • South Carolina.
Samuel Carter wrote in Cherokee Sunset: A Nation Betrayed: A Narrative of Travail and Triumph, Persecution and Exile (Doubleday, First Edition, 1976):
"Then ... there came the reign of terror.

From the jagged-walled stockades the troops fanned out across the Nation, invading every hamlet, every cabin, rooting out the inhabitants at bayonet point.

The Cherokees hardly had time to realize what was happening as they were prodded like so many sheep toward the concentration camps, threatened with knives and pistols, beaten with rifle butts if they resisted."
Christians protested the mistreatment, and ministered to the Indians along the trail, bringing them food and blankets.

Not able give their dead a full burial, they simply sang Amazing Grace , resulting in that song often being considered as a "Cherokee National Anthem."
President Ronald Reagan commemorated the estimated 5,000 who died from the Federal Government's policy by designating the "Trail of Tears" a National Historic Trail in 1987.
Oklahoma, which is the Choctaw word for "red people," became home to the Five Civilized Tribes, as well as many other tribes that were rounded up along the way.
Fifty years after the Trail of Tears, the Federal government opened up the remaining Oklahoma Territory for settlement.

It began with a gunshot at high noon on APRIL 22, 1889, beginning the famous Oklahoma Land Rush.

Within 9 hours some two million acres became the private property of settlers who staked their claims for 160 acres to homestead.
Riding as fast as they could, many found desirable plots already taken by "Boomers," who entered the territory ten years earlier, and "Sooners," who entered the territory just days or hours "sooner" than the Land Rush.
In 1859, Lewis Ross, a brother of Cherokee Chief John Ross, was drilling for saltwater-brine to use as a food preservative and found a pocket of oil that produced ten barrels of oil a day for nearly a year.
In 1890, near the town Chelsea, Rogers County, Oklahoma, Edward Byrd drilled and found oil at a depth of only 36 feet, but was hampered by severe government regulations.
In 1897, the well "Nellie Johnstone No. 1" was drilled in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and struck oil at 1,320 feet, beginning the Oklahoma Oil Boom.

Oil production rose quickly and impetus grew for Oklahoma to become the 46th State in 1907.
Within 10 years, Oklahoma became the largest oil-producing entity in the world.
The oil industry saved the whale from extinction, as prior to fossil fuels, the major source of oil was blubber from whales killed by whaling ships.
Oklahoma remained the leading oil producing State into the 1920's, hitting its peak in 1930.
In 1938, Standard Oil of California struck oil in Saudi Arabia.

This began a shift in world politics, as Saudi Arabia was the main country spreading extremist Wahhabi Islam.
Due to technological innovations in extracting oil, Oklahoma again became a major producer.
The Preamble of the Oklahoma State Constitution, 1907, states:

"Invoking the guidance of Almighty God, in order to secure and perpetuate the blessing of liberty; to secure just and rightful government; to promote our mutual welfare and happiness, we, the people of the State of Oklahoma, do ordain and establish this Constitution."
A Cherokee delegate to the Oklahoma State Constitutional Convention was Clement Rogers of Rogers County.
His son was William Penn Adair 'Will' Rogers.

His mother wanted him to become a Methodist preacher.

During this era, there were popular traveling shows, such as:

  • Great Pawnee Bill's Show;

  • Bee Ho Gray's Wild West; and

  • Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, with notable figures Chief Sitting Bull, "Wild Bill" Hickok, Calamity Jane, and Annie Oakley.

Will Rogers got his start with Texas Jack's Wild West.
A Cherokee cowboy skilled in roping, Will Rogers became popular on stage in vaudeville shows and the Ziegfeld Follies.

He even performed before President Woodrow Wilson, roasting his political policies with hilariously witty remarks, which became his trademark:

  • "The U.S. Senate opens with a prayer and closes with an investigation."

  • "If we got one-tenth of what was promised to us in these acceptance speeches there wouldn't be any inducement to go to heaven."

  • "With Congress — every time they make a joke it’s a law. And every time they make a law it’s a joke."
  • "The short memories of American voters is what keeps our politicians in office."

  • "This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when a baby gets hold of a hammer."

  • "Never blame a legislative body for not doing something. When they do nothing, that don't hurt anybody. When they do something is when they become dangerous."

  • “Be thankful we're not getting all the government we're actually paying for.”
  • "The budget is a mythical bean bag. Congress votes mythical beans into it, and then tries to reach in and pull real beans out."

  • "I don't make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts."

  • “If pro is the opposite of con, what is the opposite of Congress?”
  • "If you ever injected truth into politics you'd have no politics."

  • “The trouble with practical jokes is that very often they get elected.”

  • "Everything is changing. People are taking the comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke."
In 1908, he married Betty Blake, and together they had four children:

  • Will Rogers, Jr., who became a WWII hero and was elected to Congress;
  • Mary, who became a Broadway actress;
  • James, who was a newspaperman, and
  • Fred, who died at age two of diphtheria.
He had a large radio audience in the 1920's and made 48 silent movies.
When movies had sound, he appeared in 21 feature films.

One of his most notable roles was in Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.
Rogers had a syndicated column, "Will Rogers says," in the The York Times, which reached 40 million readers.

He wrote frequently for The Saturday Evening Post.
Will Rogers stated:

  • “There are two theories to arguing with a woman. Neither works.”

  • “Always drink upstream from the herd.”

  • “Everyone is ignorant, only on different subjects.

  • "There is nothing so stupid as the educated man if you get him off the thing he was educated in."

  • “The problem ain't what people know. It's what people know that ain't so that's the problem.”

  • “The minute you read something that you can't understand, you can almost be sure that it was drawn up by a lawyer.””

  • "Hitler got his start in a beer hall and before he’s through he’ll give the world a hangover."
Will Rogers commented on taxes:

  • "The income tax has made liars out of more Americans than golf."

  • "I don't want to complain, but every time they build a tax structure, the first thing they nail is me."
  • "The only difference between death and taxes is that death doesn't get worse every time Congress meets."

  • "Next to guinea pigs, taxes have been the most prolific animal."

  • "The government shoves you in the creek once a year and all that don't get wet you can keep."
Once, while entertaining polio victims and severely handicapped at the Milton H. Berry Institute in Los Angeles, he suddenly left the stage and rushed to the rest room.

Milton Berry followed him to give him a towel, only to find him weeping like a child. In a few minutes, he was back on the platform, as jovial as before.

Will Rogers fundraised for the American Red Cross during the Great Depression, served as goodwill ambassador to Mexico, and briefly served as mayor of Beverly Hills.
He was offered the nomination to be Oklahoma's Governor, but he declined.

The State of Oklahoma placed a statue of Will Rogers in the U.S. Capitol's Statuary Hall.

Called the Cowboy Philosopher, he said

"The farmer has to be an optimist or he wouldn't still be a farmer."

"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there."

An advocate of aviation, he was friends with the famous pilots Charles Lindbergh and Wiley Post.

Will Rogers flew with Wiley Post to Alaska, but getting caught in bad weather, they died in plane crash, August 15, 1935.
Oklahoma City named its international airport the Will Rogers World Airport.
The U.S. Post Office issued a stamp with Will Rogers image in 1948, and again in 1979.
With his cowboy philosopher wit, Rogers said:

"The Lord constituted everybody that no matter what color you are, you require the same amount of nourishment."
He remarked:

"Live in such a way that you would not be ashamed to sell your parrot to the town gossip."
Will Rogers quipped:

"Lord, let me live until I die,"

and

"The trouble with our praying is, we just do it as a means of last resort."
Schedule Bill Federer for informative interviews & captivating PowerPoint presentations: 314-502-8924 wjfederer@gmail.com
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