File - Team Downend

A Brief History of The
Trail of Tears
Is there ever a time when it is
right for one group to move
another group of people out of
their homes and off of their
How It Began
Before our story really starts, the
Cherokee Indians of Georgia were living
fairly peacefully in their ancestral
homeland. They farmed the fertile land,
and hunted. They had their own
constitution, religion, and government.
Mostly, they didn’t bother the white
people nearby. One chief even saved the
life of President Jackson in a battle.
How It Began
All this was soon to change, though. When gold
was found on Cherokee land, the whites wanted
the Native Americans gone so they could farm the
rich land and dig for gold. The Cherokee, who
had seen other tribes moved and knew how
terrible the journey would be, resisted.
When the government brought the matter to the
Supreme Court, it ruled in favor of the Cherokee,
saying they could only begin an “Indian Removal
Act” if the Indians who they wanted to move
signed a new treaty, agreeing to the plan.
How It Began
Most of the Cherokee didn’t want to
move, and John Ross (a Cherokee leader)
thought they were safe. However, three
rebellious tribe members (led by John
Ridge) signed the proclamation. Ross
and his followers found out, and the
signers were killed. By that time, though,
it was too late. The “Indian Removal
Act” was in action, and no one could stop
Time Out….
Why would Cherokee have names like
John Ross and John Ridge instead of
names like Cloud Dancing or Walks With
A Fist?
Why would religious leaders of the tribe
agree to have their people give up their
family’s land and embark on such a
dangerous journey?
What Do You Think?
You are the leader of your tribe. Your people
look to you to make the best decision for them.
Would you recommend preserving the peace
and walking west or facing another war in
which you are fighting a stronger and more
powerful army that has already beaten you
Create a list to support your decision.
We will hold a tribal meeting to make a decision
for our class.
The Trip
In 1838, General Winfield Scott and the
US Army came to move the Cherokee.
They would walk from their home, and the
home of their ancestors before them, all the
way to a reservation in Arkansas. Georgia
to Arkansas? That’s a long walk! The
Cherokee knew from the walks of others
that it was to be more than just long.
The Trip
The forced
walk from
Georgia to the
was about 800
Note the
distance the
Seminole had
to travel.
The Trip
Naturally, many Cherokee ran away,
unwilling to walk with their white enemies.
Some of those who tried to escape where
caught. Others made it to freedom. Those
who did not escape had to travel.
The Trip
The government gathered the Cherokee
people in camps and planned to send
them in groups to the reservation. The
first group was of about 5,000 Cherokee
traveling in boats.
It was summer and the hot sun killed
many. John Ross, The Cherokee leader,
begged for a winter walk, thinking it
would be better.
The Trip
Unfortunately, winter was even worse
then summer. Snow fell and the wind
whistled. The soldiers made the Cherokee
men, women, and children walk all day
and sleep in the open all night.
The Trip
Many got sick on the long walk. If they couldn’t
keep up, they were left to die. The elders, who the
Cherokees honored for their immense knowledge,
were no longer fit for such a walk. Sometimes the
men in army colors would even shoot a Cherokee
who was slowing them down.
Almost all of the 17,000 Cherokee from Georgia
either walked or traveled by boat. Roughly 4,000
died from horrible conditions, illness, starvation,
threats caused by nature, and the soldiers.
1 out of every 4 Cherokee died during the trip.
The Trail of Tears
Although we can no longer see the
trail that so many thousands of feet
walked over, it is still there, and
there are still 4,000 bodies buried by
the side of that road. This long and
terrible walk was known by those
who experienced it as The Trail
Where They Cried. This terrible
event is more commonly known as
The Trail Of Tears.
If the Bill of Rights says that the government
cannot take things from citizens without paying
for them, and that citizens have a right to own
property, why were the Native Americans’ rights
not protected?
The Trail of Tears is a tragic episode in our US
history. Should we continue to teach about it in
schools, or would it be better to forget it ever
Choose one….
Imagine that you are a Cherokee Indian forced
to march west during the Trail of Tears.Write a
journal entry of part of your journey. Pick a
land or water route, and be sure to mention the
benefits and trials of your route.
Native Americans taught their children about
history by telling stories. Often, they would
replace people with animal characters. Write a
Native American legend about The Trail of
Tears using appropriate animal characters.