A pilgrimage from Indiana to Kansas
By Shirley Willard, Fulton County Historian

These are the highlights of the trip from Indiana to Kansas retracing the 1838 Potawatomi Trail of Death. It was a pilgrimage in many ways, climaxed by Kansas Governor Sam Brownback giving an apology to the Potawatomi for the forced removal and to all American Indians for many wrongs done to them by the U.S. government.

There were 37 people in the caravan when it started out, including 15 Citizen Band and one Prairie Band Potawatomi. We were joined by two others in Missouri, making a total of 39. But only 23 traveled all the way to Kansas.

Dan Noyes, Berkeley, California, and his filming crew of four people traveled with the caravan the first two days to make a documentary. Susan Green, Rochester, of YourStory Digital, video-taped the ceremony at Chief Menominee’s statue to add to the digitized program she is making, per a grant from the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Shawnee, Oklahoma.

Sept. 23 Monday - We gathered at the Fulton County Museum at 7:30 a.m. to get registered and organized. After a photo in front of the museum and prayer for a safe journey, we drove to Chief Menominee’s statue at Twin Lakes south of Plymouth, about 15 miles from our museum. George and Michele Schricker sang “Menominee” that George wrote and has performed at each of the previous caravans when they began at Menominee monument, Twin Lakes. Michele taught the audience to sign the words in sign language. Previous caravans were every five years, 1988, 1993, 1998, 2003, and 2008.

Millie and Leonard Lowery from Arizona joined us at the Tippecanoe River north of Rochester with baby Lila, such a sweet smiley baby. Uncle Stanley and his son Detrick was also with them. They sang a Pow Wow honor song at the Trail of Death memorial at the Rochester courthouse. Millie was the main organizer for the Trail of Broken Promises Walk from Lawrence, Kansas, to Washington, D.C., in 2012 to try to save the wetlands at Haskell Indian Nations University.

We ate lunch and saw Dr. Jerolaman’s house and nine George Winter paintings at the Cass County Historical Society. Dr. Jerolaman was the physician on the Trail of Death. The museum has never found a photo of Dr. Jerolaman so if anybody comes across one, please notify them.

Rich Meyer rode with George Godfrey as the lead vehicle to guide the caravan. The three Wamego sisters, Carmelita, Jeannie, and Cathy, along with Carmelita’s grandson Chris Osborn, brought up the tail. When part of the caravan was stopped by a light, they would tell us when the tail was through the light, and all the ducks were in a row. Chris would say, “Quack quack quack.” We loved it! It was difficult for the caravan to keep together through the city streets as stoplights would stop part of the vehicles so the lead vehicles would slow up or stop and wait for them to catch up.

We followed the Wabash River staying on the north side across Indiana, stopping at Chief Winnemac’s Old Village on Towpath Road, where a Trail of Death historical marker was erected in 1997 by Boy Scouts.

We next stopped at Battle Ground to visit the Battle Field Museum and Park. Dan Noyes and filming crew was with us across Indiana. He is from California and is making a documentary. They interviewed several of us there. Leaving Battle Ground, we drove by Burnett’s trading post log cabin - the oldest house in Indiana, and Prophet’s Rock.

At Tippecanoe County Historical Association, Kathy Atwell had arranged a special exhibit of George Winter pictures. Winter was the artist who sketched the Potawatomi with his pencil and then made oil paintings, thus preserving their dress and culture in the 1830s.

The National Center for Great Lakes Native American Culture treated us to a feast at Lafayette’s St Lawrence Church. Led by Linda Andrews, the group had prepared a feast of all American Indian foods: turkey, corn, squash, beans, nuts, fruit, & berries. It was delicious!

The Indiana Historical Society sent a representative to attend the supper, Mrs. Kyle McKoy and husband. She is the vice president of Education and Exhibits.

2013 Trail of Death Commemorative Caravan attendees met at the Chief Menominee statue, near Plymouth, Indiana, at the beginning of their journey to Kansas. From left are Bill and Shirley Willard, Janet Pearl, Carmelita Wamego Skeeter, Jeannie Wamego Van Veen, Sister Virginia Pearl, Bob Pearl, Linda and Peggy Anderson. In back are Jerry and Hildegard Pearl, Sharon Hoogstraten and mother Jo Hoogstraten, Chris Osborn, Theresa McNary, George Godfrey, Ralph Bazhaw, and Cathy Wamego. (Photo: David Sherman Begg, also a member of the caravan)

Michele Schricker leads the Potawatomi in sign language as her husband George Schricker plays guitar and sings the song he wrote about Chief Menominee, the man who would not sign the treaty. At left are Cathy Wamego, Janet Pearl, Jo Hoogstraten, Shirley Willard seated, Carmelita Wamego Skeeter, George Godfrey and his cousin Ralph Bazhaw. (Photo: Sharon Hoogstraten)

Susan Green of YourStory Digital, Rochester, Indiana, tapes the ceremony at Chief Menominee statue. She is digitizing the video tapes from past Trail of Death caravans, from a grant of $1,500 by the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. (Photo: Sharon Hoogstraten)

Wamegos pose by the Potawatomi historic trail sign at Chief Menominee monument, the beginning of the Trail of Death. From left: Carmelita Wamego Skeeter, George Godfrey, Jeannie Wamego Van Veen, Cathy Wamego, and Chris Osborn - Carmelita’s grandson. The Wamegos’ ancestor, Chief Wamego of Fulton County, was on the 1838 Trail of Death. (Photo: shirley Willard)

Leonard “Tre” Lowery and wife Millie Pepion and baby daughter Lila Mavis, born Feb. 25, 2013. Leonard and Millie were on the Trail of Broken Promises Walk in 2102 from Haskell Indian Nations University, Lawrence, Kansas, to Washington, D.C. They live in Mesa, Arizona. This is the first time a baby has traveled on the caravan. (Photo: Shirley Willard, at Tippecanoe River north of Rochester, Indiana)

Shirley Willard read the entry for Chief Winnemac’s Old Village site from the 1838 Trail of Death diary. (Photo: Bill Willard)
< Previous Home Next >
This page updated Nov 19, 2013.