Trail of Death subject of program

A sketch drawn by George Winter in 1838 depicts the United States military on horseback while members of the Potawatomi tribe were forced to march to Kanas, known as the Trail of Death. The Elkhart County Historical Museum will be presenting the “Stories of Elkhart: Native Removal,” program at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Elkhart County Historical Museum.

BRISTOL — The Elkhart County Historical Museum will present the latest in a series of programs, “Stories of Elkhart: Native Removal,” at 7 p.m. Thursday.

The event is at the Elkhart County Historical Museum, 304 W. Vistula, Bristol, and is free to attend.

This program will document the Trail of Death, the name given to the journey the Potawatomi living in this region were forced to take in 1838.  Over 800 Potawatomi living in the region were gathered by the United States military and forcibly removed to Kansas. Over the 660-mile march, more the 40 Potawatomi died from illness, starvation and exhaustion.

To tell this history, the program will show the documentary “Like Birds in a Wind Storm,” which gives historical context to the Trail of Death and tells the story of a group of people who travel the trail to Kansas every few years.

Following the film, Rich Meyer will be on hand to answer questions. Meyer, a member of the Potawatomi Trail of Death Association, has served as a navigator in the lead car of the caravan that follows the Trail of Death.

The presenting of this program is in connection with the opening of the museum’s newest exhibit, “Crossroads of Elkhart County: Claiming the Land,” which interprets the period of history that involves the forced removal of the Potawatomi and the Miami from this area.

In researching the content for the exhibit, museum director Julie Parke traveled the Trail of Death on the way to the Citizen Potawatomi Nation Cultural Heritage Center.

“It was a privilege to follow the route of the Trail of Death, but I would never presume to truly understand what the Potawatomi experienced in 1838 or the impact removal continues to have on their descendants,” Parke said.

The trip, funded by a grant from the Community Foundation of Elkhart County, was useful in gaining a new perspective on removal, both of the Potawatomi and the Miami, according to museum organizers, and the information Parke brought back to the museum influenced the creation and curation of the newest exhibit.

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