This message this morning, and I really appreciate doing that. Oklahoma and Chief Batton, I’m sorry, he sent a statement because he wasn’t able to be here. And you all know how hard our chief works to support our people and the causes that organizations like this do for our people.

First of all, he says, “I would like to welcome everyone to the National Trail of Tears conference and say ‘you’re welcome,’ which means thank you for keeping the memories of our people alive who struggled yet persevered the long journey. I hope this conference is productive and collaborative. By learning from each other, we will only help continue to strengthen our sovereignty and our legacy.”

He says, “God bless you all, and I wish you all the best with your conference. And if he was here, he would be glad to meet with each and every one of you.”

Thank you.

Well, good afternoon everyone. I’m Carol Waller, and I’m the Acting Superintendent of the National Park Service National Trails office for the office that administers the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail. When I thought a little bit about what I wanted to share this afternoon, a couple of things kind of jumped out at me. One is that I’m here with three of my colleagues, and we’re really honored to be here and to be a part of this story.

You know, we have been helping to share this story with all of you for several decades. Many of you have opened your homes to us. You’ve spent long, long days driving sections of the trail with us, helping us understand and learn the story better. You’ve helped provide us content that we’ve used to develop interpretive waysides. You’ve worked with the Department of Transportation to help develop sign plans and get signs that mark the trail up on the ground. So, we’ve worked together and completed a lot of work over many decades.

But I think we’re all kind of facing the same challenge, and I think that Principal Chief Warner kind of touched on this also. How do we keep this story alive? How do we keep this story relevant? Why should someone care about this story? You all know the answer to that, right? Multiple reasons why we need to care about this story. But keeping it alive and keeping it relevant is not necessarily easy, and it takes a village. When I stand up here and look around at all of you, I see a village. I see a village of folks that have worked really hard and continue to dedicate incredible amounts of time to sharing this story and making sure that the accurate story is portrayed.

We live in this incredible world, right, where all this information is available to us, but anybody can post anything on the social media site or a website. It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not, and bang, there it goes, right? We know that there is a motorcycle ride in Alabama, a Trail of Tears motorcycle rally. It has nothing to do with the Trail of Tears. We know that there are teachers that are teaching that the removal was purely voluntary. There’s a lot of misinformation out there, right? And so, we need to work together. We need to continue to be that village that shares this story and shares the accurate and real and true story and makes it relevant to people.

But that’s one of the hard parts. You can have accurate information, but how do you make it interesting, and how do you make it so that young people can get engaged with that? For our part, we’re not the keepers of this story, but we consider ourselves part of this village that’s trying to help share that story and make it relevant.

One of the ways that we’re trying to do that is to bring new perspectives and new technologies into our work. I want to introduce very, very quickly one young woman that is joining us here today. Several of you apparently have already met her, and her name is Amaya Bepa. She is a Remember the Removal rider.

I think that in and of itself is pretty remarkable, and congratulations. But she is joining us for a seven-month fellowship with our office, and she’s going to be helping us to create content that people can use and young people can relate to that can help them learn and understand this story.

So, my challenge for all of us here today is to continue to act as a community, to continue to find ways to make this story relevant and real for people today. You need those young people. You need those young people to carry on your association as members of the board of directors. You need those young people to carry on and make sure to be able to stand up and say, “No, that is wrong. I know you read that on Facebook, but it’s wrong.”

You’re the keepers of that story. We’re just a part of that village. We’re honored to be a part of that village. We will always be here. We’ll be a part of delivering that story and sharing and keeping this story alive, and we’re honored to be able to be a part of this. Thank you very much.

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Choctaw Nation and National Parks Service

This message this morning, and I really appreciate doing that. Oklahoma and Chief Batton, I’m sorry, he sent a statement because he wasn’t able to be here. And you all know how hard our chief works to support our people and the causes that organizations like this do for our

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