Grit Blogs > Rosedale Garden

The Return Walk to Tuscumbia and Oka Kapassa Festival

1830 Tuscumbia Alabama was the site of the first railroad west of the Appalachian Mountains. The two mile rail connected town with the Tennessee River at Tuscumbia Landing and utilized a horse-drawn car.  Back then the Tennessee River in our area was not nice to navigation as it was mostly shoals and rapids.  To take a keelboat through the shoals required a lot of muscle, hence the name of one of the cities in the area known as Muscle Shoals. A means of getting around the bad stretch of river from Tuscumbia to Decatur was needed and a forty one mile railroad was built. The first steam engine was used in 1834 and horses were phased out.  This route was a major route of the Trail of Tears 

  incoming geese 

     waterfalls turned off 

 The tenth annual Walk to Tuscumbia from Tuscumbia Landing along the Tennessee River in Sheffield to Spring Park took place Saturday September 8, 2012.  It is part of the Oka Kapassa Festival which commemorates the kindness of the citizens of Tuscumbia while the Indians were forced to relocate to Oklahoma.  Along the way they had encountered hardships, beating, starvation and theft of their property along the Trail of Tears corridor except in the city of Tuscumbia.  Here they were given food, clothes shelter and a doctor before living the area through Tuscumbia Landing. 

   TL 7109 

   Chickasaw George Stephenson from Colorado 7115 

   the trail to Tuscumbia Landing 

 The tenth annual Walk to Tuscumbia from Tuscumbia Landing along the Tennessee River in Sheffield to Spring Park took place Saturday September 8, 2012.  It is part of the Oka Kapassa Festival which commemorates the kindness of the citizens of Tuscumbia while the Indians were forced to relocate to Oklahoma.  Along the way they had encountered hardships, beating, starvation and theft of their property along the Trail of Tears corridor except in the city of Tuscumbia.  Here they were given food, clothes shelter and a doctor before living the area through Tuscumbia Landing. 

   Tuscumbia Landing all that remains is the foundation 

   old railroad bed 

 I was honored to be invited to the Colbert reunion potluck dinner the night before and met several of the descendants of Chief George Colbert, who my home country is named after, and some of those who would be participating in the walk the next morning.   I was treated to some of the best chicken stew I've ever put in my mouth. 

   Robert Thrower 

   7111 

   7272 

I ventured down to Spring Park a little early before catching the trolley to Tuscumbia Landing The day was overcast and the clouds threatened rain again. A generous rain had occurred during the morning hours and combined with the abundance of geese made walking using the cowboy step (as my Dad called it on our dairy farm) necessary.   The empty rocks of the waterfall added to the dreary feeling.   The silence in the park was interrupted by a gaggle of Canadian geese flying into the park and landing in the pond near the bridge.  

   7280 

   the walk starts 

 The walk from Tuscumbia Landing to Spring Park would take place even if it rained. After all those coming through Tuscumbia from as far away as Georgia suffered a lot more misery going to Oklahoma  Annie Cooper pitched the idea of the walk to Tribal Council and the annual ‘homecoming’ walk was born.  Instead of walking from Spring Park to Tuscumbia Landing, the walk commemorates the return home.   Back to Oka Kapassa, meaning Cold Water, the name given to Spring Creek by the Chickasaws.  The first walk had twenty participants. This year the trolley was packed and several walkers followed the trolley to the Landing in their cars.  I didn’t do a head count, but this year’s walk had a lot more walkers than the first walk even with rain threatening. 

   half way to Tuscumbia and Spring Park 

   two miles later passing the depot 

 Congress passed the Indian Removal Act in 1830 which forced approximately 100,000 Cherokees, Chickasaws, Choctaws, Creeks, and Seminoles to move from their homeland in the South to Oklahoma from 1830 to 1850.  Approximately 3,500 Creeks died in Alabama during the removal. 

   Indian statue carved by Brian Ruth of Lehighton 

   Tuscumbia welcome 

 My most emotional moment was watching those who came from out of state and made the walk for the first time.  Watching them put their hands on the Tuscumbia Landing historical sign and realizing that this was the site that their ancestors left on their forced removal in 1830 to Oklahoma. 

   8070 

   inspecting a dugout 

 We took the trail from the parking lot down to the site of Tuscumbia Landing.  All that is left of the building blown up by Union forces during the war is the foundation.  The path of the railroad bed can still be seen, the tracks are long gone along with the oxen, horses and mules that pulled the first train.  As I walked around the foundation and looked down the site of the track, I imagined what history this site saw, and what the Indians felt as they were removed from their homeland forever.  A light rain started falling.  I pulled out a plastic bag to wrap my camera in to protect it.  After a couple of minutes, the rain went away.

   8076 

The time came and everyone formed a circle. Robert Thrower was at the head of the circle started talking about his feelings and thoughts about what happened during the removal and the connections he had to Tuscumbia.  Next representatives of each Tribe present shared their thoughts.  A prayer was said at the end and it was time to start The Walk to Tuscumbia.  The two mile walk started in silence by all for the first mile of our journey.  The trolley followed behind for any who grew weary and couldn’t continue. The lead walker would rotate as we walked along.  As we neared the city limits of Tuscumbia a buzzard circled. Then some one started singing in the native tongue.  The chant continued until Oka Kapassa was reached.    The walk finished as it had started, in prayer

   stew a cooking 

   Glenn Rickard making a basket 

   8096 

 The second year of the walk, a Native American Festival called Oka Kapassa (Return to Coldwater) was started at Spring Park.  It is a Native American gathering of the Alabama, Caddo, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Coushatta, Creek, Euchee, Miami, Muscogee, Navajo, Seminole and Sioux tribes. 

   8440 

   teaching flute 

Nine years later the first day of the festival on Friday is dedicated solely as an education project for the schools of the area.  Activities such as arrowhead making, dancers, hoop dancers, basket making, dug out canoe demonstrations, stick ball, beadwork, potter, native foods, language and storytelling are demonstrated for the young and old alike.   The second day is The Return Walk to Tuscumbia with dancers, Native American crafts and music and demonstrations.  

   he looks just like the picture on the cover 

   Fancy dancer 

   stick ball 

   8523 

   8999 

   ring dancer 8605 

   ring dancer 8655 

   dancers 8873 

   fancy dancer 9097 

   9041 

   Lords prayer in sign language 

On the home front, the air is filled with aroma of cotton defoliant.  It’s almost cotton picking time. I think about ‘Agent Orange’ each time I smell that stuff.  The hooligans are still busy chasing the rabbit that is staying in the flower bed along the under ground fence.  Every so often, I’ll see it run by me with the hooligans in hot pursuit.  Sometimes it’s hard to get the girls to come and eat.  I’ll put up the pan I use to measure out the dog  food and see the panic on Levi’s face when he realizes he’s not getting fed right now.  I’ll come back later to feed.  Levi is not going to miss a meal.  With all the festivals I've been attending, my flower beds are really looking abandoned.

mary carton
10/1/2012 1:36:55 AM

Thanks Dave, I really didn't know the magnitude of the history of my area until I started taking pictures for the town's calendar. We had to take Alabama history in high school, but local history wan't covered much. If it was, I was too young to appreciate it. To walk on the same yard that Helen Keller, W C Handy walked on is just awesome. So much history even in modern times. A nearby town Muscle Shoals was the hit capital of the world in the 60's. I used to live down the street from a home owned by Fame Music that those recording at Fame stayed out. Thanks for visiting and commenting.


nebraska dave
9/30/2012 1:08:58 PM

Mary, the walk is a great way to remember the love that a town gave to a bad situation. I would expect that spirit is still alive and well in the descendants of that area. Being on the very spot where history has happened really does bring emotion when thoughts turn toward what actually happened. Even though about 180 years have pasted the influence of those loving acts of kindness are still having an effect on that area. What a great thing to celebrate. Have a great day remembering history.