Sunday, November 2, 2008

An Afternoon of Hiking

The Potawatomi “Trail of Death” March: Sept. – Nov. 1838

In September 1838, over 850 Potawatomi Indians were rounded up and marched at gunpoint from their Indiana homeland. Many walked the 660-mile distance, which took two months. More than 40 died, mostly children, of typhoid fever and the stress of the forced removal.

This weekend is the 170th anniversary of their arrival in Kansas. I didn’t realize that when I decided to go for a hike today at the Sugar Creek Mission, which was their home for ten years. On these sacred grounds are some of the best hiking trails in this area. This forgotten piece of history lies in the middle of nowhere and is seldom visited which is why I love to go there. Especially this time of the year. For three hours today Zoe and I walked these peaceful trails through the beautiful woods and majestic rock formations that the Indians used for shelter before cabins were built on the mission. It’s hard to imagine the hardships these early Christians went through on their journey from Indiana, much less the trials and tribulations they faced once they arrived. Undoubtedly that first winter huddled in the rock formations that hugs the beautiful hill sides must have been tough. Near the trading post there are seven huge crosses in an open field in memory of the 600 Potawatomi buried in the area. Other points of interest at the park are the remnants of foundations of the mission school and nuns quarters, and priests’ cabin; St. Rose Philippine Duschesne Memorial (She served a year here and was named Quah-kah-ka-num-ad, "Woman-Who-Prays-Always" by the Indians); Stations of the Cross walking paths; Indian Well and a stone wall which holds the weekly diary of the Potawatomi Trail of Death. Despite it’s painful history, this is one of the most peaceful places I know of. I could spend an entire day there just walking through the woods, taking in the beauty of the fall colors and the smoothing sound of the spring fed creek which runs through the valley. And it’s great exercise as some of trails are very steep.