Senate panel approves study to expand Trail of Tears

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A study that could add about 2,000 miles of land and water routes to the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail through eastern Tennessee and portions of eight other states, including Missouri, is gaining support in Congress.

The U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday approved a bill requiring the proposed $175,000 study, which is backed by both of Tennessee's senators — Lamar Alexander and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist — and the National Park Service.

About 16,000 Cherokee Indians, mostly from Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia, were forced from their homes in the winter of 1838-39 and required to walk about 800 miles to designated Indian Territory in what now is Oklahoma. More than 4,000 died along the way.

The study could lead to greatly expanding the current national historic trail of about 2,200 miles of their known land and water routes. The Cherokee Nation, historians and other experts favor national recognition of all routes used as part of the public education about that traumatic period in American history.

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