A memorial wall to honor Cherokee who were forcibly removed from their native homeland during the Cherokee Removal will be dedicated at the Cherokee Removal Memorial Park in Birchwood, Tenn., at 2 p.m. on Sunday.
The dedication completes a 25-year, multiphase endeavor by three women to provide a memorial to the thousands of Native Americans who passed through the location as part of the Indian Removal Act of 1830.
2013 marks the 175-year anniversary of the Cherokee Removal, known as the Trail of Tears.
The specific location overlooking Blythe Ferry is historically significant, according to Gloria Schouggins, former president of the Meigs County Tourism Council and one of the women involved in the project.
What: Cherokee Removal Memorial Wall dedication ceremony
Where: 6800 Blythe Ferry Road, Birchwood, TN 37308
When: Sunday, Oct. 27, 2 p.m.
How much: Free
For more information: Click here
"Nine thousand Native Americans crossed through here on the Trail of Tears," she said. "Once they crossed the river at this point, they knew their homeland was gone forever."
Shirley Lawrence and Shirley Hoskins are the other women involved in making the project a reality. Hoskins moved to Chattanooga in 1965 and discovered her own Cherokee heritage through genealogical research. Those ties prompted her to create a memorial with the names of the families removed. Hoskins’ third great-grandfather was a full-blooded Cherokee.
The project raised $225,000 to complete the memorial wall, which features the names of 2,535 heads of households from the 1835 Henderson Roll, which was a census of Cherokees east of the Mississippi River. Fourteen panels will list the names alphabetically by state.
Nancy Williams is park manager for the Cherokee Removal Memorial Park. She said the Trail of Tears was much more brutal than people would like to think.
"People call this a dark spot on American history simply because of the brutality," she said. "[The Native Americans] were forced from their homes at saber point. They were made to stay in stockades, exposed to the elements, not allowed to keep themselves clean."
Williams said many of the removed refused to take food because that meant they were "accepting what was happening to them."
They were forced to march in the worst winter on record in Tennessee.
Reports suggest many died, including 2,000 to 6,000 of the relocated Cherokees.
Williams said the original design of the park was based on the now-completed memorial wall. The park now includes a scenic overlook, a wildlife viewing area and interpretive visitors center.
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