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Stopping the Trail of Fears

By Steve Paul Johnson, October 27, 2000

An American tragedy is replaying itself for the one-millionth time. A tragedy that many of us seem to ignore, or don't realize that it had ever happened. Yet it is just another example that we Americans as a whole still have yet to emerge as human beings.

This Halloween season, the Lawrence County Jaycee's of Lawrence County, Alabama have been holding a carnival event at the Oakville Indian Mound Park. The Indian Mound is the site where many indians were buried, after collapsing to death during the long walk known as the "Trail of Tears". They have dubbed the event, "Trail of Fears", and have decorated the Park with ghouls, goblins, and all the usual Halloween regalia, and are charging people $5.00 to see it.

The Jaycee's explain that the money is going towards a good cause, helping to raise funds to buy Christmas presents for needy children. But at the expense of ridiculing our native brethren? Certainly Native Americans would support the Jaycee's cause, but did they have to plan this event at this place?

The Trail of Tears is nothing short of an American tragedy. In 1838, the U.S. Government forcibly removed the indian tribes east of the Mississippi River and directed them to reservations in Oklahoma. Men, women, children and the elderly had to walk to their new "home" on what became known as the "Trail of Tears". Those who died during the walk, were buried along the trail.

It's an example of how we as Americans still don't regard the Native American as equal. We somehow still believe they are some kind of sub-human species devoid of a central nervous system. For us to pass it off and make light of it is inhumane. It's immature. It's a slap in the face.

What if another group decided to hold a Halloween fundraiser at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Non-Violent Social Change, (where King himself is interred), decorated it with goblins and ghouls, and dubbed it "Martin Luther Scream"? Would there not be outrage?

What if some group decided to open up a Halloween carnival by recreating a Nazi concentration camp, decorated it with goblins and ghouls, and named it, "Torah of Terror"? Would there not be outrage?

So why do we think that "Trail of Fears" is acceptable? Why do the Lawrence County Jaycees shake their heads in disbelief over the protests of Native Americans? The answer is that we as Americans don't accept our native brethren as human beings. We don't believe they have feelings. We just never take them into consideration. That's really how it is.

We convince ourselves that we are no longer tolerant of racism, yet we feel comfortable with a football team named "The Washington Redskins". The term "redskin" is THE most derogatory word associated with Native Americans. Yet I've seen little kids sitting in the stands wearing sweatshirts emblazoned with it. Should we feel just as comfortable with a football team named "The Los Angeles Niggers"? (my apologies, I only mean to make the analogy).

This really is not about the Jaycees, I'm sure they are all fine people. It's really about us. It was our fore fathers who segregated the Native Americans from their society. As a result, we hardly know them. But we have accepted other minorities into our lives, Africans, Jews, Hispanics, Orientals, and have learned to respect them as people. Do Native Americans continue to live on reservations because they want to, or because we want them to?

There is a website dedicated to helping the cause of Native Americans to stop the mockery being made by the Lawrence County Jaycees. You can sign a petition to voice your concerns, and get in contact with those leading the effort. I urge you pay them a visit:

http://members.tripod.com/cherokee_ne_al/

- Steve Paul Johnson

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