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Group marks Potawatomi Trail of Death from Indiana to Kansas

September 19, 2018

LOGANSPORT, Ind. (AP) — This month marks 180 years since over 850 Potawatomi Native Americans were forcibly removed from their homeland in northern Indiana.

Many walked the 660-mile, two-month journey. Over 40 died — mostly babies, children and elderly.

It’s known as the Potawatomi Trail of Death. Every five years since 1988, a group of Potawatomi, historians and other interested persons take a week to travel the trail that starts south of Plymouth, Indiana, and ends in Kansas.

The commemorative caravan recently passed through Logansport, where they visited a marker recognizing part of the trail at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Fulton Street.

In 1838, Indiana Gov. David Wallace appointed Gen. John Tipton of Logansport to lead the removal of Potawatomi from the area, according to information from the Potawatomi Trail of Death Association.

Tipton planned the capture in a trading post on the Tippecanoe River north of Rochester. He rode to Twin Lakes near Plymouth on Aug. 30 to meet with Potawatomi Chief Menominee to inform him of the removal and take him prisoner. Tipton then sent soldiers out in all directions within about a 30-to-50-mile radius to collect Potawatomi.

The march began on Sept. 4, 1838. They went down through Indiana, then across Illinois and Missouri before arriving in what later became Kansas, stopping in what is now known as Osawatomie on Nov. 4. Those who died on the march were buried in unmarked graves along the trail.

The Trail of Death Commemorative Caravan has set out every five years for the past three decades during the third week of September after the annual Trail of Courage Living History Festival in Rochester. Participants start at a Chief Menominee monument south of Plymouth and end at St. Philippine Duchesne Memorial Park south of Mound City, Kansas, which is south of Osawatomie. The park is named after a French nun who ministered to the Potawatomi upon their arrival.

Fulton County Historian Shirley Willard started the caravan in 1988 after learning that the Potawatomi were marched at gunpoint through Rochester.

“I thought that was pretty terrible and most people didn’t know that it had even happened,” Willard said.

About 35 to 40 people will be making the entire journey this year, Willard said, adding others take part in stretches of the trek along the way.

Janet Pearl of Parma Heights, Ohio, is part of the 2018 caravan. She’s participated in several over the decades with her father, who has been a part of all of them. Both are members of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. Pearl’s Potawatomi name is Wichap Gishek, which means Blue Sky.

Pearl’s Potawatomi great-great-grandmother was about 10 or 11 when she was forced along the Trail of Death. Her name was Equa-ke-sec, which means Rising Sun. After surviving the ordeal and arriving in Kansas, she was baptized with the name Theresa Living.

Pearl and her father regularly attend Potawatomi functions across the U.S. and Canada.

“It’s really important to us to renew our culture connections and stay abreast of everything that’s going on,” she said.

She called the Potawatomi Trail of Death Commemorative Caravan a unique experience. People often come out to greet her and her fellow participants in the various towns along the trail, she went on to recall.

“They show a lot of compassion and concern for what happened to the Potawatomi way back when,” Pearl said.

She finds it encouraging.

“It’s really a positive experience,” she said. “It’s spiritual too because you just feel so uplifted by this outpouring of concern and caring. People are just really nice about it.”

Pearl said her grandmother taught her father and his siblings not to focus feelings of bitterness toward the Potawatomi Trail of Death. Instead she encouraged them to be forgiving and concentrate on how their ancestor survived and that they were able to come into being because of that survival.

Pearl said much of that forgiving attitude can be credited to St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, who ministered to the Potawatomi after they arrived in what later became Kansas. While Duchesne couldn’t speak Potawatomi, Pearl said she showed kindness by example.

“We felt our ancestors were influenced by her spiritual guidance,” Pearl said.

According to historical information from the Potawatomi Trail of Death Association, Duchesne was a member of the Society of the Sacred Heart and prayed so often that the Potawatomi called her “She Who Prays Always.”

Duchesne was canonized in 1988, the same year the Potawatomi Trail of Death Commemorative Caravan started. This year also marks two centuries since she came to the U.S. from France.

Pearl said she is looking forward to having several nuns of the Society of the Sacred Heart on the caravan this year.

She also seconded Willard’s desire for the caravan to serve an educational purpose.

“What we hope today is that people will learn a lesson from hearing about this event and that it won’t happen again,” she said.

While the Potawatomi Trail of Death occurred 180 years ago, the feelings that spurred it still exist today, Pearl said, offering immigration issues as an example.

“There’s a lot going on where people are persecuted and we’re just hoping that people will let a little more love come into their life and try to respect everybody and get along with people,” Pearl said.

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Source: (Logansport) Pharos-Tribune

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Information from: Pharos-Tribune, http://www.pharostribune.com

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