Join us to apologize for the forced removal of Native American Indians from Indiana.
Adam Friesen, 4th grade teacher at Bethany Christian School, and I have been conferring on this. Please share this letter with your committee and let us know if you are willing to partner with us on Indiana Indian Day Apr. 22, as described below. Please reply what you decide. We hope your group will work with us on this project. Thanks. Shirley
Letter from Shirley Willard, Fulton County Historian
We are embarking on a new project and invite you and your group to partner with us. Please show the DVD documentary about the Trail of Death, Like Birds in a Wind Storm, which we are offering to give to you for a program for your group.
Chief Menominee was the leader of the resistance who refused to leave Indiana but Indiana Governor David Wallace came to investigate the disturbance. Some Indians had broken down a white mans cabin door, and some white men had burned a wigwam. On his way back to Indianapolis, Indiana Gov. David Wallace stopped in Logansport and authorized General John Tipton to hire 100 volunteer militia and remove the Potawatomi from Indiana. They started out Sep 4 and camped the first night at the Tippecanoe River and Michigan Road (Old 31) north of Rochester. They were marched at gunpoint down Rochesters Main Street Sep 5, 1838. The first death occurred at Mud Creek six miles south of Rochester. This became the Trail of Death: 42 died on the way to Kansas, about 100 escaped, and Father Benjamin Petit died on the way home to Indiana.
I asked Gov. Mike Pence to issue an apology to the American Indians for all the forced removals from Indiana. Indiana means Land of the Indians, but they were forced to leave and go west. Pence declared Sep 20, 2014, as Potawatomi Trail of Death Remembrance Day. We were grateful for that but still hoping to get Indiana to apologize. This would not be without precedence. In 2013 Kansas Governor Sam Brownback apologized to the Potawatomi and other tribes for the unjust way they have been treated and their trails of tears. The United States Congress apologized to all the Indians in 2010. But it was attached to an appropriations bill and not publicized. When the Indians heard about it, they held a public reading but the news media did not pay much attention. I did not hear about it until 2013 when I saw it on the Internet.
We have learned that if something needs to be done, dont wait for the government - Do it yourself.
Therefore we are asking you all to partner with us to plan and do a special day for all of us Indiana residents to acknowledge and apologize for the forced removals. We have picked Earth Day, Saturday, April 22, 2017, and are working on the plans. Because the Potawatomi were marched at gunpoint down Rochesters Main Street, we feel this would be a logical place to hold this event. We could offer people the chance to park at the north end of Main Street and walk to the Catholic Church at 1310 Main, a distance of about 10 blocks. Instead of carrying rifles, they could bring scrolls with signatures of people who support the apology, including schools, clubs, churches, and groups. At the Catholic Church Fellowship Hall, we could have a ceremony and program.
Ideas for the program: school children tell stories about children on the Trail of Death and other removals, offer hoecakes which is what Rochester housewives gave to the Potawatomi as they went through town in 1838, and show a clear jar of creek water, which was what they had to drink. We would also offer real cookies and good water for refreshments. George Schricker, Plymouth, will sing his Menominee song.
We would declare that we the people of Indiana lament that the Native American Indians were forced by our government to leave Indiana. We are saddened and wish it had never happened.
Please discuss this with your group and get back with me on your thoughts. Will you partner with us and get signatures? Will you be able to attend? Do you have ideas for the program? Will you pray for the success of this effort, that it will be healing and spiritual, not political?
Shirley Willard, Fulton County Historian
About Adam Friesen & 4th Graders
Adam Friesen, 4th grade teacher at Bethany Christian School, Goshen, and I have been conferring on this program. This Mennonite School is very interested in the American Indians being driven from Indiana. There were many removals, from the Delawares in 1820 to the Miami in 1946, and Potawatomi in several removals - the worst being the Trail of Death in 1838. Removals continued until 1851, when Indiana decided it had removed all the Natives from Indiana. It became official state policy that all the Indians had left Indiana and this was taught in the school texts. I know because I taught 8th grade Indiana history at Kewanna School 1960-67.
As Fulton County Historian I interviewed many senior citizens since 1982 and some had Indian ancestors. One man told me that when he and his brothers were kids walking to the one-room schools, the white children would sometimes throw rocks at them and call them dirty rotten lazy Indians. Others told me that their grandparents kept it a secret that they were of Indian descent because they were afraid they would be forced to go west and lose their land. Also white people treated them better if they did not know they were Indians.
This is what Adam Friesen recently wrote me:
I have been working quite a bit on our April 22nd event.
I agree that this is a time when people are yearning to hear this story.
Thinking about how our community might have a presence at this event has been in the front of my mind since we talked back in November.
Shirley speaking again:
Now I am inviting you to help with this event and get people to join us in apologizing to the Indians of Indiana, most of whom have left but had ancestors here.
This is a big job and it scares me. I have felt for many years that God is calling me to get Indiana to apologize to the Indians. But I am 80 years old and had back surgery Jan 24, so I cannot no longer go around giving speeches and programs like I used to. If God wants us to do this, I pray He will send us helpers and move the hearts of those in power to feel the pull that we feel. I have cried many many times for the babies and all who died on the Trail of Death.
This is what Millicent Pepion, Navajo from Arizona, said at Chief Menominee statue on their Trail of Broken Promises walk from Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas, to Washington D.C. The spirits of the dying babies on the Trail of Death did not know which way to go, back to Indiana or to an unknown place ahead. Millicent and her friends sprinkled water at each place on the Trail of Death because 1838 was a year of terrible draught and the Indians cried Bish bish (water) as they walked in thirst. What water they found was stagnant and carried typhoid, that deadly fever that caused sores and killed over 40 Potawatomi on the 660 mile trek to Kansas in the fall of 1838.
These are some of the stories that need to be told. Please talk to others and invite them to take part April 22 in Rochester for Indiana Indian Day. Help us spread the word, partner with us, help make this happen. Thank you.
Some Indians say they dont want an apology but equal rights and better living conditions. True, but I do not have the power to give that. And I think an apology is the first step. I know when someone has hurt me, I feel better if they apologize, even though it does not erase the sadness nor make things right. God is calling me to get Indiana to apology to the Indians. It needs to be done. Dont you agree? Please email or write me your thoughts.
Report Feb 22, from Shirley Willard
We have been sending a free DVD of Like Birds in a Wind Storm, to Indiana county historians, museums, libraries, schools, interested people who say they will show it as a program to groups. We got 500 copies and they need to get out to interested people. Just give me the name and address and name of organization or group. We also sent copies to the 11 prisons in Indiana that have Native American Circles. I have heard back from many people on this project and they support it and want to help in whatever way they can.
I talked to the local priest, Father Mike McKinney, of St. Joseph Church, Rochester, where we plan to have the Indiana Indian Day program at 2 p.m. April 22. Here are his suggestions.
What do you think of the above? Father Mike has been thinking about it and trying to figure how to help us. I emailed the Governor and applied for the Apology. But whether he apologizes or not, we will go ahead with Indiana Indian Day.
I emailed Wes Clark Jr., the soldier who apologized to the Lakota, and invited him or if he cannot come, give us permission to have a local soldier read his apology to Chief Leonard Crow Dog. Clarks apology is at the bottom of this page - it is on You Tube. Very moving and accurate.
I also sent a DVD of Like Birds in a Wind Storm to Jane Pauley, on CBS Sunday Mornings and asked if she would do a story about it and our seeking an apology from Indiana government. Pauley is originally from Indianapolis.
Your suggestions are most welcome here. Just email me at
A parade on Main Street was suggested but I am afraid of attracting protestors. We want this to be healing and spiritual, not political.
Wes Clark Jr.s Apology at Standing Rock (This is from the Internet Dec 5, 2016, on You Tube.)
Wes Clark Jr., the son of retired U.S. Army general and former supreme commander at NATO Wesley Clark Sr., apologized to Lakota spiritual leader and medicine man Chief Leonard Crow Dog:
Many of us, me particularly, are from the units that have hurt you over the many years. We came. We fought you. We took your land. We signed treaties that we broke. We stole minerals from your sacred hills. We blasted the faces of our presidents onto your sacred mountain. When we took still more land and then we took your children and then we tried to make your language and we tried to eliminate your language that God gave you, and the Creator gave you. We didnt respect you, we polluted your Earth, weve hurt you in so many ways but weve come to say that we are sorry. We are at your service and we beg for your forgiveness.
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