Kansas Citians will walk for four days on ‘Trail of Mending’ to reckon with local history

Starting Tuesday, a group of Kansas Citians will make a multi-day pilgrimage through the metro to celebrate and reckon with different cultures’ histories in the area — including paying homage to the tens of thousands of Native Americans who were forcibly displaced from the region following the Indian Removal Act in 1830.

Local wellness nonprofit Clement Waters will host the “moving ceremony” event, called the Trail of Mending, from May 23 to 26.

According to its lead organizer Joy Ellsworth, the event draws largely from the traditions of the Lakota and Dakota people but invites people from all backgrounds to share their own traditions and stories along the way.

“We’re bringing attention and awareness to the fact that monuments and historic places in Kansas City could mean one thing to somebody because it’s related to an experience their family had, or they could feel a sharp pain in their heart, but other people who could drive by completely oblivious,” Ellsworth said.

“If we don’t understand the pain that some people carry, then we won’t understand how to form common ground and walk forward together on difficult issues.”

The pilgrimage will start in Southeast Kansas City and will continue moving northwest until it reaches Kansas City, Kansas, over the course of four days.

It will be the first of what organizers hope will be an annual tradition, featuring storytelling and prayers, and inviting participants to promote cultural diversity and atone for the oppression that has taken place in Kansas City.

Ellsworth is inviting anyone who wants to participate to join the group as it crosses through the city on foot, on horseback or by car. Some elders and organizers will camp along the way until the end of the trail. Others are welcome to meet up with the group at each stop throughout the week.

She said overall she hopes the multi-day journey is “personal and healing,” for each of the participants.

What is a moving ceremony?

A moving ceremony is a tradition that encourages people to move on from their differences and find inspiration in connection, according to co-organizer Tom Zeigler, a member of the Lakota Nation.

Most importantly, he said, the ceremony is an opportunity to pay attention to all the ways that people are connected to each other as well as to the environment and animals that support and surround us.

“We have a word for that and it’s called ‘Mitákuye Oyás’iŋ’ and that word says it all because it means that everything is related,” Zeigler said.

Zeigler said that horses are very special for this kind of ceremony because of their strength and healing power. Zeigler said that people who do not have a horse to bring to the event may still have the opportunity to ride a horse.

How will the Trail of Mending work?

On Tuesday, the event will open with a ceremony and prayer at 8:30 a.m. at Camp Lake of the Woods on Oakwood Drive.

Participants will then march across town for four days until they reach Common Ground Field in Kansas City, Kansas, on Friday for another ceremony and potluck.

Each day will have five to six stops, where people will share stories, songs and prayers. Ellsworth emphasized that those songs and prayers can be from any tradition.

Each stop either represents a historically significant place where people either crossed boundaries to work together or marks past division, according to the event website.

Ellsworth said that everyone should think about what the history of Kansas City means to them and their families and bring those stories with them to the event.

“The challenge is for people of different backgrounds that are attempting to be able to listen and see each other for who we are. So then, that creates common ground,” Ellsworth said.

There will also be some organized presentations. On Tuesday, there will be a discussion held at the Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Heritage Center, which will also be available on Zoom. Later that day, Grupo Axé Capoeira will perform a capoeira demonstration at the Kauffman Memorial Garden. Food will be provided along the way, but people are encouraged to bring food and water.

People riding horseback.
People riding horseback.

What are some of the stops along the way?

Some of the stops include the Shawnee Indian Mission State Historic Site, the Scout statue, the Quindaro Ruins and the confluence of the Kansas and Missouri rivers.

Here is the full schedule:


  • 8:30 a.m. —Opening circle at Camp Lake of the Woods, 7331 Oakwood Drive, Kansas City, Missouri

  • 9:30 a.m. — Invocation of ancestors, prayer at KC Urban Farm Coop, 5051 E Gregory Blvd., Kansas City, Missouri

  • 11:30 a.m. — Circle and lunch at Cleaver Family YMCA, 7000 Troost Ave., Kansas City, Missouri

  • 2:15 p.m. — Circle at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Square Park, 4650 Woodland Ave., Kansas City, Missouri

  • 3:30 p.m. — Roundtable Discussion: I care as deeply as I feel my roots at Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Heritage Center, 3700 Blue Parkway, Kansas City, Missouri

  • 6:30 p.m. — Capoeira Demonstration by Grupo Axé Capoeira at the Ewing and Muriel Kauffman Memorial Garden, 4800 Rockhill Road, Kansas City, Missouri


  • 8:30 a.m. — Morning circle at route-side sleep site

  • 9:30 a.m. — Circle at Massasoit Statue at Winstead’s on the Plaza, 47th & Main Streets, Kansas City, Missouri

  • 11:00 a.m. — Circle and lunch at Shawnee Indian Mission State Historic Site, 3403 W. 53rd St., Fairway, Kansas

  • 3:00 p.m. — Circle at The Scout Statue, 2237 Pennsylvania Ave., Kansas City, Missouri

  • 4:00 p.m. — Circle at Pioneer Mothers Memorial, 2900 Kessler Road, Kansas City, Missouri

  • 5:00 p.m. — Public Address by Chief Black Spotted Horse at the National WWI Museum and Memorial, 2 Memorial Drive, Kansas City, Missouri


  • 8:30 a.m. — Circle at route-side sleep site

  • 10:30 a.m. — Circle at confluence of the Kansas River and Missouri River at GPS marking 39.111892, -94.614840 with parking at Levee Road & N. James Street, Kansas City, Kansas

  • 11:30 a.m. — Circle and lunch at John Garland Park, an EPA mitigation Site, 450 Cleveland Ave., Kansas City, Kansas

  • 1:30 p.m. — Circle at Parkwood Park, 952 Quindaro Blvd., Kansas City, Kansas

  • 3:30 p.m. — Circle at Quindaro Ruins Overlook Structure, 3507 N. 27th St., Kansas City, Kansas

  • 5:30 p.m. — Circle and dinner at Camp Carver Institute, 4700 Sortor Drive, Kansas City, Kansas


  • 8:30 a.m. — Circle at route-side sleep site

  • 12:30 p.m. — Circle and lunch at Emerson Park Christian Church, 1501 S. 40th St., Kansas City, Kansas

  • 1:30 p.m. — Circle at Tensquatawa Shrine & Resting Place, 3818 Ruby Ave., Kansas City, Kansas

  • 3:00 p.m. — Reflection circle at Common Ground Field, 2455 S 42nd St., Kansas City, Kansas

  • 5:30 p.m. —Trail completion ceremony and potluck at Common Ground Field. All are welcome.

How else can people help?

There are a lot of ways to help during the trail. Volunteers can bring meals that can feed up to 40 people, and help drive supplies like hay for the animals and water or help set up the potluck on Friday. To sign up to volunteer, visit here.