This week’s “Sunday Sign” commemorates the Trail of Tears, Oka Kapassa, and the special bond between the people of Tuscumbia, Alabama and the Native Americans who were forced to march from their homelands and home communities to be “resettled” in the area we know today as Oklahoma.
Oka Kapassa is the Chickasaw phrase for Cold Water. And it was the name given to Spring Creek in Colbert County, Alabama.
This weekend (September 9 & 10, 2011), Spring Park & Tuscumbia was the site for Oka Kapassa: Return to Cold Water Native American Festival. I wasn’t able to attend but I’m using this week’s “Sunday Sign” post to share a bit of the history about the Trail of Tears and my home area of Northwest Alabama.
There are actually two signs, both found in Spring Park, Tuscumbia, Alabama, at the site of the Big Spring.
One sign provides historical background and the other is the text of the dedication speech by Branko Medenica, who designed this statue dedicated on Friday, September 19, 2003. According to Mr. Medenica’s speech, the 8-foot-tall statue is an Indian woman, cast in bronze. The Woman is holding a baby and has one hand resting on a cross, marking the burial of a loved one who died while marching on the Trail of Tears.
The statue represents Hope, Inner Strength & Courage. The Native Americans who endured the Trail of Tears and resettled in the Oklahoma Territory demonstrated great inner strength and courage during the “forced removal.”
Although the forced removal was an official action of the United States government, many Americans shared kinship with, and showed kindness to, the Native Americans as they made their way west.
The people of Tuscumbia, Alabama were singled out by Creek Chief Chilly McIntosh. Chief McIntosh said: “The citziens of Tuscumbia have treated us like brothers and our helpless women were furnished by the good women of the town with clothing….As long as our nation remains upon this earth, we will recollect Tuscumbia.”
My maternal great grandfather’s great grandmother was a Cherokee. That would be my great, great, great, great grandmother (I think). I am proud to be connected in this small way to the Cherokee people.
Sculptor Branko Medenica has strong ties to Alabama. I look forward to visiting his other bronze sculptures in the coming months, especially the statue of Jesse Owens—I travel near that site about once each month and have it on my “short list” of nearby sites to visit.
Coincidentally (or maybe not), my great grandfather, Ollie Aycock—the one whose great grandmother was a Cherokee Indian—was a farmer in Franklin & Colbert County, Alabama from the early years of 20th century until his death in 1967. During his life as a farmer, Ollie Aycock acquired several thousand acres of land in Franklin & Colbert Counties. After his death, this land was divided between and among his children (and grandchildren). Oka Kapassa, or Spring Creek, which ends at the site of the Big Spring (in Spring Park, Tuscumbia) flows through the land that my parents inherited.
The annual Trail of Tears Commemoration and Motorcycle Ride begins in Chattanooga, Tenn. and ends in Waterloo in Lauderdale County, Ala. (just across the Tennessee River from Tuscumbia). This year’s ride takes place on September 17-18 (2011).
For what it’s worth, it’s not a coincidence that I chose the Trail of Tears to commemorate on this date, September 11, 2011.
Education Key Element of Oka Kapassa Festival — Times Daily