Here in Oklahoma, the earth is red and the soil is clay. It is a simmering place, noisy with birdsong yet quiet with the hush of ghosts.
The name Oklahoma comes from Okla humma, meaning “Red People” in the Choctaw language. “Red People” for the 39 Native American tribes that live, breathe, and die here. “Red People” for the tribes forced into exodus from their ancestral homes in the bitterest of uprootings.
On May 28, 1830, President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act. He mandated the removal of Native American tribes from their homes. At military gunpoint, families with wise elders and newborn babies were forced to walk across thousands of miles to Oklahoma. By the time the Cherokee arrived from Georgia, they had lost a quarter of their people to starvation, disease, and exposure.
The human suffering produced by that Act landed here in Oklahoma and sunk down into its soil. Today, the pain still vibrates up through the ground into the air as emissions of old anguish. Eckhart Tolle calls this energy that carries the pain of the past into the present “the pain-body.”
“We used to be like Europe,” my Choctaw friend says. “Our different nations were separated by a rich diversity of language and culture. Now we’ve been condensed into one square of land and the symbol of a dreamcatcher. We no longer speak our own language.”
Okla humma. Red people. Soil soaked with blood and tears. Mouths invaded by alien tongues.
Even though I’m a newcomer to Oklahoma, I feel an instant connection to this land and its peoples. We are tied by an umbilical cord of brokenheartedness.
I also came here by a forced exodus. Removed from Europe, my Jewish ancestors carried with them the legacy of a heavy pain-body.
When I first arrived in Oklahoma, I was overtaken by a state of dizziness that has not left. Deep, dark reverberations give me vertigo, the faint echo of a mourning mother’s howl tingles my ears.
It is impossible to eliminate the violence of rape.
The land remembers. The air remembers. Our cells remember.