Thursday, September 6, 2018

Te-lah-nay’s Wall:


  • Te-lah-nay was a Yuchi native American Indian, a tribe that lived along the Tennessee River in the 1800s. She and her sister Whana-le were sent to the Indian Territory of Oklahoma as part of the removal of native peoples from the southeast under the provisions of the Indian Removal Act, signed by President Jackson in 1830. Her name means Woman With Dancing Eyes, she and her sister had been orphaned by soldiers. They were part of the estimated up to 60,000 relocated Native Americans who made the journey known as The Trail of Tears. 
  • Te-lah-Nay and her tribe called the Tennessee River the Singing River because they believed a woman who lived in the river sang to them. When Te-lah-nay arrived in Oklahoma she said the streams and rivers did not sing to her and she longed for home. 
  • After spending one winter on the Oklahoma reservation she left for home, even though she was aged only about 16 to 18. She reportedly said that her sister, Whana-le, was like a wildflower and could grow anywhere, whereas Te-lah-nau felt that if she stayed there she would die. 
  • The journey home took 5 years, Te-lah-nay enduring hardship, storms and the risk of capture and death. She eventually settled near Florence, Alabama and married Jonathon Levi Hipp and had three children, before dying at a young age. 

Tom Hendrix: 
  • Tom Hendrix, the great-great-grandson of Te-lah-nay, the owner of a property near Waterloo, Alabama, was told the story of Te-lah-nay by his grandmother, who was Te-lah-nay’s granddaughter. Wanting to do something to honour her memory, he knew what to do after being told by an elder of the Yuchi tribe "All things shall pass. Only the stones will remain.” 
  • For the next 30 years, finishing in 2013, Tom Hendrix constructed a wall on his 5 acre property in memory of a woman he had never met or known. Each day at 5.00am he drove his old truck to the Tennessee River to collect stones, as well as those discarded by farmers, to construct a dry stone wall. He said that in doing so, he "wore out three trucks, 22 wheelbarrows, 3,800 pairs of gloves, three dogs and one old man". 
  • Particulars of the wall, which is also known as the Wichahpi Commemorative Stone Wall:
The wall is over 1600m (1 mile) in length.  
The wall is in two sections, one representing Te-lah-nay’s trek to Oklahoma and the other her journey home.  
The wall varies in height and width, like Te-lah-nay’s journey and a person’s journey in life, which is never straight.  
Anchoring the wall is a prayer circle, where Tom Hendrix prayed every morning. The four tiers of the prayer circle represent birth, life, death and rebirth. 
  • In 2000 Tom Hendrix published a book, “If the Legends Fade”, about Te-lah-nay’s journey, which generated visits from people around the world. May of those people have brought with them stones and fossils to place on the wall, which now has stones from 127 nations, territories and islands. Tom Hendrix placed each such stone carefully when he was alive and catalogued where it came from, why it was special and what it represented. 
  • Tom Hendrix passed away on February 24, 2017, ten days past his 83rd birthday. Te-lah-nay’s Wall remains open to visitors and is now in the care of his son, Trace Hendrix. 
“If the legends fade, who will teach the children?” 

- Tom Hendrix 


Tom Hendrix with Te-lah-nay’s Wall. 

This section of the wall represents the end of Te-lah-nay's journey home. 

These rocks look like faces and are strategically placed to ward off evil spirits at sunset. 

Prayer Circle

Tom Hendrix has joined Te-lah-nay in the Great Circle.  The stones remain. 

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