Trail of Death
A Pilgrimage of Remembrance, Lament and Transformation
This nine-day pilgrimage (June 3–13, 2019) traces the route of the 1838 forced removal by the U.S. military of about 850 Potawatomi people from their ancestral homeland in northern Indiana to present-day Osawatomie, Kansas. We will remember this expulsion by prayerfully walking several miles of the route each day and by reading journals and letters from the time of the removal. Potawatomi descendants of those who survived the Trail of Death will join our group to share their stories during meal times and ceremony. We will confront the theologies that contributed to white settler colonialism and will seek what new paths God opens for repair today as we journey in remembrance and lament. The pilgrimage begins with two days of orientation on the AMBS campus, including an introduction to the Doctrine of Discovery.
Trip Leaders (June 3–13, 2019)
Katerina Friesen, sessional instructor, lives on Yokut land in Fresno, California. Her work centers around healing from the violence of structural sin. During her time as a student at AMBS (MDiv 2016), she created a curriculum for Anabaptist congregations about the Doctrine of Discovery, which accompanies a documentary film available on the Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery Coalition website. Read more about Katerina on her Sessional Faculty page.
George Godfrey, PhD (Citizen Potawatomi Nation), is a retired university professor and president of the Potawatomi Trail of Death Association who has dedicated the last 25 years of his life to researching the history of the Potawatomi people. He will join the journey to facilitate learning and discussion. Biographical information about Dr. Godfrey | George Godfrey writings
Rich Meyer, trip navigator, is a northern Indiana historian who started his research and relationship-building with Potawatomi people by asking three questions about the farmland he owns near Goshen: Whose land was this before white settlement? How did the people lose their land? Where are their descendants today? Rich has participated in numerous Trail of Death Caravans led by descendants of the Trail of Death through the Potawatomi Trail of Death Association, which inspired this pilgrimage class.
Lodging: Lodging during the pilgrimage will be in tents, in order to better enter into the original experience. Tents will be provided, but participants may bring their own if they wish.
For those who require hotel lodging, planners will recommend a hotel near each overnight stop and those participants are responsible to make their own reservations and cover those costs; transportation to and from the recommended hotel will be provided.
Meals: The cost of meals will be included in the pilgrimage fee. Meals will be a combination of eating in restaurants and preparing meals at the overnight campsites.
"At the beginning of the pilgrimage, I was compelled to feel sympathy for the Potawatomi people. But the more reading we did, the more we heard from Native peoples, the more I realized that they are survivors, a strong and courageous community. Rather than seeing them as victims, I saw them as my teachers." — Amy Kratzer, Associate Pastor, Sunnyside Mennonite Church, 2015 participant
"The Trail of Death pilgrimage was an incredibly relevant, informative and life-transforming experience. Through this experiential learning journey, we developed a lens into the ways in which United States citizens, political representatives, and churches participated in the past, present and future exploitation of American Indian people. We also developed ways in which we can, and must, be an active part of ending these oppressive systems and structures of exploitation." — Grant Swanson, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary student, 2017 participant
- Dates: June 3–13, 2019
- Registration deadline: May 1, 2019
Course for credit: $2,160
Course for audit: $1,020
Trip only: $600
What is the Trail of Death?
The Potawatomi Trail of Death was the forced removal of the Potawatomi Indians from north central Indiana to eastern Kansas in the fall of 1838. Read more.
Route: See the series of maps created by Shirley Willard, Eric and Susan Campbell, and George Godfrey, with help from Rich Meyer.
Credit or audit
Participants in the pilgrimage may earn three credit hours of graduate study, take the course as auditors, or may join the pilgrimage for no credit. For those earning credit, the course may be taken as an HTE or a CHM course. Credit also may be transferred to other ATS schools.
2019 course readings
- Benjamin Petit Letters and Journal
- Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer
- An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States, by Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz
- George Godfrey Writings
- Indigenous Land Cessations in the US
- Indigenous Lands Map - Whose land are you on?
- Doctrine of Discovery: In the Name of Christ
- Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery Coalition
Mennonite Central Committee Great Lakes is a sponsor of the Trail of Death Pilgrimage course.