Native Village 
Youth and Education News

January 1, 2013

Wall in Lauderdale honoring Native American woman contains 8.5 million pounds of stone
Condensed by Native Village

Alabama – In 1839, when she was forced from her Alabama home to Oklahoma along the Trail of Tears, a Euchee Indian teenager was given a metal tag to wear around her neck. Her name was no longer Te-lah-nay. She was No. 59.

After five long years, Te-lah-nay left Okla., and returned to her beloved land in Lauderdale County. She brought with her the tag placed around her neck by soldiers, or as she called them, the “Shiny Buttons.”

“She said, ‘We all thought the ‘Shiny Buttons’ had changed our names so I brought my name back with me,’” explained Tom Hendrix, Te-lah-nay’s great-great-grandson.

Hendrix still owns her tag.

Upon her return, the strong Indian woman was called Mary Hipp. Mary earned jer living as an herbalist. She befriended a Methodist minister named Wiley B. Edwards  who soon recorded stories of Te-lah-nay’s life in a 168-page journal.

Official records are scarce because Te-lah-nay was not a U.S. citizen but Hendrix said she lived to be about 35 years old and is buried in Parsonage Cemetery in Lauderdale County.

Nearly 100 years later, in 1936, Hendrix was a child.  He would sit by his grandmother, Parmelia, and listen to tales of his Indian heritage. It was from her that Hendrix learned of Te-lah-nay’s incredible journey.

“My grandmother wrapped me up in an old quilt and started telling these beautiful stories to me,” he said.

In 1988, Tom Hendrix felt the urge to honor the great-great-grandmother whose stories inspired him as a child.

What resulted was a 1.25 mile long rock wall. It required 8,500,000 pounds of stone and “wore out three trucks, 22 wheelbarrows, 3,800 pairs of gloves, three dogs and one 80-year-old man,” Hendrix said.

The winding rock wall on his property off the Natchez Trace Parkway is known as "the largest non-mortared rock wall in the United States and the largest memorial to a Native American woman,” Hendrix said.

“She was one of the very few who came back. I decided to build her a memorial and I decided to do it out of stones,” he said. His grandmother told him, “We all shall pass this earth; only the stones will remain.”

The wall is 1.25 miles long. Some tribes refer to the wall as “wichahpi,” meaning “like the stars,” while others call it “ishatae,” or “holy or spiritual place,” Hendrix said.

The wall to the left as drivers pull onto the property represents Te-lah-nay’s journey from Lauderdale County to Oklahoma. The wall to the right represents the return trip.

Hendrix’s wife Doreen recommended that he lay each stone individually to represent Te-lah-nay’s journey. “I laid them one at a time for each step she made,” he said.

In 2000, Hendrix wrote a book about his great-great-grandmother’s journey and the wall called “If the Legends Fade.”

Last year, the wall was listed on the Library of Congress's web site. Now dozens come to visit the wall each weekend including priests, Tibetan monks and Aboriginals from Australia.

“To me, it’s so spiritual,” Hendrix said. “It’s something that I had to do.”

He insists he doesn’t own this wall.

“I’m just the keeper here,” he says

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