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Local TV Program Captures Trail of Tears Bicyclists

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Contact: Jak Tichenor, WSIU TV Producer, (618) 453-6187, jak.tichenor@wsiu.org

Streaming video is available at this link.

Carbondale, Ill. - The Cherokee called it Nu-No-Du-Na-Tlo-Hi-Lu, "The Trail Where They Cried." In 1838, federal troops forced thousands of Cherokee from their homes in the Southeastern United States, driving them towards Indian Territory in Eastern Oklahoma. Along the way, more than 4,000 men, women, and children died of exposure, disease, and starvation, hundreds of them along a portion of the Trail of Tears that crosses Southern Illinois.

This summer, a team of eight young Cherokee bicyclists, their chaperones, and the Chief of the Cherokee Nation, Chad Corntassel Smith, retraced the 900-mile Trail of Tears as part of the Remember the Removal Project (www.remembertheremoval.org) to learn more about their tribe's history and to share that history with others. The group's journey, which began in Georgia, took them through Southern Illinois in early July en route to their final destination in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, the capitol of the Cherokee Nation.

WSIU Television, a public broadcasting arm of Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC), tagged along with the bicycling team and will tell the group's story in the next episode of the weekly TV series, WSIU InFocus. "Trail of Tears: Remember the Removal" will air on Friday, October 16 at 9pm, with repeats on Sunday, October 18 at 12:30pm and Friday, October 23 at 5pm.

Teaching the young riders about their tribe's history and helping them to understand their role as future leaders of the Cherokee Nation were key lessons of the trip, said Chief Chad Corntassel Smith. "We believe leadership is a simple mathematical process," he said. "Point A is where you are and Point B is where you want to go. Our students are taking themselves... to a time and a place and an understanding (where)... they understand their history, they understand their connection to that history, and they understand the lessons from that history."

In the program, producers Jak Tichenor and David Kidd also talk with Joe Crabb of rural Grantsburg, who hosted dinner for the team when they stopped at his farm to view an original portion of the trail on the Crabb/Abbott Farm, now a certified site on the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail. "Same road, pretty much the same trees, the landscape's the same. I'm seeing the same things they did," said Wyatt Collins, one of the young Cherokee riders as he stood with Crabb on the very spot where Collins's ancestors had forded Sugar Creek. "It's a tragedy," Crabb said. "There's nothing I can do today...to atone for that. All we can do is learn from it."

After a little over a week into the journey, rider Sarah Holcomb, the only female in the group, said the grueling pace and unpredictable weather were taking their toll. "I was hurting really bad, and I wanted to quit. I think that's the part when it really hit me," she said. "I want to quit, but I can't because our people didn't have a choice to sit down and rest. That's what really kept me going, knowing that (my ancestors) suffered. So what if I suffered?"

To learn more about the Trail of Tears Remember the Removal project and the team's journey, visit www.remembertheremoval.com.

WSIU Public Broadcasting's licensed to the Board of Trustees of Southern Illinois University and is an integral part of the College of Mass Communication & Media Arts on the Carbondale campus. It operates three digital public television channels, three public radio stations, a website, local TV and FM production units, and an education and community outreach department – reaching more than three million people across five states and beyond. WSIU's mission is to improve the quality of life of the people they serve. The WSIU stations partner with other community organizations to promote positive change and to support the academic and public service missions of Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Visit wsiu.org for more information.

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