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
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:
- Steve Paul Johnson