The Trail of Tears

Steve KinsmanStarred Page By Steve Kinsman, 22nd Jun 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/313_8idl/
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>History

The Trail of Tears is the name given to the forcible removal of Native Americans of the southeastern United States to Oklahoma in the 1830's. It is a sad tale.

White encroachment

Between 1790 and 1830, the influx of white settlers into Georgia increased six-fold, and Native Americans were being pushed off their lands, often killed by marauding bands of white men. By 1825 the Lower Creek had been completely removed from the state under the provisions of the Treaty of Indian Springs, and by 1827 there were no more Creek left in Georgia.

The Cherokee Nation occupied much of western Georgia, and when it was rumored that gold had been discovered in the Smoky Mountains, the rush was on to grab their land.

The Cherokee were an amazing people. They had assimilated perhaps better than any other tribe to the white man's way. They had built schools, churches and roads, and they tried to live peacefully with the whites. The Cherokee were the only tribe to have a written language, and many were highly educated. They were mostly farmers and cattle ranchers, and they had a sophisticated system of representational government.

Andrew Jackson

President Andrew Jackson harbored a deep bias against Native Americans and threw his weight behind the effort to eradicate Indian tribes wherever they were. In 1830 Congress passed the Indian Removal Act. Both Henry Clay and Davy Crockett, by now a congressman from Tennessee, worked tirelessly to defeat the act but were unsuccessful, and it passed by a single vote in the Senate.

The Cherokee fought the legislation, but the Supreme Court ruled against them in 1831. In 1832, however, in Cherokee Nation vs. Georgia, Chief Justice John Marshall of the Supreme Court ruled in their favor, writing that the Cherokee Nation was sovereign and that the removal law was invalid. He said the Cherokee would have to agree to a removal by treaty. Andrew Jackson, however, had other ideas. He responded to Marshall's ruling by declaring "John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it!...Build a fire under them. When it gets hot enough, they'll go."

A nation divided

By 1835 the Cherokee Nation had divided into two camps. The vast majority, led by Principal Chief John Ross, were against removal, but a small minority of about 500 out of 17,000, led by Major Ridge and his son John, along with Elias Boudinot, advocated removal. These three signed the Treaty of New Echota in early 1835, and now Jackson thought he had the authority to order removal, in effect ignoring the rulings of the Supreme Court. Ratification, again by a single vote in the Senate, bravely fought against by Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, sealed the fate of the Cherokee.

The trail of tears

The forcible removal of the Cherokee nation began in May, 1838. Seven thousand troops, led by General Winfield Scott, began moving across the Southeast to forcibly evict the Cherokee from their homes. According to ourgeorgiahistory.com..."Within two weeks every Cherokee in north Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama had been captured, killed, overlooked or fled."

The Cherokee were kept in filthy, rat-infested holding areas in specially constructed forts in North Georgia and Tennessee. Again, quoting ourgeogiahistory.com..."There were roughly ten routes, with some overlapping...the Trail of Tears began at the Cherokee Agency near Rattlesnake Springs and headed northwest to the vicinity of Nashville, Tennessee, then to Hopkinsville, Kentucky. From here the Cherokee headed to a crossing of the Ohio River northwest of the confluence of the Tennessee River. From here the Cherokee moved southwest, crossing the Mississippi near Cape Giradeau. From here the route headed south-southwest across the Ozark plateau to the Oklahoma Territory."

Suffering along the trail

The Cherokee who marched along the Trail of Tears refused to ride in the wagons the military provided for them, preferring to walk instead as an act of defiance. Men and women carried their small children on their backs. Some escaped the trail and headed into the Appalachian hills of Tennessee and Kentucky. (As an aside, my wife Carol on her mother's side descends from a Cherokee family who escaped into the mountains of northeastern Tennessee.)

At many points along the trail, the marchers were forced to take long detours around white-settled towns whose inhabitants did not want long lines of Indians passing through their settlements. Some marchers were issued smallpox-infected blankets, caught the disease and died. In the end, out of 15,000 Cherokee who began the removal march, over 4000 died on the way.

By the completion of the Indian Removal Program in 1839, the United States government had succeeded in removing from the entire southeastern section of the nation, not only virtually all Cherokee, but all of the Creek, Chickasaw, Seminole and Choctaw as well.

A final act of retribution

After reaching the Oklahoma Territory, the Cherokee reaffirmed John Ross' position as Principal Chief, and his men soon spread out in search of Major Ridge, his son John, and Elias Boudinot, who had betrayed them by signing the Treaty of New Echota. Major Ridge was overtaken on a roadway and hacked to death. John Ridge was dragged from his home and stabbed to death in front of his wife and children, and Elias Boudinot was surrounded and killed after leaving the home of a friend.

The trail of Tears was one of the greatest tragedies in the long and sordid history of the American white man's treatment of Native Americans.


Click on the video below to see images of the Trail of Tears

Link:
The Massacre at Wounded Knee
"I Will Fight No More Forever"
Black Elk Speaks

A wonderful poem by Songbird B:
Spirit Guide

Suggested reading: Trail of Tears: the Rise and Fall of the Cherokee Nation, by John Ehle.

Suggested video: The Trail of Tears: Cherokee Legacy, narrated by James Earl Jones.


Photos courtesy of photobucket.com

Tags

Andrew Jackson, Cherokee, Choctaw, Davy Crockett, Georgia, Georgia History, History, Indian Removal, Indian Treaties, Native Americans, Oklahoma, Seminole, Steve Kinsman, Trail Of Tears

Meet the author

author avatar Steve Kinsman
I live in California with my wife Carol, where I have been practicing professional astrology for 35 years. I write articles on astrology, but I enjoy writing on a variety of other subjects as well..

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Comments

author avatar Pink&Blue
23rd Jun 2011 (#)

A sad tale indeed but a well deserved star page, thank you Steve.

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author avatar Steve Kinsman
23rd Jun 2011 (#)

Thank you, Crystal. I appreciate your comment.

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author avatar otieno kagwanda
23rd Jun 2011 (#)

I think the article is quite informative . Its a good read.

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author avatar Steve Kinsman
23rd Jun 2011 (#)

Thank you, otieno.

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author avatar Delicia Powers
23rd Jun 2011 (#)

Steve this is such a moving article, you have done simply a superb job on adding a human quality to this sad history...very beautiful work and beyond even a star it touch on a galaxy of feelings..well done sir:0)

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author avatar Steve Kinsman
23rd Jun 2011 (#)

Thank you, Delicia, for such a nice comment.

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author avatar Carol Kinsman
24th Jun 2011 (#)

This was a sad moment in American history. Great job and congratulations on another Star page, Steve! xoxo

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author avatar Steve Kinsman
24th Jun 2011 (#)

Thank you, my love.

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author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
24th Jun 2011 (#)

The trail of tears, the shame of a nation. Well documented Steve.

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author avatar Steve Kinsman
24th Jun 2011 (#)

Thank you, Mark. appreciate your comment.

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author avatar jayababy
24th Jun 2011 (#)

Very well written and informative.

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author avatar Steve Kinsman
24th Jun 2011 (#)

Thank you, jayababy. I appreciate that.

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author avatar Prasul Surendran
24th Jun 2011 (#)

Another lesson learned. I did know that Native Americans had trouble during the rule but now I understand the extend!

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author avatar Steve Kinsman
24th Jun 2011 (#)

Yes, Prasul, and there are many other incidents as tragic as this one that befell the Native Americans at the hands of white settlers all over the country. Thanks for commenting.

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author avatar Denise O
24th Jun 2011 (#)

Steve, what a heartfelt telling of 'one' of our great shames of the USA. Adding Mrs. Kinsman's tidbit was perfect. As with all your other work, I can tell how much hard work it has taken to have written this article. Probably a few tears also. Just a well written piece. Well deserved, Stars all around ya. Thank you for sharing.:)

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author avatar Steve Kinsman
24th Jun 2011 (#)

Yes, Denise, more than a few tears. Thank you so much for your nice comment.

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author avatar Songbird B
24th Jun 2011 (#)

This ties in so much with my Spirit Guide poem, and really brings the tragedy to the fore of what befell these people. How can one man do this to another, Steve? My heart breaks at this story, it touched me deeply. Excellent work my friend, thank you for bringing it to our attention...Congrats on Star Status...so well deserved.

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author avatar Steve Kinsman
24th Jun 2011 (#)

Thank you Songbird. I cannot help but think that America will one day reap an awful karma for what was done to the Native Americans.

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author avatar Steve Kinsman
24th Jun 2011 (#)

I put a link to your Spirit Guide poem in here, Songbird.

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author avatar J A Ridley
1st Jul 2011 (#)

Wow what a f-ing tragedy. What kind of karmic retribution has this caused for us in the now? I wonder...thanks for the good share Steve

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author avatar Steve Kinsman
1st Jul 2011 (#)

Thank you J A. I think America may be beginning to reap its karma for how it has treated the red man.

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author avatar Ptrikha
27th Feb 2014 (#)

A tragic phase in the history of whole mankind!

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author avatar Steve Kinsman
27th Feb 2014 (#)

Yes, it certainly was. Thanks for commenting Ptrikha.

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