Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Trail of Tears Updates

The Cherokee Trail of Tears is a part of Southern Illinois' history that it not well-marked or widely known. That's due in part to the fact that we are the only state along the trail that does not have an interpretive center along the route to educate tourists to the history.

While there is an effort underway to rectify that situation, two recent developments should help in the future.

The first comes from SIU. Geophysicist Harvey Henson just received a $30,000 grant to search for unmarked Cherokee graves presumably near Campground Church in eastern Union County near Anna.
The National Park Service and the University are roughly splitting the cost for the study, which researchers hope will identify the graves of Cherokee who died in Southern Illinois during the 1838-39 Trail of Tears forced relocation.

Stories passed down through generations said German settlers allowed the Cherokee to bury their dead in the cemetery during the harsh winter that trapped them in the area. Some records indicate about 400 Cherokee died here, but other reports claim the dead numbered up to 4,000.

Last year, Henson began searching the two-acre cemetery with instruments that allow researchers to peer beneath the seemingly undisturbed ground for indications of gravesites. Using magnetic, electric conductivity and ground-penetrating radar instruments, the team confirmed the existence of up to three unmarked graves in a relatively small part of it.

For more information check out the entire news release.

The second event also took place over the fall veto session of the Illinois legislature when they made Route 148 the official state historic route of the Cherokee Trail of Tears. The Southern has the story.

The National Park Service designated this this official auto route of the national historic trail back in the 1990s, but the state had never followed suit. This will help with future grant applications.

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