Indigenous People’s Day highlights Huntsville’s rich Native American history

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Monday is Indigenous People’s Day in the U.S., and Huntsville has plenty of Native American history behind it. (City of Huntsville)

Today is Indigenous People’s Day in the United States, a day when we honor the rich history and traditions of the Native American culture, and that culture has a long=standing history in the Huntsville area.

More than 5 million Native Americans live in the United States as members of 574 federally recognized and 63 state-recognized tribes. Alabama’s Native American population in the 2020 Census was 23,265, and Madison County is among the areas with the highest concentration of Native Americans with 5,616 native Americans (second only to Mobile County).

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Indigenous People’s Day and the Trail of Tears

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The infamous and tragic Trail of Tears came right through Huntsville. (City of Huntsville)

In May 1838 soldiers, under the command of U.S. Army General Winfield Scott, began rounding up Cherokee Indians in the Huntsville area who had refused to move to Indian Territory in Oklahoma.

About 16,000 Cherokees were placed in stockades in Tennessee and Alabama until their removal. Roughly 3,000 were sent by boat down the Tennessee River and the rest were marched overland in the fall and winter of 1838 – 1839. This forced-removal under harsh conditions resulted in the deaths of about 4,000 Cherokees.

Historical documents show that this group of Cherokees camped for two nights near the Flint River, close to what is now Madison County High School.

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The Trail of Tears went straight through Madison County. (Huntsville History Collection)

Echota Cherokee Tribe of Alabama 

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The Echota Cherokee Tribe of Alabama was sent an apology letter last week in conjunction with Indigenous People’s Day. (Echota Cherokee Tribe of Alabama)

The prominent tribe in Huntsville was the Echota Cherokee Tribe of Alabama. The tribe recently received a letter of apology from the State of Alabama, signed by Alabama Chief Justice Tom Parker.

The apology was for the atrocities that were done to all Native people in Alabama from the time of settlers invading the land, to Native American tribes’ removal and the hostile occupation of tribal land.

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Here is the letter of apology to the Echota Cherokee Tribe of Alabama. (Echota Cherokee Tribe of Alabama)

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Michael Seale
Michael Seale
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