TAHLEQUAH, OK Cherokee Nation citizen Chance Fletcher,
20, spent June retracing approximately 900 miles of the Northern
Route of the Trail of Tears. He started at Red Clay State Park in
Tennessee on June 2 and finished on July 1 at the Cherokee Courthouse.
Nation citizen Chance Fletcher, 20, hikes up Eldon Hill in
Cherokee Country while on his trek retracing most of the northern
route of the Trail of Tears. He finished his journey on July
1 at the Cherokee Courthouse in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.
Nation citizen Chance Fletcher, 20, walks by a vehicle while
retracing part of the northern route of the Trail of Tears.
Fletcher completed his journey on July 1 at the Cherokee Courthouse
in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.
The Trail of Tears marks the path Cherokees were forced to take
when removed from their southeastern homelands during the winter
Fletcher, of Oologah, said he was able to hike the trail because
of the Dale Summer Award he received from Princeton University.
"You just sort of cook up whatever you want to do and I was
like, 'You know, I never heard of anybody hiking the Trail of Tears,'"
he said. "I just kind of applied on a whim. I didn't really think
I was going to get it
I ended up getting it. I bought my
gear and here I am."
He said the route he traced was similar to the one the "Remember
the Removal" riders took. He said some differences for his hike
included starting at Red Clay whereas the cyclists began in New
Echota, Georgia. Also, he wasn't able to travel by boat on some
portions so he took alternate paths.
Nation citizen Chance Fletcher, 20, spent June retracing most
of the northern route of the Trail of Tears. Fletcher was
able to hike the trail thanks to the Dale Summer Award from
Princeton University, of which he is a student.
Fletcher said he hiked approximately 30 miles a day depending
on the type of day he faced.
"It really depended on the day, how hot it was. Some days I
do a lot more. Some days I do a lot less," he said.
He said when it was time to settle down for the night he tried
to stay at churches.
"I tried to stay mostly in churches' yards because I kind of
figured out that one, they would be nice to you and two, they might
feed you dinner so I wouldn't have to eat Clif Bars, which was nice,
and three, people don't really mess
with churches so it's kind
a safer option," he said.
Fletcher said while on the route he stopped at some historic
sites but not all.
"Every historic site that was in a reasonable distance of the
trail or the route that the "Remember the Removal" riders did
stopped at," he said. "I kept a journal and wrote down all those
places and I think this year, or maybe next year, when I drive up
to school I'm going to take a southern route and visit those."
Fletcher said hiking the trail was important because he had
an ancestor that was removed along the trail.
"I had an ancestor who was forcibly removed, and I think that
there's really just something to be said about the juxtaposition
between how I was treated and how my ancestor was treated at the
time," he said. "Just the general hospitality that I was shown was
almost just the exact opposite of what my ancestor was shown. These
commonalities and differences, they're a lot deeper than that. A
lot of people on the Trail of Tears didn't have shoes, you know.
I can buy a new pair of shoes whenever I want on the trail. I think
there really is a juxtaposition there
with they're walking
away from their home and I'm walking home."