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Haskell Nation and KU students make a stop to commemorate
the Potawatomi Trail of Death that made its journey through Richmond in 1838
aware of the existence – let alone the significance – of two historical plaques imbedded in a boulder on the grounds of Richmond High School.
Located on the southeast side of the campus across from McDonald’s, the markers commemorate the Potawatomi Trail of Death passing through Richmond in 1838.
In 2000, Ray County Boy Scout Joseph Davis placed the boulder and the first of two plaques on the school campus for his Eagle project. The plaque Davis contributed tells the story of the Trail of Death. A second plaque, installed in 2003 by the Friends of the Trail of Death Regional Historic Trail and Friends of the Ray County Museum, is a map that illustrates the path the Potawatomi followed.
On Tuesday, a group of 13 Haskell Indian Nation University and University of Kansas students and a dog named Willie assembled near the markers after a leg of their own journey. The students left Lawrence, Kan., on May 13 and will retrace the Potawatomi trail, much of it on foot, but in reverse.
The students say they are making the journey to protest the proposed construction of the South Lawrence Trafficway through the Wakarusa wetlands near the Haskell campus. When they arrive in Washington, D.C. on or around July 9, the students also plan to present lawmakers with legislation that would amend the American Indian Religious Freedom Act.
The students call their 1,300-mile trip “The Trail of Broken Promises,” a reference to the often-bitter relationship that has long existed between the government and Native American tribes.
There was some rejoicing on Tuesday, however, when one of the walking groups reached the RHS parking lot at around 6 p.m. Five walkers – Stanley Perry, Mark R. Olsen, Wayne Yandell, Isaac Mitchell and Chad Chrisco – made it on foot from Lexington to Richmond.