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Dedication of "Trail of Death" plaque set for Sept. 28 at Heritage Park
POSTED: 09/13/2013
A Sept. 28 ceremony is planned at Heritage Park to dedicate a plaque marking a local encampment location of the Potawatomi Indians' during their 1838 "Trail of Death" forced march from Indiana to an area near Osawatomie.

The dedication will take place beginning at 10 a.m. near the Heritage Park Marina, 13833 W. 159th Terrace, Olathe.

The ceremony will involve local officials, including members of the Johnson County Park & Recreation District Board, as well as a group of Potawatomi and historians who travel the entire 660-mile route in September every five years to commemorate this regional historic trail.

To be dedicated is a brass plaque which has been affixed to a granite boulder to commemorate the nearby Oak Grove Encampment on Nov. 2, 1838. The dedication comes less than two months before the 175th anniversary of the Trail of Death. In all, 859 Potawatomi who were forced at gunpoint to leave their homes and travel along the Santa Fe Trail, through Johnson County, then south to Paola. The trail marker serve as a reminder of the 41 members of the tribe, mostly children, who died from the stress of the march or from typhoid fever caused by the lack of good, clean drinking water along the trail.

The state legislatures of Indiana, Illinois, Missouri and Kansas have recognized the historical and cultural significance of the Trail of Death and have each passed resolutions declaring the trail a Regional Historic Trail. The Trail of Death Association, with the help of local historical, cultural and service groups, has established historical markers at all Potawatomi encampment sites in all 25 counties from Indiana to Osawatomie.

In 2011, the Spring Hill Historical Society determined through research that an existing system of road signs and a monument located at 215th and State Line Road, were incorrectly located. This new plaque project is an attempt to correct the prior placement of signs and misplacement of the monument.

In 2012, the JCPRD received a grant from the Heritage Trust Fund toward this project, which will also involve wayfinding signage on 160th Street, Pflumm Road, and on Lackman Road. The purpose of the project is to preserve and honor the history and legacy of this historically significant event and to educate the public about the heritage of Native Americans.

"The monument and signs will increase awareness of area residents about a specific incident in American history that also touched the lives of so many in the entire country as well as this area of Kansas," the application states. "It is hopeful more people from Johnson County and from the entire State of Kansas will become aware of the effects of The Indian Removal Act of 1830 on the native inhabitants of the United States, in particular the Potawatomi Nation, and on the lands which became the State of Kansas. The Trail of Death markers and signs across Johnson County, Miami County and Linn County will also provide a historical route which can be traveled by history groups and students or for family outings to give residents a better understanding of the reality of the difficulties faced by the Potawatomi during the long walk."

For more information about the Sept. 28 local ceremony, contact JCPRD Superintendent of Parks and Golf Courses Bill Maasen at (913) 826-3437.

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