Magazine article Forced Migration Review

Trails of Tears: Raising Awareness of Displacement

Magazine article Forced Migration Review

Trails of Tears: Raising Awareness of Displacement

Article excerpt

Trails of Tears have arisen to draw attention and give legitimacy to multiple movements for fairness and justice, hoping to create a community of support strong enough to rectify a past injustice or prevent a future one.

Twenty-five years ago, the federal government of the United States agreed to establish the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail which commemorates the forced migration of thousands of Native Americans from the south-eastern US to 'Indian Territory' west of the Mississippi River during the early part of the nineteenth century. The Trail also promotes public awareness of the broader history of American Indian dispossession and displacement carried out by the US government and large numbers of Euro-American settlers moving west.

The trail, which links over 1,300 kilometres of concrete and asphalt roadways, follows the land route taken by most Cherokee Indians who suffered the migration. The name - Trail of Tears - nevertheless has transcended the historical event and its American landscape by becoming a metaphor used by local and international news media and NGOs to represent contemporary instances of displacement. The representation of this difficult heritage has the potential to influence people to reflect on their own sense of place and on their relationship with the past, both of which can foster concern for those in other regions of the world on the verge of suffering the same plight in the present.

Several countries are beginning to assume the moral obligation to uncover and preserve landscapes of forced migration, which they envisage as gestures of reconciliation, venues of learning and sanctums of remembrance.

Some have nominated landscapes for designation as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, following UNESCO's recent acknowledgement of the relevance of preserving historical landscapes of displacement. …

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