September 16, 2013

Grant to fund Trail of Death digitization project

History to be preserved through digitizing caravans.

By Amie Sites

---- — The Citizen Potawatomi Nation awarded a $1,500 grant to the Potawatomi Trail of Death Association to digitize videos and photos from previous Trail of Death commemorative caravans.

The Potawatomi Trail of Death Association, a branch of the Fulton County Historical Society, is preparing for the sixth Trail of Death Caravan, which takes place every five years to retrace the forced removal of the Potawatomi Indians from north central Indiana to Kansas in 1838.

This year marks the 175th anniversary of the Trail of Death.

A press release from Shirley Willard, Fulton County historian and former Fulton County historical society president, indicated the grant will be used to hire Susan Green, the owner of Your Story Digital, Rochester, to digitize the videos and photos.

Green will also make an hour program for television and DVDs available for sale.

The caravan began the year of the 150th anniversary of the Trail of Death. Willard partnered with George Godfrey, member of Citizen Potawatomi Nation, to organize the caravan.

Godfrey, president of the Potawatomi Trail of Death Association, said the digital footage will cover several caravans, pull together information and show people what happened in the past.

"People will be able to have a fuller understanding of what actually happened," Godrey said. "Unless others are told what happened in the past, it becomes forgotten entirely."

Godfrey said he would anticipate some footage from this year's caravan being merged into the information. Godfrey, who had family on the Trail of Death, said he has been able to link to people in the past.

"It provides me a way to link up with families, history," Godfrey said. "It has provided me with a lot of information I wouldn't have otherwise obtained."

The event will be educational, he said.

"The importance of the information being digitized is if someone can't go on the caravan, they can learn about the removal," Godrey said. "It will also be a way to meet the descendants of the people who were on the original trip there."

This wasn't the first grant the Potawatomi Trail of Death Association received from the Citizen Band Potawatomi, now known as Citizen Potawatomi Nation.

A Potawatomi tribal historian, Jerry Lewis, visited the Fulton County Historical Society museum and set up a cultural exchange in 1982. Since then the groups have kept in contact and in 2008, the Potawatomi Trail of Death Association received a $1,439.65 grant for historical highway signs for two counties in Kansas and Missouri.

Missouri Department of Transportation will not allow the signs on their state roads, Willard said, but friends in Brunswick, Mo., took the signs and erected them on a private property.

The signs will be dedicated on the caravan at 10:30 a.m. Sept. 27. Willard said the project involves people in 26 counties spanning four states.

The caravan will also hold a birthday celebration for Willard on Sept. 28. Those interested in joining the caravan are welcome to join at any time, whether they can drive for one hour or the entire trip, Godfrey said. Additional information is available at .

Amie Sites is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5117 or

If you go: WHAT: Sixth Trail of Death caravan WHERE: Registration for the caravan will be at 7:30 a.m. Sept. 23 at the Fulton County Museum WHEN: Sept. 23 to Sept. 29 INFO: Visit to find more information about the schedule and stops along the way