Champion of the Cherokee

As children, we run into bullies who are often bigger and stronger, or at least like to think they are. They act powerful by saying mean things, pushing and shoving, hitting, or stealing.

Adults can be bullies, too. The hunger for power—seen often in adults through abuse of authority, angry speech, and manipulative behavior—is motivated by selfishness. The results are always hurtful.

It was a sad day in 1830 when the United States Congress passed a law forcing the Cherokee people and other American Indian tribes to move away from the land where they had lived for hundreds of years. The path of their exodus became known as the “Trail of Tears.”

The Cherokee and many other tribes—the Creek, the Seminole, the Choctaw, and the Chickasaw—lived in the southeastern portion of the United States. Many of them were farmers and cattle ranchers. They built towns, schools, and churches and published a newspaper. Many of them were Christians. In the early 1800s these American Indian communities were not bands of criminals who raided homes and killed innocent people; rather they were very much like their new white neighbors who were moving south by the thousands to establish their own farms and ranches

But there were powerful men who wanted the Cherokee land. Some held positions as governors or congressmen. They were not content with what God had given them and chose to ignore the 10th Commandment—“You shall not covet (Exodus 20:17)—and the Golden Rule, which tells us, “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you” (Luke 6:31). These leaders manipulated laws to force the Indians to give them what they wanted. They were bullies.

Jeremiah Evarts, on the other hand, was the champion of the Cherokee. A godly man, Jeremiah was troubled that these people, made in God’s image just as he was, were being forced to abandon their ancestral homes.

The truth of the Bible was Jeremiah’s guide, and the Bible spoke clearly about living in harmony with one another. So how could he be silent while the Cherokee were being threatened?

God has children all over the world, and He has a plan for each one. The Bible tells us, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). Jeremiah Evarts was created with the gifts and talents to fight for the Cherokee. He was trained as a lawyer, so he understood how to debate using facts and logic. He was a Christian, so he knew God’s truth. And God orchestrated his birth at the right time and in the right place for this work to be accomplished.

Those who live by the truth of the Bible, who do as Jesus would do, will not bully others. They will follow what God has given them to do and find contentment in doing God’s will. They will seek to live in peace with their neighbors, classmates, and family members. That is what Jesus taught.

Sadly, Jeremiah Evarts’ fight to protect the Cherokee failed. The Indian Removal Act, which passed by only one vote, was signed into law by President Andrew Jackson in 1830, giving him the power to negotiate the Cherokee exodus to new territory in what is now Oklahoma. The Trail of Tears began in 1838 as the states of Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Alabama gathered militia to force the Indians to move.

Without compassion, without any love for “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40, NKJV), soldiers burned homes and destroyed and looted property. The Cherokee people were then forced to begin walking west. And it was winter. Thousands died from the cold, from starvation, and from disease. Some were murdered.

Though this story does not have a happy ending, faith in God calls us to hope again. Jeremiah Evarts wrote near the end of his life, “At times I am exceedingly cast down as to the result. … It seems a most remarkable Providence, that the bill should pass, when a majority present showed themselves to be … opposed to it. This strange state of things should make us stand astonished at the ways of Providence … My comfort is that God governs the world.”

The truth of the Bible promises that God will make all things right one day. That is what Jeremiah Evarts believed when his battle to defend the oppressed Cherokee ended in failures. Though the truth does not guarantee success every time, there is a God in heaven who sees all and who is pleased when His children intervene for the defenseless.

Questions about truth

  1. Have you ever been bullied or watched someone else suffer from a bully’s behavior? If so, what did you want to do? If you had to do it over again, what would you do differently?
  2. Think about the Golden Rule—“Treat others the same way you want them to treat you” (Luke 6:31). How does this truth change the way you act toward others?
  3. When God doesn’t make things work out the way we think He should, what are some truths that we can still believe?

Truth in action

Consider specific ways that your family can show compassion for “the least of these” in your community. For example, you could volunteer at a soup kitchen, donate items to a food pantry, or sign up to help at a local charity. Talk to your pastor to learn if you can participate in a church-sponsored mission or community outreach.

Praying together for truth

You have made me as I am, Lord. Every detail of size and intellect and talent matters to You. Nothing was by chance. Even my day of birth, my country, and my family were chosen by You—all for reasons I will never fully comprehend. But to know that You ordered it all is enough. As the Artist of my life, may You be pleased with how I use the colors You have given me. For the good of Your kingdom, I pray. Amen.


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3 thoughts on “Champion of the Cherokee”

  1. I recently read the book, “Saving Yellowstone” which reminded me so much of the southeastern Indians were treated. In the government’s effort to secure the land, essentially by force, the Indians of that area also had their land taken from them.

  2. Deborah Groseclose

    Thank you for the reminder that God creates us uniquely so we are equipped for the specific tasks He has planned for us to do. Work needs to be done, our voices need to be raised as God opens our eyes to see the “bullies” in this world. As a member of the Cherokee tribe, it blesses me to read the story of Jeremiah Evarts. My ancestors were treated horribly but it is good to remember that God cared enough to prepare a man to stand in the gap and call for justice. Although evil still prevailed in this circumstance, God cared. He used Mr. Evarts, regardless of the outcome, to speak up for the downtrodden and mistreated.

  3. This is a very meaningful devotion. It is history, and it is truth. Jeremiah Evarts is a hero in the Lied’s eyes.

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