Commemorating the 175th “Trail of Death”
Between September 4 and November 4 in 1838, around 850 members of the Potawatomi nation from Indiana were forced to walk more than 650 miles though Illinois and Missouri when they were forced to relocate to Kansas by the government. More than 40 people died during the journey, most of them were children. This hour on Focus, host Jim Meadows talks with Sister Virginia Pearl, whose great-grandmother was one of the few children to survive what Virginia’s mother described to her as “the long walk” when she was a girl. Pearl is one of a group of people who recently returned from a pilgrimage from Indiana to Kansas, traveling along the same route her ancestors did. The caravan came through East Central Illinois stopping to observe historical markers near Danville, Monticello and Decatur.
(Sister Virgina Pearl is pictured right in the dress she wears on the Potwatomi Trail of Death Caravan to remember her great-grandmother.)
Meadows also talks with Shirley Willard, co-founder of the Potawatomi Trail of Death Association, the group that has organized the trip every five years since the late 1980’s and John Bowes, an expert in the Potawatomi. He’s an Associate Professor at Eastern Kentucky University and will talk with us about why the Potawatomi were forced to leave their home in Indiana.
Read the full transcript
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Transcript for file: focus131008a.mp3
here in east central Illinois you may have seen a sign on a country road
marker in a park noting the round to the Pottawatomie trail of death
was the route that some 850 members of Potawatomi tribe from Indiana
Indiana to 1838 traveled on foot to new lands
reserved for them in Kansas 1440 people mostly children died
what mg metals today on focus were looking back Potawatomi
trail of death on 175th anniversary hear from
Express Pottawatomie in the federal government Indian removal
focus continues after the news
welcome to focus on Jim Meadows I was driving around of the month to sell over and pints
County Illinois when I first noticed it was a little road sign telling me I was on the
what’s on the route to the Pottawatomie trail of death with an arrow pointing the way a little while
little while later I came across another sign which point is the way a little further
the signs were put there to remind me of something that occurred in 18
38 that was 100 members of the Potawatomi tribe took a journey
by foot from Indiana to Kansas leaving the lands they had known
but now I had to leave to go to lands of the federal government had set aside for them
doesn’t died along Route which covered four states including
part of the route through Illinois from Danville to Quincy this event is remembered
bird as the Pottawatomie trail death and it was one of several coastal cold Indian
removal of a card with a federal law in the 19th century ordered
This hour on Focus, we’ll take a look back at East Central Illinois’ connections to the first all-black group of United States fighter pilots with Jim Eldridge, former education director at the Octave Chanute Air Museum in Rantoul. Brad Lang, a professional pilot who volunteers with the Commemorative Air Force’s Red Tail Squadron also joins us. His dad, Donald, served with the Tuskegee airmen in WWII.
In 1963 when he made the trip from Champaign to Washington D.C., Bill Smith was 21. As an active member of the NAACP chapter at the University of Illinois, he says he remembers feeling awed and inspired by the sheer number of other people who were gathered at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Even as a high school student at Champaign Central, he says he was involved with bringing the blacks and whites together. But it was when he returned from the march that he says he was motivated to really become an agent for change.
This hour on Focus, host Jim Meadows talks with Smith about his experience at 1963 March on Washington; his relationship with his long-time mentor Erma Bridgewater, and about the racial climate during the 1960’s in east central Illinois.
We’re also joined by Sundiata Cha-Jua, an Associate Professor of History and African American Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign about the significance of the march in the context of the larger movement and about Dr. King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
Did you know someone who marched in a protest during the 1960’s? Did you? What was it like to be a part of one? We want to hear from you this hour on Focus!