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“Trail of Death” historical markers

This article is from the Journal and Courier website in Lafayette, Indiana.

Group seeks funds for historical markers

Signs would trace ‘Potawatomi Trail of Death’

March 3, 2008

A highway sign displaying the silhouette of a Native American family and an eagle is designed to point passersby to an often overlooked part of America’s past.

“The Potawatomi Trail of Death was well documented but it was swept under the rug of history,” said Shirley Willard, Fulton County Historian. “These signs will help people find the trail and understand what happened.”

In 1838, 859 Potawatomi American Indians were forcibly led from their northern Indiana home near Twin Lakes to Kansas as part of government-sponsored removal campaigns of Indians to resettlement sites. Hardships of the journey lead to 40 deaths.

Now, Willard and the Potawatomi Trail of Death Association aim to raise $3,635.45 this year for signs in Tippecanoe, Cass, Carroll and Warren counties to direct people towards historical markers in Lafayette, Battle Ground, Logansport and Williamsport. Posts have been already been erected across Fulton and Marshall counties.

The 24-inch-by-30-inch metal signs cost $50 and directional arrows, which hang from the bottom, are $7.35. Overall, 66 signs and 47 arrows are needed for the four counties.

Working with county historical groups, the association hopes to find enough people and organizations to cover the cost, from Boy Scout troops to history buffs. It plans to continue the project in Illinois, Missouri and Kansas.

“We hope the signs will raise questions, lead to inquires into the Trail of Death and bring more public awareness,” said George Godfrey, a member of Citizen Potawatomi Nation. “Perhaps more important, they will ask questions about why it happened and why there ever was a Trail of Death.”

The association installed over 70 makers along the original four-state, 660 mile route through donations and volunteer work — no government money was used, said Willard.

In 1994, those state legislatures declared the route a Regional Historic Trail.

Kathy Atwell, executive director of Tippecanoe County Historical Association, believes it’s important for people to understand the area’s American Indian heritage.

“The signs will help stretch people’s imaginations to try and think what this road looked like back then,” she said.


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