The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma announced a new challenge that will commemorate the 190th anniversary of the Trail of Tears and the Chahta Nowvt Aya (Choctaw Journey) beginning Jan. 18 and ending April 12.
“Commemorating the trail of tears is one of the most important things that we can do to remember the sacrifices our ancestors made,” said Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton. “This year we challenge you to make a trail of tears journey that will take you virtually through the path that our ancestors took from Nanih Waiya in Mississippi to the new Nanih Waiya in Oklahoma.”
In the Choctaw language, Nanih Waiya means “mother mound” which is an ancient platform mound earthwork located in southern Winston County, Mississippi. According to Batton, soon after arriving in Indian territory, the Choctaw government was reestablished, and the constitution of the Choctaw Nation was passed in 1834. A new council house was then built at the new capitol, known as Nanih Waiya, named after the mother mound.
“These were some of the darkest days in the recorded history of the Choctaw people,” said Batton. “Over a quarter of the Choctaw people removed during the first removal passed away from the worst winter in recorded history. Most of which were our elders and our very young.”
With the use of the app Walker Tracker, participants will walk alongside Choctaw ancestors and experience history and the triumph over adversity along the 620-mile-long path taken 190 years ago from Mississippi to southeast Oklahoma.
“With the points of interest added, we wanted this journey to be more than simply a walking challenge. We want it to be spiritual – a way to tie ourselves to our ancestors,” says Doris Winlock, Choctaw Nation healthy lifestyle coordinator.
Participants will have three months to complete the journey, which is being done in the winter months since the original Trail of Tears occurred over the winter months.
“Our ancestors made this journey during one of the coldest winters in history,” said Batton. “So, we walk in our modern-day comforts during our cold months to recognize the added hardship of the weather.”
Those who complete the challenge will receive a commemorative medal “to display and reflect on the journey” for years to come.
The challenge is open to all Choctaw Nation tribal members, associates, and those who live within the Choctaw Nation jurisdiction.
“We want all those touched by the Choctaw Nation to have the opportunity to experience the journey that had to happen in order for us to have what we have today,” said Winlock.
Participants have the choice of taking the journey solo or in teams of up to three. To complete the journey solo, a participant must average 14,000 steps a day or seven miles, a day. Other physical activities can also be converted in steps through the app.
Instructions on how to download the app and link to the challenge can be found at www.choctawnation.com/trailoftears2021.