It’s too late to right the wrongs of the Trail of Tears, to bring back the thousands who died on the perilous journey west from 1838 to 1839.
But to Cooper, a Comanche Indian who walked a section of the trail in 2011, it’s not too late to empower future generations to learn from the mistakes of history.
“What I try to do is talk about the fact that the (Cherokee) were able to survive,” he said. “It’s the entire story: tragedy, great loss, survival, resiliency.”
Cooper chronicled his experiences on the Trail of Tears in a new book entitled “It’s My Trail, Too: A Comanche Indian’s Journey on the Cherokee Trail of Tears.”
In it, he details not only the tactics of the hike but also the experiences he encountered and realizations he discovered along the way.
“I wanted a trail that had meaning for me,” Cooper said. “Being a Native American and being into native history, that is why the Trail of Tears stood out.”
Cooper set out to hike the trail by taking as many of the historical paths, roads and trails as possible, he said.
The trip spanned six states, more than 800 miles and took three months to finish.
“I’m a backpacker and I like to hike and do overnight things,” he said. “I asked myself, ‘can I go longer.”’
He chose the northern route of the Trail of Tears, which runs from the Tennessee line into Kentucky, then Illinois, followed by Missouri, briefly in Arkansas and finally Oklahoma.
For his encore, Cooper considered hiking the water route of the Trail of Tears, but someone beat him to it, he said.
“I’m actually in the process now of doing the Long Walk of the Navajo, which is similar to he Trail of Tears story,” he said.
Cooper’s book was in was independently published in October of last year.
The paperback version is available at local bookstores and from all major online retailers.