Walking the trail is awesome experience
From the desk of Chief Gregory E. Pyle
Walking the Commemorative Trail of Tears at Wheelock with hundreds of tribal members from across the nation was one of the most awesome experiences of this year! The road was wet and muddy, and mosquitoes buzzed us occasionally, but those slight discomforts only served as tiny hints of what our ancestors dealt with on the long, sad march from Mississippi in the early 1830s. Many people are surprised to learn that the Choctaw tribe was the first to be forcibly removed from the homeland to Indian Territory. The term “trail of tears” was a phrase that was attached to that first removal of Choctaw Indians in 1831 by an Arkansas newspaper because it was such a harsh winter and the conditions were so terrible on the men, women and children who were making the over 500-mile trip.
Fortunately, our ancestors did not dwell on the negative, but entered into the new lands with hope for the future. Accompanied by missionaries, churches and schools were soon established (Wheelock being the site of the first ones) and our tribe began to grow in population. Hard work, perseverance and education helped individuals succeed across the districts, and now Choctaw members live all across the world – more than 200,000 of us! I am so thankful for my ancestors who survived that long road – and although it is sobering to think of the misery with which they traveled and lived, it is their strength that has been passed on to all of us which has made it possible to be the tribe we are today! Yakoke!