A Brief History of The Trail of Tears Consider… 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 land? 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 it. 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 once? 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 reservation was about 800 miles. 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 happened? 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.