107
July 3, 1998

Trail of Tears

Writer Sarah Vowell and her twin sister re-trace the "Trail of Tears" — the route their Cherokee ancestors took when expelled from their own land by President Andrew Jackson. On the way, Sarah and her sister visit the land they would have grown up in had the Cherokees not been expelled, Andrew Jackson's home, and the land in Oklahoma where the Cherokee nation settled (and where Sarah and her sister were born). They reflect on their own American-ness and Cherokee-ness, and on the more difficult question: What's history good for, anyway?

Prologue

Host Ira Glass describes what thousands of people do all over America on our holiday weekends: we go to historic sites with our kids and stare at bricks and statues, trying to feel some connection with the past. It's not easy. (5 minutes)

Act One

Sarah Vowell and her twin sister Amy re-trace the Trail of Tears. They visit the town in Georgia that was the capital of the Cherokee Nation before the Cherokee were expelled. They enjoy a tourist trap hotel in Chatanooga. They go to Ross's Landing, the embarkment point for the water route of the Trail of Tears. (28 minutes)

Act Two

Sarah Vowell's story continues. She and Amy visit the home of President Andrew Jackson, the villain in the Trail of Tears drama. They drive west to Cherokee graves in Kentucky and a commemorative marker that's been placed, oddly, at an Arkansas high school. They head into Oklahoma, where the Cherokee settled and where they were born. Sarah talks with her oldest living relative about the Trail. And she and Amy end their trip at the place where they first heard about the Trail of Tears: an amphitheater where every summer they saw a dramatic two-hour re-creation of the Trail. (23 minutes)

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