Alcohol and Dislocation
Alcohol took a serious toll on the Cherokees in the years surrounding removal. Unregulated and widely available, liquor offered comfort to disillusioned Cherokees, particularly men. The justice of their cause and the moral fiber of their people seemed to carry little sway in the United States. The Nation they had established in the Southeast and the cultural transformation that many had achieved offered the Cherokees no protection from the greed and racism of white southerners. Alcohol eased the pain and indignity of their forced migration to the West and the political chaos that marked the reestablishment of their Nation. One of the great challenges presented by removal was reclaiming the legacy of sovereignty and morality, both rooted in the control of alcohol, that the Cherokees had created in the Southeast.
In contrast to their previous sobriety, Cherokee alcohol abuse after 1835 exacerbated the trauma of removal, and Cherokee women and children, in particular, suffered enormously. Recollecting the scenes of Cherokee family disintegration still vivid in her mind, for example, the wife of a Georgia intruder, Zillah Haynie Brandon, wrote that “the wives of those drunken savages knew the least about a resting place.” She continued, “[H]usbands would drink to drunkenness, and were very cruel when under the influence