Chief White Eagle memorial dedication
memorials dedicated to 5 men who helped with the Trail of
Courage Living History Festival
By Shirley Willard, Fulton County (IN) Historian
Condensed by Native Village
Last month, two memorials were dedicated at the
Trail of Courage
Rochester, Indiana. The first was a black iron teepee in honor
of Chief White Eagle. The second was a
for Tom Griffin, William Wamego, Tom Hamilton, and Leon Stewart.
Chief White Eagle, aka Basil
Heath, (1917-2011,) attended the Trail of
Courage from 1985 - 2009. White Eagle was born on the
Iroquois Reservation in Canada and served in World War II for
both England and the U.S. He was also an actor and TV
personality who appeared in such films as “Northwest Passage,”
“Red River,” and “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon.”
across the U.S. giving programs on American Indians. In 1987, he
and his wife moved to Indiana. Eight years later, he was
declared a Living Legend of Fulton County. Chief White
Eagle performed the dedication
ceremony for the Trail of Courage site in 1985 and planted the
Great Peace Tree in 1988.
William “Bill” Wamego,
Tulsa, Oklahoma, was descended from Chief Wamego who was on the
Potawatomi Trail of Death from Indiana to Kansas in 1838. He
helped with the Trail of Courage 1982-1993. He traveled on the
Trail of Death commemorative caravans 1988 and 1993.
Tom Hamilton, Checotah,
Oklahoma, was descended from Abram Burnett, a young Potawatomi
man who went west on the Potawatomi Trail of Death in 1838. Burnett
later became a chief in Kansas. Hamilton began attending
the Trail of Courage in 1982 and helped organize
Death caravans. He designed the Trail of Death map used on
12 historical markers and the Potawatomi Trail of Death Assn.
Rochester, IN, was a volunteer at Fulton
County Historical Society and was named RSVP Volunteer
of the Year in 1995. He donated thousands of hours working as a
carpenter for FCHS, Habitat for Humanity and other non-profits.
Leon’s son Kevin Stewart did the landscaping for the
Tom Griffin founded the 42nd
Royal Highlanders Band of Pipes, Fifes and Drums in
1975. They have provided music at the Trail of
Courage since 1983. The band continues to
perform at many historic festivals in the Midwest.
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