JULY 18, 2006 - Posted at 3:53 p.m. CDT
WASHINGTON - A bill encouraging the National Park Service to expand the current National Historic Trail of Tears has passed the House. Under the measure, routes used when the Cherokee were forcibly removed from their ancestral homes would be added to the trail. The bill encourages the federal government to complete the trail from North Carolina to Oklahoma and to preserve the paths that Cherokees used to find new land in Indian Territory. A large part of the Trail of Tears runs through Arkansas.
When the original trail was designated in 1987 little research existed, leaving two main paths, the Benge and the Bell, omitted. Both of those pass through Arkansas. The Bell leads up the Arkansas River through North Little Rock, Maumelle, Conway, and on to Fort Smith. The Benge begins in Fort Payne, Alabama, passes through Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri and northern Arkansas.
In the 1830s, the U.S. government began using forced treaties and U.S. Army action to relocate tribes from their homes in the eastern United States. The forced removal took an estimated 15,000 Cherokees from their homes. Many died along the way.