National Park Service backs study to extend Trail of Tears

Friday, February 17th 2006, 1:11 pm
By: News On 6

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ The National Park Service has endorsed a study that may add about 2,000 miles of land and water routes to the current Trail of Tears National Historic Trail through eastern Tennessee and portions of eight other states.

About 16,000 Cherokee Indians, mostly in Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia, were forced from their ancestral homes in the winter of 1838-39 and required to walk about 800 miles to designated Indian Territory in what now is Oklahoma. More than 4,000 died along the way.

About 2,200 miles of their known land and water routes already are designated as a national historic trail. But experts have identified about 2,000 miles of other routes taken by the Cherokees and say those areas should be included in the historic Trail of Tears.

``The Department (of the Interior) recognizes the importance of telling the complete story,'' John Parsons, associate regional director of the Park Service, told a U.S. Senate subcommittee on national parks on Thursday in Washington.

Chief Chadwick Smith of The Cherokee Nation said he welcomed any effort that could help teach future generations about ``one of the darkest chapters of American history.''

The study, if approved by Congress, would cost about $175,000.