Documents detail damage on Trail of Tears

Coker Creek, Tenn., resident and historical preservationist Marvin Harper observes damage to a section of the Trail of Tears in the Appalachian Mountains. The flag indicates a spot where the U.S. Forest Service used heavy equipment to make trenches and berms in what agency officials now say was in violation of federal laws,
Caption
Coker Creek, Tenn., resident and historical preservationist Marvin Harper observes damage to a section of the Trail of Tears in the Appalachian Mountains. The flag indicates a spot where the U.S. Forest Service used heavy equipment to make trenches and berms in what agency officials now say was in violation of federal laws,

Credit: Associated Press/Eric Schelzig

Credit: Associated Press/Eric Schelzig

The U.S. Forest Service has torn up a section of the Trail of Tears in the Appalachian Mountains, reopening wounds for Native Americans who consider the land sacred, as thousands of their ancestors died during their forced migration westward during the nineteenth century.
The Associated Press reported that man-made trenches and berms were discovered last summer but the details about how it happened and those responsible hadn't been publicly identified. The Forest Service admitted that an employee approved construction along a three-quarter-mile section of the trail in eastern Tennessee without permission, according to documents obtained by the AP.

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The work, carried out in 2014, was meant to keep out all-terrain vehicles and prevent erosion, but agency officials now admit it was done in violation of federal laws.

"The trail is part of our history, of why we are here in Oklahoma," said Sheila Bird, who is the special projects officer for the Cherokee Nation's Tribal Historic Preservation Office.

The Forest Service has apologized to the tribes for the damage, both physical and emotional, and is consulting with them over how to repair it. The trail stretches for thousands of miles through nine states.
Marvin Harper, who lives near the trail and is president of the Coker Creek Heritage Group, was saddened by the damage.
“This is an embarrassment and a great loss to all of us who take pride in this part of East Tennessee,” he said.