Home History 90 Sad Trail of Tears Facts That Everyone Should Know

90 Sad Trail of Tears Facts That Everyone Should Know

by Sankalan Baidya
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trail of tears facts

This set of 90 Trail of Tears facts is dedicated to that slice of American history that doesn’t bring back sweet memories.

The Trail of Tears refers to forced relocation of Native Americans from their homeland that they have lived on for centuries. They were forced to leave their ancestral land.

The journey of those Native Americans (following the implementation of the Indian Removal Act) spanning over thousands of miles is known as the Trail of Tears. It was not just difficult; it was a deadly journey.

So, without further ado, let us take a quick peek into the not so distant past of America’s history that can rightly be called as, ‘a brutal murder of humanity, a brutal murder of rights.’

Trail of Tears Facts: 1-5 | The Indian Problem

1. The white settlers who lived on USA’s western frontier came to the southeastern side and saw the Native Americans.

2. These white settlers were really scared of the Native Americans. More than being scared, they actually hated the Native Americans and their lifestyle.

3. For these white settlers, the Native Americans were mysterious and strange people. They were even considered as ‘alien’ by the white people.

4. For generations and for centuries, these Native Americans lived on the land that these white settlers wanted. The whites believed that they were the rightful owners of the land.

5. There were many powerful people, including the first President of America – George Washington, who believed that easiest way of dealing with the ‘Indian Problem’ was to civilize the ‘Indians’ or the ‘Native Americans.’

Trail of Tears Facts: 6-10 | The Five Civilized Tribes

6. The white settlers wanted the Native Americans to learn how to read and write English.

7. The settlers encouraged the Indians to pick up the economic practices that was practiced in Europe.

8. The white settlers encouraged the Indians to adopt what is called ‘individual ownership of land and other properties.’ They were encouraged to even own African slaves.

9. The Indians or the Native Americans were converted to Christianity.

10. Many people belonging to the Seminole Indians, Creek Indians, Chickasaw Indians, Choctaw Indians and the Cherokee Indians went for those cultural changes and the whites referred to them as the ‘Five Civilized Tribes.’

Trail of Tears Facts: 11-15 | Unsavory Deeds of the Whites

11. Many Native Americans gradually started adopting the cultural changes that the whites demanded. For instance:

The women started wearing gowns.

Churches, roads and schools were built.

Cattle ranchers and farmers came into existence.

‘Talking Leaves’ (a Cherokee alphabet) was created by Sequoyah.

12. Despite the Native Americans adopting these cultural changes, the white settlers were not really happy. They eyed for the land which was coveted.

13. More and more white settlers started pouring into the southeastern USA and all of them started eyeing the land of the Native Americans.

14. These settlers really wanted to build fortunes for themselves by growing cotton. They were not really concerned about the Natives or the extent to which they were ‘civilized’. All that the settlers wanted was land.

15. In order to get the land, these white settlers started indulging in unsavory things such as livestock stealing, looting houses and towns, burning down houses and towns and forcefully occupying the land that never belonged to them.

Trail of Tears Facts: 16-20 | Government Involvement

16. On one side the white settlers were involved in those unsavory deeds and on the other side, the state governments got involved in removing the Indians from the south.

17. The governments passed several laws that were deliberately detrimental to the Native Americans. The laws:

Limited the rights of the Native Americans.

Limited the sovereignty of the Native Americans.

Allowed encroachment on the territory of the Native Americans.

18. There were resistances from the Native Americans and certain cases were taken to the courts. Two such famous cases were:

Cherokee Nation vs. Georgia (1831).

Worcester vs. Georgia (1832).

19. The US Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Native Americans and stated that these practices were not acceptable. The court ruled that “the native nations were the personal nations of the Indians and that laws of Georgia could not be enforced on them.”

20. No one paid any heed to the ruling of Supreme Court and the all the abuses towards the Native Americans continued the same way as before.

Trail of Tears Facts: 21-25 | Misdeeds of President Andrew Jackson

21. President Andrew Jackson was one of the greatest advocates of removing the Native Indians from their homeland.

trail of tears facts
Image Source

22. In 1832 President Jackson clearly stated that

“if nobody wants to enforce the ruling of Supreme Court, the decision will fall stillborn.”

Clearly, President Jackson himself also never wanted to enforce the ruling of Supreme Court.

23. Before he became the President, Andrew Jackson was an Army General. During his stint in the army, he led many campaigns against the Native Americans. Some of them were:

  • Devastating campaign against Seminoles in Florida.
  • Battle against the Creek Indians in Alabama and Georgia.

24. All these campaigns by the led to transfer of thousands of acres of prime lands to the white farmers (who wanted to grow cotton and other crops) from the Indian nations.

25. After Andrew Jackson became the President of America, he continued his crusade against the Native Americans and in 1830, went on to sign the Indian Removal Act.

Trail of Tears Facts: 26-35 | Indian Colonization Zone

26. The Indian Removal Act was not anything great. This act gave the US government to all the powers and rights needs to take away the land held by the Natives in the east of Mississippi in exchange for land in the west.

27. The land in the east of Mississippi was known to be perfect for growing cotton and that is the reason why the land was so coveted.

28. The land to the west of Mississippi became known as the ‘Indian Colonization Zone.’ This Indian Colonization Zone was envisioned by President Thomas Jefferson.

29. The Indian Colonization Zone was actually a piece was land that was acquired by the US through the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.

30. The land that was acquired through the Louisiana Purchase also included what would later become the State of Oklahoma barring the panhandle. The Indian Colonization Zone was in the area which would later become Oklahoma.

31. There were scores of people who believed that removal of the Native Americans to the west of Mississippi in the Indian Colonization Zone will resolve the conflict between the Native Americans and the Euro-Americans who were screaming about civilizing the continent.

32. The whole concept of Indian Colonization Zone (also, sometimes referred to as Indian Territory) was solidified under President John Quincy Adams’ administration.

33. The whole concept was completely developed under the rule of President Andrew Jackson.

34. The Indian Territory was eventually conceived in the year 1825. The Indian Territory or the Indian Colonization Zone was all the land that lay to the west of the Mississippi River.

35. Eventually, the Indian Territory would encircle Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska and parts of Iowa. The Indian Removal Act was eventually signed in 1830.

Trail of Tears Facts: 36-40 | Violation of the Law

36. The Indian Removal Act was meant to ensure that the government went for peaceful, fair and voluntary treaty negotiations.

37. The act clearly mentioned that neither the President nor anyone else can coerce and force the Native Americans into leaving their ancestral land.

38. Unfortunately, neither did President Andrew Jackson and nor his followers / government backers paid any heed to the act.

39. Instead of going for peaceful negotiations, the President and his supporters often forced the Indians or the Native Americans into leaving their ancestral land that they thrived on for centuries.

40. The first Indian nation that the government forced to leave their ancestral land was the Choctaw Indians.

Trail of Tears Facts: 41-45 | The Removal of the Choctaws

Map of United States Indian Removal, 1830–1838. Oklahoma is depicted in light yellow-green. Source

41. In 1831, during the winters, the government threatened the Choctaws of using US Military power to uproot them form their lands.

42. Of course the Choctaw Indians were left with no other option and hence, they had to move and go to the Indian Territory or the Indian Colonization Zone on foot.

43. Many historians claim that Choctaws were chained and they were forced to march double file.

44. According to the historians, the government did not give them any help. There were no supplies and no food.

45. It was an arduous journey that left thousands of Choctaws dead in the wake of the forced exile.

Trail of Tears Facts: 46-54 | The Resistance and Second Seminole War

46. While the Choctaw left without much resistance, the Chicksaw Indians also did the same. Not much resistance came from Chicksaws either.

47. The resistance came primarily from the Creek Indians, Cherokee Indians and the Seminoles.

48. The Creeks were driven out through Alabama on the west of Mississippi in 1836. Of around 15,000 Creeks who were forced out, 3,500 did not survive the journey.

49. The Seminoles put up a tough resistance and went into war with the US Military in 1835.

trail of tears facts
Source: Wikipedia | Osceola was the commander of Seminole forces during Second Seminole War.

50. The war lasted from December 1835 till August 1842. It became famous as the Second Seminole War.

51. Andrew Jackson was a commander of the US Military in the Second Seminole War and played a vital role in crushing the Seminole resistance that ended with US victory.

52. Once the US won the war, the Seminoles did not get a chance to opt for any treaty. They were forced to move to the Indian Territory. Nearly 4,000 were forced to go to the west of Mississippi.

53. In the wake of the Second Seminole War, nearly 3,000 Seminole Indians lost their lives.

54. Even after the forced removal of the Seminoles, nearly 350 stayed backed in Florida and continued resistance that led to the Third Seminole War.

Trail of Tears Facts: 55-77 | The Cherokee Removal and Trail of Tears

Trail of Tears Facts: The Treaty of New Echota

55. Unlike the Seminoles, the Cherokee did not engage in any form of direct bloody war. They mostly went for legal battles.

56. The Cherokees were split among themselves. Some were in favor of staying and fighting the government. The others were in favor of moving to the Indian Territory in exchange for money.

57. In 1835, the infamous Treaty of New Echota was signed. The signatories from the Cherokee side were none other than self-appointed representatives. They were not elected representatives of the Cherokee Nation.

58. As per the Treaty of New Echota, the self-appointed Cherokee representatives decided that they will take 5 million dollars and relocation assistance from US and move to the west of Mississippi giving up the coveted land (on east of Mississippi).

59. The US government found this treaty to be very lucrative and agreed to it immediately.

Trail of Tears Facts: Petition by John Ross

60. Three people from the US side advocated a treaty. Those three people were Major Ridge, John (son of Major Ridge) and Elias Boudinot.

61. Only 500 Cherokee Indians went along those three men. Remaining 16,500 Cherokee Indians did not follow the US side.

62. Those remaining Cherokee Indians felt really betrayed because those Cherokees who negotiated the Treaty of New Echota were not representatives of the tribal government.

trail of tears facts
Source: Britannica

63. John Ross, the then leader of the Cherokee people, penned down a letter and sent it to the United States Senate. He vehemently protested the treaty. This is what he wrote in the letter:

“the instrument in question is not an act of our nation. We are not parties to its covenants; it has not received the sanction of our people.”

64. The petition that Ross sent was signed by over 16,000 Cherokee Indians.

65. The US Congress eventually decided to vote in favor of the Treaty of New Echota. The only two people in the US Congress who spoke against the treaty were Henry Clay and Daniel Webster.

66. By 1838, only 2000 Cherokee Indians went for the Indian Territory by deserting their Georgia homes.

Trail of Tears Facts: The Death March

67. True to its nature, how couldn’t the US government use force? The then President Martin Van Buren summoned General Winfield Scott.

68. General Scott was given the task of hurrying up the removal process. He along with his 7,000 soldiers carried out the task.

69. General Scott along with some of his soldiers forced the Cherokees into stockades using swords. The remaining soldiers joined hands with the greedy and inhumane white settlers into looting the homes of the Cherokees right in front of them.

70. Once the looting was over, the Cherokees were forced to march all the way up to the Indian Territory that lay 1,200 miles away from their Georgia homes.

71. During the long march, nearly 5,000 of the remaining Cherokees perished of various reasons that included starvation, cholera, typhus, dysentery, and whooping cough.

72. The US soldiers did not pay any heed to the sufferings of the Cherokee people. The soldiers were least bothered about the deaths of the Cherokees. For the soldiers, it was just a job well done!

Trail of Tears Facts: Ross Reduces Death Toll

73. The leader of the Cherokee – John Ross – didn’t really give up on his people. He negotiated with General Scott on leading his people to the west.

74. The general agreed and Ross went on to break the surviving Cherokees into smaller groups that could be easily handled.

75. Ross allowed his men to move separately through the wilderness and even search for food.

76. Under Ross’ leadership, the people who left in early fall, eventually reached the Indian Territory during the harsh winters of 1838. However, the total death toll was reduced significantly.

77. These infamous forced journeys of the Native Americans from their homelands remain as a scar in US history. The most infamous of all was the journey of the Cherokee Indians from the east of Mississippi to the west of Mississippi. Their ordeal stands out among all and the path they took for relocation is known as the ‘Trail of Tears.’

More generally, the term ‘Trail of Tears’ refers to the collective suffering of Native Americans because of the Indian Removal Act, which uprooted approximately 100,000 Native Americans from their ancestral homes and of which, approximately 15,000 died during their journey west.

Trail of Tears Facts: 78-83 | The Vanishing of the Indian Territory

78. The Cherokees weren’t happy about what happened to them. Disturbed and saddened by their losses, they went on to kill Major Ridge, his son John and Elias Boudinot.

79. John Ross, who managed to save many Cherokee lives during the deadly march eventually failed to save his own wife who succumbed to the harsh conditions.

80. By 1840s, almost all the Native Americans to the East of Mississippi had been forcefully relocated to the west of Mississippi in the so-called Indian Territory.

81. The federal government made a promise of not touching the Indian Territory and leaving it intact. That was plain LIE.

82. As the greedy, pathetic, senseless, inhumane white settlers (who talked of civilizing the continent) kept on settling and pushing westwards, the Indian Territory kept on shrinking.

83. In 1907, the US inducted Oklahoma as an official state and the Indian Territory was gone, gone for good!

Trail of Tears Facts: 84-90 | The Cherokee Rose

84. The Trail of Tears of the Trail Where They Cried is best represented by the symbolic Cherokee Rose.

85. There are two stories about the Cherokee Rose. It is said that during the journey of the Trail of Tears, mothers lost their children and they cried in grief.

86. So bad was the condition of the grieving mothers that the chiefs of those Native American tribes prayed for a sign that would eventually uplift the dejected souls of those grieving mothers and give them the power to save those children who were still alive.

trail of tears facts
Source: Flickr

87. The other version of the story says that whenever a tear rolled off the cheek of a mother and dropped on ground, a beautiful rose was born.

88. The rose was white in color and represented the loss of the mother. The golden center of the rose represented the gold taken from the Cherokee land by the pathetic white settlers and the federal government.

89. The stem of each rose had 7 leaves with each leaf representing a Cherokee clan that was forced to leave from the ancestral land. In total 7 Cherokee clans undertook the brutal journey.

90. Even today, the Cherokee Rose blooms along the now famous Trail of Tears and Georgia, ironically, considers the Cherokee Rose as its state flower! S.H.A.M.E.F.U.L.

Trail of Tears Facts: Conclusion

United States came into existence as a country 54 years before the Indian Removal Act of 1830 was signed. See the irony! One of the foundation ideologies of the country was that:

“all men have been created equal and that their Creators endowed them with few unalienable rights which included pursuit of happiness, liberty and life…”

And, what did they do? They wiped out the Native Americans who actually never did anything wrong. They simply lived peacefully, limited to their ancestral lands.

Do we have to say anything more? Perhaps not! Only thing left is a ‘Resounding Sorry,’ which is genuine. Perhaps, even that won’t suffice.

Sources:
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13

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1 comment

Stella September 4, 2019 - 6:26 pm

I never forget about Andrew Jackson, he was one of the best advocates on that time.

Reply

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