National Park Service Takes Trail of Tears Centers to Tell Story of Cherokee Removal

Article excerpt

In the bitter winter of 1838-39, thousands of Cherokee Indians were removed from their ancestral homes in the southeastern United States and forced to resettle in the Southwest.

One of their routes cut 60 miles across the southern tip of Illinois - f rom Golconda on the Ohio River to Reynoldsville on the Mississippi.

Hundreds died in the march, one of the most shameful episodes of American history. The Trail of Tears "was devastating to all the native peoples in the Southeast because although it began with the Cherokees, the other tribes in the Southeast were also removed," said Brenda Farnell, an anthropology professor at the University of Illinois. "Today," she said, "we would call it `ethnic cleansing.' " The Trail of Tears - the several routes taken during their arduous journey - is only now being incorporated into the National Trails System by the National Park Service. "This trail marks one of the most important events in our tribal history," said Ken Blankenship, a Cherokee who is director of a museum and interpretive center being planned in North Carolina. "It was a genocidal event that would not happen today." When nearly 8,000 Cherokees reached the Mississippi in late December, their way was blocked by the ice-choked river. …