After social media went ablaze with the news that Bass Pro Shops had been selling a Winchester #9422 rifle that commemorated the Cherokee Trail of Tears, the retail giant with 171 retail stores across the United States and Canada told Indian Country Today that the rifle was a one-time single item obtained by an associate, they had immediately removed the item for sale and reached out to tribes to ask the most respectful way to handle the situation.
The Cherokee Nation was among the tribes they sought guidance from, and the Cherokee Nation in turn, responded with appreciation to Bass Pro Shops.
According to Jack Wlezien, the Director of Communications at Bass Pro Shops, the rifle was not part of the retail inventory. Wlezien said the rifle came to Bass Pro shops from a customer who used a trade-in to order a new firearm purchase. Customers can trade older guns in order to obtain a discount on newer ones.
The individual Bass Pro outlets then put the used guns for sale, thus are on display.
“This is a one-of-a-kind product acquired on a trade-in by one of our associates. It is not part of our standard assortment. We have no plans to carry the firearm and we’re reviewing it with Native American partner organizations to ensure the matter is handled respectfully. Our company has a deep and longstanding respect for Native Americans and their culture.”
Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. issued a statement Wednesday commending the actions of Bass Pro Shops regarding their removal of the Winchester rifle commemorating the Trail of Tears, from a store shelf.
“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 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.”
Attention to the issue began when Twitter user Seth Haines posted on Saturday that he was in a Northwest Arkansas store when he spotted the rifle. He posted images to Twitter and stated he would not be shopping at Bass Pro Shops again.
“At @BassProShops in NW Arkansas looking for fly rods and I spotted this: a @winchester “Cherokee Trail of Tears,” rifle. See the white soldiers with their guns pushing the Native Americans out?
Many responded to Haines’ tweet, the majority in the negative.
The Story of the Winchester 9422
According to a Winchester gun collector website the Winchester Arms Collectors Association, commemorative rifles were a tribute to historical instances in American or Canadian history:
Winchester Commemoratives were first introduced in 1964 ... Each Commemorative was issued as a reproduction of a historically famous gun model or to honor a historically significant person, group, event or institution relating to U.S. or Canadian history.
The website lists a number of commemorative rifles but does not specifically name the rifle as the Trail of Tears 9422 Winchester, it instead lists it as the 1978 Cherokee 30/30+
On another website America Remembers a Trail of Tears rifle is featured but is listed as discontinued. The barrel and receiver are different colors and silver as opposed to gold as compared to the Winchester 9422 listed in the photo by Haines. It was not the same rifle, but another commemorating the Trail of Tears.
The Cherokee 9422 is listed as part of the Winchesters’ History of Winchester Firearms as listed in several books with catalogs of commemorative rifles. Other rifles listed are the 1976 Little Bighorn, the 1977 Cherokee, the 1977 Wells Fargo, the 1977 Cheyenne and others.
In terms of the production of the rifle, accounts differ, in the book Standard Catalog of Winchester Firearms on page 251, 9,000 of the 1977 Cherokee .30-.30 rifles were manufactured.
However in the 1993 book The History of Winchester Firearms 1866-1992, on page 228, the amount of manufactured rifles is listed as 3,950.
Wlezien said Bass Pro Shops wanted Indian Country to know that the company only wished to be respectful about Native culture and encouraged anyone who wished to visit the founder of Bass Pro Shop’s Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium which is a tribute to Native Americans. He said the exhibit was created in partnership with Native American partner organizations.
Follow Indian Country Today’s associate editor Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter -@VinceSchilling
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