H) Contradictions in Quincy

"Trail of Death marker to be placed on Quinsippi Island" / Quincy Herald-Whig

What may be the last Trail of Death Commemorative Caravan travels through Quincy on Thursday, bringing an opportunity to learn more about another culture and a dark page in the nation's history.

And this time, Quincy plans a celebration as a sign of peace and friendship for the Potawatomi Indians.

The public is invited to meet and greet the Potawatomi and friends on the caravan, including some descendants of participants in the Indians’ forced removal march from Indiana to Kansas. The 1838 march became known as the Trail of Death because more than 40 died on the 60-day, 660 mile trek.

"Quincy needs to do a little more to treat the people as delegates of a nation," Quincy archaeologist Steven Tieken said. "This is a small way to show an act of tenderness, an act of kindness, to show them we want to learn."

"This is a rare opportunity to meet with the Potawatomi people and learn something of their past, present and future," Tieken said. "This historical event will stand as a testament to the healing power of education, understanding and forgiveness."

For the Potawatomi, the caravan marks a spiritual journey, a chance to relive the past while traveling the original 1838 route of their ancestors. The route passed through the Quincy area, where the Potawatomi camped in October 1838 and held mass at St. Boniface Church.

The Potawatomi will retrace those steps, holding mass again at St. Boniface using the same chalice used by Father Benjamin Petit who accompanied the Potawatomi on the Trail of Death.

"We're pleased to see people come together in friendship," said Shirley Willard, president emerita of the Fulton County Historical Society in Rochester, Ind., and Fulton County historian. "It's good for people to meet the Potawatomi and learn about their life today. Not all Indians live on reservations. A number do, but many do not. They live like anybody else, with computers and e-mail."

The caravan begins today in Rochester, Ind., and ends Sunday in Osawatomie, Kan. At least 17 people plan to travel the entire route with another eight participating in a portion of the caravan which highlights 48 camp sites, roughly 15-20 miles apart, used during the Trail of Death march.

With the caravan participants aging, "this is probably the last of the caravans," Willard said. "We try to get the younger ones interested. They may go again, but I doubt if we have another public caravan."

The caravan stops at many of the marked sites along the way - including Perry, Liberty where a Potawatomi child died during the trek and Quincy along with West Quincy and Palmyra, Mo. - and shares information on the CB radio about others along the route.

"It's about 660 miles that the Potawatomi covered in 1838. They moved in 60 days in terrible agony, walking (with many) so sick," Willard said. "Ours will be over 660 miles, but in cars, campers with air conditioning. You can't help but notice the difference."

The story of the trail itself "is not something to be proud of," Willard said. "We hope something like this never happens again in the history of the world."

The Quincy area has long-standing ties to the Potawatomi. In 1838, the city "did extend some hospitality" to the peaceful Indians, said Jim Barry, a member of the Historical Society of Quincy and Adams County.

"They were not just passing through Adams County. Long before the migration, we did have two camps, two little villages in northern Adams County," he said. "We want people to know about them."

Early settlers, and their descendants still living in the Quincy area today, owe much to the Native American people. "All through history, they rescued us at key points," Tieken said.

"It's a wonderful story," Tieken said. "The fact they’re coming back here after 165 years I think will be interesting."