The Trail Of Tears

Trail of Tears

The Trail Of Tears

October 1, 1838


"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 exposure.

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