NPR logo Commemorating the 175th "Trail of Death"

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.