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November 9, 2013

An embarrassing and insensitive slip

NORMAN — Editor, The Transcript:

During this Halloween “season,” I saw advertisements for the Trail of Fear, a haunted house created to horrify people for fun and entertainment.

I'm sure the people who walked this “trail” screamed with fear but also delight; it was supposedly innocent fun; no one gets hurt, no one suffers in any way. The problem is that this “trail” gets its name from the Trail of Tears, the tragic removal, beginning in 1831, of the Choctaw, Seminole, Cherokee, Muskogee, and Chickasaw people from their homelands in Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama to Indian Territory in what later became Oklahoma.

The suffering on this trail was truly horrific: many many people died from starvation, exposure, and disease, including 2,000 to 6,000 of 16,542 relocated Cherokee. Blithely choosing the name Trail of Fear for something that horrifies people for fun is like naming an amusement park ride after the Oklahoma City bombing.

The name Trail of Fear is appalling in its lack of awareness of history and its insensitivity.

I am white, and tribal people do not need me to speak for them. This letter comes out of my own embarrassment and shame.

I can only try to imagine (unsuccessfully) how tribal people must feel to be reminded not only of this horrific event in their history but also that Oklahomans are often woefully uninformed about the less honorable parts of the state's history and about the continued oppression of tribal people and their struggles to survive and flourish in spite of that oppression.

Another good example (so many to choose from) of this willful ignorance is the artwork depicting the Land Run that will decorate the new overpass at Main and I-35.

This very public piece of art will celebrate white people's theft of land that was set aside for the tribal people who had been removed to Oklahoma. But that's another letter, and I hope someone will write it.



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