Trail Of Death Journey

Journal notes walking the "Trail of Death" tracing the Potawatomi Indians forced removal from Indiana to Kansas in 1838. This blog is in process of being re-ordered and moved to

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Location: Marion, Indiana, United States

Professor Emeritus


Day 0
(August 31-Sept. 3, 1838)

Under pretense of a conference of unity the Potawatomie Indians were gathered at Twin Lakes Indiana only discover themselves surrounded by General Tipton and a hundred of the Indiana State Militia soldiers. They were to be transported west to the great promised land in Kansas where houses were waiting for them. Most Chiefs (having been served generous amounts of free alcohol) had sold their land by treaty to the state two years before. They had two years to vacate. Now the day had arrived. But this was not so for Chief Menominee. The “Potawatomie preacher” taught abstinence from alcohol and thus never lost control of his senses enough to make an “X” on the treaty selling all his land to Indiana (for $1 acre). Menomonee insisted he’d stay in his own state—the state of Indiana (“land of the Indians”). He refused to sell.

It made no difference. The Indians who had already sold their land and Menominee’s tribe were all rounded up like cattle and under the gun and bayonet forced west to the land promised them across the Mississippi. Menominee along with two other chiefs was put in a jail wagon, the houses and log cabins in the village of Twin Lakes were burned and the tribe was forced to leave in less than a week.

General Tipton (also a Senator) took less than a week to gather the stragglers and soon the party was on its way south to the Wabash River then West to Kansas—almost a thousand Potawatomies.

This is the trail I will follow. 660 miles to (what turned out to be) a less-than-promised land with no housing whatsoever. But Tipton (and the governor of Indiana, and the US Congress) has solved their “problem.” They had gotten rid of the “Indian problem’ by moving the problem west across the Mississippi into “Indian land.”

Why am I doing this walk? At first glance it may seem like guilt, but that’s not it. My great-great Grandparents were digging in the coal mines in England at this time—I carry no family blame for this injustice. Perhaps shame is a better word. In some ways I’m ashamed of what my race and my nation did at this time and I feel ashamed. But that’s not the right word either. As I begin this walk at the statue of Menominee the word that emerges strongest is mourning. It is a deep sense of sadness and pain for what the Pottawatomie Indians experienced and I want to identify with it. The Bible says, “Blessed are those who mourn.” I am exploring the blessedness of this mourning on this trek. I’m setting aside two months to mourn with the Pottawatomie and I think I can do that best actually retracing their route step by step. If you’re reading this you can go along too—just check back periodically and read about their story, and mine.


Blogger David Drury said...

Great introduction to this journey...
Not guilt.
A little shame.
Mostly mourning...

We mourn with you.

(of course, we won't have the blisters)


5:55 PM  

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