Column: Potawatomi followed Trail of Death out of Indiana

On the morning of Sept. 4, 1838, 859 Potawatomi were forced at gunpoint from their homes in northern Indiana and sent on foot and horseback to the “Unorganized Territory” of Kansas to begin a new life.

The march became known as the Trail of Death because 42 Indians died along the way. Hundreds fell ill during the two-month journey across Indiana, Illinois and Missouri. A few escaped and returned to Indiana. Most settled around a Catholic mission in eastern Kansas called Sugar Creek.

Their story is not as well known as the Trail of Tears, when more than 4,000 of 15,000 Cherokees died on a similar march from Georgia to Oklahoma. But it occurred for the same reason: to make room for pioneer families in search of fertile cropland.

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