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Presbytery of Southeastern Illinois Land Acknowledgement

As part of our commitment to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery and to confess the denomination’s complicity in dispossession and settler colonialism, the Presbytery of Southeastern Illinois makes the following land acknowledgment.

The Presbytery of Southeastern Illinois is situated on the ancestral homelands of these nations: the Illini, Kaskaskia, Kickapoo, Osage, Ochethi Sakowin, Peoria, Mayaamia, Sauk & Meskwaki, Yuchi (S’atsoyaha) and the Shawnee people.

Unlike neighboring Midwestern states, no tribal lands are federally recognized within the state of Illinois. Yet reminders of the Native American presence remain as a part of the history of colonial settlement in the names of cities, rivers, streets, and sports teams. Also located within the bounds of our Presbytery are sites sacred to many of these peoples. Among them are:

Vastly different from the sacred sites above is the Potawatomi Trail of Death. This 660 mile, forced march began at Twin Lakes in what is now Marshall County, Indiana and ended in what is now Linn County in eastern Kansas. About 859 men, women, and children were expelled at gunpoint from their homes on November 4, 1838. They were forced to march for 61 days. Forty-two people died during this passage. Most of those who died were children.

It is noteworthy that the majority of these persons were baptized Christians. Benjamin Marie Petit, a young, Jesuit priest, accompanied his parishioners on the Trail. He died shortly after they arrived in Kansas.

Their first encampment in Illinois was near the First Presbyterian Church of Danville. In terms of the current bounds of our Presbytery, the Potawatomi Trail of Death passed through Vermilion, Champaign, Piatt, and Macon Counties. The state legislatures of Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, and Kansas have declared the route of their passage to be a Regional Historic Trail. Within our Presbytery there are commemorative memorial plaques in or near: Danville, Catlin, Homer, Sidney, Sadorus, Monticello, and Decatur.

It is our responsibility to acknowledge this historical context and to be good partners with and advocates for the tribal nations on whose trust lands we inhabit.

Moccasin Site in the Piney Creek Ravine
The Moccasin Site, a section of the petroglyphs in the Piney Creek Ravine State Natural Area. Click the image for the photographer's information, metadata, and photo release.
Historical marker in Danville, Illinois
Photographed By Al Wolf, June 30, 2010
The Potawatomi Trail of Death historic marker in Ellsworth Park, Danville, Illinois. Click the image for a larger version and the photographer's information, metadata, and photo release