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

My Photo
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


What happened after the Trail of Death ended?

Dr. George Jeroloman.
The oft-absent doctor for the emigrating party was only 27 years old when he accompanied the party. He had graduated from Union College in Schenectady, NY and rowed himself from Ft. Wayne to Logansport but his rowboat capsized and he lost all his medicines causing him to rely on natural medicines for sicknesses and of course there was always “bleeding” a patient, so popular at the time. He was sick for much of the journey staying in nearby towns. The Indians tried to get him expelled from the party but Polke suggested they were free to not use his services but he would be retained for the officers. On returning from the trek he increasingly practiced farming more than medicine and after a successful and lucrative career in farming he built a large house at the corner of Walnut and 10th street in Logansport which is the present day home of the Cass County Historical society. He lived until March 4, 1883 dying at the age of 72 and was generously praised by his home town newspaper. He was not remembered much for his role on the Trail of Death.

General Tipton
Indian-hater Tipton left the party just after Danville, Illinois and returned to Logansport with 85 or so of the Indiana Militia since his authority expired at the Indiana State line. He continued to send and receive letters from those on the journey as if he were still in charge in some way, though he was not officially so. Maybe his position as the former Indian agent and (perhaps more so) as a US Senator gave him this sort of clout with Polke and even Father Petit who also wrote to him regarding promised money for the new mission and education for the Indians. But he did not influence things long. On returning the Logansport his young wife died within five months. Then on March 3 his term in the U.S. Senate ended and just a month afterward, on April 5, 1839 Tipton himself died in his home at Logansport, just seven months after he commanded the round-up of the Potawatomi at Twin Lakes. Some say the Indians pronounced a curse on him, but weather or not, the man of oft cursed today by both white and red men and women for his role in this ugly affair.

Judge William Polke
Judge Polke did not leave Kansas for home until December 3 so perhaps he kept his promise to stay around to ensure that the new Indian agent understood the oral promised given to the Potawatomi. However he had relatives in the area so he likely visited them too while in Kansas. With rushed travel it would have been possible for this 63 year old man to have made it home for Christmas, but he would have to average 30 miles per day with no days off, which was possible for a man on a horse but unlikely for a 63 year old man on a horse. Whatever, a few years after returning he was appointed Registrar of the land office in Ft. Wayne and moved there to die in 1843, five years after leading the Potawatomi to Kansas. He was 68.

Chief Menominee
Menominee “the Potawatomi preacher” had refused to sign the treaties selling his land and was thus confined with several other refusing chiefs to a jail wagon until Father Petit arrives in Danville, Illinois and got him released (just as General Tipton left, probably no coincidence). Having not signed away his land the government leaders simply refused to consider him a “Chief” but only as one of the “head men” even though he was a signatory on four major treaties before the dastardly 1836 treaty he had refused to sign. He probably was about 48 years old when he was forcibly removed to Kansas without receiving any payments for his land. Did he survive the journey? He did. He was among the Potawatomi who relocated from the Governments drop-off point to Sugar Creek and he lived another three years. He dies at the St. Mary’s Mission on Sugar Creek April 15, 1841. He was about 50 year old.

Father Petit
Petit, the priest to the Potawatomi had been commanded by his Bishop to stay long enough to hand over his congregation to a Jesuit priest assigned to them in Kansas. He did this but waited for his next orders from his Bishop back in Vincennes, Indiana. Soon he took sick with the fever again (as he had been all along on the journey). This time he was cared for in the home of Joseph Bourassa for the next 19 days, probably not right in the camp but somewhere nearby. When he did recover nineteen days later instead of traveling home he returned again to the camp still awaiting a letter from his bishop—always in submission to church authority. Just a few days before Christmas, 1838 he received his letter commanding his return and he bought several items to prepare for the long journey—still weakened by the fever and thumb-sized sores all over his body. Accompanied by his faithful Potawatomi assistant Abram Burnett (of whom I shall write far more in the final book).

Petit arrived in St. Louis January 15, intending to take a steamboat home once the Wabash river thawed. He arrived exhausted and once came down with the “fever.” Until now he had only described the agony of the Potawatomi in the trek but now on January 18th he wrote to his Bishop describing his own anguish. “”After a horseback ride of 160 miles I found it impossible to continue: my weakness growing worse every day… The good Lord permitted me to make this journey with an open sore on the seat, another on the thigh, and a third on the leg—the remainder of the numerous sores which covered my whole body during my illness at the Osage River.” He closed his hopeful letter to his superior with “I close, thinking that I shall be restored in a fortnight, and that, when the Wabash opens, I shall have the long-denied happiness of receiving your benediction.” This letter was dated January 18, 1839. Petit did not make the trip in a fortnight. He weakened and on February 10 he died in the hand of the Jesuits who were caring for him. He was 28 years old.

*Father Petit was buried then in St. Louis but in 1856 his body was brought back to St. Mary’s Lake, now the site of the University of Notre Dame where it lies today.

The Potawatomi

As mentioned elsewhere in this story the Potawatomi did not stay at the drop-off site near Osawatomie Kansas but relocated 20 miles south to the new St. Mary’s Mission where they came under the spiritual direction of Father Hoecken and Mother rose Philippine Duchesne a Catholic sister who was at the time in her 70’s but could not master the language so she gave herself to tangible acts and prayer. But the Sugar Creek location was not to last. As always “the US Government got a new idea.” IN 1848 the government decided all the Potawatomi West of the Mississippi should be gathered in one place so the generation that a decade before had endured the removal from Indiana now were removed another 150 miles to St. Mary’s on the Kansas river where a Catholic school for them was opened. They remained here another 20 years until the Civil war when threatened by the duel threat of the Confederate forces and the plains Indians many were scattered to the winds. Today many Potawatomi can be found in Kansas and Okalahoma though they are found in Indiana, Canada and throughout the USA. Many are spiritually devout and many have clung diligently to the Roman Catholic spirituality.

COMING NEXT.... the influence the journey ahd on me spiritually and theologically... coming as soon as this emereges for me... I can see some of it already... it will take a few weeks for all of it to jell.

AFTERGLOW... ending my trek: (the third leg)

The final leg of my conclusion to this trek involved people. Having walked for two months with the ghosts of the Potawatomi Indians I wanted to complete the trip with real people—living descendants of those original Indians who walked the Trail of Death in 1838.

The first I met in Kansas City. Daniel Bourassa was probably in his 40’s when he walked the Trail of Death with nine members of his family including a son in his 20’s. Though his family experienced the hardships of the trek all of them survived according to family oral history. My first contact with a descendant was with Peggy Kinder great-great-great granddaughter of Daniel Bourassa along with her mother and her two sons—three generations of survivor-descendants. She had found my blog on the walk and had written several times to me at mail drops inviting me to visit her family. Peggy and her family are Baptists which is the protestant strain in the Potawatomi story (Menominee the "Potawatomi Preacher" was examined and approved by Baptist Missionary McKee in Ft. Wayne and the mission to the Potawatomi in Niles Michigan was also Baptist.) Though the Baptists sent no missionary on the Trail of Death as the Catholics did, they are still in the heritage picture.

I got to see a copy of a hand-written Potawatomi dictionary from the Smithsonian written by Joseph Napoleon Bourassa, the son of Daniel and Peggy’s great grandfather. Even more impressive was the hand-written book he wrote packed with medical treatments and healing recipes of that day, a matching book to the one in the Smithsonian. Peggy’s mother Elizabeth told me family stories of the journey passed down in the family. Peggy and her family now attend a Baptist church. They had just returned from an Indian gathering that week. We ended the day with a taco dinner with Peggy’s husband and whole family before I headed west to find the second family of descendants.

This happy laughing family dinner brought a sense of completion to the journey for me. I was not alive in 1838 and my own family was still in England at the time. Yet I felt a sense of ownership in what our government did to these Indians and needed a reconciliation of sorts. Peggy’s and her mother were so open, generous and loving that I left near dark with a sense of reunion with the past. There is little I could think of to make up for the wrong of President Andrew Jackson, General Tipton and others, but somehow fellowshipping eating together gave some sense of healing to me. At dark I headed west where I would meet the other family the next day.

For my final connection I had to drive 150 miles west into Kansas—to find the descendants of Equakesec (Teresa Slaven) who was about a year old when she traveled the Trail of Death with her older sister of about nine years of age. The family does not know for sure if they traveled with their parents or if their parents had dies in a plague and these two little girls were cared for by others. We do know that these two little girls survived the 660 mile trek west where so many children died. Indeed the nickname for little surviving Teresa was “Living” since so many other children from that journey park the path from Indiana to Kansas.

Why I had to drive so far into Kansas to find her descendants is yet another story of abuse and injustice to the Indians—one I am not primarily concerned with in this tale. The Potawatomi did not stay at St. Mary’s Mission south of Osawatomie long—just a decade when the government got new ideas and moved them again—this time to a new St. Mary’s Mission in what is not St. Marys, Kansas where still another Catholic mission and school was established by the devoted priests and nuns. Here in St. Mary’s I found the descendants of little survivor Teresa.

I found not just one descendant but a whole family! I had received several letters at my mail drops from Virginia Pearl a nun in mid-Kansas who had invited me out. When I contacted her she immediately arranged a family reunion of sorts for me to meet her family. I spent the afternoon and evening with this laughing-living family and it was a powerful tonic. Here I ate a huge feast with more than a dozen devout Catholic Potawatomi who told all kinds of family stories as we sat around Marge’s large round table. Marge is the oldest of these 4th generation descendants of little Teresa. I sat near her three brothers, Jim, Bob and Jerry each of whom told me stories punctuated with lots of laughter. And of course there was Virginia Pearl, the nun of the sisters of St. Joseph who is the sort of nun that would inspire any little girl to consider the “religious vocation” a wonderful option for her life.

Virginia (just call me “Ginger”) Pearl never intended to be a nun and even tried to avoid it in college by plentiful dating. But she expected at least one in the family would enter a religious vocation. (She expected it to be Bob, but he joined the Army, though later on became a Eucharistic Minister). Then she hoped the order would reject her but she says, “once I crossed the threshold of the convent I never again had any doubts.” “Ginger” is a chaplain at a state hospital and lives on (and works on) an ecumenical organic farm with several from other orders and two Mennonite families. I don’t know how old she actually is—she might be 70 or she could be 75, but she acts about 30.

I spent the entire afternoon and evening with the laughing loving Pearl family. We ate together, looked at photos together, told stories together, and prayed together. They are a forgiving family and while condemning the injustice of the removals and treatment of their tribe they (like Peggy and others) seemed to have no bitterness. Ginger explained how her mother had told of the horrors of the past yet always with the admonition not to become bitter.

At first I felt like a stowaway at a family reunion but before many minutes passed I was included as if I was one of these big strapping brothers and energetic women of retirement age yet still active. We sat around the table until it was almost dark and I needed to head back to Kansas City to the airport so after a thousand pictures or so I was escorted out the door and bid farewell with plentiful hugs.

I drove to the airport in the gathering darkness full of grace… grace that was mediated by Peggy Kinder’s family and the Pearl family of Potawatomi Indians. Nothing any of us can do will take away the wrongness of the Indian removals and the repeated breaking of treaties by our government. But these two families brought healing and reconciliation to me personally. After walking in the steps of their forebears for two months I got to actually meet and love –and be loved by-- the descendants of some of the survivors.

What happened in 1838 was wrong—a national sin. And like all sin it can only be treated on a spiritual level—with confession, repentance, penance, restitution and full reconciliation.


AFTERGLOW... ending my trek (Seconde leg)

The second place I had to visit to end this trip properly was 20 miles south of Osawatomie. In an hour and two quick hitches I got back to the mall where I had parked my car. I drove back south to Osawatomie again then 20 miles beyond where I knew the “spiritual destination” of this journey turned out to be.

The Potawatomi did not stay at Osawatomie long. The promised houses did not exist—not the final time the promises of the government would be forgotten. The bitter cold prairie wind came soon after their arrival in November. By Christmas they were shivering and cold and felt abandoned by the government and perhaps even their God. As the bitter cold swept in they heard of the St. Mary’s mission just 20 miles south of them. Here was a band of about 150 Potawatomi that had moved there t3wo years earlier. On this smaller band's arrival they had sent for a priest to teach them religion. Father Christian Hoecken responded who had been working with the Kickapoo tribe with slim results. He founded the St. Mary’s Mission at Sugar Creek. By March most of the Pottawatomie had relocated to Sugar Creek joining the Indians who had been living there already.

Here they found a refuge--a fresh flowing spring, a small creek and plentiful rock formations in the creek’s ravine where poles, blankets and bark could be arranged to provide protection from the bitter prairie winds and snow. Besides Father Hocken and some other lay missionaries the Indians were most influenced by a devoted nun, Rose-Philippine Duchesne. The Indians called her “Woman-Who-Prays-Always.” Mother Duchesne was a Mother Teresa to the Indians.

Philippine Duschene was called to missions as a young person. She had grown up in a wealthy French lawyer’s family then heard a Jesuit missionary speak about evangelism. She immediately felt called to missions--to evangelize in America. She joined a religious order but her missionary call was delayed by the French revolution which outlawed organized religion of her type. Even when she could publically practice her calling she was delayed again. Finally at age 49, (1818) she was sent as a missionary to the recently acquired Louisiana Territory. She arrived in New Orleans and worked her way up the river.

When the opportunity came to join the new mission to the Potawatimi at Sugar Creek she had her lifelong calling fulfilled—working with the American Indians. Here at the St. Mary's Mission she ministered to the Potawatomi through prayer, teaching and service. Soon a small town grew up that including a chapel, blacksmith shop, a school and houses. The Potawatomi practiced their devoted Catholic spirituality though not without opposition. (Within a year two rascals from Logansport--the Ewing Brothers--went all the way to Kansas and set up a trading post so the Potawatomi did not get beyond the evil influences of white civilization for long--and liquor became available at a price so much so that the fathers at the mission had to operate a kind of bottle-smashing crusade reminicent of what would become the temperance crusades of later years). Since whole books have been written on the Sugar Creek Mission I will not tell the whole story here, having previously restricted myself to the 62 day journey alone in my writing. The story is powerful, the devotion of the missionaries inspiring, and the devoted response of the Potwatomi is moving. I had to go to this place to end this walk.

AS FOR ME I drove my rental car to the out-of-the-way site of Philippine Duschene Memorial Park, the spiritual terminus of the Trail of Death . Charismatic and Catholic Christians along with Native Americans agree on the notion of sacred place—there are places that offer “holy ground” where one is drawn closer to God and His work. I had heard of such power in this place from historian Shirley Willard and several Native Americans who had been writing me at my mail drops along the way. Sure enough, it was a powerful and intense experience for me and properly wrapped up the trek.

Here I walked among the rock formations where the Potawatomi huddled that first winter. I saw the location of the chapel and foundation of the cabin of Mother Duschene. I lay on my back stariung at the seven raised crosses on the hill with the inscribed names of all the Indians who died and were buried here.

But I knew where I would be moved most of all so I saved it for last. Near the spring is a stone monument where the entire diary of the 1838 journey is inscribed. I sat and read the daily summary of the journal that I had been living with two months straight. I recalled day by day the events of the Indians I had pondered so much. Logansport where more than 300 were sick. Danville-Jacksonville-Qunicy and a dozen other memories I had of the Indian’s journey. Where General Tipton turned back, where father Petit arrives, where they hunted for game and “filled the camp with venison.” Where it rained, where it snowed, where they were issued shoes, where they smoked a keg of tobacco, where they argued over the power of the various chiefs.

I sat for several hours as the sun sagged in the sky reading and re-reading this journal and pondering all the memories I had created of the 1838 journey which flooded back. And I recalled the pertner memories of my own journey: rainy days, mental and physical exaustion, blisters and the people--the Mountain family’s care for me, of Don, Liz Gander, the dinner and night at Josephine Gander's house, Steve & Janet Tieken, Phil Woodbury, Brooks Sayer, Jason Dennison, Mark & Jess Schmerse, Kerry Kind, and a score or more of others who faithfully sent letters and even snacks to my mail drops along the way—I recalled them all tied to this day by day journal on the stone monument. The memoried of the past two months flooded back--the Potawatomi memoried mixing with my own memories--1838 with 2006.

The sun sank slowly and quiet darkness crept in as I pondered both journeys: the Potawatomi's and mine. I realize I can never completely feel what they felt. I’m a modern white man. It can’t happen. Y et living with this story for two months as I took the actual steps every day experiencing my own blistering heat and chilling rain has helped me catch a bit of what they experienced better than sitting in an air conditioned office reading about it. And I know what happend was wrong, sin, evil. And sin should not be dismissed easily, even if it is the sins of our forefather's government.
As the final glow of the light leaked from the sky I reluctantly left the park. I headed and headed out to complete the third leg of my completion journey--meeting the survivors of the trek in person.

Day 62 Potawatomi Creek Mile 660
Nov 4, 1868

After two hours delay allowing for the Catholic Indians to have worship they ended their 62 day journey with the 8-9 mile walk from Bull Town to Osawatomie Kansas to “Pottawatomie creek” where they were to be deposited and “welcomed by many of their friends.” The journey was over. The Indians had been “relocated.” “Removed.” The journal-writer tried to put the best light on the Indians response saying, “The emigrants seemingly delighted with the appearance of things—the country—its advantages—the wide spreading prairie and the thrifty grove, the rocky eminence and the medowed valley—but particularly with the warm and hearty greeting of those who have tested (and but to become attached to,) the country assigned to them by the Government.”

The journal overestimated their positive response. A speech would be made by chief Pe-pish-kay (which is recorded in the official journal putting a different light on their response including the following: “We have been taken from our homes affording us plenty, and brought to a desert—a wilderness—and we are now to be scattered as the husbandman scatters his seed.” Pe-pisj-kay’s speech probably better represents the Indian reaction than the “spin” reported in the official journal.

The mileages are confusing. Again today the journal-writer uses the cryptic words “The distance of to-day’s travel is computed at twenty miles.” There is hardly any campsite on Bull Creek that would produce a 20 mile journey to Potawatomie Creek at Osawatomie Kansas. Probably this day produced eight or at the most nine miles. It’s odd. The mileages have been meticulously recorded for six weeks then in the final days they got sloppy either recording no miles at all or listing longer-then-possible miles according to their time traveled or the geography. In the cumulative miles above I have used the nine mile figure which is about as far as can be stretched.

The journal curtly reports, “Mr. Davis the (Indian) agent, we found absent.” We can imagine how Polke and the soldiers felt about this. They had traveled two months to deposit more than 800 Indians into the hands of the Indian agency here and the agent was not even present. Pe-pish-kay noted the same in his speech the next day. The Indians wanted to assess what sort of man they would now be at the mercy of. Polke they knew and trusted, but they knew nothing of this absent Mr. Davis. Indeed they plead with Polke to stay with them until Davis showed up. Polke could not, having to go back to Independence to report on the successful mission, but promised to leave his son with them until he returned. We do k=not know how this turned out. Did Polke actually leave his son? Did he return? There is no record and my answer to the question (or yours) is based on an assessment of Polke’s character. I tend to believe that he kept his word. However there is not enough evidence to say either way.

The journal continues for several days beyond this Sunday. On Monday it records Pe-pish-key’s speech and the Indians request that Polke stay with them, and his promise to leave his son behind. It also records the death of an old man. One of the most surprising reports in Monday’s journal is the arrival of a wagon belonging to Andrew Fuller, a Potawatomi from Michigan who had traveled all the way on his own bearing all his own expenses for the trip. Here is an example of tribal loyalty—if a tribe was being forced to move west, he and his family would go too—even at his own expense. The Indian’s anxiousness to arrive was replaced on Tuesday by the anxiousness of the soldiers to depart and get home. It was the first week of November and if their journey home took two months that would miss Christmas. However they were a small party and probably could actually make it by late November.

THAT’S THAT! The Indians were simply “dropped off” at Potawatomie Creek near present day Osawatomie Kansas with a new and still-absent Indian agent. Certainly Polke and his soldier’s thoughts turned to home the moment they headed East again. However they must have felt like a father who had just dropped off the sick family pet in the country. The Indians were in the way of progress. “Something had to be done.” Removing them all to the “Indian territories” was the nationally agreed-upon popular political solution for the “Indian problem.” There! That’s that” The “Indian problem” was solved. Indiana only had to clean out the remaining pockets of Indians and it could becomes, “the land of the free and home of the brave.” The Miami Indians and others would soon follow. Indiana would soon be “clean” of Indians and the white Europeans could have “their” land free and clear. Out of sight out of mind. No longer would they have to see the poverty of the once-proud race of Indians. No longer would they be bothered by drunken Indians in their towns. They were largely expunged from the state—though it would retrain the name of the state as Indiana –“Land of the Indians.

AS FOR ME I had decided several weeks ago on my three-point plan for ending this trek. Several folk had offered to come and meet me or arrange a “ceremony” at the ending. I asked them all to let me finish this trek privately. Living with this story for two months made my finish an intensely private and personal thing.

I rose at 4 AM soaked from the night fog resulting from yesterday's rain, but knowing I would not be using my sleeping bag tonight. I walked into nearby Paola then on the Osawatomie and found Potawatomie Creek where I sat on the bank trying to feel like the Indians must have felt. Relief that the hard journey was over. Grief for the many dead children buried along the way. A sense of injustice at the whole affair. Maybe a feeling of resignation—a sense that power and the lust for land had won over justice and goodness and their life from here on would be as wards of the state—children hidden in the back closets of the country. Who knows?

I buried in the creek bank the precious arrowhead given to me by Josephine Gander. The ceremony was not fancy--just a simple affair that I had determined was perfectly suited to reflect how this whole unseemly affair had ended itself--they simply dropped off the Indians then heading home to Indiana. Covering over the arrowhead and tamping it with my foot into the soft creekbank, I turned back to town and hitched the 30 miles north back to my rental car because I had two more things to do before this trip could end in my mind. To do this I needed a car. (see next entry)