John Heiner - End of Trail

Paint the Sky with Suns

Introduction by Dennis Chamberland

Sometimes even the youngest are faced with dreadful tragedy very early in their lives.  Stripped from family and culture, they are often lost in the terrible, raging storms of life over which they have no control. Many are inevitably consumed by the tempest and never recover from the trauma.

But others – perhaps by chance, through unique circumstance, or by sheer genetic prowess – ride wave after wave of the storm into which they have been tossed and successfully carve out meaningful lives.  They are even wholly transformed into unique beings of an entirely new culture.   This tale – the genesis of my own story – is just such a narrative. 

In the 21st century I can carefully map my DNA trail and match them up to the oral history and even photos and records from my past. And in so doing, I am committed to transforming that astonishing story – blending raw data with the oral narratives handed down to me into this book, Paint the Sky With Suns.  Here the reader will discover a lasting, recorded testament to the incredible resilience of an American family whose conjoined roots came not only from different trees – but from distant continents. It is a story born from great, even historic, tragedy and government led genocide of one branch of my people and their culture. And yet, from another branch of my family, they were met with equal parts loss and hardship on the barren and unforgiving plains of Indian Territory.

This is a project that is created to preserve their legacy, based on their true stories,  but lovingly woven together in a narrative form.   What better way to tell such a significant and sweeping tale than though the pen of a novelist?  I do this for them – for every living voice and life deserves to be remembered with dignity and with honor.  And I also write this for my children, who also deserve to know the own roots with clarity, accuracy but with none of the sterility represented by the mere diagram a family tree.  For every branch and line of every tree represents a whole life whose story is worth remembering and cherishing. But some stories are so big and so pivotal that they merit a full and empty pallet on which to paint its epic scope. And who better equipped to do that than me, the great grandson of William Wattenbarger, the little Cherokee boy who ran away from the brutality of the Trail of Tears becoming lost in the Tennessee wilderness? And that is where this story actually begins…