In light of Jackson’s defiance of the Supreme Court, the Cherokee people had to decide if they would stay on their land or leave for the West. Two factions developed—describe the key arguments of each faction below:
Describe the Treaty of New Echota (1835), which was negotiated by the Ridge faction in defiance of Chief Ross and the National Council:
Though the Cherokee were told they had two years to relocate, what did the vast majority end up doing?
Why did Ross send a petition to the Senate? What was its fate?
Describe the staging camps the Cherokee were held in prior to removal and the experiences of the Cherokee as they traveled to their new home:
The Trek West (Trail of Tears)
What was the fate of the Ridge faction in the wake of the Trail of Tears?
How did the Cherokee Nation fare in new Indian Territory under John Ross?
Were there any possible alternatives to the removal policies pursued by Jackson and his administration? If so, discuss what could have been done differently. If not, explain how removal was the only possible method for the U.S. government to pursue.
Is there anything the Cherokee people could have done differently to achieve their goals? Explain. (Keep in mind that they assimilated, became “civilized,” engaged in friendly relations with the U.S. government, and tried to achieve their goals through the court of law, rather than warfare.)
Who was right: Ridge or Ross? Who would you have supported had you been a member of the Cherokee Nation? Why?
Ethnic cleansing is defined as “the process or policy of eliminating unwanted ethnic or religious groups by deportation, forcible displacement, and/or mass murder, with the intent of creating a territory inhabited by a people of similar or pure ethnicity, religion, culture, and history.” Historic preservationist Russell Townsend is quoted in the film claiming ethnic cleansing did take place during Indian Removal of the 1830s. Do you agree or disagree with this viewpoint? If you agree, why do you think Americans have been reluctant to use terms like “ethnic cleansing” to describe their past? If you disagree, what would be a better label for Indian Removal?