Native Village 
Youth and Education News

October 2012

Chief White Eagle memorial dedication
Special 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

Indiana: Last month, two memorials were dedicated at the Trail of Courage in Rochester, Indiana. The first was a black iron teepee in honor of Chief White Eagle. The second was a metal plaque 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.” Heath traveled 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 Trail of Death caravans. He designed the Trail of Death map used on 12 historical markers and the Potawatomi Trail of Death Assn.

Leon Stewart, 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 memorial 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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