Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

September 6, 2013

Kansas Wetlands Walkers Back on Trail, Trail of Death of Potawatomie

Wetlands Walkers Back on Trail

Furthering Efforts to Protect Native American Sacred Places

By Millicent Pepion, Blackfeet and Navajo
Censored News
PLYMOUTH, Indiana:  On May 13th last year students from several universities left Kansas on a two-month journey to Washington, DC, to save the Wakarusa Wetlands, Lawrence’s only remaining indigenous wetland prairie, from becoming the South Lawrence Trafficway (SLT). They referred to their journey as the Trail of Broken Promises and beginning this September they will continue to endorse the protection of Native American sacred places by traveling with the Trail of Death Association’s 6th Commemorative Caravan. This caravan marks the 175th anniversary of the 1838 Trail of Death in which more than 850 Citizen Band Potawatomie Indians were forcefully removed from their home in Plymouth, and relocated to Osawatomie, Kansas. Last year the walkers walked the entire trail in reverse on their way to DC.
The Trail of Broken Promises members attending this year’s caravan are hoping that Congress will adopt the Protection of Native American Sacred Places Act, an amendment to the American Indian Religious Freedom Act (1978) which would, “provide a right of action for the protection of Native American sacred places.” In order to continue their efforts they will be asking onlookers to write directly to President Barack Obama about this issue as they will have over 200 stamped postcards addressed to the President. “When we ended our journey last year in Washington, D.C. we had the opportunity to meet with Suzan Harjo, author of the Native American Sacred Places Act. She informed us that sending postcards to our elected officials would get their attention. We, however, only want one person’s attention and that is, of course, President Barack Obama. He is, after all, the Great Black Chief in Washington,” stated Millicent Pepion, Lead Coordinator of the Trail of Broken Promises.
Last year’s journey, a primarily on-foot trek, attempted to address the difficulty of preserving Native American sacred places within Indian Country and across the nation by raising awareness of the Wakarusa Wetlands. Prompted by the proposed highway construction through the wetland area behind Haskell Indian Nations University’s campus, the students traveled 21 days on the 1838 Potawatomie Trail of Death route to show appreciation to communities maintaining markers of remembrance. This year Ms. Pepion will walk at least ten miles a days to honor the Potawatomie people and all nations who withstood similar journeys. With the highway construction underway through the Wakarusa Wetlands the Trail of Broken Promises members hope to show that it’s not too late for other sacred places.
The Native American Sacred Places Act has been approved by the National Congress of the American Indians. NCAI promised the walkers last year that if they could find one tribe to adopt the draft piece of legislation they would enact a resolution immediately so that places such as the Wakarusa Wetlands can be enjoyed for the next seven generations.
The wetlands adjoin Haskell Indian Nations University, and have been used for ceremony, prayer, and education since Haskell’s founding as an Indian boarding school in 1884. 
“Fighting to save the Wakarusa Wetlands extends beyond our campus,” said Mike Ofor, a student walker on the Trail of Broken Promises. “Our journey recognizes all Native Americans and all sacred places left vulnerable to developers’ agenda.” 
This year that same spirit lives on.
To sign their online petition or for more information about how you can get involved please visit:   

Contact: Millicent Pepion
Phone 480.258.2930

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