"We cannot live for ourselves alone. Our lives are connected by a thousand invisible threads." - Herman Melville
Follow the Buffalo has partnered in passion projects and supported advocacy for the indigenous and marginalized from its inception, such as Red with Love, Hadassah House, and Honor the Treaties, along with horse rescue organizations such as Return to Freedom. At the heart of my passion project for this year is a story of the Cherokee people, a red thread that runs deep in my own history.
The Murrell House is an obscure but significant chapter in Cherokee history. Hidden in gentle hills along a winding road from the lake cabin to Tahlequah, I drive by it and step inside as often as I can. A crumbled herringbone-bricked sidewalk rolls with the grass up to the front porch. The old pianoforte inside stands unvarnished. Beaded moccasins lie beside a dress on the bed upstairs, where two young sisters have been immortalized in this small corner of the world. Largely underfunded but lovingly tended to by a handful of caretakers, it is a unique landmark of the Trail of Tears. It is Oklahoma's own Downton Abbey, a time capsule of a place and time during the Civil War when a Cherokee Chief and a wealthy plantation owner shared a dining table with the Cherokee women who loved them and advocated for the freedom of all people. I've often wondered, "What were those dinner conversations like?" Still today, the ghosts of this ephemeral time linger. For me, and for the locals. Local lore says on some nights, some see a young woman standing by the upstairs window, holding a lantern in her hand.