Research Paper #1 – the Trail of Tears

The Trail of Tears. One of the darkest periods in the history of the United States. It all started with the Indian Removal Act signed by Andrew Jackson in the year of 1830 (History).

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This Act, along with the pride of the still young independent country led by Manifest Destiny fueled this massive ordeal that caused thousands of Native Americans to die during this period. The first victims were the Choctaw Indians when they were completely forced to vacate their lands in the year of 1831 (History), essentially creating the Trail of Tears. The Trail of Tears refers to the journey that the Native Americans were forced to make to evade American attackers after being forced off their lands and being further pushed away into other areas.

Andrew Jackson was essentially the leader of the Native American removal process. He strongly believed that the land that the Natives were on belonged to the American white settlers. The ideals that Jackson believed in went by the name of Manifest Destiny. Manifest Destiny was the idea that the ways of expansion for the newly-formed United States was both justified and inevitable, i.e. Trail of Tears, forceful removal. Most settlers wanted the land that was west of Appalachian Mountains and they were willing to go to any length necessary. Throughout the journey there were a total of 17,000 Choctaw Indians who attempted to make the journey with roughly 3,000 of them dying from different causes throughout the journey (Trail of Tears). Roughly 6,000 of the Choctaws attempted to stay in their land in Mississippi after mostly being pushed out in 1831 but eventually they all submitted and relocated with the other large group.

The Trail of Tears unfortunately continued in the year of 1836, when the government forcefully moved the last of the Creeks off their rightfully owned roughly 3,500 of 15,000 Creeks who originally departed towards Oklahoma did not arrive. When it came time to move the Cherokee tribe they were divided on whether or not to agree to work with Congress or to fight for their lands. Half of the Cherokees attempted to figure out some way to curb the US government’s hunger for the prized Cherokee lands, while others were ready to stand their ground and fight against the government. A small percentage of the Cherokee population suggested that it would be both safe and beneficial if they made a monetary agreement for their lands through Congress, which is ironically what wound up happening to the group as a whole. The minority of the Cherokee nation who wanted to sell the land wound up creating the Treaty of New Echota with Congress during 1835. The Treaty of New Echota stated that the Cherokee Indians would receive $5 million plus the relocation reimbursement, and proper compensation for lost belongings and property (Indian Removals). When Congress received the treaty they were more than happy to sign it quickly before anyone had second thoughts. Unfortunately for the Cherokees the majority who wanted to stay and fight for their lands felt betrayed due to the minority going behind their backs and striking a deal without the consent of the majority. Due to this situation most of the Cherokees adamantly refused to leave their land with only around 2,000 actually complying.

In 1838, the current President, Martin Van Buren assigned the General Winfield Scott and his troops the task of speeding up the Native American removal process. Scott’s troops brutally forced the Cherokee Indians inside of their stockades at gunpoint while the soldiers proceeded to loot the remaining Cherokee homes for their belongings, which were usually seized and not returned. After doing this, Scott’s troops forced the Cherokee Indians to complete a twelve-hundred mile journey to a new designated territory. Diseases and sicknesses such as the Whooping cough, typhus, dysentery, cholera and starvation were causes of epidemic along the way, and current historians estimate that more than 5,000 Cherokees died due to the harshness of the journey (History).

Wrapping things up, the Trail of Tears was the most sorrowful legacy of the Jacksonian Era (Indian Removals). The amount of innocent Native Americans that were forced off their lands due to the ideals of Manifest Destiny and white settler superiority was utterly disgraceful. While modern day Native Americans are well compensated for their past I do believe that they should have received substantially more land than the pitiful amount of reservation lands that remain.

Works Cited

  1. “Trail of Tears.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 1 Apr. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trail_of_Tears#Choctaw_removal.
  2. Editors, History.com. “Trail of Tears.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 9 Nov. 2009, www.history.com/topics/native-american-history/trail-of-tears.
  3. “The Trail of Tears – The Indian Removals.” Ushistory.org, Independence Hall Association, www.ushistory.org/us/24f.asp.”
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