After organizing varsity womens athletics in the spring of 1973, Southeast
Missouri State athletic officials began scrambling for an appropriate
nickname for the schools female sports squads. Neither the Lady Indians,
Indianettes nor SEMO Women seemed fitting so a contest was held to provide
the Southeast ladies with a lasting identity. Cape Girardeau native Don
Jewell submitted the winning name -- the Otahkians.
The name comes from Otahki, a Cherokee Indian who died in the 1838-1839
winter on the legendary Trail of Tears march from the Appalachian Mountains
to Oklahoma. Hundreds of Cherokees died during the dreadful winter trek,
several in the area now called the Trail of Tears State Park near Cape
A tomb was erected by Otahki's father, Cherokee party leader Rev. Jesse
Bushyhead and Otahki's husband Sam Hildebrand to mark the spot where the
Cherokees' fairest daughter was laid to rest. A shrine is now in place at
the Trail of Tears State Park as a memorial to Otahki and the hundreds who
died on that journey.