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The Trail of Tears

“We are now about to take our leave and kind farewell to our native land, the country that Great Spirit gave our Fathers, we are on the eve of leaving that country that gave us birth it is with sorrow we are forced by the white man to quit the scenes of our childhoodwe bid farewell to it and all we hold dear. ” This is the way that Cherokee Vice Chief Charles Hicks described, in 1838, the emotions that must have been felt after the mistreatment and the abuse that was wrought upon the Cherokee Indians. It was a trail of blood, a trail of death, but ultimately it was known as the “Trail of Tears”.

In this history of the Cherokee Nation we are trying, but without success, to be as unbiased as possible. Its the War of 1812. Andrew Jackson is mounting up forces against the Pro-British faction of the Creek Indians. The United States appealed for Cherokee support for aid in war against Tukumsa and another Indian known as Red Sticks. The Cherokee Nation replied with six to eight hundred of their best warriors. It was this war were the Indians fought side by side with Jackson. After a treaty in 1814 was forced on the Creek Indians, the Cherokees filed claims for there lose.

There was no promise that their claims would be acknowledged. This would bring on the biggest betrayal on the Cherokee Indians, Andrew Jackson. Andrew Jackson demanded the session of twenty-three million acres of land to the United States. The Cherokee Nation, however, owned Four million acres of this land. The Cherokees protested again to Indian agent Jonathan Meigs in the War Department. Once again their former ally called these claims “Cherokee intrigue”. Andrew Jackson then suggested with troops already in the field that this would be the perfect time to remove Cherokees as well as Creeks out of Tennessee.

The Indian Removal Act was introduced by Andrew Jackson and was passed by Congress in 1830. This act was to force the Indians west of the Mississippi River. This was largely carried out by General Winfield Scott and his army of approximantly seven thousand troops, in May of 1838. When the army arrived in New Echota Georgia thousand of Cherokee Indians would be rounded up with dragnets and penned up in wooden stockades. By June 5, 1838 it was estimated that only 200 Cherokee had escaped. There were between fifteen to seventeen thousand Cherokee held in these crude jails, where they would await their long brutal journey west.

This route from Georgia through Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, and finally ending in Oklahoma, would later be referred by Cherokees as Nunna-da-ul-tsun-yi, or “the trail on which they Cried”. The journey on which the Indians traveled would bring many deaths due to starvation, droughts and disease. There were two main ways of travel, by land and river. River travel was difficult if not impossible because low river levels due to the drought. All in all it took 645 wagons, 5000 horses and oxen and river vessels used primarily for the ill.

Grant Foreman, Dean of Indian Historians, recorded this appalling period. He stated that the weather was extremely hot, there was a drought, and water was scar….. ce and there were suffocating clouds of dust mixed with the oxygen. He also stated that at least three but, up to five people died per day on the trail. By the end of June 1838 two to three hundred Indians were sick. On June 17, 1838 General Charles Floyd of the Georgia militia wrote to Governor Gilmen of New Echota that they were convinced that there were no longer any Cherokee in Georgia.

This would hold true that they succeeded in removing the Cherokee from the state, but not completely from the east. This would bring on a great supporter of the Cherokee people, a white man by the name of John Ross. John Ross campaigned heavily for the Cherokees. Ross was part of the immigration management committee. Ross persuaded General Scott to approve a budget for the captive Indians of Seventeen cents per Indian per day. This was double the amount figured by congress. This money was for daily rations and luxuries such as coffee sugar and soap.

Ross and his committees started to work on indemnities due to Cherokees for abandoned property. All Cherokees where invited to present claims to be forwarded to the U. S. authorities for settlement before they left. Cherokees billed the government for things raging from mansions fully furnished to farm animals and house wares. The government would hope to make this money back by the sale of this abandoned land. The government would consider this a self-supervised removal. These plans and actions enraged Ross arch foe, Andrew Jackson.

To Jackson, a retired Indian fighter, this seemed like the Cherokee were getting the last word in a ten-year battle. For his fights and actions Ross would become Chief of the United Cherokee Nation. Even today there are still battles over Indians rights and lands. To put it best in a current perspective a Seminole Indian Wrote: “We have been taught that the “Trail of Tears” started in the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida and ended in Oklahoma, but that simply is not true.

The “Trail of Tears” began when the first canvas sail was spotted off the coast of turtle island and it still continues. The trail passes through Oklahoma and goes on through Leavenworth, where our brother Leonard [Peltier], is but another land mark on the trail. The trail passes through the Places called poverty, alcohol and substance abuse, desperation, lost culture, you can stop and visit hunger on you travels down the trail. ” “Care must be taken not to trip over broken treaties, and the trail is often slippery with blood. The cries of the people are loud and unpleasant to the ear, misplaced children often wonder aimlessly into your path.

The towns of unemployment and welfare are major stops along the way. Construction of the trail crushed and scared the face of Mother; Elders were buried under the ruble. No The trail did not end in Oklahoma, Oklahoma was, and is, just another stop along the trail. ” For a people that so eagerly jumped to a man and his governments aid and fight and die the respect and actions shown in return were far less respectable or commendable than deserved. This would seem more of a punishment given to a dog that attacked its owner. As far as being unbiased we blew it.

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Home » Native Americans » The Trail of Tears

The Trail Of Tears

The Trail of Tears, was it unjust and inhumane? What happened to the Cherokee during that long and treacherous journey? They were brave and listened to the government, but they recieved unproductive land and lost their tribal land. The white settlers were already emigrating to the Union, or America. The East coast was burdened with new settlers and becoming vastly populated. President Andrew Jackson and the government had to find a way to move people to the West to make room. President Andrew Jackson passed the Indian Removal Policy in the year 1830.

The Indian Removal Policy which called for the removal of Native Americans from the Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia area, also moved their capital Echota in Tennessee to the new capital call New Echota, Georgia and then eventually to the Indian Territory. The Indian Territory was declared in the Act of Congress in 1830 with the Indian Removal Policy. Elias Boudinot, Major Ridge, and John Ridge and there corps accepted the responsibility for the removal of one of the largest tribes in the Southeast that were the earliest to adapt to European ways.

There was a war involving the Cherokee and the Chickasaw before the Indian Removal Policy was passed. The Cherokee were defeated by them which caused Chief Dragging Canoe to sign a treaty in 1777 to split up their tribe and have the portion of the tribe in Chattanooga, Tennessee called the Chickamauga. Chief Doublehead of the Chickamauga, a branch of the Cherokee, signed a treaty to give away their lands. Tribal law says “Death to any Cherokee who proposed to sell or exchange tribal land. ” Chief Doublehead was later executed by Major Ridge.

Again there was another treaty signed in December 29, 1835 which is called The Treaty of New Echota. It was signed by a party of 500 Cherokee out of about 17,000. Between 1785 and 1902 twenty-five treaties were signed with white men to give up their tribal lands. The Cherokee would find themselves in a nightmare for the next year. In 1838 General Winfield Scott got tired of delaying this longer than the 2 years he waited already so he took charge in collecting the Cherokee. The Cherokee were taken from their homes and their belongings. The were placed in holding camps so none would escape.

The Cherokee were to be moved in the fall of 1838. The journey did not occur in October, 1838 because of bad weather. They were now supposed to move 13,000 Cherokee in the spring of 1839 a distance of eight-hundred miles. The Cherokee were fed on meager rations and suffered malnutrition. They were badly clothed for the spring and many caught diseases and died. Many Cherokee tried to escape and some succeeded. The Cherokee knew these woodlands and knew where to go. The white men couldn’t find them without the help of other Cherokee and bribes. Most of the Cherokee hid in the mountains and could not be found.

During the eight-hundred mile trek many children and spouses were separated from their families when the Government would split up the Cherokee into groups of 1,000 for ease of removal. About one-third of the original Cherokee they collected died in the holding camps and between the trek from the Southeast section of the Union to Indian Territory. They would have to learn a new way of life and adjust. They lost their negro slaves, and their possessions. The Cherokee were farmers, and the land was infertile. The land was meant for cattle raising, which they didn’t know ho to do.

They built a capital city called Tahlequah, and their nation was declared in September 6, 1839. Their culture was bred here along their new way of life. John Ross who was elected by the Cherokee as the President of the Cherokee nation in 1827 continues his roll in the land, shared with another seventy tribes. They had opened up schools in the Indian Territory to continue their education for their children. The first Cherokee school opened in 1801 when the people were learning their language. Their written language which consists of 85 characters, was said to be created by a Sequoia (1760-1843) , a Cherokee leader.

Sequoia translated the Bible, wrote many books, and helped publish the newspaper,”The Cherokee Phoenix. ” This was contradicted in Dialogue-Everyman’s Encyclopedia Story #1989130. It said the man who created the 85 character written language was George Guess. The Cherokee Phoenix was published in both languages-English and the Cherokees’. The Cherokee had mixed blood from the early British settlers and traders. Therefore, the Cherokee were educated in both languages.

For over half a century the Cherokee have abstained from becoming American Citizens until 1906 when the Unites States made all tribal members U. S. Citizens. A year later the Indian Territory was admitted into the Union as the state of Oklahoma. During this period many Cherokee started breaking away and mixing their blood. In 1930 forty- five thousand two hundred thirty-eight Cherokee left Oklahoma and headed East from where they came. The Cherokee started slowly changing their religion. There are many who are Jewish, Episcopalian, and Hindu. The 10,000 Cherokee that survived the Trail of Tears and the other Cherokee that were not taken for the removal slowly gained back in population in a century.

The Tahlequah Agency in Oklahoma has said there were 42,992 Cherokee living in Tahlequah in 1982. The U. S. Census has shown 293,074 Cherokee are living in more than 30 states in the United States. Now the Cherokee Nation is under control of the first woman chief. In November 1983 Wilma Mankiller was elected to the office of the Cherokee Nation. The Cherokee survived the hardships of the Trail of Tears and the loss of their loved ones and all that belonged to them. Their population continues to grow inspite of the immense number of tribal members that were lost during this era.

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Home » Native Americans » The Trail of Tears

The Trail of Tears

 

The Trail of Tears was a journey of fear endured by the Indians of the Eastern Cherokee Nation. The exodus ripped through southeastern America during the prime of winter in 1838-1839. Thousands of lives were lost all for the insignificant benefits that would be granted to the United States government with the displacement of the Indians. The Cherokee people were forced to leave their homeland under unfavorable circumstances to take part in one of the worst horrors in history experienced by a group of human beings, resulting in a rough transition in geography and eventual demolition to the tribal nation.

In the early 1800s, the Cherokees began altering their culture by adopting many American behaviors. Their traditional religion, language, education, clothing, farming, and even inter-tribal media began to blend and harmonize with American culture. The transition in lifestyle was most directly triggered by the newly developed Cherokee Alphabet, which came in 1819. The Alphabet, brought about by Sequoyah, inspired a rapid increase in Cherokee literacy (Thomas 308). They became known as one of the Five Civilized TribesSeminole, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Cherokeeas a result of the United States government civilization program (Goodwin).

The Cherokee even modified their government to model that of the United States. The Cherokees were increasingly aware of the tension their American neighbors felt towards their distinct lifestyle. By assimilating with American culture, the Cherokee people hoped to maintain peaceful relations. Congress passed the Indian Removal Act in 1830, which called for all Indians living east of the Mississippi River to be moved to present-day Oklahoma in Indian Territory (Goodwin). Though the Choctaws and Chickasaws acquiesced, the Cherokees rightfully protested.

In 1831, they appealed to the Supreme Court against the state of Georgia. They asserted that they had a right to govern themselves as a separate nation. Chief Justice John Marshall shot this theory down by firmly explaining that the United States Constitution reads that no new state can be formed within the boundaries of an existing state. (Chapman)  However, the following year in the Worcester v. Georgia case, the Court ruled that the Cherokee was a distinct community within its own territorial boundaries that the laws and citizens of Georgia cannot interfere (Peters 515-517).

The contradictions set the United States up for opposition. The Cherokees pleaded for the right to remain on the land of their ancestors. Missionaries and strong religious advocates fought on behalf of the Cherokees, but the outraged American citizens derogatory remarks against the government pushed President Jackson over the edge. He gave a highly influential speech stressing the importance of a speedy removal to the United States, the individual States, and to the Cherokee themselves. The speech was delivered in his Second Annual Message to Congress.

Here he stated several positive aspects of the removal: it would put an end to all disagreements between General and State Governments on account of Indians; it would place a civilized population in large tracts of uncivilized wilderness; it would strengthen the southwestern frontier; it would allow Mississippi and Alabama to advance in population, wealth, and power; it would separate the Indians from white settlement and power of the States; it would enable the Indians to pursue happiness in their own way; and, it would let the Indians further develop an interesting, civilized, and Christian community (Richardson 519-523).

The American government made up its mind to carry out the Indian Removal Act. The majority of Cherokees stood firm on holding their ground, but a few of them felt they should give in before being forced to leave under much worse conditions (Niles Weekly Register). This small group wrote and signed the Treaty of New Echota, ceding all Cherokee territory in the southern Appalachians to the United States in exchange for $5 million and land in Indian Territory.

It was approved in late May of 1836, sparking mass rebellion among the Cherokee and American nations. Finally, two years later, federal troops were ordered to prepare for roundup (Chapman). May of 1838 bore the worst drought in recorded American history; May also served as the beginning of the Trail of Tears (Rose City Net). May 17, 1838, General Winfield Scott, who was in charge of the removal, issued an order to all troops.

The order explained that acts of harshness and cruelty, on the part of our troops, may leadto general war and carnageEvery possible kindnessmust, therefore, by shown by the troops, and, if a despicable ndividual shouldinflict a wanton injury or insult on any Cherokee man, woman, or childthe nearest good officer or man should seize and consign the guilty wretch to the severest Penalty of the laws. (Chapman) These benevolent intentions were ignored from the beginning. The first group of Cherokee began the drive westward in June 1838. The removal was aborted due to drought.

Over 13,000 Cherokees were imprisoned in military stockades awaiting a break in the drought and over 1,500 died in confinement. (Chapman) In August 1838, John Ross became superintendent of the removal. He earned additional funds for food and clothing when the drought broke, and the removal was reinvigorated. Thirteen contingents of Cherokees began on the 1,200-mile trail to Indian Territory (Rose City Net). The cross over Tennessee, Kentucky, and Illinois was successful, but when the first groups met the Mississippi River in December of 1838, they found it held up by ice floes.

Here, 5,000 Cherokees were trapped east of the Mississippi by harsh winter; many died (Chapman). Also in December, John Ross left with the last group of Cherokees out of Georgia to lead them on the journey to Indian Territory. The first group completed the trail on January 4, 1839; the final group reached Indian Territory on March 24, 1839 (Rose City Net). More than 3,000 Cherokee died on the Trail of Tears, and another 800 passed on due to the transition from Georgia to Indian Territory (Chapman). Despite the original intentions of the American government, hundreds of Indians were harassed, mistreated, and murdered by the troops.

Over 18,000 Cherokees were transplanted in present-day Oklahoma after hundreds of years in their beloved southern Appalachian trail (Chapman). The trek took anywhere from 104 days to 189 days  (Chapman). Along the way, the Indians suffered from lack of sleep and mal-nourishment. Every night the Indians went to a lodge where they were given rations of corn, oats, and fodder. As the Indians progressed ahead, white hunters surrounded them to wipe out all the wild game. This way the Indians could not get any meat, which would provide them with energy and possibly attempt a revolt (Goodwin).

The Western Cherokee had already established themselves in Indian Territory long before the arrival of the Eastern Cherokee. Major disagreements on how to govern themselves mounted. On June 20, 1939 the Eastern chiefs attempted to meet and discuss a governemnt ssytem with the other chiefs, who refused. Two days later, Major Ridge was shot five times; John Ridge was stabbed twenty-five times; and, Elias Boudinot was cut into piecesthese were the men responsible for the opposed Treaty of New Echota (Chapman). Their murders were justified by calling the men traitors.

The two Cherokee nations merged on July 12, 1839 by the Cherokee Act of Union (Rose City Net). A constitution was drafted by the leaders from both sides and officially adopted on September 6 at Tahlequah, the new capital of the Cherokee Nation. General Arbuckle was the current United States Secretary of War and imposed martial law upon the Nation because he felt that the Indians were incapable of self-government. After several years of different government investigations, on August 6, 1846, a treaty was signed for a general amnesty (Rose City Net). The Cherokee went on to suffer more carnage than any other state during the Civil War.

By possessing sincere loyalty to the Confederacy, the tribe lost more than one-third of its population. As the Union was restored, the Indian Territory became overran by white men. By 1890, the Indian Territory boasted over 7,000 more white men than Indians. Their original 7 million-acre allotment had been deduced to a mere one-third of one-percent by 1900 (Chapman). The Nation was officially dissolved on March 3, 1906 (Chapman). The success of the Cherokees before the Trail of Tears shows their capability of civilization. They adopted the American way of life and were definitely the perfect example of the United States civilization program.

Despite their whims and effort, the Cherokee were always exploited. The positive purposes of the removal were quickly overshadowed by greed and racism. The people of Europe found Americans to by tyrannical. The Americans had overrun the Cherokees primarily to augment their own central strength (Tocqueville 345-355). Several decades earlier, these negligent actions had prompted a full-blown war. Had it not been for inter-continental struggle in Europe, the Cherokee Indians would have had many nations to their defense (Goodwin).

 

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