Trail of Tears

The Trail of Tears commonly refers to a series of forced relocations of Native American nations in the United States following the Indian Removal Act of 1830. The removal included members of the Cherokee, Muscogee, Seminole, Chickasaw, and Choctaw nations, who chose not to assimilate with American society, from their ancestral homelands in the southeastern U.S. to an area west of the Mississippi River that had been designated as Indian Territory. Native Americans who chose to stay and assimilate were allowed to become citizens in their states and of the U.S. The phrase "Trail of Tears" originated from a description of the removal of the Choctaw Nation in 1831.

Many Native Americans suffered from exposure, disease, and starvation while en route to their destinations, and many died, including 2,000-6,000 of the 16,543 relocated Cherokee. European Americans and African American freedmen and slaves also participated in the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee Creek, and Seminole relocations.

In 1830, a group of Native Americans collectively referred to as the Five Civilized Tribes: the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee, and Seminole, were living as autonomous nations in what would be called the American Deep South. The process of cultural transformation, as proposed by George Washington and Henry Knox, was gaining momentum, especially among the Cherokee and Choctaw. The U.S. federal government had been pressured to remove the Native Americans from the Southeast by many white settlers, some of whom encroached on Indian lands while others wanted more land made available to white settlers. Andrew Jackson helped gain Congressional passage of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which authorized the government to extinguish Native American title to lands in the Southeast.

In 1831, the Choctaw became the first Nation to be removed, and their removal served as the model for all future relocations. After two wars, many Seminoles were removed in 1832. The Creek removal followed in 1834, the Chickasaw in 1837, and lastly the Cherokee in 1838. Many Native Americans remained in their ancestral homelands; some Choctaw are found in Mississippi, Creek in Alabama and Florida, Cherokee in North Carolina, and Seminole in Florida; a small group had moved to the Everglades and were never defeated by the U.S. A limited number of non-native Americans, including African Americans, usually as slaves; some as spouses, also accompanied the Native American nations on the trek westward. By 1837, 46,000 Native Americans from the southeastern states had been removed from their homelands, thereby opening 25 million acres (100,000 km2) for predominantly white settlement.

Prior to 1830, the fixed boundaries of these autonomous tribal nations, comprising large areas of the United States, were subject to continual cession and annexation, in part due to pressure from squatters and the threat of military force in the newly declared U.S. territories—federally administered regions whose boundaries supervened upon the Native treaty claims. As these territories became U.S. states, state governments sought to dissolve the boundaries of the Indian nations within their borders, which were independent of state jurisdiction, and to expropriate the land therein. These pressures were exacerbated by U.S. population growth and the expansion of slavery in the South, with the rapid development of cotton cultivation in the uplands following the invention of the cotton gin.

When the Cherokee negotiated the Treaty of New Echota, they lost all their land east of the Mississippi and received $5 million from the federal government. Many Cherokee felt betrayed for accepting the money, with over 16,000 of their people signing a petition to prevent the pass of the treaty. By the end of the decade in 1840 tens of thousands of Cherokee and Native Americans were driven off their land east of the Mississippi River. Oklahoma was the new home for the Cherokee which was promised by the federal government to last for an eternity, but that never happened. When Oklahoma became an official state of the United States in the first decade of the 20th century, Indian land there became lost forever and the Cherokee were then again forced to move farther westward. The Cherokee along with a number of other tribes such as the Choctaws and Seminoles lost their land through the Indian Removal act of 1830. One Choctaw leader portrayed the Trail of Tears as "A Trail of Tears and Deaths", the devastation of this event nearly wiped the Native American population of the southeastern United States out of their home land.

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American History USA Articles

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    The Georgia Gold Rush and election of Andrew Jackson were disastrous for the Cherokee. The Indian Removal Act and the Trail of Tears soon followed.
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    The Cherokee seized upon the example of their neighbors. They developed a plantation economy, a constitution, and a writing system in the early 1800s.



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