Man retraces Trail of Tears water route
Adventurer Dale Stewart prepares to finish his 1,226-mile journey retracing the Cherokee Trail of Tears water route. He finished on the Arkansas River at Fort Gibson, Okla. COURTESY PHOTO
Adventurer Dale Stewart stands next the canack, a canoe/kayak hybrid craft that he used to travel more than 1,000 miles along the Cherokee Trail of Tears water route. He completed his journey on Aug. 17 in Ft. Gibson, Okla. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
FORT GIBSON, Okla. – Explorer Dale Stewart finished retracing the Cherokee Trail of Tears water route on Aug. 17 where Cherokee people and other tribes’ people landed in the 1830s during forced removals.
Stewart, 59, of Ashville, N.C., left Ross’s Landing in Chattanooga, Tenn., on June 18 in a custom-built canack – part canoe, part kayak. He said he traveled 1,226 miles on the Tennessee, Ohio, Mississippi and Arkansas Rivers.
“When I started looking and found the water route I found not a lot had been written on it and a lot of people didn’t know anything about it. I said here’s an opportunity to educate people,” he said. “It’s been one hell of a journey. I’ve learned a lot. I stopped at a lot of historic sites all along the way.”
He said in Savannah, Tenn., he was shown artifacts dealing with the removal of Cherokee people that had never been seen. One artifact was a receipt signed by Chief John Ross in 1839 that shows he bought firewood, corn and cornmeal. Ross had bought the steamboat Victoria to transport his family along the water route and had stopped at Savannah to stay with family.
Also in Savannah, Stewart was shown a letter Ross wrote to the hosting family thanking them for their hospitality. The letter also informed the family of the death of Ross’s wife Quatie in Arkansas during the Ross’ travel.
At least four detachments of Cherokees took the water in 1838-39. Stewart followed the Arkansas to Fort Gibson, just east of Muskogee, where members of the Arkansas Trail of Tears Association and the Cherokee Heritage Center greeted him.
“I heard a lot of people say, ‘why did you this?’ The idea was to educate people…the Trail of Tears was the most terrible time, I think, in American history. However, the story I’m really wanting to tell is the resilience of the Cherokee and the other tribes, but especially the Cherokee,” he said. “I think people need to be reminded of the Trail of Tears every so often.”
A film crew followed Stewart on his journey, and he said a documentary will be made of his trip and its purpose. He is also writing a book about his trip titled “Four Rivers.”
Stewart also used the journey to raise funds for the Cherokee Children’s Home in Cherokee, N.C., His trip was supported by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and Principal Chief Michell Hicks, who called Stewart a “friend” to the EBCI.
Stewart is an explorer, adventurist, conservationist and educator. He said his exploration philosophy is to immerse himself in extreme and often hostile environments, which he has done on four continents, going alone and learning from indigenous people.
This is the first “big expedition” he has done in the United States. He said compared to trips he has made in other countries this trip was fairly easy because he had easy access to supplies and the ability to stay in regular contact with friends and family. He said during the 64-day trip he camped 61 nights in his tent.
“It was just an amazing journey. It’s certainly going to rank up there in the top of things I’ve done,” he said.
People can learn more about Stewart’s expedition by visiting expeditionunbound.com
ᏧᏍᏆᎦᏟ ᏗᏐᏴ, ᎣᎦᎵᎰᎹ.– ᎠᎦᏖᏃᎵᏙᎯ Dale Stewart ᎤᏍᏆᏛ ᎢᎠᏍᏓᏩᏗᏙᎲ ᎾᎿ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᎨᏥᏱᎳᏫᏛᎲ ᎠᎹᏯ ᏧᏂᎶᏒ ᎾᎿ ᎦᎶᏂ ᎦᎵᏆᏚᏏᏁ ᎾᎿ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏂᏴᏫ ᎠᎴ ᏧᏓᎴ ᎠᏂᎳᏍᏓᏢ ᎠᏂᏴᏫ ᎤᏂᎷᏨ ᎾᎿ ᏁᎳᏚ ᎢᏍᎪᎯᏧᏈ ᏦᏍᎪᎯ ᎤᏕᏘᏴᏌᏗᏒ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏥᏗᎨᏥᏱᎳᏫᏛᎮᎢ.
Stewart, ᎯᎦᏍᎪ ᏐᏁᎳ ᎢᏳᏕᏘᏴᏓ, Ashiville, N.C., ᏧᎷᎯᏍᏗ ᎾᎿ Chattanooga, Tenn., ᎾᎿ ᏕᎭᎷᏱ ᏁᎳᏚᏏᏁ ᎤᏤᏟᏓ ᎠᎪᏟᎾᏁᎸ ᏥᏳ ᎠᎹᏯ ᎡᏙᎯ. ᎤᏛᏅᏃ ᎤᏂᎩᏒ ᏌᏊ ᏯᎦᏴᎵ ᏔᎵᏧᏈ ᏔᎵᏍᎪᏑᏓᎵ ᏯᎦᏴᎵ ᎤᏳᏟᎶᏓ ᎤᏂᎩᏎ ᎾᎿ Tenn., Ohio, Mississippi ᎠᎴ Arkansas ᏚᏪᏴᎢ.
“ᏣᏆᎴᏅᎲ ᏥᎦᏖᏃᎲ ᎠᎴ ᏣᎩᏩᏛᎲ ᎾᏳ ᎠᎹᏱ ᎤᏂᎶᏒ Ꮭ ᎤᎪᏗ ᏱᎧᏃᎮᏍᎨ ᎾᎿ ᎠᎹᏱ ᏚᏂᎶᏒ ᎠᎴ ᎤᏂᎪᏛ ᎠᏂᏴᏫ Ꮭ ᏳᎾᏅᏕᎢ. ᎠᎭᏂ ᎤᏝᏅᏓ ᏗᎨᏲᏗ ᎠᏂᏴᏫ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ. “ᏙᎯᏳᏃ ᎤᏍᏆᏂᎪᏛ ᎨᏒᎢ. ᎤᎪᏓ ᎠᏆᏕᎶᏆᎥᎢ. ᎤᎪᏓ ᏓᏆᎴᏫᏍᏔᏅ ᎾᎿ ᏄᎵᏍᏔᏅᏅ ᏚᏩᏙᏢᏒᎢ ᎦᎵᏒᎢ.”
ᎤᏛᏅ ᎾᎿ Savannah, Tenn., ᏓᏥᎪᏩᏛᏔᏁ ᎪᎯᎦ ᎤᏅᏔᏅᏅ ᏓᎾᏓᏅᏓᏁᎲ ᎾᎿ ᎬᏥᏱᎳᏫᏛᎲ ᎾᎿ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏂᏴᏫ Ꮭ ᎢᎴᎯᏳ ᎠᎪᎲ ᏱᎨᏎ. ᏌᏊ ᎬᏔᏅᎢ ᏚᎨᏓᏅᏓᏁᎸ ᎪᏪᎵ ᎪᏪᎳᏅ ᎨᏎ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᎬᏫᏳᎯ ᏣᏂ ᎫᏫᏍᎫᏫ ᎤᏬᏪᎳᏅ ᎨᏎ ᎾᎿ ᏐᏁᎳᏚ ᎢᏯᎦᏴᎵ ᏦᏍᎪ ᏐᏁᎳ ᎤᏕᏘᏴᏌᏗᏒ ᎬᏂᎨᏒ ᏂᎦᎵᏍᏗᏍᎨ ᎠᏓ ᏗᎪᏙᏗ, ᏎᎷ ᎠᎴ ᏎᎷ ᎢᏌ ᎤᏩᏒᎢ. ᎫᏫᏍᎫᏫ ᎾᏍᏊ ᎤᏩᏌ ᎤᏔᎾ ᏥᏳ ᎠᎹᏯ ᎡᏙᎯ Victoria ᏧᏙᎩᏓ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏚᏓᏘᎾᎥ ᎤᎾᏦᏙᏗ ᎾᎿ ᎠᎹᏱ ᎠᎾᎢᏒ ᎠᎴ ᎤᎾᎴᏫᏍᏔᏁ Ꮎ Savannah ᏚᏙᎥ ᎾᎿ ᏏᏓᏁᎸ ᎨᏒ ᎤᏁᏙᎴᎢ.
ᎠᎴᏗᏍᏊ ᎾᎿ Savannah, Stewart ᎠᏥᎪᏛᏔᏁ ᎪᏪᎵ ᎪᏪᎳᏅ ᎾᎿ ᎫᏫᏍᎫᏫ ᎤᏬᏪᎳᏅ ᎾᎿ ᎠᏂᏏᏓᏁᎸ ᏓᎵᎮᎵᏤᎲ ᎣᏍᏓ ᏂᎬᎦᏛᏁᎸᎢ. ᎯᎢᏃ ᎪᏪᎳ ᎾᏍᏊ ᎬᏂᎨᏒ ᏂᎬᏁᎲ ᏏᏓᏁᎸ ᎤᏂᎪᎶᏒ ᏣᏂ ᎫᏫᏍᎫᏫ ᎤᏓᎵᎢ ᎤᏲᎱᏒ Quatie ᏧᏙᎩᏓ ᎾᎿ Arkansas ᎾᎿ ᎠᎾᎢᏒᎢ.
ᏅᎩ ᎢᏳᎾᏓᏡᎦ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᎤᎾᏂᎩᏎ ᎠᎹᏱ ᎾᎿ ᏁᎳᏚ ᎢᏍᎪᎯᏧᏈ ᏦᏍᎪ ᏧᏁᎳ ᎠᎴ ᏐᏁᎳ ᏚᏕᏘᏴᏌᏗᏒᎢ. Stewart ᎤᏍᏓᏩᏛᏎ ᎾᎿ Arkansas ᏮᎷᏤ ᏧᏍᏆᎦᏟ ᏗᏐᏴ, ᎧᎸᎬ ᎢᏗᏢ ᎫᏐ, ᎾᎿ ᎠᏁᎳ Arkansas ᏅᏃᎯ ᏚᎾᏠᏱᎸ ᎤᎾᏓᏡᎬ ᎠᎴ ᎾᎿ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᏧᎾᏓᎴᏅ ᎠᏰᏟ ᏫᏚᎾᏠᏎᎢ.
“ᎤᎪᏓ ᎠᏆᏛᎦᎾ ᏴᏫ ᎾᏂᏪᏍᎬ, ‘ᎦᏙᎲ ᎯᎠ?’ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏗᎬᏲᏗ ᎠᏂᏴᏫ….. ᎾᎿ ᎤᏍᏗ ᎦᏅᏅ ᏚᎾᏠᏱᎸ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᏲᏟ ᎨᏎᎢ, ᎨᎵᏍᎪ, ᎾᎿ ᎠᎹᏱᏟ ᏄᎵᏍᏔᏅᏅᎢ. ᎠᏎᏍᎩᏂ, ᏙᎯᏳ ᎧᏃᎮᏢ ᎠᏆᏚᎵᏍᎬ ᎠᎩᏃᎮᏗ ᎾᎿ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᎤᎾᏟᏂᎩᏓ ᎠᎴ ᏗᏅᏂᏓ ᎨᏎ ᏃᎴ ᎠᏂᏐᎢ ᏓᏂᎳᏍᏓᏢ ᎤᏂᏠᏯ ᎨᏎᎢ, ᎠᏎᏍᎩᏂ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᏙᎯᏳ ᎨᏎᎢ,” ᎤᏛᏅᎢ. “ᎨᎵᏍᎬ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᏂᏴᏫ ᏗᏅᏓᏗᏍᏙᏗ ᏄᎵᏍᏔᏅᏅ ᎢᏴᏓᎭᎢ.”
ᏗᎾᏓᏟᎶᏍᏗᏍᎩ ᎤᏂᏍᏓᏩᏛᏒ Stewart ᎾᎿ ᎠᎢᏒᎢ, ᎠᎴ ᎤᏛᏅ ᎪᏪᎶᏗ ᎨᏎᏍᏗ ᎯᎠ ᎤᏂᎩᏒ ᎠᎴ ᏄᏰᎸᏛᎢ. ᎠᎴᏗᏍᏊ ᎪᏪᎵᎠ ᎪᏪᎵ ᎤᏪᏙᎸᎢ ᎯᎠ ᏂᏓᎦᏪᏎᎵ “ᏅᎩ ᏚᏪᏴᎢ.”
Stewart ᎾᏍᏊ ᎤᏔᏅ ᎯᎠ ᎤᏂᎩᏒ ᎠᏕᎳ ᎤᎾᎵᏍᎪᎸᏔᏅ ᎤᎾᎵᏍᏕᎸᏙᏗ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᏗᏂᏲᏟ ᎤᎾᏕᏗ ᎪᏢᏒ ᎾᎿ ᏣᎳᎩ N.C., ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᏂᎩᏒ ᎤᎾᎵᏍᏕᎸᏙᏔᏅ ᎧᎸᎬ ᎢᏗᏢ ᎠᏁᎯ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏂᏴᏫᏯ ᎠᎴ ᎤᎬᏫᏳᎯ Michell Hicks, ᎾᏍᎩ ᎯᎠ “ᎤᎾᎵᎢ” ᎾᎿ EBCI.
Stewart ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᎦᏖᏃᎵᏙᎯ, ᎠᏍᏆᏂᎪᏒᏍᎦ, ᎠᎵᏏᏅᏗᏍᎩ ᎠᎴ ᏗᏕᏲᎲᏍᎦ. ᎤᏛᏅ ᎯᎠ ᎤᏫᏙᎵᏙᎸ ᎧᎵ ᎤᎪᎲᏅ ᎢᎦᏓ ᎦᎾᏱᎦ ᏄᏍᏗᏓᏅ, ᎾᏍᎩ ᏄᏛᏁᎳᏅ ᏅᎩ ᏤᏆ ᎦᏙ ᏚᏙᏢᏒ, ᎠᏂᎩᏍᎬ ᎤᏩᏌ ᎠᎴ ᎠᏕᎶᏆᏍᎬ ᎾᎿ ᎠᏁᎯᏯ ᏓᏁᎲ ᎠᏂᏴᏫ.
ᎯᎢᎾ ᎢᎬᏱ “ᎤᏔᎾ ᎤᎦᏖᏃᎵᏙᎸ” ᏄᏛᏁᎸ ᎾᎿ ᎠᎹᏱᏟ. ᎤᏛᏅ ᏂᎦᏓ ᏚᏪᏙᎵᏙᎸ ᏗᏐᎢ ᏚᏙᏢᏒ ᎯᎠ ᎤᏪᏙᎸ ᎠᎯᏗᏊ ᎨᏒ ᏅᏗᎦᎵᏍᏙᏗ ᎠᎯᏗ ᎨᏒ ᎾᎿ ᎤᏔᏂᏓᏍᏗ ᎤᎩᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ ᎡᎵᏊ ᏗᎬᏩᏟᏃᎮᏙᏗ ᎨᏒ ᏧᎵ ᎠᎴ ᏏᏓᏁᎸ. ᎤᏛᏅ ᎾᎿ ᏚᏓᎵᏍᎪ ᏅᎩ ᏧᏙᏓᏆᏗ ᎤᏂᎩᏒ ᎤᏒᏢ ᎦᎵᏦᏛ ᎠᏫᎾᏗᏢ.
“ᏙᎯᏳ ᎤᏍᏆᏂᎪᏓ ᎠᏇᏙᎸ. ᏂᎦᏓ ᎾᏆᏛᏁᎸ ᎯᎠ ᎠᏇᏙᎸ ᎤᏍᏆᏂᎪᏗᏴᎢ,” ᎤᏛᏅᎢ.
ᎠᏂᏴᏫ ᎡᎵᏊ ᎬᏩᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᎤᎪᏛ ᏄᏛᏁᎸ Stewart ᎤᏪᏙᎵᏙᎸ ᎠᎭᏂ ᏗᏩᏛᎯᏓᏍᏗ expeditionunbound.com.