ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. - For the last 23 years, the Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area has celebrated Native American culture with a festival. Among the many things to do and see will be a special exhibit commemorating a dark time in the Cherokee Nation's history known as "The Trail of Tears."
A celebration of music, dance, art and culture of the Native American people is highlighted each year in and around Fort Watauga at the Sycamore State Historic Area.
Dr. Michael Abram of the Cherokee Heritage Museum and Galley has a special exhibit of contemporary Cherokee art works with a specific theme. "Fewer footprints and more tears. Fewer footprints along the Trail of Tears or getting started, or after they got there and died in Indian Territory, so there were fewer footprints, fewer of them and as a result more and more tears," Dr. Abrams says.
Each piece of art has subtle reminders of that time 175 years ago when, because of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, so many of the Cherokee Nation died while being moved from the east to the west. "These artists and crafts people express that feeling of what happened on the Trail of Tears. Rather than just totally dwell upon it they move on with it, but they still don't forget it," Abram said.
Some of those feelings are expressed in a subtle way, and some are truly a political statement about the president at the time Andrew Jackson.
With his extensive collection of contemporary Cherokee art, Abrams is able to bring pieces together to fit his theme. "We take the artwork, the craftwork of the Cherokee and we see where it fits within the context of the old culture or the present culture or something towards the future," he says.
But it's an event of the past in which 6,000 or more died along the trail from the southeast to present-day Oklahoma that is constant in each piece presented.