A Brief History of The Trail of Tears By Nora Group T-6 December 9, 2001
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 the President in a battle.
How It Began All this was soon to change, though. When gold was found on Cherokee land, the whites wanted out with the Native Americans 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.
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 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 First about 5,000 Cherokee went in boats. It was summer and the hot sun killed many. John Ross 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. Who cared? They still had to walk, so they did. They walked all day and slept 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, with their immense knowledge, were no longer fit for such a walk. Who cared if they didn’t reach the end? The soldiers didn’t. Sometimes the men in army colors would even shoot a Cherokee who was slowing them down. Almost all of the 17,000 Cherokee either walked or traveled by boat. Roughly 4,000 died from horrible conditions, illness, starvation, threats caused by nature, and the soldiers, who didn’t care.
The Trail of Tears This horrific event in America’s history, so hidden among the perils and triumphs of our white ancestors, is with us today. The trail that so many thousands of feet walked over is still there, even if we cannot see it, 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.
The Trail of Tears The symbol of the trail is the Cherokee Rose, now also the official state flower of Georgia. This slide is here to remind us of a painful mark in our history, which we should never forget.