TOTA to hold annual conference in Pocola

Assistant Editor – @cp_wchavez
09/18/2017 08:15 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Trail of Tears Association members from nine states met in Dalton, Georgia, in October 2016 and toured nearby historic sites related to Cherokee history like the New Echota Historic Site in Calhoun. The Cherokee Nation established its first capital there in 1825, and the Cherokee Phoenix newspaper began publishing there in 1828. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The Trail of Tears Associations’ nine chapters will meet Oct. 16-18 for the association’s 22nd annual conference and symposium in Pocola, Oklahoma.

Registration will begin at 8 a.m. on Oct. 16 at the Choctaw Casino Hotel lobby followed by a TOTA board of directors meeting from 9 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. at Center Stage. An opening luncheon will begin at 12:30 and will include a welcome from National TOTA President Jack Baker, an introduction of dignitaries, Choctaw Nation Principal Chief Gary Batton and door prizes.

At 2 p.m., keynote speaker Dr. Dan Littlefield, who is the director of the Sequoyah Research Institute at the University of Arkansas Little Rock, will present “African Descendants and Indian Removal.” At 3:15 p.m. concurrent sessions will take place including, “Fort Smith Borderland History, “Cherokee Old Settlers in Arkansas” and “1902-1903 Choctaw Removal by Train.” Concurrent sessions at 4:30 p.m. include “Early Arkansas Banking and Indian Removal,” “Tiana’s Journey: In Wake of Removal” and “Seminole Removal.”

To the end the first day, a reception hosted by the Choctaw Nation will be held at 6:30 p.m. at Gilley’s in the Choctaw Casino Hotel.

On Oct. 17, youth presentations along with a presentation from Choctaw Nation “Remember the Removal” bike riders will kick off the day at 9 a.m. at Center Stage. At 10:15 a.m. participants will board buses for a guided Borderlands Field Trip to Cane Hill. Tour guides will be local historian Dusty Helbling and University of Arkansas Fort Smith Director Tom Wing. People on the tour will be welcomed to Cane Hill College and then have box lunches at the college from noon to 1 p.m. Nicholas Charleston, a Choctaw storyteller, will share stories during lunch and a Choctaw Removal Song will be performed by Ryan Spring.

At 1:30 p.m. Executive Director of TOTA Troy Wayne Poteete will present “Cherokees and Cane Hill,” which will discuss connections to the Cherokee Seminaries in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, and Cherokee students who attended a school at Cane Hill. From 2:15 p.m. to 3 p.m. the tour group will break into three groups to tour the Cane Hill, which includes a museum. Following the tour, Gaby Nagel of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians will perform flute songs. Also, Charleston will share a short story, and Wing will discuss the Drennen-Scott House site.

At 3:15 p.m. tour buses will leave for Prairie Grove Battlefield near Fayetteville. Tours of the John Latta House, the battlefield grounds and self-guided tours will be offered at this stop. Buses will be boarded at 5:15 p.m. to return to the hotel. On the way back to Pocola, Helbling and Wing will continue narrating about historic sites along the way.

The TOTA Phoenix Society Fundraiser will take place at 7 p.m. in the Seven Ponies Restaurant. Participants are responsible for their dinners. At 8 p.m. “guitar passing,” poetry recitals and a group directed talent showcase will take place at Gilley’s.

From 8:30 a.m. to 9:15 a.m. on Oct. 18 the superintendent of National Trails, Inter-Mountain Region and staff will present a report about the National Park Service’s efforts to mark and maintain Trail of Tears trails and sites. Beginning at 9:15 a.m. presidents for each of the nine TOTA chapters will present reports regarding their recent activities. Chapters are located in North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Numbers for door prizes will be drawn from 9:45 a.m. to 10 a.m.

From 10 a.m. to 10:20 a.m., a screening of “Introduction to Fort Smith Historic Site” will take place followed by a lecture on Supreme Court decisions and congressional policies that gave rise to the circumstances necessitating Judge Isaac Parker’s court, which was located in Fort Smith and also had jurisdiction in neighboring Indian Territory. Many tribes, including the Cherokee and Choctaw, were moved to Indian Territory during the forced removals. A tour of the Parker’s court at the Fort Smith Historic Site located at 100 Garrison Ave. will begin at 11:35 a.m.

The conference’s final lunch will take place at noon at on the grounds of Frisco Station located near the Fort Smith Historic Site. The meal will be a traditional Cherokee hog fry, which will be sponsored by Cherokee Nation Businesses. Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. will give remarks during the lunch, and Executive of Director of the Marshal Museum Jim Dunn will provide background on the museum that is being built in Fort Smith. After lunch, Cherokee marble game and stickball demonstrations will take place.

At 1 p.m. a lecture titled “Arkansas Politics and the 3 Creek Factions in Removal” will take place in the historic site’s visitors center, and at 2:15 p.m. a presentation titled “Bradley County (Tennessee) Reservations” will be presented. Following the presentations, at 3:30 p.m. Cherokee National Treasures will man booths and demonstrations. Potter Jane Osti will demonstrate pottery making and bow maker Richard Fields will show off his bow-making skills. Also, at this time guided tours will be available of Fort Smith Historic Site. At 4:45 p.m. the tours will converge at the “Trail of Tears Overlook” located adjacent to the historic site where past Arkansas Chapter President John McClarty will make remarks.

On Oct. 15, before the conference begins, a wayside exhibit dedication will take place at the Battle of Webbers Falls Park at 2 p.m. at Webbers Falls, Oklahoma. The dedication will be followed by a reception at the Showtime at the Falls Theater next to the Webbers Fall Museum. At 3:20 p.m. Anita Finger Smith, president of Cherokee Genealogy Services and National TOTA board member, will present “Genesis of the Eastern Band of Indians” in the theater. Following the lecture, the Webbers Falls Historical Society will host a reception at 4:30 p.m.

To register for the conference, visit or call Roy Barnes at 918-464-2258 or email
About the Author
Will lives in Tahlequah, Okla., but calls Marble City, Okla., his hometown. He is Cherokee and San Felipe Pueblo and grew up learning the Cherokee language, traditions and culture from his Cherokee mother and family. He also appreciates his father’s Pueblo culture and when possible attends annual traditional dances held on the San Felipe Reservation near Albuquerque, N.M.

He e ... • 918-207-3961
Will lives in Tahlequah, Okla., but calls Marble City, Okla., his hometown. He is Cherokee and San Felipe Pueblo and grew up learning the Cherokee language, traditions and culture from his Cherokee mother and family. He also appreciates his father’s Pueblo culture and when possible attends annual traditional dances held on the San Felipe Reservation near Albuquerque, N.M. He e ...


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