Choctaw Nation holds commemorative Trail of Tears Walk

Choctaw Color Guard leads participants up the final hill of the 2018 Trail of Tears Walk. Photo by Kelsey Brown / Choctaw Nation.

Choctaw Nation
Deidre Elrod

TVSHKA HOMMA – Hundreds of Choctaw tribal members and friends gathered Saturday, May 19 at the Choctaw Capitol Grounds to honor those affected nearly 200 years ago by the Indian Removal Act. The commemorative 2.5-mile Trail of Tears Walk made on Saturday was only a fraction in comparison to the some 700 miles covered by foot in the 1830s when Choctaws were removed from their homelands in Mississippi and Alabama.

People of all ages filled the Historic Choctaw Village with prayers, memories and fellowship as they came together to remember this significant event.  Before the Annual Trail of Tears Walk began a prayer was given by Tribal Council Chaplain Jennifer Woods and an address by Chief Gary Batton.

“The perseverance and the resilience they had is what gives us the strength we have today to make us Tvshka,” Batton said. Tvshka, meaning warrior, is one of the many attributes the ancestors demonstrated during the journey to the new Indian Territory.

Included in the opening ceremony was the recognition of the Choctaw Color Guard’s 20th anniversary. The Color Guard is made up of Choctaw veterans who volunteer their time to attend tribal events around the country, including rendering military funeral honors and participating in parades and powwows. There are seven of the 18 original members that still serve the Choctaw Nation Color Guard and have served the past 20 years.

Chief Gary Batton and Assistant Chief Jack Austin, Jr.  presented framed United States flags and certificates to seven current members of the Choctaw Color Guard: John Barry, John Burleson, Herbert Jessie, Terry Loman, Shirley Mantaghi, Ron Scott and Melvin Tom.

After the walk was completed Choctaws and guests viewed traditional arts and crafts by several different artists, and stickball demonstrations.

On the same day as the event in Tvshka Homma, the seventh annual Choctaw Nation Trail of Tears Ride got under way in Philadelphia, Miss. Riders will learn much about the removal and promote awareness of the historical times on the bike trek. The 20-member Choctaw Nation Bicycle Team will cover 500 miles over much of the same route taken by their Choctaw ancestors. The seven-day journey covers a portion of the Natchez Trace National Historical Roadway, continuing to Natchitoches and Shreveport, La. and east Texas. In Oklahoma the group will go through Idabel and Hugo, concluding in Durant on May 25.

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