What Is An Otahkian?

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 Girardeau.

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.


Redhawks Athletics Traditions
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