Red Clay Park commemorates Trail of Tears 175th anniversary
Thousands of Cherokees were forced to leave their homes and migrate west on a path that was later known as the Trail of Tears.
This year is the 175th anniversary. Many Cherokee members today say their tribe persevered and triumphed, and now you have a chance to take part in their culture.
Cherokee officials said the tribe once dominated eight states, including Tennessee and Georgia.
Red Clay State Historic Park in Cleveland is hosting an event called Honor and Remember this weekend. It's the first event of its kind at the park, and organizers hope to teach the community about true Cherokee culture.
Hundreds are expected to turn out throughout the weekend.
Park officials said it was the Cherokee's capitol in the early 1800's. The park once hosted 11 council meetings.
"We actually consider this the start of the Trail of Tears because the Cherokee were here when they found out that they were going to be forced from their homes," said park manager and event organizer Erin Medley.
Thousands of Cherokees died on the Trail of Tears. Many were also forced to hide their culture in the years following.
"Our culture was almost destroyed. Events like this, it gives people the opportunity to learn about the language, learn about the dancing, the culture," said Rick Bird, a former Cherokee Council Representative.
You can find living history of Cherokee life in the 1700's and early 1800's. Enrolled Cherokee members are creating original, authentic art. There's dancing, story telling and lectures.
Bird said there are thousands of Cherokee descendents across the country, and that's why many want to learn about the culture.
"There are thousands and thousands of people that have a right to be on the roll, but because of the record keeping, they can't prove who they are. But in their hearts they know who they are, and that's the majority of the people who come out here," Bird said.
More than anything, Bird said it's an educational experience, because many people try to copy their culture for profit.
"If we don't have events like this to teach people the proper way, we've got too many people out there that we call 'plastic medicine men' that are out trying to sell our culture, and selling something that's not even our way," he said.
The Honor and Remember event at Red Clay Historical State Park will continue Sunday from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. It's free to the public with a five dollar parking donation.