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


READ THIS BLOG FROM BOTTOM UP TO FOLLOW THE HIKE--click on April below in the archives section for the beginning of the walk.

The BOOK is now available here real cheap.... includes the other half--petit's story and 40% additional devotional and reflecting insights.

This material here is the "raw" unedited blog I did while walking before the additional research and writing of the "rest of the story"

If you buy the book and don't like it--send it to me and I'll buy it form you--it is a good read!


Reflections on this trek

I’m two weeks past the end of this trek so I’ve started thinking of its nature and effect on me, though from past experience, it takes a year to really know how an experience impacts me. But here’s my first start of the little things that influenced me:

1. My dominant feeling is simply tiredness. I am weary from this journey. Sure, not as weary as the Potawatomi, but I’m worn out. Other trips I’ve taken have rejuvenated me—this one drained me.

2. I sensed God more on this trip than on other treks. Most folk imagine that hiking in beautiful mountains brings one closer to God than walking on roads through towns. Not true. I saw God’s characteristics better in the generosity, grace, and kindness of people on this walk far more than I ever see it in nature. After all, God never claimed to create mountains after His likeness…but He did say He created men and women in his image. I saw this image of God often.

3. Road-walking is torment to the feet. I would rather walk 25 miles on a mountain trail then ten on a hard road surface. Yikes it hurt!

4. I never got into shape. On other hikes I’ve gotten into pretty good shape in about three weeks. I never got into shape on this trip—too many little restaurants along the way to eat in. I lost ten pounds in the first two weeks, but gained most of it back the final three weeks of the trip.

5. Two months is a long time to reflect on injustice. It got depressing at times. Walking in the Potawatomi footsteps, reading the journal daily really immersed me in that story and I “felt” the injustice better than I ever could have reading about it. But it is a long time to ponder injustice.

6. Father Petit has become a hero of mine. I have not yet even integrated his journal into my writing—I read privately for writing in the future. But boy, when I put that into the manuscript (the spiritual part) it will be monumental. Petit is the first Roman Catholic hero to make my personal heroes list. What a guy!

7. The world is far less dangerous than TV tells us. People often asked me about “crazy people” or warned me about “walking through Kansas City.” They believed their TV reports that the world is full of weirdoes out to kill ordinary folk. I found the roads full of ordinary people who went out of their way to help and be kind. I had only two experiences with harsh people and none at all with downright bad people—in two months of walking public roads and getting water every few hours from strangers. Sure there are evil people and life can be dangerous—but far less so than the TV leads us to believe.

8. The Indian removals were evil, but they are more complicated than meets the eye. My Native American friends won’t like this, but while the removals (indeed almost ALL the government’s dealings with the Indians) were wrong and sin but they are not as simple as most folk believe. In fact I believe the government (and business, and races, and even churches) are doing similar evil today that is considered a “fair shake” to the people. I think we’d do the removal all over again even today given a similar situation—we might even consider it patriotic and compassionate. Indeed I think we are doing it—we just don’t recognize it as most didn’t back then.

9. Small towns are dying. I got to walk through scores of little towns that once boasted bustling downtowns. They are all dying similarly. The citizens all think their town is unique but they are all going down the same chute and I mourn for them and miss the locally-owned shops that used to be true Americana. The fault, of course, can be charged to the very citizens who mourn the loss—who drive 25 miles to the nearest big-box store to buy things in the evening for 25% less. Me too.

10. Women especially care about this story. I can’t explain it, but women were far more likely to connect with this story than men. Why is that? I don’t know yet. Do they better relate to injustice due to their own experience? Are they more compassionate than men? Are they more inclined to the story format? I don’t know. I just know that in readership and in on-the-road connecting they outnumber men gigantically in really caring about this story. Men tend to say, “Get over it” in response to the story. Women tend to mourn. (Of course this is good news if I get a book published—most books in America are bought by women.)

11. I am far more sensitive to injustice I’m “not a part of.” The vast majority of Americans had nothing whatsoever to do with the injustice that preyed on the Indians. They were bystanders, observers. They read about it in the newspapers like we read about illegal immigrants from Mexico. They watched as the President and politicians “corrected” things. They benefited. The national legislation was considered a “sensible compromise” to “the problem of the Indians.” It was even touted as a benefit to the Indians. I am now far more sensitive to how history will eventually view my own “standing by” while government does evil to people. More so, I now recognize how a popular “sensible compromise” today might be considered outright evil in the future.

MY NEXT STEPS toward a book manuscript.
1. Download the core diary from the blog and re-order it in proper sequence and post it at
2. Integrate all of Father Petit’s journal into the proper days of the story—the spiritual story.
3. Write the short essays in related topics then and today. (I have not decided if I should have one per day or only periodically—I have more than 80 outlines dictated—still thinking on this.)
4. Have a market analysis done on the promise of the book—if 3000 people won’t buy it the manuscript will never get published.
5. Print a short run of the manuscript and get corrections and input from historians.
6. Do rewrite—I usually do about ten or fifteen drafts of a manuscript in order to make it “shine.”
7. Submit it to a publisher.
8. Wait for acceptance or rejection (if rejection, then submit it elsewhere, again and again)
9. If accepted, wait about a year while the publisher does his thing editing and do whatever rewrite they command.
10. (Finally) see the finished book after about another year. This painful and elongated process of re-write and editing is why most people don’t ever finish books ;-) I’ve done a dozen that made it into print and they are still selling years later…but one never knows...we shall see if this one is worthy too.
--Keith Drury 7/9/06