The Trail Of Tears Essay

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The Trail Of Tears


            The tribe of the Cherokee stayed at east of the Mississippi. Between 1815 and 1830, these tribes tried to live in peace beside the Americans. Some Indians tried to live like the settlers. Many Potawatomi in Indiana and Ohio had converted to the Catholic faith. They lived as farmers and fur traders. Some Choctaw in Mississippi also became Christians. They sent their children to a government-run school called the Choctaw Academy (Lowman, 1992).

                                                         The Cherokees

            In the Southeast the Cherokee took the lead in adopting the settlers’ ways. Many Cherokee who stayed in their tribal lands in Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee bought land and became farmers. Others opened stores and mills. Wealthy Cherokee cotton farmers even bought black slaves to work on plantations. Many Cherokee also converted to Christianity.

            An educated Cherokee named Sequoyah developed written alphabet for his people. Another Cherokee named Elias Boudinot published the Cherokee Phoenix, a newspaper printed in both Cherokee and English. Cherokee leaders also set up a government for their people. They wrote a constitution based on the Constitution of the United States. During this period, the U.S. government did everything it could to make sure that the Indians were treated fairly. In 1824, the government started the Bureau of Indian Affairs. This agency had the power to make treaties and control trade with the Indians. At the same time, the government knew the peace between the Indians and settlers could not last. People like President John Quincy Adams were urging Indian tribes to move to the lands west of the Mississippi (Armento et al, 1991).

                                                    Loss and Defeat

            By 1830, the government was no longer asking the Indians to move away from their ancient tribal lands. It was ordering them. Making the Indians move West was now official government policy.

            Removal treaties demanded that many Indians in the Southeast move to Indian reservations in what is now Oklahoma. States were eager to take control of Indian lands. The Choctaw, Creek and Chickasaw, however decided to stay. They fought the treaties in the courts (Rico & Mano, 1991).

            One case went to the Supreme Court. It ruled that the government had no right to order the Indians of their lands. Being the frontiersman and Indian fighter that he was, Jackson agreed that Indians should turn their land over to whites for settlement. As President, he supported a policy of giving Indians lands farther West in exchange   for their land east of the Mississippi. Congress appropriated $500,000 to help transfer Indians who were willing to accept the offer (Lipsitz & Speak, 1989).

            The process of moving Indians West continued throughout the Jacksonian Era. Unfortunately, the Indians were not always treated fairly. Many tribes, like Black Hawk’s Sac and Fox in Illinois and Osceola’s Seminoles in Florida, resisted the government offer, but states passed laws extending control over Indian lands within their borders, and in essence, forced the Indians to move West.

The Cherokee nation was especially noteworthy in its resistance to the confiscation of its land. Cherokees tried to hold their land by taking up white men’s ways. They farmed their land and raised cattle. They developed a written language. They drafted a Constitution and attempted to establish a state within a state in northwestern Georgia. But the state of Georgia refused to recognize Cherokee rights. The Treaty of New Echota was the agreement that promulgated the provisions for this Indian Removal Act of 1830 (Wikipedia).

                                               Anguish at the Trail of Tears

            President Andrew Jackson ignored the Supreme Court and ordered the American army to move the Cherokee by force. Soldiers with guns marched more than 18,000 Cherokee from their homes in the Southeast. Almost one-fourth of the Indians died of starvation, disease and harsh treatment along the way. The route the Cherokee followed to Oklahoma became known as “The Trail of Tears.” This resulted in the deaths of approximately 4,000 Cherokees. They refer to it in their language as “Nunna dual Isunyi” or “The Trail Where we Cried.” It was reported that during the removal, families were separated from each other.

Those who were sick and the elderly were forced out of their homes at gunpoint. At that point, looters came and ransacked their homes. It was hard for the Indians who were transported in the most adverse and harsh conditions of crowding, poor sanitation and drought. There were about two-thirds of the Cherokees who were trapped between the cold weather in Ohio and the Mississippi Rivers (The Cherokee Trail of Tears. 1838-1839).  Other Indians were also involved in this removal and the path they traveled were characterized by the tears, and desperation at having lost their homes and lands (Trail of Tears, Wikipedia). Certainly, the treatment of American Indians in many cases cannot be justified.

                                   WORKS CITED




Armento, Beverly, Nash, Gary, Salter, Christopher, Wixson, Karen. America Will Be.

Houghton Mifflin Company, 1991.

Lipsitz, Lewis and Speak David. American Democracy. St Martin’s Press New York, 1989.

Lowman, Michael. “United States History.” Beka Book Publications. 1992.

Rico, Barbara & Mano, Sandra. American Mosaic, Houghton Mifflin Company. 1991.

Trail of Tears. Wikipedia. Retrieved Feb. 10, 2007 at:

The Cherokee Trail of Tears. 1838-1839 Federal Indian Removal Policy. National Historic Trail. 1838-1839. Retrieved Feb. 10, 2007 at:

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