As most of you know this is the 175th Anniversary of the Cherokee Trail of Tears. I am now committed strongly to a major project: I invite school children, from first grade through high school, to make simple “prayer ties” from cloth for the 4,000 who died on the Trail in 1838. (They were mostly children and the elderly buried in shallow unmarked graves.) Along with each “prayer tie” a student is invited to write a letter to those who died on the Trail. They can also do a drawing of their creative choice reflecting the Trail of Tears. A major Cherokee Trail comes through my family’s property and it’s documented that 500 Cherokee left for Indian Territory in 1837 using this route: The Belfonte Gap Route. The children’s “prayer ties” can be strung along this route and some of their letters and drawings might be included in a book titled: Children’s Letters to the Trail of Tears.
My intent here–as when I walked the Trail and wrote the Pulitzer Prize-nominated book, Walking the Trail–is to up awareness of what happened to the Cherokee and get it discussed in classrooms nationwide. When making the “prayer ties” (can be made from old sheets or clothes or whatever) one might recall the meaning of colors to the Cherokee. Red is victory. White is peace. Black is death. Blue is neutral.
Each letter and drawing should have the student’s name on back along with the school they attend and their teacher’s name. However, DO NOT have the child’s home address on it. Have the school address. Students can also write their names on the “prayer ties.” I will photograph these “prayer ties” once they are displayed along the old Cherokee Trail.
Next week I will send press releases to newspapers about this project.
Please speak with any school or group contacts you have about this project and try to get them involved. I am currently calling this endeavor THE TRAIL OF TEARS PRAYER TIES. As the “prayer ties,” letters and drawings come to me I will, from time to time, post them here at my site on Facebook called Native Defender, a site dedicated to Native American history, customs and historic photos. Any questions can be sent to my personal email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please sent the above items to: Jerry Ellis, 1714 Smith Gap Road NW, Fort Payne, Alabama 35968.
Now let’s see what you, others and the Great Spirit have in store for THE TRAIL OF TEARS PRAYER TIES. Wado!