Trail of Tears
Trail of Tears
Andrew Jackson’s 1828 election as U.S. president presaged congressional approval of the Indian Removal Act, which initiated processes that led in the mid- and late 1830s to the notorious Trail of Tears. Although Jackson justified his actions in compelling relocation of southeastern Indian tribes to plains west of the Mississippi River as “a just, humane, liberal policy,” implementation led to widespread suffering, cruel deprivation, and painful deaths for many. All told, perhaps 60,000 Choctaws, Chickasaws, Cherokees, Creeks, and Seminoles found themselves uprooted from traditional homes; the ordeal experienced by Cherokees stands out as emblematic of the policy’s inhumanity.
Understanding of the Trail of Tears and its impact requires recognition of circumstances then prevalent in the United States and of the targets of Jackson’s policy other than Native Americans. For example, beginning with the 1803 Louisiana Purchase certain national leaders including Thomas Jefferson and, later, John C. Calhoun had argued for relocation as the only “permanent solution” to “the Indian problem.” Controversy greeted such calls, but national policy by the time of the Jackson presidency offered Native Americans a strictly limited number of options: acculturation, relocation, or extermination.
Meanwhile, egalitarian and antislavery tides of the American Revolutionary period had subsided in the wake of profound changes in American life. First, a rising tide of immigration had begun to swell the nation’s northern cities. This created competition for livelihoods between the new arrivals, particularly the Irish, and free blacks at a time when Jackson and his allies courted the white immigrant vote. Extension of the “Cotton Kingdom” in the South coincidentally created huge demands for new lands and slave labor, as well as for enhanced governmental protections for chattel slavery. Further accelerating the processes at play were European intellectuals who formulated supposedly scientific theories regarding race, racial superiority, and racial inferiority. As a result, the nation found itself accepting new racist concepts that countenanced harsh and arbitrary treatment of Indians and black Americans.
Finally, Jackson’s personal experiences contributed to the implementation of racist policy. He repeatedly had invaded Spanish Florida to suppress challenges to southern expansion posed by the defiance of Upper (or Red Stick) Creek warriors and of maroon fighters later called Black Seminoles. His troops had destroyed the Apalachicola River Negro Fort in 1816; battled maroons at the Suwannee River in 1818; and, through the agency of Lower Creek raiders, obliterated the Tampa Bay area sanctuary known as Angola in 1821. Having failed to subdue his nemeses, Jackson aimed early implementation of the removal policy at Florida. By 1835 his actions led to the outbreak of the Second Seminole War, the longest Indian war and, arguably, the largest slave uprising in U.S. history. As noted by General Thomas Jesup, “[This is] a negro and not an Indian War.” Eventually, the Black Seminoles accepted western relocation but mostly after negotiated surrender rather than by military defeat. Thus, the Trail of Tears saw African Americans, as well as Native Americans, paying dearly for political and social changes that had placed the nation on the road to Civil War.
SEE ALSO American Indian Movement; Native Americans; Tribalism; Tribe
Brown, Canter, Jr. 2005. Tales of Angola: Free Blacks, Red Stick Creeks, and International Intrigue in Spanish Southwest Florida, 1812–1821. In Go Sound the Trumpet! Selections in Florida’s African American History, eds. David H. Jackson Jr. and Canter Brown Jr., 5–21. Tampa, FL: University of Tampa Press.
Ehle, John. 1988. Trail of Tears: The Rise and Fall of the Cherokee Nation. New York: Doubleday.
Landers, Jane. 1999. Black Society in Spanish Florida. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
Porter, Kenneth W. 1996. The Black Seminoles: History of a Freedom-Seeking People. Gainesville: University Press of Florida.
Rivers, Larry Eugene. 2000. Slavery in Florida, Territorial Days to Emancipation. Gainesville: University Press of Florida.
Larry Eugene Rivers
"Trail of Tears." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 19, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/trail-tears
"Trail of Tears." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Retrieved October 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/trail-tears
Trail of Tears
TRAIL OF TEARS
TRAIL OF TEARS, most closely associated with the Cherokees, is perhaps the most well known injustice done to Native Americans during the removal period of the 1830s. Historically, the Cherokees occupied lands in several southeastern states including North Carolina and Georgia. Acting under the Removal Act of 1830, federal authorities sought to win the tribe's agreement to exchange tribal lands for a reservation in the West. In 1835, approximately 500 Cherokees, none of them elected officials of the Cherokee nation, gathered in New Echota, Georgia, and signed a treaty ceding all Cherokee territory east of the Mississippi to the United States in exchange for $5 million and new homelands in Indian Territory (modern Oklahoma). Though a majority of the tribe protested this illegal treaty, it was ratified—by a single vote—by the U.S. Senate on 23 May 1836.
In May 1838, federal troops and state militia units supervised by General Winfield Scott rounded up the Cherokees who refused to accept the New Echota agreement and held them in concentration camps until they were sent west in groups of approximately 1,000 each. Three groups left that summer, traveling 800 miles from Chattanooga by rail, boat, and wagon, primarily on the water route. In November, with river levels too low for navigation and with inadequate clothing and supplies, twelve more groups traveled overland, under close military supervision and primarily on foot, in spite of roads rendered impassable by autumn rains and the subsequent onset of winter. By March 1839, all survivors had arrived in their new home. Of the 15,000 Cherokees who began the journey, about 4,000—a fifth of the total Cherokee population—perished along the route.
Though local and state governments along with private organizations and individuals made some efforts to recognize this tragic event in American history, it was not until 1987 that Congress designated the Trail of Tears as a National Historic Trail under the supervision of the National Park Service.
Anderson, William L., ed. Cherokee Removal: Before and After. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1991.
Hoig, Stan. Night of the Cruel Moon: Cherokee Removal and the Trail of Tears. New York: Facts on File, 1996.
National Park Service. Certification Guide: Trail of Tears National Historic Trail. Santa Fe, N. Mex.: National Park Service, 1994.
Perdue, Theda, and Michael D. Green, eds. The Cherokee Removal: A Brief History with Documents. Boston: Bedford Books, 1995.
"Trail of Tears." Dictionary of American History. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 19, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/trail-tears
"Trail of Tears." Dictionary of American History. . Retrieved October 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/trail-tears
Trail of Tears
By May 1838, only 2,000 of approximately 16,000 Cherokees had moved, and Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott entered Cherokee territory with about 2,200 federal troops and nearly 5,000 state volunteers from Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina, and Tennessee. They herded the Cherokees into stockades, and then, in June, forced three groups—approximately 2,745 men, women, and children—to begin the 850‐mile march from Tennessee to Indian territory. Sickness and death in the stockades led Chief John Ross to request a delay until cooler weather. The remainder were removed, in thirteen detachments, between 23 August and 5 December 1838. Approximately 4,000 died as a result of their ordeal, most not on the trail itself.
Cherokee removal—the Trail of Tears—remains one of the greatest tragedies that the United States has inflicted upon a minority population. Removal and assimilation, however, remained incomplete. Remnants of the tribe comprise the Eastern Bank of Cherokees today, and many preserve traditional culture.
[See also Native Americans, U.S. Military Relations with.]
William L. Anderson, ed., Cherokee Removal Before and After, 1991.
Theda Perdue and and Michael D. Green , Cherokee Removal: A Brief History with Documents, 1994.
William L. Anderson
"Trail of Tears." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 19, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/trail-tears
"Trail of Tears." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. . Retrieved October 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/trail-tears
Trail of Tears
TRAIL OF TEARS
By the 1780s war, disease, and starvation had killed most American Indians living along the eastern seaboard of North America. As white settlers pressed further inland in the early 1800s, many of the indigenous groups resisted further encroachment. Some seized on the opportunity to side with Britain in the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783) and again in the War of 1812 (1812–1814). But the Native Americans had picked the losing side, and after the latter war, General Andrew Jackson (1767–1845) devastated the settlements of the Creeks and other hostile Indian groups.
In contrast to the Creeks, the Cherokee had earlier accepted the U.S. presence as inevitable and adopted a peaceful policy of accommodation and coexistence. On the basis of a treaty signed with the United States in 1791, the Cherokee continued to live on their traditional lands in the hills of northwest Georgia and western North Carolina. During the early 1800s the Cherokee went through a remarkable period of cultural change. They adopted an agrarian economy in place of traditional hunting and gathering. Some Cherokee even became owners of plantations with slaves. Others became involved in commerce, managing stores, mills, and other businesses. Impressed with the benefits of reading and writing, a Cherokee silversmith, Sequoia, created a Cherokee alphabet that was quickly adopted. By the 1820s the Cherokee had established written laws and a constitution.
Between 1819 and 1829 the Cherokees developed an independent nation within U.S. boundaries. They adopted a constitution. As the Cherokees flourished, the white settlers grew resentful. The Georgia statehouse pressed the Cherokees to sell their land, which the Cherokee were reluctant to do. With the discovery of gold in Cherokee country in 1829 the State of Georgia increased the pressure on the Cherokee. President Andrew Jackson (1829–1837) signed the Indian Removal Act of 1830 that provided funds for removal of eastern Indians beyond the Mississippi River. The State of Georgia annulled the Cherokee constitution and ordered their lands seized.
The Cherokee hired a lawyer who argued the case all the way to the Supreme Court. In his ruling, Chief Justice John Marshall agreed that the State of Georgia had no right to enter Cherokee lands and to displace the indigenous people. Despite the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Cherokee v. Georgia (1831), acknowledging Cherokee's right to their lands and their sovereignty as a nation, Jackson continued to support Georgia's efforts at their removal. After Marshall's ruling Jackson remarked, "John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it."
Jackson persuaded Congress to grant the funds for the relocation of the Cherokee. Finally in 1835, after years of harassment and antagonism, a small group of Cherokee ceded by treaty all lands occupied by the Cherokee east of the Mississippi. The Cherokee peoples were given two years to vacate the transferred lands and move to a special Indian territory created by Congress in 1834 in what latter became Oklahoma.
Many Cherokee resisted removal. As the deadline approached in 1837, President Martin Van Buren (1837–1841) ordered federal authorities to force the Cherokee from their homes and place them in temporary detention camps. The Cherokee remained in the camps through the typically hot sweltering southeast summer and diseases began to spread. Suffering from dysentery, measles, and whooping cough, some two thousand died. Finally that October over fifteen thousand men, women, and children began a six-month, thousand-mile journey to the very unfamiliar country of Oklahoma. Most went overland from northwest Georgia, across central Tennessee, western Kentucky, southern Illinois, southern Missouri, and northern Arkansas, to Ft. Gibson in eastern Oklahoma. A smaller number were taken by flatboat down the Tennessee River to the Mississippi River and then up the Arkansas River. While en route, lacking adequate food, shelter, and clothing, another two thousand died from exposure, disease, and exhaustion. The Cherokee buried their dead along the route that became known as the "Trail of Tears." The forced march became one of the most tragic and dishonorable chapters in U.S.-Indian relations.
The Cherokee reestablished their agrarian society in the hills of northeastern Oklahoma. They soon setup a new government and signed a constitution in 1839. Tahlequah, Oklahoma became the capital for the displaced population. During the 1837 roundup, rather than leave for Oklahoma, a thousand or more Cherokee had fled into remote areas of the East including the Great Smoky Mountains. They later received federal recognition, also, as the Cherokee of the North Carolina Qualla Reservation.
Departure of the Cherokee population left only scattered indigenous groups in the Southeast. By 1842 most of the Five Civilized Tribes—the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole—had been removed from their prosperous farms and plantations and resettled on the southeast to government-assigned lands in Oklahoma. The last of the Seminoles of Florida were removed in 1858.
The Cherokee's forced removal dramatized the fate of indigenous populations in the face of U.S. agricultural expansion. The tide of U.S. expansion eventually overwhelmed even those tribes with peaceful policies and firmly established economies. The Trail of Tears was later designated a National Historic Trail by Congress.
See also: Georgia, Andrew Jackson, Oklahoma
Anderson, William L., ed. Cherokee Removal: Before and After. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1991.
Gilbert, Joan. The Trail of Tears Across Missouri. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 1996.
Heidler, David S., and Jeanne T. Heidler. Old Hickory's War: Andrew Jackson and the Quest for Empire. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1996.
McLoughlin, William G. After the Trail of Tears: The Cherokees' Struggle for Sovereignty, 1839–1880. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1993.
Remini, Robert V. The Legacy of Andrew Jackson: Essays on Democracy, Indian Removal, and Slavery. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1988.
Rice, Horace R. The Buffalo Ridge Cherokee: A Remnant of a Great Nation Divided. Bowie, MD: Heritage Books, 1995.
Wilkins, Thurman. Cherokee Tragedy: The Ridge Family and the Decimation of a People, 2nd ed. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1986.
despite the u.s. supreme court decision in cherokee v. georgia (1831), acknowledging cherokee's right to their lands and their sovereignty as a nation, jackson continued to support georgia's efforts at their removal. after marshall's ruling jackson remarked, "john marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it."
"Trail of Tears." Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 19, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/trail-tears-0
"Trail of Tears." Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. . Retrieved October 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/trail-tears-0