"Markers Complete the Trail of Death" / Danville Commercial News
Shirley Willard doesn't dwell on discussing which of those involved in the 1838 Trail of Death were the good guys or the bad guys.
"We won't get into who was good or bad. The important thing is to remember and make sure it never happens again," she said.
Willard is secretary and editor for the Indian Awareness Center, a branch of the Fulton County (Ind.) Historical Society. Located in Rochester, Ind., near the trail's starting point, the center is the official repository for all Trail of Death historical materials.
Willard also serves as coordinator for the placement of historical markers on the trail.
In 1988, she and George Godfrey of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation organized the first Trail of Death Commemorative Caravan. It marked the 150th anniversary of the 1838 forced removal of Potawatomi Indians from Indiana to Kansas.
"Many died and were buried along the way, hence the name Trail of Death, as they traveled on foot and horseback," Willard said.
Hubert Powell and Paul Quick of Danville erected the Ellsworth Park marker in Danville in 1990. Powell told Willard last week that he made it crooked intentionally.
"I did that because it was such a crooked deal that they did to the Indians back then," he said.
Willard says the completion of marking the trail is important for what it signifies.
"We live in a new century and today, people are trying to right the wrongs of the past," she said.
"History cannot be changed but people's attitudes can be changed."
"All this is an indication that the time is fast approaching when the American Indians will be treated with respect and equality so that they may have true freedom," Willard said.
"That is our wish."