On the evening of March 9, an informal group of local residents who work toward Native American reconciliation will sponsor a dinner and silent auction fundraiser at River Life Fellowship in Mooresville.
The money raised will to toward buying land in Moravian Falls, N.C., part of the original Cherokee homeland, to return to Cherokee individuals.
Alison Muesing of Cornelius has been working in Native American reconciliation for five years and is one of the organizers of the fundraiser.
She became involved with reconciliation efforts after spending time reflecting in the N.C. mountains and "sensing the heart of God for NativeGroup Americans whose wounds had not yet healed," she said
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"The Trail of Tears happened a long time ago, but in reality the wounds need to be healed for our nation to move forward," said Muesing. "Restoring to the Cherokees a parcel of their original homelands is another step in the journey of healing the ancient wounds inflicted during the Trail of Tears."
Most of the Cherokee were removed from their Southeast home via the Trail of Tears in 1838-39. Armed soldiers removed them from their homes and forced them on a 1,000-mile journey to Oklahoma. Many of them died during the forced march.
Today descendants of the original tribe are divided into the Western Band in Oklahoma, with more than 300,000 members, and the Eastern Band, made up of 13,000 descendants of the Cherokee who went into hiding in the Appalachian Mountains to avoid being removed.
The Moravian Falls land will be given to two Cherokee couples, one from the Eastern Band and one from the Western Band.
The speaker for the fundraiser will be South African Pastor Andre Vaynol.
So why did a pastor from South Africa get involved in Native American reconciliation?
Vaynol came to the U.S. in 2007 to meet with the N.C. governor's office and a White House staffer because of a dream he had about the Trail of Tears.
"He wasn't familiar with the term, so he did a Google search, then prayed about the dream. The answer he received was that the exceptional drought in the Southeastern U.S. at that time was because the U.S. government had never made things right with the Cherokee over the Trail of Tears," said Muesing.
The week of Vaynol's meeting, the Weather Channel announced the drought in the Southeast was the worst in 170 years, said Muesing. It had also been nearly 170 years since the removal of the Cherokee from their homeland.
The local group hosting the fundraiser, including Muesing, formed to plan a Day of Remembrance in 2008 in Murphy, N.C. The year of the ceremony was also the year the drought broke, said Muesing.
Raising money to give N.C. land back to its Cherokee stewards is another step on the road to reconciliation that Muesing and other N.C. friends of Native America seek to establish.