Thousands of people drive north and south on US 31 in northern Indiana daily. Most nonchalantly pass a sign that points west to the Chief Menominee statue, but few take the 5.2 mile trip to learn a dark story about Indiana's heritage as "land of the Indians." His statue is located in a small park on Peach Road along with a rock memorializing the location of his tribe's village on the banks of Twin Lakes, the headwaters of the Yellow River, just north of here.
Chief Menominee led the Potawatomi Nation and, although his "mark appears on several treaties ceding Potawatomi lands to the US government, he refused to leave their lands in Indiana. The State of Indiana, with support of the federal government force marched the Potawatomi Indians from Indiana and Illinois to land set aside in Kansas. Of the 859 that began the journey only 756 arrived. Some escaped, 42 died and 28 of those were children. In a book written in 1909, the march was called the Trail of Death.
His statue carries the following inscription:"In memory of Chief Menominee and his band of 859 Pottawattomie [sic] Indians removed from this reservation Sept. 4, 1838 by a company of soldiers under command of General John Tipton authorized by Governor David Wallace"
In 1909, the State of Indiana erected the statue of Chief Menominee. It is the first monument to a Native American erected under a state or federal legislative enactment. The Memorial Site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2010.
State legislatures in Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, and Kansas created the regional historic trail to commemorate the march. The Potawatomi Trail of Death includes at nearly 75 markers with 15 of those in Indiana. There is extensive information about the Indian nation, Chief Menominee and the Trail of Death on Wikipedia.
So don't just drive by that sign on US 31 again. Get off the highway, visit the statue, and learn about our heritage. Good and bad, it's still our history and it's good to know.