The Trail Of Tears
October 1, 1838
CHEROKEE NATION, GEORGIA
"Removal" is a term usually applied to getting rid of a wart; it is also the
term used by the United States government, under President Andrew
Jackson, for removing Indians from their native lands.
Jackson had been a particularly fierce Indian fighter, beginning with his days
during the Creek Indian War of 1814. He had pitted Indian tribes against
each other, abandoned all of them, and made handsome profits speculating
on lands taken from the Indians.
In Autumn of 1838, about 18,000 Cherokees of Georgia were forcibly
rounded up by the U.S. Army. They were forced to travel through
Tennessee and Kentucky, across the Ohio and Missouri rivers, and into
Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River. This territory eventually
made up the land which became known as Oklahoma.
Winter snows, summer heat, and drought took their toll. About 4,000
Cherokee were killed along the way from starvation, exposure, and disease.
The Indians called this long march "The Trail of Tears."
President Jackson's removal plan went against the Supreme Court's ruling
that Indians had legal rights to remain at their Georgia ancestral homes.
Many people of that day did denounce the march, but it took place anyway.
Earlier removals had already targeted others of the "Five Civilized Tribes" in
America's Southeast, the Cherokee being the last. Between 1831 and 1833,
there was a removal of 15,000 Choctaws from Mississippi into land west of
Arkansas, with Chickasaws and Creek Indians following soon after.
Pneumonia and cholera took their toll on these traveling Indians, and once
they reached the Indian Territory, thousands died of hardship, illness, and