Fun Fact: Most Native Americans bury their dead facing the west.
Traditionally, Christian graves are usually positioned to face the East to watch the rising sun for the return of Christ. The Cherokee’s belief of graves facing west, was based off watching the Sun rise in the east, and set in the west, symbolizing the birth and death of the Sun. Graves were placed so that the spirit could rise out of the grave and walk uninterrupted into the afterlife on the western horizon. This belief is partially why the Trail of Tears was such a horrible and traumatizing thing for Cherokees.
Cherokees(and the others of the Five Civilized Tribes) were thrown out of their houses and off their lands in fertile South and were forced to march to relocation West of the Mississippi River. Heading west(the direction of Death) and riding boats down the Mississippi (another symbol of death) in the middle of Winter to be relocated in the relatively barren lands of Indian Territory/Oklahoma.
Sadly, all the symbolic warnings were kind of true. About 1/4 of the entire Cherokee Nation died on the Trail of Tears. Not to mention all the culturally significant lands and customs they lost because of the move.
For a Cherokee, the Trail of Tears was the single most spiritually symbolic and metaphorically horrifying journey ever.
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