Arkansas city to dedicate Trail of Tears memorial

BY STAFF REPORTS
07/13/2016 04:00 PM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Dusty Helbling, Ozark Area Museum, Main Street Ozark and Trail of Tears historian, designed the Trail of Tears Memorial that will be dedicated on Sept. 24 in Ozark, Arkansas. The memorial honors the Cherokee, Choctaw, Seminole, Chickasaw and Muskogee (Creek) nations that passed by Ozark during the forced removals in the 1800s. COURTESY
OZARK, Ark. – The Ozark Area Museum will host a dedication ceremony at 1 p.m. on Sept. 24 for a memorial to honor five tribes that passed the Ozark area via land routes and the Arkansas River during the forced removal of tribes known as the Trail of Tears.

Representatives from the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Seminole and Muscogee (Creek) nations have been invited to the ceremony. Seminole Assistant Chief Lewis Johnson will play the flute to open the program. Executive Director the National Trail of Tears Association and Cherokee Nation citizen Troy Wayne Poteete will be the main speaker.

“We wish to honor those that were forced to leave their homes on a journey that took the lives of many family members before reaching the land in Indian Territory. The people of Ozark invite the members of the Five Civilized Tribes to come to Ozark and allow us to honor you as well as your ancestors,” Dusty Helbling, project coordinator and Trail of Tears historian, said.

The memorial is a stone slab that is 6 feet tall and 4-1/2 feet wide. It sits on a 14-by-16-foot stone-stamped-concrete slab. In front of the standing rock marker are two smaller stones. All three stones came from a hilltop overlooking the Old Military Road the tribes traveled during the removals from 1832-40.

Also mounted in the concrete in front of the standing memorial are four pieces of diamond-shaped Cherokee Marble 1 foot in size from a quarry in Tate, Georgia. This is the same marble used for the Lincoln Memorial and other U.S. government buildings.

The Ozark Area Museum, with the help of Main Street Ozark, helped designed the memorial.

“They found a copy of a design in the museum files I had sketched out in the 1990s and ask if I could come up with a new one. I wanted to make this more personal and symbolic for the five tribes and at the same time remember that the site of the memorial was part of the old original Western Cherokee Reservation (1819-29) here in Arkansas,” Helbling said. “We used Sequoyah’s syllabary as part of the marker because he completed it while living near Scottsville, Arkansas, on this reservation, and it was the only Native American written language during the removal period.”

Ozark is on the bank of the Arkansas River where the tribes passed on riverboats and between two land routes that passed north and south of the city, Helbling said.

Cherokee artist Ron Mitchell’s depiction of the Trail of Tears is also a part of the memorial and will be unveiled on Sept. 24.

Ozark is located 35 miles from the Oklahoma state line on I-40. It is recommended people use Exit 37 to get to the dedication site located at 103 E. River St. For more information, call 479-667-5015.

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