Another Stereotype of the Month entry:
[Here is] a flier that advertises a "Trail of Fears" Halloween spook carnival in rural Alabama, sponsored by a Jaycee chapter, that is taking place on and around government recognized Cherokee burial grounds. Southeastern Cherokees are protesting each night and people from around the country are sending in letters to the editor of the local paper, protests to the U.S. Jaycees, and many others. The organizers feel threatened by the "bad" Indians to the point of having the sheriff's posse and the state police guard this area.
More on the "Trail of Fears"
More on the subject—much more—from the Naked Truth newsletter:
Editor/Historical Activist: Terri Jean
It is universally admitted that the earth was designed for improvement and tillage, and the right of civilized communities to enter upon and appropriate to such purposes, any lands that may be occasionally occupied or claimed as hunting grounds by uncultivated savages, is sanctioned by the laws of nature and of nations.
Noah Noble, governor of Alabama, 1832
When famed Indian-fighter, Andrew Jackson was elected into the presidential office in 1829, he was committed to complete removal of the Eastern Indians and made their evacuation a national issue. "White" citizens felt that the inferior Indians were a nuisance, impeding their progress for a "civilized" community development. In 1830 Congress passed the Indian Removal Act and Jackson immediately signed it. This disastrous Act was a federal permission slip for states to coerced various tribal communities of the north and eastern areas to extract themselves from their own properties, including ancestral homeland and sacred spiritual and burial sites, and move out west to land that white people admittedly did not want to occupy. When the Cherokee's resisted removal, Jackson declared, "Build a fire under them. When it gets hot enough, they'll move."
In November of 1838 groups totaling over 14,000 Native American Indians had to trudge forward in unforgiving weather. Traveling the near-1000 miles during both extreme heat and freezing cold, the Native people trekked forward without medical services, adequate food and water, sanitation, clothing, bedding or protection from the elements. Walking for more than 6 months—most were starving, exhausted, weak and near dying, especially the infants and elderly who suffered high fatality rates. Thousands of America's First Peoples died, including 4,000 Cherokee Indians. Their painful path is now known as, THE TRAIL OF TEARS.
It is now year 2000 and the descendants of those same Cherokee Indians are fighting to protect a burial ground filled with ancestors who never completed their torturous trek out west. The Oakville Indian Mounds near Moulton Alabama, a 68 acre park leased and managed by the Lawrence Country Board of Education, is a well-known Indian gravesite supposedly protected by Public Law 95-341-Aug. 11,1978 92 Stat. 469—"the American Indian Religious Freedom Act." Tragically, the land is being desecrated and a mockery made of the dead—all in the name of community fun and fund-raising.
This Halloween the Board of Education and the Lawrence County Jaycees have collaborated efforts to turn the sacred burial ground into a haunted excursion for $5.00 a pop. Calling it "The Trail of Fears"—many indigenous residents of Lawrence Country and through-out the country have protested calling the haunting "offensive," "inappropriate" and "disrespectful to spirits of ancestors who rest there."
"They are holding a Pagan event on our Sacred Ground and making a mockery of our religion, our feelings, and down grading us as human beings" stated Gene Gold, Vice Chairman of the Blue Echota Cherokee, in a letter to Editor Decatur Daily newspaper. "Nothing good can come of money raised on glorifying what we consider the American Holocaust."
Much of the protesting has met with opposition. Jaycee Scott Henderson claimed, "We have as much right to use this park as anyone else does."
Others have raised issues concerning the charity and worry that closing the fundraiser will result needy children not having a Christmas. Gene Gold responded by saying, "The Jaycees were offered cash money equal to what they expected to raise, we would buy all the T-shirts so they wouldn't lose any money [t-shirts with "Trail of Fears" printed], I personally offered my land so they could raise more money. They harshly declined saying "they had every right to continue this."
American Indian and their supporters have expressed outrage over the Hallowed event and it also caught the attention of CNN—who interviewed Chief Millard Shelton earlier this week and is dispatching a news crew to Moulton on October 26th.
Others expressed their concerns:
"I am writing today to express my distress about the event which is taking place around the Oakville Mounds, under the billing "Trail of Fears". Given that there are remains buried in the Oakville Mounds of American Indians who died as a result of the forced removal that has become known as the "Trail of Tears," both the name and the location are inappropriate, with each magnifying the gravity of the other. I find it equally distressing that the Director of Indian Education for Lawrence County, Mr. Butch Walker, helped to organize this travesty."
"It matters not who holds the paper "title" to these mounds, the land belongs to the spirits lying beneath the cover of Mother Earth."
"Even though I live in Oregon, I stand with your efforts not to allow our ancestors to be dishonored in such a way. I will pray and send smoke to Creator to help you in this protest."
"The mounds in Ohio are always under attack by a host of evil doers. My prayers are with you, stay strong and stay in the face of the ones who so willfully desecrate our sacred sites."
"Please show some respect to our dead as you would want us to show you respect to yours. A very simple request is asked of this by all First Nations. This letter is going out to people in the circle to keep them informed of what is happening there."
"It seems the persecution of Indian people never stops. Our people were noble, honorable people who had their homes taken from them and they were shipped off to other lands. The Trail of Tears is not something to be joked about or held in ridicule for Halloween. Our traditions were to respect our elders and to leave the dead in peace. You are not doing that. Why is it that whenever something is needed for research, entertainment, our people are the first to be assaulted."
"Please add my voice to those others raised in outrage at the insensitive and inhuman plans of the Jaycees to desecrate holy ground and make a mockery of the religious sensitivities of a People who were once rounded up and slaughtered—like the Jews in W.W.II—by evil hearted people who thought themselves superior to the 'lower races'. Thank you.
1. "Trail of Fears" is to ridicule those who walked (and died) on the Trail of Tears.
2. Burial grounds are—and should remain—sacred.
3. It is unbelievable that the Department of Indian Education is involved in this cultural travesty. They should know better.
4. To use charity as an excuse to continue an offensive act is unjustifiable.
5. The basis of this fundraiser is to help 'needy' children over the holidays—though this type of blatant stereotyping and indifference to one's cultural heritage—is detrimental to Native American Indian children everywhere.
6. To continue the haunting, even though the coordinator's know many are opposed to it (and have offered viable solutions to resolving the issues) is a slap in the face.
7. There are no connections between the burial grounds and Halloween.
8. To invade the burial mound park in such a manner is disrespectful to those who are buried there.
9. Other non-Native cemeteries would not allow this to occur. So why is it appropriate to mock those that are aboriginal?
10. This conflict shows how far the Native people of North America need to travel in order to have cultural equality and a voice that can be heard—and listened to—along with those that are non-Native.
As a result of the protests, in person and electronically, the Jaycees:
Unfortunately, the authorities roughed up a few people who were peacefully exercising their right to assemble and speak. Such is the state of democracy in America. Is it any wonder people continue to protest?
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Original text and pictures © copyright 2007 by Robert Schmidt.
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