Trail of Tears marker is dedicated in Arkansas
9/13/2011 11:08:32 AM
 
Former Deputy Principal Chiefs John Ketcher, center, and Joe Grayson remove a Cherokee Braves flag to unveil a Trail of Tears interpretive marker located at Evansville, Ark. Assisting them was Arkansas Trail of Tears Association President John McLarty. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
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Former Deputy Principal Chiefs John Ketcher, center, and Joe Grayson remove a Cherokee Braves flag to unveil a Trail of Tears interpretive marker located at Evansville, Ark. Assisting them was Arkansas Trail of Tears Association President John McLarty. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
By WILL CHAVEZ Senior Reporter EVANSVILLE, Ark. – Cherokee citizens and Evansville community members gathered at the town’s community building and fire department Sept. 10 to witness the unveiling of an interpretive marker that commemorates the removal of Cherokee people through the area during the Trail of Tears. At least four Cherokee detachments passed near Evansville, about 10 miles east of Stilwell, Okla., on their way to Indian Territory. Many of them settled in Adair County, which sits adjacent to Crawford County, Ark., where Evansville is located. “We’re still puzzling out the exact roadway, but it’s possible back in late 1838 and early 1839, if you had been right here, possibly they were right here,” said Arkansas Trail of Tears Association President John McLarty. “They had already come over 800 miles to get here. So this was the end of the journey, and they had lost many loved ones along the way.” He added after studying the history of the removal, he admires the Cherokee people for their resiliency. “What a testimony that decades later after this terrible forced removal, here they are representing their nation, their culture, their characteristics and their triumph,” McLarty said. “They are thriving in the land they were removed to. They picked themselves up and rebuilt their nation.” President of the National Trail of Tears Association and CN At-Large Tribal Councilor Jack Baker, said Congress passed a bill in 1987 to acknowledge the forced removal of Southeastern tribes to Indian Territory, now Oklahoma. In 1995, the NTOTA began working with the National Park Service, Baker said, to locate the routes used by the Cherokee and other tribes to reach Indian Territory and mark them with signage. Baker said in recent years, the Trail of Tears Associations from nine states have been placing interpretive panels along the removal routes and have been working with state governments to commemorate the removal. “Arkansas has always taken the lead in identifying trail segments and putting up interpretive panels. So we appreciate the Arkansas chapter as well as the state of Arkansas for all their work on the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail,” Baker said. “I’d also like to thank the Evansville Fire Department for allowing the sign to be placed here.” McLarty said the Arkansas chapter recently applied for and received a $25,000 grant from the Arkansas General Assembly to create and install 10 Trail of Tears interpretive panels. He said the chapter is choosing to place the panels in communities that likely cannot afford them. So far, six unique panels have been installed. “A big city like Fayetteville, they can afford a $1,500 panel, so we chose smaller communities and those that have great significance,” he said. He added, in northern Arkansas, many of the marked trails and interpretive panels for the removal tell the story of the Cherokee, but farther south near the Arkansas River the stories of other tribes who were removed are told as well. Arkansas Trail of Tears Association Project Coordinator Carolyn Kent and Historian and Arkansas Trail of Tears Association member Dusty Helbling of Ozark, Ark., researched the detachments of Cherokees that passed through or nearby Evansville during forced the removal. “The leaders of the two detachments that came past Evansville from the northern route (of the forced removal) was B.B. Cannon and the second was Rev. Stephen Foreman,” Helbling said. A few names from the B.B. Canon group were Charles Timberlake, Jesse Half Breed, Rainfrog, Lucy Redstick and James Starr. “The third detachment that came up the north side of the Arkansas River and joined the Van Buren to Cane Hill Road (Arkansas Hwy. 59) five miles north of Van Buren was led by John Bell and Lt. Edward Deas,” Helbling said The Bell/Deas detachment of 650 people reached Evansville on Jan. 8, 1839, disbanded and the people went from there to settle in Indian Territory. This detachment consisted of Cherokees that supported the Treaty of New Echota and was the only one that disbanded in Arkansas. Another Cherokee detachment came from the Arkansas River valley and passed just south of Evansville and settled in what is now the Bell, Okla., area. This detachment passed Evansville Aug. 3, 1838, and was led by Lt. Whiteley. It had started its journey with 875 Cherokees. “Seventy died in Arkansas due to sickness and by the time they arrived at Bell one half were sick,” Helbling said. A Cherokee detachment led by Lt. Gustavus S. Drane also passed by Evansville Sept. 2, 1838. Helbling said most of the removal survivors settled from Evansville to Stilwell and on to Tahlequah.
will-chavez@cherokee.org • (918) 207-3961
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