Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in History (PhD)

Degree Level





Daniel Sutherland

Committee Member

Elliott West

Second Committee Member

Jeannie Whayne

Third Committee Member

Stacy Leeds

Fourth Committee Member

Daniel Littlefield, Jr.


Cherokee, Heritage Tourism, Historic Preservation, Interpretation, National Park Service, Trail of Tears


Managed by the National Park Service, the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail, established in 1987, was developed to preserve physical segments of land and water routes, but also sites of memory such as unmarked graves and internment camps. Because the foundation of the national trail was the result of successful partnership of Cherokee grassroots efforts and multiple trail and federal advocates, the evolution of that collaboration merits consideration after thirty years to evaluate the application of standards for consultation, co-management, and heritage tourism. While the national trail preserves and marks the various routes, this study examines how three national parks consult and collaborate with three federally recognized Cherokee tribes to preserve and interpret the tangible and intangible resources associated with removal. The National Park Service is held in high esteem as the nation’s leader in preservation and storytelling. Through the lens of the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail, this research draws on nineteen interviews with park, tribal, and trail partners to determine if the National Park Service is measuring up to the promise of heritage preservation programs and government-to-government consultation. Management of the Trail of Tears is explored at Pea Ridge National Military Park, Fort Smith National Historic Site, and Arkansas Post National Memorial to evaluate effective consultation, partnerships, and programs that inspire fuller understanding of Indian removal, and provide guiding principles and practices responsible for the program’s successes for other park units to consider adopting. An analysis of park policy and planning behind the trail provides a valuable case study on efforts to integrate and expand Native history at national parks more generally. Focus is given to the partnership and collaborative efforts between national parks and the Cherokees, as well as federal efforts in presenting the tribes as thriving, sovereignty entities, and not simply relics of the past. The partnership of the national parks and trail advocates not only inspires communities to engage in commemoration efforts but speaks to the evolving federal-tribal relationship and the ongoing efforts of the National Park Service in actively granting a space for Native voices.