Fletcher hikes most of northern Trail of Tears route
Cherokee Nation citizen Chance Fletcher, 20, hikes up Eldon Hill in Cherokee Country while on his trek retracing most of the northern route of the Trail of Tears. He finished his journey on July 1 at the Cherokee Courthouse in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation citizen Chance Fletcher, 20, walks by a vehicle while retracing part of the northern route of the Trail of Tears. Fletcher completed his journey on July 1 at the Cherokee Courthouse in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation citizen Chance Fletcher, 20, spent June retracing most of the northern route of the Trail of Tears. Fletcher was able to hike the trail thanks to the Dale Summer Award from Princeton University, of which he is a student. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Chance Fletcher, 20, spent June retracing approximately 900 miles of the Northern Route of the Trail of Tears. He started at Red Clay State Park in Tennessee on June 2 and finished on July 1 at the Cherokee Courthouse.
The Trail of Tears marks the path Cherokees were forced to take when removed from their southeastern homelands during the winter of 1838-39.
Fletcher, of Oologah, said he was able to hike the trail because of the Dale Summer Award he received from Princeton University.
“You just sort of cook up whatever you want to do and I was like, ‘You know, I never heard of anybody hiking the Trail of Tears,’” he said. “I just kind of applied on a whim. I didn’t really think I was going to get it…I ended up getting it. I bought my gear and here I am.”
He said the route he traced was similar to the one the “Remember the Removal” riders took. He said some differences for his hike included starting at Red Clay whereas the cyclists began in New Echota, Georgia. Also, he wasn’t able to travel by boat on some portions so he took alternate paths.
Fletcher said he hiked approximately 30 miles a day depending on the type of day he faced.
“It really depended on the day, how hot it was. Some days I do a lot more. Some days I do a lot less,” he said.
He said when it was time to settle down for the night he tried to stay at churches.
“I tried to stay mostly in churches’ yards because I kind of figured out that one, they would be nice to you and two, they might feed you dinner so I wouldn’t have to eat Clif Bars, which was nice, and three, people don’t really mess…with churches so it’s kind of…a safer option,” he said.
Fletcher said while on the route he stopped at some historic sites but not all.
“Every historic site that was in a reasonable distance of the trail or the route that the “Remember the Removal” riders did…I stopped at,” he said. “I kept a journal and wrote down all those places and I think this year, or maybe next year, when I drive up to school I’m going to take a southern route and visit those.”
Fletcher said hiking the trail was important because he had an ancestor that was removed along the trail.
“I had an ancestor who was forcibly removed, and I think that there’s really just something to be said about the juxtaposition between how I was treated and how my ancestor was treated at the time,” he said. “Just the general hospitality that I was shown was almost just the exact opposite of what my ancestor was shown. These commonalities and differences, they’re a lot deeper than that. A lot of people on the Trail of Tears didn’t have shoes, you know. I can buy a new pair of shoes whenever I want on the trail. I think there really is a juxtaposition there…with they’re walking away from their home and I’m walking home.”
ᏓᎵᏆ, ᎣᎦᎵᎰᎹ.- – ᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏰᎵ ᎨᎳ Chance Fletcher ᏧᏙᎩᏓ, ᏔᎵᏍᎪ ᎢᏳᏕᏘᏴᏓ, ᎤᏪᏙᎴ ᏕᎭᎷᏱ ᏥᎧᎸ ᎤᏂᎩᏎ ᎢᎴᎯᏳ ᎤᏂᎶᏒ ᏗᎨᏥᏱᎳᏫᏏᎲᎢ ᏯᏛᎾ ᏐᏁᎵᏥᏈ ᎢᏳᏟᎶᏓ ᎾᎿ ᎤᏴᏢ ᎢᏗᏢ ᎤᏂᎶᏒ ᎦᏅᏅ ᏚᎾᏠᏱᎸᎢ. ᎤᎴᏅᎮ ᎩᎦᎨ ᎦᏓᏆᎵ ᏍᎦᏚᎩ ᏴᏫ ᎤᏁᏓᏍᏗ ᏔᎾᏏᎢ ᏕᎭᎷᏱ ᏔᎵᏁ ᎠᎴ ᎤᏍᏆᏕ ᎾᎿ ᏧᏰᏉᏂ ᎢᎬᏱ ᎾᎿ ᏣᎳᎩ ᏧᎾᏓᏱᎵᏓᏍᏗᎢ.
ᎾᎿ ᎦᏅᏅ ᎦᎾᏠᏱᎸ ᎪᏪᎵᎠ ᎤᏂᎶᏒ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᏗᎨᏥᏱᎳᏫᏛᎮ ᎾᎿ ᏥᎨᎦᏂᎩᏍᏔᏁᎢ ᎾᎿ ᎤᎦᎾᏮᎧᎸᎬ ᎢᏗᏢ ᏚᏁᏅᏒ ᎦᏙᏅ ᏚᏂᎯᏰᎢ ᎪᎳ ᎠᏰᏟ ᎤᏕᏘᏴᏌᏗᏒᏃ ᏁᎳᏚ ᎢᏍᎪᎯᏧᏈ ᏦᏍᎪ ᏧᏁᎳ ᎠᎴ ᏐᏁᎳ ᏚᏕᏘᏴᏌᏗᏒᎢ ᎨᏎᎢ.
Fletcher ᏧᏙᎩᏓ, Oologah ᎡᎯ, ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᎡᎵᏊ ᎤᏂᎩᏎ ᎯᎠ ᎦᏅᏅ ᏅᏗᎦᎵᏍᏙᏗ Dale Summer Award ᎤᎩᏎ ᏂᏓᏳᏓᎴᏅᎢ Princeton University.
“ᎥᏓᏅᏖᏍᎬ ᎢᏳᏍᏓᏊ ᎠᎴ ᏣᏚᎵᏍᎬ ᎢᏣᏛᏗ ᎠᎴ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏄᏍᏛᎢ, ‘ᏣᏅᏔᏛ, Ꮭ ᎢᎴᎯᏳ ᎠᏆᏛᎦᏅ ᏱᎨᏎ ᎩᎶ ᎠᏂᎩᏍᎬ ᎦᏅᏅ ᏚᎾᏠᏱᎸᎢ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ. “ᎤᏟᏍᏗᏊ ᎠᏆᏓᏁᏖᎸᎢ. Ꮭ ᏙᎯᏳ ᏱᎨᎵᏍᎨ ᎠᎩᎩᏍᏗᎢ….. ᎠᎩᎩᏒᎢ. ᎠᎩᏩᏒ ᎠᏮᏔᏂᏓᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ ᎠᎭᏂ ᏥᎷᎦ.”
ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᎤᏂᎩᏍᏗ ᎤᏟᎶᎥ ᎤᏠᏯᏊ ᎢᏳᏍᏗ ᎨᏒ ᎾᏍᎩ “ᎢᏣᏅᏓᏗᎠᏍ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎨᎦᏂᎩᏍᏔᏅᎢ” ᎤᏂᎶᏍᏒᎢ. ᎤᏛᏅ ᎢᎦᏓ ᏄᏓᎴ ᎨᏒ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᏂᎩᏍᎬᎢ ᏧᎴᏅᎲ ᎩᎦᎨ ᎦᏓᏆᎵᎢ ᎾᎿᏃ ᏔᎵ ᏗᎦᏆᏗ ᏧᎾᎩᎸᏓ ᎠᎾᎴᏂᏍᎪ ᎢᏤ ᎢᏦᏗᎢ, ᏣᏥᎢ. ᏃᎴᏍᏊ Ꮭ ᏥᏳ ᏳᏣᏁ ᎢᎦᏓ ᏐᎢ ᏕᎦᏅᏅ ᎤᏂᎩᏎᎢ.
Fletcher ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᎠᏂᎩᏍᎬ ᏯᏛᎾ ᏦᏍᎪᎯ ᎢᏳᏟᎶᏓ ᎤᏙᏓᏆᏗ ᎨᏒᎢ ᎠᎩᎦᏛᎲᏍᎬ ᎢᏳᎵᏍᏙᏗ ᏳᎩᏨᎾ.
“ᏙᎯᏳᏃ ᎠᏆᏎᏍᏛ ᎢᏳᎵᏍᏙᏗ ᎾᎯᏳ ᎢᎦ, ᎢᏳᏗᎴᎦ ᏂᏓᎦᎵᏍᏔᏂᏒ. ᏧᏓᎴᏅᏓ ᎢᎦ ᏂᏕᎦᎵᏍᏗᏍᎬᎢ ᎤᎪᏓ ᏂᎦᏛᏁᎲ ᎦᏂᎩᏍᎬᎢ. ᎢᎦᏓᏃ ᎢᎦ Ꮭ ᎭᏩ ᎤᏓᏅᎯᏓ ᏱᎦᏂᎩᏍᎨᎢ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ.
ᎠᏗᏍᎬᏃ ᏯᏍᏆᎵ ᎤᏒᎢᏗᏝ ᎠᏣᏇᏐᎸᏍᏙᏗ ᎠᏁᎶᏗᏍᎬ ᏧᏂᎳᏫᏍᏗ ᎢᎸᏢ ᎤᏒᎯᎲ.
“ᎦᏁᎶᏗᏍᎬ ᏧᏂᎳᏫᏍᏗ ᎣᏂ ᎠᎦᏒᎯᎲ ᏅᏗᎦᎵᏍᏙᏗ ᎣᏍᏓᏊ ᏱᎩ ᎾᎿᎢ ᎨᎵᏍᎬᎢ, ᎠᎴ ᎤᎾᏓᏅᏘ ᏱᎩ ᎨᎵᏍᎬ ᎡᎵᏊ ᏴᎬᏇᎵᏍᏗ ᎨᎵᏍᎬ Ꮭ ᎠᏎ Clif Bars ᎠᏆᎵᏍᏓᏴᏗ ᏱᎦᎩ ᎨᎵᏍᎬ, ᎣᏍᎩᎾ ᎣᏍᏓ ᎨᏒ, ᎠᏂᏴᏫ ᏧᏂᎳᏫᏍᏗ ᎨᏒ Ꮭ ᏯᎾᏓᏕᏯᏙᏗᏍᎨ…… ᎤᎾᏓᏅᏘ ᎨᏒ…..ᎣᏍᏓ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ.
Fletcher ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᎾᎿ ᎠᎢᏒ ᎢᏳᏓᎭ ᎠᎴᏫᏍᏗᏍᎬ ᎤᏍᏆᏂᎪᏓ ᏚᏙᏢᏒ ᎧᏃᎮᏍᎬᎢ ᏝᏃ ᏂᎦᏓ ᏚᏙᏢᏒ ᏱᏓᎴᏫᏍᏗᏍᎨᎢ.
“ᏂᎦᏓ ᎤᏍᏆᏂᎪᏓ ᏚᏙᏢᏒ ᎡᏍᎦᎾᏋ ᏱᎩ ᎾᏍᎩᎾ ᎤᏂᎶᏒ ᎢᎴᎯᏳ ᏥᎨᏒ ᎠᎾᏅᏓᏗᏍᎬ ᎨᎦᏂᎩᏍᏔᏅ ᏱᎪᏪ ᎤᏂᎶᏒ ᎠᏆᏅᏛ…….ᎦᎴᏫᏍᏗᏍᎬ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ. “ᎪᏪᎵᏍᎬᏃ ᎢᎸᏢ ᏯᏆᎴᏫᏍᏔᎾ ᎠᎴᎨᎵᏍᎬ ᎯᎠ ᏧᏕᏘᏴᏌᏓ, ᎠᎴᏱ ᏐᎢ ᏩᏕᏘᏴᎲᎢ, ᎾᏍᎩ ᏗᎦᏚᎴᏂ ᎠᏆᏦᏕᏍᏗ ᏕᎦᏕᎶᏆᎡᏒᎢ ᏃᎴᏍᏊ ᎤᎦᎾᏮ ᎢᏗᏢ ᏓᏥᎶᏏ ᎠᎴ ᏙᏓᎦᎴᏫᏍᏔᏅ ᏚᏙᏢᏒᎢ.”
Fletcher ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᎤᏂᎩᏒ ᎢᎦ ᎤᎵᏍᎨᏓ ᎨᏒᎢ ᏅᏗᎦᎵᏍᏙᏗ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ ᎤᏩᎾ ᎠᏥᏱᎳᏫᏛᎮ ᎢᎴᎯᏳ ᏥᎨᏒᎢ.
“ᎪᎱᏍᏗ ᎠᏋᎾ ᎠᏥᏱᎳᏫᏛᎲᎢ, ᎠᎴ ᎨᎵᏍᎪ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏙᎯᏳ ᎧᏃᎮᏗ ᎾᎿ ᏄᏍᏛ ᎣᏍᏓ ᏂᎬᏆᏛᏁᎸ ᎠᏯ ᎠᎴ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᏯ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ ᏗᏮᎾ ᎤᏲ ᏂᏚᏅᏁᎸᎢ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ. “ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎣᏍᏓ ᏂᎬᏆᏛᏁᎸ ᎠᏯ ᎦᎢᏒ ᎦᏓᏅᏖᏍᎬ ᎾᎿ ᎤᏲ ᏂᏚᏅᏁᎴ ᏗᏆᏣᎵ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ ᏗᏮᎾ. ᎯᎠ ᏥᏄᏍᏛ ᎠᎴ ᏚᏓᎴᎾᎢ, ᎤᎪᏓ ᎨᏒ ᎠᏓᏅᏖᏗ ᎯᎠ. ᎤᏂᎪᏓ ᎠᎾᎢᏒ ᎦᏅᏅ ᏚᎾᏠᏱᎸ Ꮭ ᏱᏚᎾᎳᏑᏞ, ᎢᎦᏅᏔ. ᎠᏯᏃ ᎦᎢᏒ ᎡᎵᏊ ᏗᎩᏩᎯᏍᏗ ᎨᏒ ᏗᏆᎳᏑᎶ ᎢᏳ ᏯᏇᎵᏌᏊ ᎢᏴᎢ ᎦᎢᏒᎢ….. ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᏣᎾᎢᏎᎢ ᏚᏁᏅᏒ ᏂᎦᏓ ᏚᏅᏕᏤᎢ ᎠᏯᏃ ᎦᎢᏒ ᏗᏇᏅᏒ ᏫᏛᏥᎷᏥ.”