Trail of Tears: Forced Native American Relocation

Trail of Tears: Forced Native American Relocation

Discover the Trail of Tears: A Lightning Lesson from Teaching with Historic Places

(Photo of relocation trail courtesy the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, by Benjamin Nance)

What were the consequences of the Indian Removal Act of 1830?
What historic place might you study to answer this question?

By the end of the 1830s, the U.S. government forced or coerced an estimated 100,000 American Indians to move from their homelands in the southeast to distant Reservations. These people included members of the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole Nations. They traveled many different paths, but share a story. The Trail of Tears today is a cultural and physical landscape that tells that story. It has the power to teach why and how the majority of people from these Nations moved from their homes in parts of North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama to Indian Territory in present-day Oklahoma.

This lesson emphasizes the struggle for Cherokee members to hold on to their land, government, and culture in the face of overwhelming pressure. The Cherokee Nation’s journey occurred between 1838 and 1839. In this lesson, students investigate a complicated story about how indigenous people negotiated through law and culture to preserve their identities. They will analyze pro-relocation and anti-relocation perspectives.

The historic Major Ridge House in Georgia and the National Park Service’s Trail of Tears National Historic Trail tell the histories of Cherokee Indian forced relocation. At a time when the Cherokee struggled to keep their nation in the east, a Cherokee leader named Major Ridge supported moving west. Historic places like the Major Ridge House provide evidence of Cherokee experiences and of the United States' policy of American Indian removal. The materials here introduce students to these topics through evidence-based investigations and skill-building exercises.

Where it Fits into the Curriculum

This lesson could be a part of a history unit on American Indians, Jacksonian America, Manifest Destiny, or westward expansion, a social studies unit on cultural diversity, or a geography unit on demography.

Time Period: Jacksonian Era, 1820s and 1830s

National Standards for History, Social Studies, and Common Core

This lesson relates to the UCLA National Center for History in the Schools National History Standards :

This lesson relates to Thematic Strands from the National Council for the Social Studies' National Standards :

Materials Found in the Full Lesson

Accompanying Question Sets are paired with all materials in the Full Lesson (PDF).

• Map: Orients the students and encourages them to think about how place affects culture and society
Map 1: Cherokee Removal Routes, 1838-1839.
• Text: Primary and secondary source readings provide content and spark critical analysis.
Reading 1: “You cannot remain where you are now”: Cherokee Resistance and Relocation in the 1830s.
• Visual Evidence: Students critique and analyze visual evidence to tackle questions and support their own theories about the subject.
Photo 1: The Major Ridge House and Chieftains Museum, 2008.

"Putting it all Together" Activities

  • Activity 1: Investigate American Indian History in Your Region
  • Activity 2: Report on Relocation Beyond the Cherokee Experience
  • Activity 3: Cherokee Voices for Resistance Close Readings

National Park Service
The National Park Service manages portions of the trail through the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail. The Agency website provides online visitors with information about Relocation history and where to visit historic places in person.

Teaching with Historic Places, The Trail of Tears and the Forced Relocation of the Cherokee Nation lesson plan
Teach similar skills and topics with this longer TwHP lesson plan about Cherokee relocation. This lesson includes additional skill-building investigations and unique materials, including primary sources about the historic John Ross House and Rattlesnake Springs in Tennesee . This lesson was published in 2004 and the Trail of Tears Lightning Lesson is based on it.

Cherokee Nation
The Cherokee Nation (a federally recognized tribe) offers online resources on the history of the Cherokee, including the Trail of Tears, and contemporary concerns at its official tribal website .

Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (a federally recognized tribe) provides contemporary concerns at its tribal website and information about its culture and history at websites for the Museum of the Cherokee Indian and Cherokee Preservation Foundation .

United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma
The United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians (a federally recognized tribe) offers online essays about Cherokee history and resources to study its cultural heritage here or click here to visit the UKB ‘John Hair Cultural Center and Museum’ website.

Museum of the Cherokee Indian
The Museum of the Cherokee Indian offers workshops, exhibits, and events that commemorate Cherokee history. Information on the museum can be found online .

Cherokee Heritage Center
The Cherokee Heritage Center was created by the Cherokee National Historical Society and offers resources for the study and preservation of the history of the Cherokee. Discover the Center's mission and learn more about Cherokee culture through its website .

Trail of Tears Association
The Trail of Tears Association offers online resources and background information on the Trail of Tears through their website . While providing history, the Association site also contains links to external websites for the different indigenous groups that experienced Trail of Tears.

Chieftains Museum/Major Ridge Home
The Major Ridge Home is also home to the Chieftains Museum and their website offers a wealth of information about the man himself, along with history of the property and of the broader Cherokee experience.

Library of Congress
The Library of Congress houses a collection of primary documents pertaining to the Indian Removal Act which is in direct relation to the Trail of Tears. These documents can be found on the LOC website .

This National Park Service lesson plan is based on the National Register of Historic Places nomination for “Chieftains” Major Ridge House in Rome, Georgia . The lesson plan was published in 2018. This lesson was written by education consultant Kathleen Hunter and National Park Service historian Katie Orr, with assistance from consultants Sarah Curtis and Marilyn Harper. The Chieftains Museum staff provided additional feedback on drafts. It was produced by NPS Cultural Resources staff in Washington, DC.

Discover the Trail of Tears: A Lightning Lesson from Teaching with Historic Places is based on the earlier Teaching with Historic Places publication, The Trail of Tears and the Forced Relocation of the Cherokee Nation published in 2004. Redeveloped and keeping the place-as-evidence model, it is designed to fit within a 60-minute block and is aligned with Common Core standards. This lesson is one in a series that brings the power of place and historic sites to students around the world.

Native Americans in the 19th century

From the point of view of the American rulers of that time (such as Jefferson Davis and Andrew Johnson), they legally came into possession of the Native American lands. The ways in which they appropriated these lands, however, were largely abusive. In the early 19th century, the United States federal government designated the five Native American tribes — the Chicksaw, Chocktaw, Muscogee-Creek, Seminole, and Cherokee — as the “Five Civilized Tribes.”

Their degree of development compared to other Native American populations, their cooperation with the federal government, and their adoption of European culture gave them the advantage of a special status in the young federal republic of the United States of America. These tribes had designated territories in the southeastern United States today, enjoying some autonomy.

Thus, they maintained their old way of tribal organization, being, at the same time, integrated into the American economic model of organization, practicing large-scale agriculture based on African slaves. However, the expansion of trade and the growing need for land for plantations pushed the Americans to expand westward. The territories of the Five Tribes were targeted in this expansion. US President Thomas Jefferson believed that with the integration of Native Americans into the American cultural model, including the agricultural one, the tribes would get rid of the territories used for hunting, later taking possession of the American Lands.

Jefferson’s prediction was partially fulfilled, with few tribes willing to abandon their homelands, and US authorities were forced to take increasingly severe measures to remove Native Americans from their desired areas. The first ideas for giving Native Americans east of the Mississippi River territories of equal value west of the river appeared in 1803.

The first implementation was in 1817, when the Cherokee Indians agreed to cede two portions of their land for equal size plots in the West. The limited success of this method led to the emergence of other methods, as effective as they are abusive. In the American Congress, discussions began on the legitimacy of the autonomous territories of the tribes.

The argument for the territorial integrity of the United States seemed to be the one adopted by most of the leaders of the former colonies, starting with the elimination of any form of the state organization of the Native Americans. Also, not having American citizenship, members of those tribes were not legally allowed to own property on American soil.

This legal framework was used by the United States leadership to take possession of Indian territories. During the tenure of President James Monroe, Secretary of State John C. Calhoun began organizing the plan to remove Native Americans from the affected regions. Thus, in 1824, Calhoun received a green light from the president for the implementation of the plan, and in 1825, the Arkansas Territory and the Indian Territory were created for this purpose. These are the areas where Native American populations were to be moved. The future president, John Quincy Adams, presented Calhoun’s plan in Congress. Although his plan made it clear that the Amerindians would be moved voluntarily, Georgian delegates opposed the project.

Cherokee Removal and the Trail of Tears

By the 1820s, the Cherokee Nation had seen much of their ancestral lands (in what is now the southeastern US) disappear, through treaties with colonial governments and the United States government. Hoping to avoid cultural destruction, several Cherokee leaders—including John Ross, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation and John Ridge, the Speaker of the Cherokee Council—led their people into a period of reform called the “Cherokee Renaissance.” By 1830 the Cherokee Nation had adopted a written language and forged a constitution modeled on that of the United States, complete with a chief executive, a representative government, and courts enforcing Cherokee laws. Many Cherokee had converted to Protestant Christianity, lived in nuclear family homes, and farmed the land—sometimes with the labor of enslaved African Americans.

This same period saw the rise among US citizens of “Manifest Destiny,” a belief that white Americans were God’s chosen people, selected by Him to spread the United States from the East to the West Coast, “sea to shining sea.” Andrew Jackson, a famous “Indian fighter,” was elected President in 1828, largely on his pledge to move Indian tribes westward to allow the advance of white civilization. Emboldened by Jackson’s stance, state legislators in Georgia passed laws that abolished the Cherokee government, invalidated Cherokee laws, and created a lottery system by which white Georgians could legally take Cherokee homes and land. In 1830, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, allocating funds to forcibly remove Native Americans from the Southeast to lands west of the Mississippi River.

Cherokee leaders could not agree how to respond. In 1835, government negotiators took advantage of their factionalism and persuaded a small group, led by John Ridge and his father Major Ridge, to sign the Treaty of New Echota—which ordered the Cherokee to remove themselves from their homes and relocate to land west of the Mississippi River. This primary source set uses documents, images, and music to reveal the story of Cherokee removal, which is part of a larger story known as the Trail of Tears. Thousands of Native Americans—Chickasaw, Creek Choctaw, Seminole, and Cherokee—suffered through this forced relocation.


American leaders in the Revolutionary and early US eras debated about whether Native Americans should be treated as individuals or as nations. [15]

Benjamin Franklin Edit

In a draft "Proposed Articles of Confederation" presented to the Continental Congress on May 10, 1775, Benjamin Franklin called for a "perpetual Alliance" with the Indians in the nation about to be born, particularly with the six nations of the Iroquois Confederacy: [16] [17]

Article XI. A perpetual alliance offensive and defensive is to be entered into as soon as may be with the Six Nations their Limits to be ascertained and secured to them their Land not to be encroached on, nor any private or Colony Purchases made of them hereafter to be held good, nor any Contract for Lands to be made but between the Great Council of the Indians at Onondaga and the General Congress. The Boundaries and Lands of all the other Indians shall also be ascertained and secured to them in the same manner and Persons appointed to reside among them in proper Districts, who shall take care to prevent Injustice in the Trade with them, and be enabled at our general Expense by occasional small Supplies, to relieve their personal Wants and Distresses. And all Purchases from them shall be by the Congress for the General Advantage and Benefit of the United Colonies.

Thomas Jefferson Edit

In his Notes on the State of Virginia (1785), Thomas Jefferson defended Native American culture and marvelled at how the tribes of Virginia "never submitted themselves to any laws, any coercive power, any shadow of government" due to their "moral sense of right and wrong". [18] [19] He wrote to the Marquis de Chastellux later that year, "I believe the Indian then to be in body and mind equal to the whiteman". [20] Jefferson's desire, as interpreted by Francis Paul Prucha, was for Native Americans to intermix with European Americans and become one people. [21] [22] To achieve that end as president, Jefferson offered U.S. citizenship to some Indian nations and proposed offering them credit to facilitate trade. [23] [24]

George Washington Edit

President George Washington, in his 1790 address to the Seneca Nation which called the pre-Constitutional Indian land-sale difficulties "evils", said that the case was now altered and pledged to uphold Native American "just rights". [25] [26] In March and April 1792, Washington met with 50 tribal chiefs in Philadelphia—including the Iroquois—to discuss strengthening the friendship between them and the United States. [27] Later that year, in his fourth annual message to Congress, Washington stressed the need to build peace, trust, and commerce with Native Americans: [28]

I cannot dismiss the subject of Indian affairs without again recommending to your consideration the expediency of more adequate provision for giving energy to the laws throughout our interior frontier, and for restraining the commission of outrages upon the Indians without which all pacific plans must prove nugatory. To enable, by competent rewards, the employment of qualified and trusty persons to reside among them, as agents, would also contribute to the preservation of peace and good neighbourhood. If, in addition to these expedients, an eligible plan could be devised for promoting civilization among the friendly tribes, and for carrying on trade with them, upon a scale equal to their wants, and under regulations calculated to protect them from imposition and extortion, its influence in cementing their interests with our's [sic] could not but be considerable. [29]

In his seventh annual message to Congress in 1795, Washington intimated that if the U.S. government wanted peace with the Indians it must behave peacefully if the U.S. wanted raids by Indians to stop, raids by American "frontier inhabitants" must also stop. [30] [31]

Declaration of Independence Edit

In the indictment section of the Declaration of Independence, the Indigenous inhabitants of the Unites States are referred to as "merciless Indian Savages", reflecting a commonly held view at the time.

Early congressional acts Edit

The Confederation Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 (a precedent for U.S. territorial expansion would occur for years to come), calling for the protection of Native American "property, rights, and liberty" [32] the U.S. Constitution of 1787 (Article I, Section 8) made Congress responsible for regulating commerce with the Indian tribes. In 1790, the new U.S. Congress passed the Indian Nonintercourse Act (renewed and amended in 1793, 1796, 1799, 1802, and 1834) to protect and codify the land rights of recognized tribes. [33]

As president, Thomas Jefferson developed a far-reaching Indian policy with two primary goals. He wanted to assure that the Native nations (not foreign nations) were tightly bound to the new United States, as he considered the security of the it to be paramount. [34] He also wanted to "civilize" them into adopting an agricultural, rather than a hunter-gatherer, lifestyle. [21] These goals would be achieved through treaties and the development of trade. [35]

Jefferson initially promoted an American policy which encouraged Native Americans to become assimilated, or "civilized". [36] He made sustained efforts to win the friendship and cooperation of many Native American tribes as president, repeatedly articulating his desire for a united nation of whites and Indians [37] as in his November 3, 1802 letter to Seneca spiritual leader Handsome Lake:

Go on then, brother, in the great reformation you have undertaken . In all your enterprises for the good of your people, you may count with confidence on the aid and protection of the United States, and on the sincerity and zeal with which I am myself animated in the furthering of this humane work. You are our brethren of the same land we wish your prosperity as brethren should do. Farewell. [38]

When a delegation from the Cherokee Nation's Upper Towns lobbied Jefferson for the full and equal citizenship promised to Indians living in American territory by George Washington, his response indicated that he was willing to grant citizenship to those Indian nations who sought it. [39] In his eighth annual message to Congress on November 8, 1808, he presented a vision of white and Indian unity:

With our Indian neighbors the public peace has been steadily maintained . And, generally, from a conviction that we consider them as part of ourselves, and cherish with sincerity their rights and interests, the attachment of the Indian tribes is gaining strength daily. and will amply requite us for the justice and friendship practiced towards them . [O]ne of the two great divisions of the Cherokee nation have now under consideration to solicit the citizenship of the United States, and to be identified with us in-laws and government, in such progressive manner as we shall think best. [40]

As some of Jefferson's other writings illustrate, however, he was ambivalent about Indian assimilation and used the words "exterminate" and "extirpate" about tribes who resisted American expansion and were willing to fight for their lands. [41] Jefferson intended to change Indian lifestyles from hunting and gathering to farming, largely through "the decrease of game rendering their subsistence by hunting insufficient". [42] He expected the change to agriculture to make them dependent on white Americans for goods, and more likely to surrender their land or allow themselves to be moved west of the Mississippi River. [43] [44] In an 1803 letter to William Henry Harrison, Jefferson wrote: [45]

Should any tribe be foolhardy enough to take up the hatchet at any time, the seizing the whole country of that tribe, and driving them across the Mississippi, as the only condition of peace, would be an example to others, and a furtherance of our final consolidation. [46]

In that letter, Jefferson spoke about protecting the Indians from injustices perpetrated by whites:

Our system is to live in perpetual peace with the Indians, to cultivate an affectionate attachment from them, by everything just and liberal which we can do for them within . reason, and by giving them effectual protection against wrongs from our own people. [47]

According to the treaty of February 27, 1819, the U.S. government would offer citizenship and 640 acres (260 ha) of land per family to Cherokees who lived east of the Mississippi. [48] [49] [50] Native American land was sometimes purchased, by treaty or under duress. The idea of land exchange, that Native Americans would give up their land east of the Mississippi in exchange for a similar amount of territory west of the river, was first proposed by Jefferson in 1803 and first incorporated into treaties in 1817 (years after the Jefferson presidency). The Indian Removal Act of 1830 included this concept. [44]

Under President James Monroe, Secretary of War John C. Calhoun devised the first plans for Indian removal. Monroe approved Calhoun's plans by late 1824 and, in a special message to the Senate on January 27, 1825, requested the creation of the Arkansaw and Indian Territories the Indians east of the Mississippi would voluntarily exchange their lands for lands west of the river. The Senate accepted Monroe's request, and asked Calhoun to draft a bill which was killed in the House of Representatives by the Georgia delegation. President John Quincy Adams assumed the Calhoun–Monroe policy, and was determined to remove the Indians by non-forceful means [51] [52] Georgia refused to consent to Adams' request, forcing the president to forge a treaty with the Cherokees granting Georgia the Cherokee lands. [53] On July 26, 1827, the Cherokee Nation adopted a written constitution (modeled on that of the United States) which declared that they were an independent nation with jurisdiction over their own lands. Georgia contended that it would not countenance a sovereign state within its own territory, and asserted its authority over Cherokee territory. [54] When Andrew Jackson became president as the candidate of the newly-organized Democratic Party, he agreed that the Indians should be forced to exchange their eastern lands for western lands (including relocation) and vigorously enforced Indian removal. [55] [53]

Although Indian removal was a popular policy, it was also opposed on legal and moral grounds it also ran counter to the formal, customary diplomatic interaction between the federal government and the Native nations. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote the widely-published letter "A Protest Against the Removal of the Cherokee Indians from the State of Georgia" in 1838, shortly before the Cherokee removal. Emerson criticizes the government and its removal policy, saying that the removal treaty was illegitimate it was a "sham treaty", which the U.S. government should not uphold. [56] He describes removal as "such a dereliction of all faith and virtues, such a denial of justice…in the dealing of a nation with its own allies and wards since the earth was made…a general expression of despondency, of disbelief, that any goodwill accrues from a remonstrance on an act of fraud ad robbery, appeared in those men to whom we naturally turn for aid and counsel". [57] Emerson concludes his letter by saying that it should not be a political issue, urging President Martin Van Buren to prevent the enforcement of Cherokee removal. Other people and social organizations throughout the country also opposed removal. [58]

Native groups reshaped their governments, made constitutions and legal codes, and sent delegates to Washington to negotiate policies and treaties to uphold their autonomy and ensure federally-promised protection from white states. [59] They thought that acclimating, as the U.S. wanted them to, would stem removal policy and create a better relationship with the federal government and surrounding states.

Native American nations had differing views about removal. Although most wanted to remain on their native lands and do anything possible to ensure that, others believed that removal to a nonwhite area was their only option to maintain their autonomy and culture. [60] The U.S. used this division to forge removal treaties with (often) minority groups who became convinced that removal was the best option for their people. [61] These treaties were often not acknowledged by most of a nation's people. When Congress ratified the removal treaty, the federal government could use military force to remove Native nations if they had moved (or begun moving) by the date stipulated in the treaty. [ citation needed ]

When Andrew Jackson became president of the United States in 1829, his government took a hard line on Indian removal [62] Jackson abandoned his predecessors' policy of treating Indian tribes as separate nations, aggressively pursuing all Indians east of the Mississippi who claimed constitutional sovereignty and independence from state laws. They were to be removed to reservations in Indian Territory, west of the Mississippi (present-day Oklahoma), where they could exist without state interference. At Jackson's request, Congress began a debate on an Indian-removal bill. After fierce disagreement, the Senate passed the bill by a 28–19 vote the House had narrowly passed it, 102–97. Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act into law on May 30, 1830. [63]

That year, most of the Five Civilized Tribes—the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, Seminole, and Cherokee—lived east of the Mississippi. The Indian Removal Act implemented federal-government policy towards its Indian populations, moving Native American tribes east of the Mississippi to lands west of the river. Although the act did not authorize the forced removal of indigenous tribes, it enabled the president to negotiate land-exchange treaties. [64]

Choctaw Edit

On September 27, 1830, the Choctaw signed the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek and became the first Native American tribe to be removed. The agreement was one of the largest transfers of land between the U.S. government and Native Americans which was not the result of war. The Choctaw signed away their remaining traditional homelands, opening them up for European-American settlement in Mississippi Territory. When the tribe reached Little Rock, a chief called its trek a "trail of tears and death". [65]

In 1831, French historian and political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville witnessed an exhausted group of Choctaw men, women and children emerging from the forest during an exceptionally cold winter near Memphis, Tennessee, [66] on their way to the Mississippi to be loaded onto a steamboat. He wrote,

In the whole scene there was an air of ruin and destruction, something which betrayed a final and irrevocable adieu one couldn't watch without feeling one's heart wrung. The Indians were tranquil but sombre and taciturn. There was one who could speak English and of whom I asked why the Chactas were leaving their country. "To be free," he answered, could never get any other reason out of him. We . watch the expulsion . of one of the most celebrated and ancient American peoples. [67]

Cherokee Edit

While the Indian Removal Act made the move of the tribes voluntary, it was often abused by government officials. The best-known example is the Treaty of New Echota, which was signed by a small faction of twenty Cherokee tribal members (not the tribal leadership) on December 29, 1835. [68] Most of the Cherokee later blamed the faction and the treaty for the tribe's forced relocation in 1838. [69] An estimated 4,000 Cherokee died in the march, which is known as the Trail of Tears. [70] Missionary organizer Jeremiah Evarts urged the Cherokee Nation to take its case to the U.S. Supreme Court. [71]

The Marshall court heard the case in Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (1831), but declined to rule on its merits the court declaring that the Native American tribes were not sovereign nations, and could not "maintain an action" in U.S. courts. [72] [73] In an opinion written by Chief Justice Marshall in Worcester v. Georgia (1832), individual states had no authority in American Indian affairs. [74] [75]

The state of Georgia defied the Supreme Court ruling, [74] and the desire of white settlers and land speculators for Indian lands continued unabated [76] some whites claimed that Indians threatened peace and security. The Georgia legislature passed a law forbidding whites from living on Indian territory after March 31, 1831, without a license from the state this excluded white missionaries who opposed Indian removal. [77] [78]

Seminole Edit

The Seminole refused to leave their Florida lands in 1835, leading to the Second Seminole War. Osceola was a Seminole leader of the people's fight against removal. Based in the Everglades, Osceola and his band used surprise attacks to defeat the U.S. Army in a number of battles. In 1837, Osceola was duplicitously captured by order of U.S. General Thomas Jesup when Osceola came under a flag of truce to negotiate peace near Fort Peyton. [79] Osceola died in prison of illness the war resulted in over 1,500 U.S. deaths, and cost the government $20 million. [80] Some Seminole traveled deeper into the Everglades, and others moved west. The removal continued, and a number of wars broke out over land. [ citation needed ]

Muskogee (Creek) Edit

In the aftermath of the Treaties of Fort Jackson and the Washington, the Muscogee were confined to a small strip of land in present-day east central Alabama. The Creek national council signed the Treaty of Cusseta in 1832, ceding their remaining lands east of the Mississippi to the U.S. and accepting relocation to the Indian Territory. Most Muscogee were removed to the territory during the Trail of Tears in 1834, although some remained behind. Although the Creek War of 1836 ended government attempts to convince the Creek population to leave voluntarily, Creeks who had not participated in the war were not forced west (as others were). The Creek population was placed into camps and told that they would be relocated soon. Many Creek leaders were surprised by the quick departure, but could do little to challenge it. The 16,000 Creeks were organized into five detachments who were to be sent to Fort Gibson. The Creek leaders did their best to negotiate better conditions, and succeeded in obtaining wagons and medicine. To prepare for the relocation, Creeks began to deconstruct their spiritual lives they burned piles of lightwood over their ancestors' graves to honor their memories, and polished the sacred plates which would travel at the front of each group. They also prepared financially, selling what they could not bring. Many were swindled by local merchants out of valuable possessions (including land), and the military had to intervene. The detachments began moving west in September 1836, facing harsh conditions. Despite their preparations, the detachments faced bad roads, worse weather, and a lack of drinkable water. When all five detachments reached their destination, they recorded their death toll. The first detachment, with 2,318 Creeks, had 78 deaths the second had 3,095 Creeks, with 37 deaths. The third had 2,818 Creeks, and 12 deaths the fourth, 2,330 Creeks and 36 deaths. The fifth detachment, with 2,087 Creeks, had 25 deaths. [81]

Friends and Brothers – By permission of the Great Spirit above, and the voice of the people, I have been made President of the United States, and now speak to you as your Father and friend, and request you to listen. Your warriors have known me long. You know I love my white and red children, and always speak with a straight, and not with a forked tongue that I have always told you the truth . Where you now are, you and my white children are too near to each other to live in harmony and peace. Your game is destroyed, and many of your people will not work and till the earth. Beyond the great River Mississippi, where a part of your nation has gone, your Father has provided a country large enough for all of you, and he advises you to remove to it. There your white brothers will not trouble you they will have no claim to the land, and you can live upon it you and all your children, as long as the grass grows or the water runs, in peace and plenty. It will be yours forever. For the improvements in the country where you now live, and for all the stock which you cannot take with you, your Father will pay you a fair price .

Chickasaw Edit

Unlike other tribes, who exchanged lands, the Chickasaw were to receive financial compensation of $3 million from the United States for their lands east of the Mississippi River. [82] [83] They reached an agreement to purchase of land from the previously-removed Choctaw in 1836 after a bitter five-year debate, paying the Chocktaw $530,000 for the westernmost Choctaw land. [84] [85] Most of the Chickasaw moved in 1837 and 1838. [86] The $3 million owed to the Chickasaw by the U.S. went unpaid for nearly 30 years. [87]

Aftermath Edit

The Five Civilized Tribes were resettled in the new Indian Territory. [88] The Cherokee occupied the northeast corner of the territory and a 70-mile-wide (110 km) strip of land in Kansas on its border with the territory. [89] Some indigenous nations resisted the forced migration more strongly. [90] [91] The few who stayed behind eventually formed tribal groups, [92] including the Eastern Band of Cherokee (based in North Carolina), [93] [94] [95] the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, [96] [97] the Seminole Tribe of Florida, [98] [99] [100] and the Creeks in Alabama [101] (including the Poarch Band). [102] [103] [104]

North Edit

Tribes in the Old Northwest were smaller and more fragmented than the Five Civilized Tribes, so the treaty and emigration process was more piecemeal. [105] Bands of Shawnee, [106] Ottawa, Potawatomi, [107] Sauk, and Meskwaki (Fox) signed treaties and relocated to the Indian Territory. [108] In 1832, the Sauk leader Black Hawk led a band of Sauk and Fox back to their lands in Illinois the U.S. Army and Illinois militia defeated Black Hawk and his warriors in the Black Hawk War, and the Sauk and Fox were relocated to present-day Iowa. [109]

Tribes further east, such as the already-displaced Lenape (Delaware tribe), Kickapoo and Shawnee, were removed from Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio during the 1820s. [110] The Potawatomi were forced out of Wisconsin and Michigan in late 1838, and were resettled in Kansas Territory. Many Miami were resettled in the Indian Territory during the 1840s. [111] Communities in present-day Ohio were forced to move to Louisiana, which was then controlled by Spain. [112]

In the Second Treaty of Buffalo Creek (1838), the Senecas transferred all their land in New York (except for one small reservation) in exchange for 200,000 acres (810 km 2 ) of land in Indian Territory. The federal government would be responsible for the removal of the Senecas who opted to go west, and the Ogden Land Company would acquire their New York lands. The lands were sold by government officials, however, and the proceeds were deposited in the U.S. Treasury. The Senecas asserted that they had been defrauded, and sued for redress in the Court of Claims. The case was not resolved until 1898, when the United States awarded $1,998,714.46 in compensation to "the New York Indians". [113] The U.S. signed treaties with the Senecas and the Tonawanda Senecas in 1842 and 1857, respectively. Under the treaty of 1857, the Tonawandas renounced all claim to lands west of the Mississippi in exchange for the right to buy back the Tonawanda Reservation from the Ogden Land Company. [114] Over a century later, the Senecas purchased a 9-acre (3.6 ha) plot (part of their original reservation) in downtown Buffalo to build the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino. [115]

South Edit

Southern removals
Nation Population before removal Treaty and year Major emigration Total removed Number remaining Deaths during removal Deaths from warfare
Choctaw 19,554 [116] + white citizens of the Choctaw Nation + 500 Black slaves Dancing Rabbit Creek (1830) 1831–1836 15,000 [117] 5,000–6,000 [118] [119] [120] 2,000–4,000+ (cholera) none
Creek (Muscogee) 22,700 + 900 Black slaves [121] Cusseta (1832) 1834–1837 19,600 [122] Several hundred 3,500 (disease after removal) [123] Unknown (Creek War of 1836)
Chickasaw 4,914 + 1,156 Black slaves [124] Pontotoc Creek (1832) 1837–1847 over 4,000 [124] Several hundred 500–800 none
Cherokee 16,542 + 201 married white + 1,592 Black slaves [125] New Echota (1835) 1836–1838 16,000 [126] 1,500 2,000–4,000 [127] [128] none
Seminole 3,700–5,000 [129] + fugitive slaves Payne's Landing (1832) 1832–1842 2,833 [130] –4,000 [131] 250 [130] –500 [132] 700 (Second Seminole War)

Historical views of Indian removal have been reevaluated since that time. Widespread contemporary acceptance of the policy, due in part to the popular embrace of the concept of manifest destiny, has given way to a more-somber perspective. The removals have been attributed by historians to paternalism, [12] [13] ethnic cleansing, [14] and genocide. [4]

Jackson's reputation Edit

Andrew Jackson's reputation has been negatively impacted by his treatment of the Indians. Historians who admire Jackson's strong presidential leadership, such as Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., would gloss over the Indian issue in a footnote. In 1969, Francis Paul Prucha wrote that Jackson's removal of the Five Civilized Tribes from the hostile white environment of the Old South to Oklahoma probably saved them. [133] Jackson was sharply attacked by political scientist Michael Rogin and historian Howard Zinn during the 1970s, primarily on this issue Zinn called him an "exterminator of Indians". [134] [135] According to historians Paul R. Bartrop and Steven L. Jacobs, however, Jackson's policies do not meet the criteria for physical or cultural genocide. [13]

May 28, 1830 CE: Indian Removal Act

On May 28, 1830, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, beginning the forced relocation of thousands of Native Americans in what became known as the Trail of Tears.

Geography, Human Geography, Social Studies, U.S. History

Native American Removal from the Southeast

The map shows the routes of the five southeastern tribes that were forced to leave their homelands in the Southeast and live in Indian Territory in what is now Oklahoma. A surprising number of Americans opposed Indian removal. (The first bill in Congress passed by only 103 votes to 97.) But the demand for new lands was high, and former Army officers such as Andrew Jackson used their experiences as Indian fighters to gain political popularity and get elected to office.

Map by National Geographic Society

to desert or leave entirely.

having to do with ancestors or historical background.

to bring out of a savage or uneducated state.

legislative branch of the government, responsible for making laws. The U.S. Congress has two bodies, the House of Representatives and the Senate.

small, designated part of a larger group.

harmful condition of a body part or organ.

at some point in the future.

rare and severe events in the Earth's atmosphere, such as heat waves or powerful cyclones.

area used for agriculture.

able to produce crops or sustain agriculture.

migration of people from one place to another, as ordered by the government or international authority.

profitable or money-making.

person whose ancestors were native inhabitants of North or South America. Native American usually does not include Eskimo or Hawaiian people.

community made of one or several family groups sharing a common culture.

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Related Resources

Westward Expansion

A significant push toward the west coast of North America began in the 1810s. It was intensified by the belief in manifest destiny, federally issued Indian removal acts, and economic promise. Pioneers traveled to Oregon and California using a network of trails leading west. In 1893 historian Frederick Jackson Turner declared the frontier closed, citing the 1890 census as evidence, and with that, the period of westward expansion ended. Explore these resources to learn more about what happened between 1810 and 1893, as immigrants, American Indians, United States citizens, and freed slaves moved west.

Native American Removal from the Southeast

Map of Indian forced migration routes

Native Americans and Freedom of Religion

Despite the First Amendment, the United States' federal policy toward Native Americans and native religions has been inconsistent.

The United States Government’s Relationship with Native Americans

A brief overview of relations between Native Americans and the United States Government.

Related Resources

Westward Expansion

A significant push toward the west coast of North America began in the 1810s. It was intensified by the belief in manifest destiny, federally issued Indian removal acts, and economic promise. Pioneers traveled to Oregon and California using a network of trails leading west. In 1893 historian Frederick Jackson Turner declared the frontier closed, citing the 1890 census as evidence, and with that, the period of westward expansion ended. Explore these resources to learn more about what happened between 1810 and 1893, as immigrants, American Indians, United States citizens, and freed slaves moved west.

Native American Removal from the Southeast

Map of Indian forced migration routes

Native Americans and Freedom of Religion

Despite the First Amendment, the United States' federal policy toward Native Americans and native religions has been inconsistent.

The United States Government’s Relationship with Native Americans

A brief overview of relations between Native Americans and the United States Government.

Trail of Tears: Forced Native American Relocation - HISTORY

America is no stranger to atrocities and bloodshed, and its slaughter of the Native Americans has at least been admitted, although it took a long time for the “Indians” not to be seen as evil barbarians who would come in the night and scalp you. The Trail of Tears was one of the worst events in the war against Native Americans, and a little known fact is that an American president was one of its prominent leaders.

On this day January 27 th , in 1825, U.S. Congress approved the Indian Territory. After Congressional approval, President Andrew Jackson, who notoriously despised Indians (Native Americans), signed the Indian Removal Act in 1830.

This act directly led to the often forced removal of tens of thousands of Native Americans from their homes. The saddest part of this is that often times the people enforcing the removal were volunteers. This is what the Trail of Tears became – volunteers forcing out thousands of people, and thousands either died or were murdered. The Seminoles put up a fight in the Second Seminole War, but to no avail.

When Native Americans Were Forcibly Removed From a Mendocino Indian Reservation

In the course of our team's research for the "California Coastal Trail" episode that focuses on MacKerricher State Park in Mendocino County, we learned that the land that is now the park was once part of the Mendocino Indian Reservation, a swath of land ten miles long and three and a half miles wide. The Native Americans who lived on that reservation, which was established in 1856, included people of the Pomo, Salan Pomo, Southern Pomo, Yuki, Wappo and Whilkut tribes.

In an 1857 letter from newly-arrived Lieutenant H.B. Gibson to what is today Fort Bragg, published in "The Noyo" by Beth Stebbins, Gibson recounted the dire conditions at the Mendocino Indian Reservation. Gibson described the near-starvation of the Native Americans, the poor quality of the little food they were given — including flour adulterated with sawdust, the suspected misappropriation of supplies and other resources by reservation administration and the need for a competent doctor. It was a potential powder keg of discontent that could explode at any moment, if conditions didn’t improve.

And yet, according to Dr. David G. Lewis, author or "The War of Extermination and Traditional Food Gathering by Tribes in California, 1856," the reservations “offered the only safety for the tribes. They knew that if they left, they would be subject to being murdered by gun-toting Americans bent on their destruction. The killing of Indians was reinforced by state laws that allowed repayment for costs of killing Indians by the state, the proof of such activity being to turn in the scalps of the redskins (hence the origin of the word). The policy was reinforced by forceful pro-extermination statements in regional newspapers and by the first American Governor of the state Peter H. Burnett. ”

In his January 6, 1851 State of the State Address, Burnett declared:

Around 1862, a mill worker named Duncan MacKerricher (1836-1926) got a job assisting Indian Agent E.J. Whipple on the Mendocino Indian Reservation. Two years later, in 1864, the Native Americans who lived there were forcibly removed to the Round Valley Reservation, which was at that time called Nome Cult Farm.

According to an 1866 letter from the California Office of Indian Affairs, the Mendocino Indian Reservation was officially “discontinued” on March 31, 1865, “the employés discharged, and the government property removed to Round Valley.” The letter further stated: “It is thought advisable that the Indians should remain at their present location for the time being they desire to remain until the lands of the reservation shall have been sold by the government. At this locality they obtain large quantities of fish and clams, and many of them find employment at the lumber mills in the vicinity at fair wages, with which they obtain clothing their presence is not obnoxious to the few settlers adjoining the reservation, nor is their labor required on the reservation at Round valley at present as soon, however, as the interests of the service require it, they will be removed.”

Although this 1866 letter indicates that at this time some Native Americans were still living on what was once the Mendocino Indian Reservation, clearly they too were on borrowed time.

As for those Native Americans who had already been forced off the former reservation in 1864, their removal had been executed to make way for the sale and resettlement of that land. And although an 1868 Resolution of the Legislature of California codified that intention “to make the lands subject to settlement and pre-emption,” a full three years after the official “discontinuation” of the reservation, it appears that the sale and resettlement of lands in the former Mendocino Indian Reservation had already been taking place in the intervening years.

According to the "History of American Indians: Exploring Diverse Roots," the removal of Native Americans from the defunct Mendocino Indian Reservation was but one of a series of forced marches in which Native Americans were driven off temporary reservation lands and forced to live on another reservation, Nome Cult Farm, in Round Valley. These forced marches began in 1855 and continued to take place into the mid-1860s.

Perhaps the most infamous of these forced marches, known as the Nome Cult Trail or the Conkow Trail of Tears, began on August 28, 1863. On that day, the Conkow Maidu people were rounded up by armed soldiers and began a grueling march from Chico to Round Valley. Of the 461 Native Americans who began the journey, only 277 remained by the time they reached Round Valley. 150 who were too exhausted, sick or malnourished to continue the journey had been left behind five days into the journey with only enough food to last them for a month. Others died of sickness, exhaustion, starvation, or thirst, while two managed to escape en route. Dorothy Hill writes in "The Indians of Chico Rancheria:" "Indian versions of the cruel hardships that their ancestors encountered on the drive to Round Valley are more explicit than the government accounts.”

According to Beth Stebbins’ book, "The Noyo:" “The problems that had beset the coastal reservation were carried over to the Round Valley reservation.” A number of first-person accounts of conditions on the Nome Cult reservation describe hard-working Native Americans who labored on the farm and yet had not the means to obtain clothing, nor had they received clothing allotments in two years. There were no schools for the children, a dire scarcity of supplies, and “no substantial buildings erected for the Indians to live in,” according to Condition of the Indian Tribes: Report of the Joint Special Committee.

Life on Nome Cult Farm was difficult in other respects as well. Not only did the original inhabitants of Round Valley, the Yuki, now have to confine their lives to only a small portion of their own ancestral land — Nome Cult Farm — they also had to live side by side with strangers from a number of other Native American tribes. Some of the tribes were enemies of the Yuki, and none had a common language.

Duncan MacKerricher, the former assistant to the Mendocino Indian Reservation’s Indian agent, and his wife Jessie, bought an area of the former Mendocino Indian Reservation known as El Rancho de la Laguna for $1.25 an acre. There they established a successful working ranch that produced butter, grew potatoes and was known for its draught horses. “MacKerricher’s Enclosure” can be seen on an 1869 map of the former Mendocino Indian Reservation.

MacKerricher is also said to have employed many Native Americans on his ranch, as many as half the Pomo who had been living on that reservation, according to a description of a historical presentation given by MacKerricher’s great-granddaughter, Faith Graham.

The land that MacKerricher’s heirs gifted or sold to the State of California became what is now the beautiful MacKerricher State Park, which opened its first set of campsites to the public in 1952. Today, MacKerricher State Park’s attractions also include whale watching from the headland, harbor seal watching at the seal rookery, beachcombing on Glass Beach, fishing, hiking, bicycling and more.

Today, the group of tribes that were first forced to live together on Nome Cult Farm in the 1850s and 1860s are collectively known as the federally recognized Round Valley Indian Tribes, which is “a confederation of small tribes: the Yuki, Wailacki, Concow, Little Lake Pomo, Nomlacki, and Pit River.”

“From years of intermarriage, a common lifestyle, and a shared land base,” says the Round Valley Indian Tribes website, “a unified community has emerged. In 1936, the descendants of Yuki, Wailacki, Concow, Little Lake Pomo, Nomlacki, and Pit River peoples formed a new tribe on the reservation through the adoption of a Constitution and created the Covelo Indian Community, later to be called the Round Valley Indian Tribes. Our heritage is a rich combination of different cultures with a common reservation experience and history.”

Today, the Round Valley Indian Tribes own the Hidden Oaks Casino and the Golden Oaks Motel in Mendocino County. And every year, The Round Valley Indian Tribes, along with the Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians and the Mechoopda Tribe of Maidu Indians, honor and remember those who were forced to march to the Round Valley Reservation in 1863. The Mendocino National Forest also participates in the Nome Cult Walk, "work[ing] together as a partner with the tribes to complete a brochure to document the history of the trail, and to install interpretive signs along the entire route through the forest.”

In 2013, which was the 150 th anniversary of the Nome Cult Walk, Kenneth Wright, who at the time was President of the Round Valley Indian Tribes, pronounced, “It is important that our youngest members take part in this annual event." The theme of the Nome Cult Walk that year was, "Honor Their Memory – A Path Not Forgotten."

Trail of Tears wasn't isolated incident

A mural by artist Elizabeth Janes depicts the arrival of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma in the 1830s. Painted from 1938-39, the 8-by-15-foot mural is on display at the Oklahoma Historical Society in Oklahoma City. (Image courtesy Oklahoma Historical Society)

Addison Kliewer, Miranda Mahmud and Sarah Beth Guevara
Gaylord News

WASHINGTON – The Trail of Tears, the forced removal of the Cherokee Nation to Oklahoma, was one of the most inhumane policies in American history – but it wasn’t an isolated incident.

In 1831, nearly 16,000 members of the Cherokee Nation were forced under armed guard to leave their native lands in the southeastern United States to trek more than 1,000 miles to what eventually would become the state of Oklahoma.

Almost 4,000 Cherokees died along the way, never making it to the land designated by the U.S. government as Indian Territory.

Removal of the Choctaw Nation began even earlier, in 1830. Like the Cherokees, they were forced to leave their homes in the South and a way of life developed over millennia to start over in an alien environment on the prairie.

But the Cherokee and Choctaw nations are only two of the tribes with a removal story. There are 39 tribes in Oklahoma, five native to the state, that have stories to be told – each with its own trail of tears.

Long before the 1830s, the federal government believed White people could use the Native lands better than the indigenous inhabitants. This “Indian problem” motivated settlers to strip Native people of their land and resources, relentlessly pushing tribal members farther west. That pressure often resulted in violent attacks on Native Americans by settlers. If the Indians fought back, Whites considered it proof that they were savages.

Although the Constitution established sovereign Indian nations with treaty rights, the idea of removing tribes from the Southeast was gaining momentum by the time Andrew Jackson was elected president in 1828. After proposing the Indian Removal Act as one of his first pieces of legislation, he became one of the idea’s most forceful advocates.

Jackson believed that forcing Indigenous people west of the Mississippi River was essential to national security, and he had no qualms about violating existing treaties, according to Jackson biographer Jon Meacham.

“The Southern states were anxious for more land, especially to grow cotton, and the Creek, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Seminole tribes held rich acreage – great chunks of which would become modern-day Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee,” Meacham wrote.

Appeals from the tribes that the land was rightfully theirs by treaty fell on deaf ears in Washington. Jackson simply did not believe the Indians had title to the land, and he would not tolerate competing sovereignties in the United States, Meacham said.

Opponents of the act said removal was immoral and illegal, but the Senate approved the law in 1830 by a wide margin.

The act passed by only four votes in the House and set 1838 as the date for final removal. To those who demanded rights for Indians, Jackson argued that removal would guarantee the survival of the tribes.

Instead, the Indian Removal Act launched more than a century of genocide.

In 1835, the Jackson administration signed the Treaty of New Echota, supposedly with the Cherokee Nation in Georgia, setting terms for the final removal of the tribe west of the Mississippi River.

The treaty had been signed by a small group of Cherokees who historians say did not represent the majority of tribal members. But Jackson insisted they did.

“The people who signed removal treaties were not actually representative of public sentiment in their nations,” said Barbara Mann, who holds a doctorate in English language and literature and has written several books about the Indian Removal Act. “That is why such a large number of Indians refused the treaties, to the point of hiding out rather than be rounded up by the government for forced removal.”

The federal government dispatched thousands of troops to enforce the poorly negotiated treaties.

In his farewell address to the nation in 1837, Jackson extolled the removal act.

“The philanthropist will rejoice that the remnant of that ill-fated race has been at length placed beyond the reach of injury or oppression, and that the paternal care of the General Government will hereafter watch over them and protect them,” he said.

Rather than protecting the tribes, the military was brutal, and one-fourth of the Cherokees died along the Trail of Tears of disease, starvation, exhaustion and exposure.

“I fought through the Civil War and have seen men shot to pieces and slaughtered by the thousands, but the Cherokee removal was the cruelest work I ever knew,” Meacham quoted one Georgia volunteer as saying years later about the removal.

The typical American history book treats the Trail of Tears as an isolated incident, said Kevin Gover, director of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian and former assistant secretary for Indian Affairs in the Department of the Interior.

Kevin Gover (Photo by Miranda Mahmud/Gaylord News)

𠇋ut in fact, that was the policy of the United States for the better part of 100 years, to remove Indians from their homelands and then sell the land that Indians left behind to non-Indian settlers,” said Gover, who is Pawnee and grew up in Oklahoma.

Removal was not solely the result of Andrew Jackson behaving in bad faith, Gover said – it was a national project.

“It was something the United States decided to do, and they did it,” he said. “It’s essential in the telling of the story, in order to make it palatable to Americans today, to say, ‘Well, there weren’t that many Indians, and they were, after all, savages. They weren’t really using the land, and so it was OK.’”

Mann said removal in the first place was “one big, immoral, unethical illegality.”

The wrongdoings of the federal government did not end after the removal period. The government continued for many years to strip Oklahoma tribes of their land and culture.

The Dawes Severalty Act of 1887 was intended to assimilate Native Americans into White society by stripping them of their cultural and social traditions.

The act allowed the federal government to further divide tribal land and granted citizenship only to those who were willing to accept the division.

For tribes in Oklahoma, the removal stories have not been forgotten.

“None of the tribes I know want to live in the past,” said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., a member of the Chickasaw Nation. 𠇋ut the best way to make sure the mistakes of the past are not repeated is to remember them and make sure it never occurs again.”

Trail Of Tears – Forced Relocation And Removal

The Trail of Tears was the forced relocation and removal of Native American communities from the Southeast region of the United States to Indian territory located west of the Mississippi River. This included many Native American tribes including Creek, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Seminole and most famously the Cherokee tribe. Estimates from tribal and military records from this time suggest that about 100,000 Native Americans were forced from their homes during this, of the 100,000 approximately 15,000 died during their journey. The Trail of Tears is infamously known for it’s devastating impact on the Native Americans which included diseases, starvation, and extreme exhaustion due to the 1,000 mile journey, this was a extreme injustice and an abuse of basic human rights. (Pauls, 2017).

The journey that the Cherokee’s were forced to make is referred to as the “Trail of Tears” due to the devastating effects that the trip had on the Cherokee people. The “Trail of Tears” has also been considered as the beginning of the Indian extermination by the United States government even though the Native Americans were just that, Native to America, they were settled in these areas long before white settlers came to stake their claim on what is now known as the United States (Pauls, 2017). During the trip of the many that perished most of those were the elderly and children, they were most sensitive to to conditions that the Natives experienced on the Trail of Tears. At each authorized stop, those who had died were buried. Hearing this many tried to escape by hiding in areas that no one would travel to or look for them (swamps, hills), the Natives learned the hard way that by signing to be removed that they were also signing their death warrants. Even though the journey was devastating, those in charge reported nothing but peaceful progress, which clearly was not the case (Satz, 1989).

After the United States was officially created, Native Americans were seen as a separate nation within an sovereign country, and yet they were fully committed to living peacefully amongst the white settlers. The white settlers had different plans however, they were mostly interested in the rich land and resources that were occupied by the Native Americans, as a result the United States government set out to gain control of the land and relocate the Native Americans that occupied the land. The forced removal of Native American communities were a result of the Indian Removal act in 1830. The Indian Removal Act was an act signed by President Andrew Jackson that authorized the federal government to relocate any Native Americans residing in eastern territory west. In return the Native Americans were then supposed to be compensated for their land however, they were not treated justly, the government engaged in false treaties with the Native Americans as well as broken promises and not treating them with basic respect that all human beings deserve. Of the Native Americans, those who wanted to remain east of the Mississippi could become citizens and receive 640 acres of farmland. Those who wanted to keep their tribal sovereignty could trade their lands that they occupied east of the Mississippi for federal land located west. Either way the Native Americans no longer would remain on their own land (Frank 2008).

Nearly eight years later in 1838 with help from the Indian Removal Act the Cherokee community was forced to give up its land which was located east of the Mississippi River, and migrate to what is now know as Oklahoma. During the trip from east of the Mississippi River to west the migrants faced starvation, exhaustion and diseases. Due to the forced trek more than 4,000 Native Americans perished. In 1831 the Choctaw Indians were the first to be relocated, they were the model for successful relocation. In 1832 the Seminole Indians followed, as well as the Creek Indians in 1834, the Chickasaw Indians in 1837 and finally the Cherokee Indians in 1838. It is estimated that by 1837 that more than 46,000 Native Americans from eastern states had been removed from their lands, leaving over 25 million acres open for white settlement (Frank, 2008).

Watch the video: Unit 6 P14 The Trail of Tears