The 950-mile bicycle ride was part of “Remember the Removal.”
At Red Clay State Park, site of the last Cherokee Tribal Council prior to the removal of thousands of Native Americans, Dr. R. Michael Abram, co-owner and curator of the Cherokee History Museum and Gallery, is hosting a display on the story of the removal as well as a number of artifacts.
“In commemoration of the 175th anniversary of the Cherokee Removal, the display will be presented at Red Clay through August,” Abram said.
The display will include Cherokee local names from the Henderson Roll.
“It is titled ‘Fewer Footprints and More Tears,’” Abrams said.
The title opens the story of the plight of the Cherokee people as they held their final council as a nation, then were moved to Charleston’s Fort Cass, Rattlesnake Springs and Chatata Valley.
They were rounded up by soldiers under the orders of U.S. President Andrew Jackson.
From seven states, the Cherokee people were removed from their rich homeland and heritage after the federal government took their land, though some fled to the Great Smoky Mountains.
Along what is known as the Trail of Tears, thousands died, according to Abram.
“As thousands died, there were more tears than footprints,” he said … thus the title of the display which is being offered free of charge in commemoration of the anniversary.
Art, copies of documents such as the New Echota Treaty, photos and audio narrative are among the educational experience.
Each piece has a story to tell. According to Abram, they represent the stories of the Cherokee artistically and with great meaning.
For example, slate carvings of teardrops are now finished upside down. The meaning is renewal.
Mineral formations such as barite rose were found along the Trail of Tears. The formations take on a rose appearance and are natural as well as indigenous to the Oklahoma Cherokee capital, according to Abram.
Other symbols of remembrance are corn beads and the Cherokee Rose.
All these items are in common use by the Cherokee people today, as they remember their ancestors’ journey.
Abram will also have on display a piece of meteorite which resembles a panther. For the Cherokee, a panther was the symbol for a comet or meteorites, he said.
“When they experienced a meteor shower, the Cherokee believed it was an omen; that something bad would happen,” Abram explained.
According to Abram, the meteors would cross the sky quickly and quietly.
“Just like a panther, fast and quiet, that’s why they related meteors to the panther,” he said.
Abram said land has been given to set up a new museum.
“We will be moving the Cherokee museum to Chattanooga soon. It will have all of the art, artifacts and other items displayed,” Abram said.
The current exhibit will be traveling around during 2013-14, according to Abram.
Abram was also a part of the attendees who gathered for the Tennessee Trail of Tears workshop held at the Museum Center at Five Points this week.
“We were truly honored that the National Trail of Tears Association would choose Bradley County to host the workshop,” said Melissa Woody, vice president for the Convention & Visitors Bureau at the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce.
“We welcomed visitors from Georgia, North Carolina, Alabama, Illinois, New Mexico and Tennessee. Several attendees visited the new Hiwassee River Heritage Center in Charleston. We were excited to welcome Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilman and President of the Trail of Tears Association Jack Baker, as well as guests from the National Park Service Trails Division in Santa Fe, N.M,” Woody said.
The workshop was an opportunity to review results of an ongoing survey of standing structures directly related to the Trail of Tears. The study is being conducted by the National Park Service in conjunction with the Center for Historic Preservation at MTSU. Amy Kostine, curator of the exhibit at the Hiwassee River Heritage Center, is leading the survey work.
For additional information regarding the display at Red Clay, Abram can be reached at 334-707-0281.