From Craig Presson
Copyright © 1997 Presson
Of all the historical sites one can visit within the scope of Cherokee culture, none is more serene or moving than the Trail of Tears Memorial Park in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. There, along the peaceful, yet haunting Little River, stand the statues of two Cherokee chiefs - Whitepath and Fly Smith, who were interred there in the cruel winter of 1838. Fly Smith was a clan chief; Whitepath a member of the Cherokee National Council. Both Fly Smith and the 75 year old Whitepath had been seriously ill since their Removal group left Nashville, Tennessee. They arrived in Hopkinsville on an army wagon. Within several hours, they expired and were buried near the Cherokee camp on Little River. As late as the 1930's numerous unidentified limestone markers indicated the final resting place of Cherokees from many Trail of Tears groups who perished as they passed through. Only four markers remain today, including those of the two chiefs. The memorial markers of Smith and Whitepath were erected in 1987.
Other Trail of Tears information.
"We are now about to take our leave and kind farewell to our native land, the country that the Great Spirit gave our Fathers, we are on the eve of leaving that country that gave us birth...it is with sorrow we are forced by the white man to quit the scenes of our childhood... we bid farewell to it and all we hold dear." -- Charles Hicks,
Cherokee Vice Chief on the Trail of Tears, November 4, 1838
We must remember that the Trail was not just an event in Cherokee history, and that it was no isolated event in American Indian history. My Hitchiti-Miccosukee (Seminole) friend Adonaset puts it in perspective:
"We have been taught that the "Trail of Tears" started in the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida and ended in Oklahoma but that simply is not true. The "Trail of Tears" began when the first canvas sail was spotted off the coast of Turtle Island, and it still continues.
"The Trail passes through Oklahoma and goes on to Leavenworth, where our brother, Leonard [Peltier], is but another landmark on the Trail. The Trail passes through the places called 'poverty', 'alcohol and substance abuse', 'desperation', 'lost culture'; you can stop and visit 'hunger' on your travels down the Trail.
"Care must be taken not to trip over broken treaties, and the Trail is often slippery with blood. The cries of the People are loud and unpleasant to the ear, misplaced children often wander aimlessly into your path. The towns of 'unemployment' and 'welfare' are major stops along the way. Construction of the Trail crushed and scarred the face of Mother, Elders were buried under the rubble. No...the Trail did not end in Oklahoma, Oklahoma was, and is, just another stop along the Trail."
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