Bass Pro Shops pulled a used 1978 Winchester rifle commemorating the Cherokee Trail of Tears from one of its Arkansas store’s shelves and apologized to the tribe after a photo of the gun led to calls to boycott the outdoor gear chain.
A customer in Rogers, Arkansas, posted photos of the rifle on Twitter, leading to accusations that Bass Pro was profiting from the tragic forced relocation of the Cherokee Nation that began in 1838.
More than 4,000 Cherokee died during the more than 1,000-mile walk to what is now Oklahoma in what is known as the Trail of Tears.
The company’s communications director, Jack Wlezien, told The Tulsa World that the rifle was acquired from a trade-in and is not part of the store’s standard stock.
“It’s a niche product that came in on a trade,” Wlezien said.
“As you can imagine, there are a wide range of firearms traded on a regular basis, and there wasn’t much deep consideration about the individual gun from a merchandising standpoint by our (sales) associate, but now we are taking steps to be sure we’re dealing with it appropriately.”
The one gun led to a a firestorm of social media protest after the initial tweet was published.
And this is in a store. In America. In 2018. Yeah… I won’t be buying from Bass Pro. pic.twitter.com/z1EfEDEmW5
— Seth Haines (@sethhaines) November 10, 2018
Wow @BassProShops. I know you can’t be in charge of every single thing that’s taken in on a trade, but maybe now that you know this exists you’ll make sure to get rid of it?
And then talk with that store in particular about what they’re choosing to sell?
— Ryan Kendrick (@CRKendrick) November 10, 2018
My dads great great grand parents died on the trail, this is sickening how it’s celebrated
— Jason Millwood (@jabuc) November 10, 2018
Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. issued a statement applauding applauded the company’s decision to remove the rifle and “for using the incident as a teaching moment.”
“The Cherokee Nation commends Bass Pro Shops’ swift and decisive action to remove a 1978 Winchester rifle commemorating the Trail of Tears from a store’s shelf and applauds Bass Pro Shops for using the incident as a teaching moment for its employees,” the statement read.
“The Cherokee Nation commemorates and memorializes the Trail of Tears. As Cherokee Nation citizens, it eternally remains a testament to our resilience, fortitude and perseverance.
“The story of the Trail of Tears is one of survival and the ability to adapt and survive in unimaginable circumstances. We hope in today’s environment companies will reach out to Native tribes to better understand our history.”
The Tulsa World reported that according to the website winchestercollector.org, a .30-30 or .22-caliber Winchester Model 1894 “Cherokee Carbine” that matches the image of the Bass Pro Shops rifle was one of dozens of Winchester rifles manufactured from 1964 to 2006.
The weapons annually commemorated people and historic events, including Bat Masterson, John Wayne and the purchase of Alaska from Russia.
The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.
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