Friday April 15, 2011
Trail of Tears Paper
In the year 1838, the whole Cherokee tribe was removed by the United States government. This forced movement was caused in an effort to overtake the land that the Cherokees occupied with a treaty from the government to obtain the land and acquire gold. This was named the Trail Of Tears from the forced removal, the horrific death march, and placement of the Cherokees in a foreign land. The Trail of Tears resulted in many deaths and the separation of many families.
This tragedy started in late May of 1838, when the United States began planning the forced evacuation of the land a couple days before the voluntary removal. The process was so quick that there was close to no time to collect any personal belongings, there were even times that the Cherokee people were rushed at gunpoint. All of this was led by one of the worst presidents of the Cherokee history, President Andrew Jackson. At one time, President Jackson was an ally with the Cherokees after the victory against the Creek Indians, where he was known for being a hero fighting with the Cherokees. In 1828, once Andrew Jackson was reelected for president and sided with the Georgia legislature to obtain gold from the land he became popular for his act of the Indian removal.
As the newly elected president, he was quick to allow whites to move into Cherokee land and extended Georgia state law including the Cherokee nation. This new act made the Cherokees question his power and stated that the laws and government is void. During the 1830’s, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act after a continuous campaign to remove the Cherokees who stayed on the land where gold was prosperous and the greed for land was tremendous. This act was giving too much power to the president and was allowing him to bend the rules of civilization. “The Indian Removal Act gave Andrew Jackson the authority to negotiate removal treaties with the Native American tribes.”1 In response to this act, the Cherokees formed their own constitutional government and stated to the public that they are an independent nation with complete control over the occupied territory and they will not be removed without their authority.
Despite the victory Andrew Jackson had with the Cherokees, once he obtained power as president and contributed to the Indian Removal Act, he was not too fond of the tribe. President Jackson put into people’s heads that the Cherokees as “illiterate and uncivilized “savage hunters”2, which assisted the support of the Indian Removal Act and made it popular amongst the people who voted for it. He also saw this as being an advantage for the states to increase the population, their wealth, and power. His exact words towards the situation was : “It will separate the Indians from immediate contact with settlements of whites; free them from the power of the States; enable them to pursue happiness in their own way and under their own rude institutions; will retard the progress of decay, which is lessening their numbers, and perhaps cause them gradually, under the protection of the Government and through the influence of good counsels, to cast off their savage habits and become an interesting, civilized, and Christian community.”3 Jackson wanted to make the sure the Indians were not going to interfere with the white man, release the Indians from the states harmful laws, allow them to find peace and joy in their own way under their rules, and become a civilized community.
The Cherokees were not the only native tribe that was facing the problems the United States government and independent states. There were plenty other native tribes that had to battle the power of other states “The Seminole tribe had land disputes with the state of Florida. The Creek Indians fought many battles against the federal army so they could keep their land in the states of Alabama and Georgia. The Chickisaw and Choctaw had disputes with the state of Mississippi. To ensure peace the government forced these five tribes called the Five Civilized Tribes to move out of their lands that they had lived on for generations and to move to land given to them in parts of Oklahoma.“4 The land in Oklahoma at the time had no value to the government and this was a great opportunity to protect these tribes and allow them to learn the white man’s culture. It was not only the Cherokee tribe facing the hatred amongst the states in an effort to be removed for the states own benefit.
The Cherokee tribe started battling against the newly formed laws that violated their rights as citizens and as an independent nation, which led to the court case Cherokee Nation vs. Georgia in 1831. To represent the Cherokees in this case, their chief and leader John Ross spoke to resolve the disputes over the disrespect towards the Cherokees. Chief Ross found support from people such as David Crockett in the Republican Party to fight against the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, the Cherokees lost the case since the Supreme Court saw that the Cherokees didn’t have complete control of the land and wasn’t exactly an independent nation.
However, in the Worcester vs. Georgia court case, the Supreme Court directed their favor to the Cherokees. The Supreme Court finally recognized the Cherokees as an independent nation and stated that the removal laws were illegal and unconstitutional towards to the Cherokee law. This ruling angered President Jackson in his effort to remove the Cherokees from the land that he desired. The only solution to President Jackson’s dilemma is if the Cherokees agreed to the removal of the treaty and in 1835, he found the answer in the Treaty of New Echota. In 1826, the Georgia legislature offered Cherokee representative John Quincy Adams to negotiate a removal treaty and being wise he refused this offer. If it wasn’t for the Treaty, the Cherokees would have had a chance to remain in their ancestral land, thanks to the Supreme Court giving them another opportunity to stay.
Adams refused the offer and was then threatened the nullification of the current treaty, which led to the Cherokees willing to negotiate. Major Ridge, his son John Ridge, and Elias Boudinot represented and led the Cherokee nation into signing the Treaty of new Echota. To make sure that the whole native tribe agreed on the Treaty, many signatures were required to make it pass “Chief John Ross gathered 16,000 signatures of Cherokees who opposed removal. However, once the treaty was ratified by the US Senate it was official: the Cherokee could now be removed.”5. This sold all the land the Cherokee nation worked for to the United States Government and opened the door of opportunity for them to be removed. This treaty illegally violated Cherokee law, but this was all the government needed to begin the removal of the Cherokees.
Soon after the reelection of Andrew Jackson, the Georgia legislature began passing a series of laws to stop the authority of the Cherokees and expand state law over the Cherokee territory. For instance, Cherokee officials were not allowed to meet for legislative purposes, white people were prohibited to live in a Cherokee county without a permit even if they were married, and Cherokees were banned from testifying in court cases that involved white people. In late 1829, gold was discovered in parts of Georgia and rush for gold increased the want of the Cherokees removed from the land. In an attempt to give the Cherokees a chance to leave, President Jackson gave them a letter advising them to move west. Since the Cherokees were prohibited from digging gold, their land that they lived on was surveyed in anticipation of their removal and distribution of land to the white Georgians.
The Cherokees became outraged from all the new laws, especially since many Cherokees were mixed-blooded landowners who were associated with the white culture. The new laws made it illegal for them to conduct business, so the National Council tried to sue the state in federal courts in support of the Cherokees. Approaching the end of despair, President Jackson met with the National Councils leader John Ridge in Washington where John Ridge was advised to accept the removal of the Cherokees. Ridge, who was close to giving in to his terms, was promised to receive western land titles, self-government, reconstruction assistance, and many other long term benefits. Despite all the offers proposed to the Cherokees, they were still hesitant in giving up such memorable land that their ancestors lived on.
After the compromise between the Cherokee nations, they finally gave in to the offer of the removal. After a week of negotiations, the United States agreed to pay the Cherokees about 5 million dollars for educational purposes, the title for the amount of land in Indian Territory and the rest of the Cherokee land east of the Mississippi River. At first, the Cherokees were allowed to stay in the state of Georgia and become citizens as long as they resided on the few acres of land provided, but this was eventually terminated by President Andrew Jackson. “In 1838 the removal of the Cherokee began. General Winfield Scott, along with several thousand men, moved the Cherokee's out of their homes and into stockades in Tennessee. However, the roundup of the Cherokee from their homes was just part of the story. From the stockades several groups of 1,000 Cherokee were forced on a march from Tennessee to Indian Territory (present day Oklahoma).”6
The Trail of Tears was not an easy journey with limitations on food and no time for anyone to stop and rest from this death walk “The trip was harrowing. Many people died along the way from hunger, exposure, disease, and exhaustion. The trail was particularly hard on children and the elderly who died in the greatest numbers. Even before starting their trip on the Trail of Tears the Cherokee had to first survive the poor sanitation and close quarters of the camps.” 7 According to records, there was no account of who started and finished the Trail of Tears, but it was estimated that about 16, 000 Cherokees attempted this devastating journey, but 2,000 Cherokees passed away on the way to their new western lands. After the movement to their new home in the west of the Mississippi, they were greeted with hostility from the Cherokees that were already established there. As a complete unit, the combined Cherokees created schools, farms, and towns with the complete assistance promised from Washington. ”By 1837, the Jackson administration had removed 46,000 Native American people from their land east of the Mississippi, and had secured treaties which led to the removal of a slightly larger number. Most members of the five southeastern nations had been relocated west, opening 25 million acres of land to white settlement and to slavery”7
Most white people in the 1830’s were either on the supportive side of the Cherokees or the greedy gold-digging side who was impatiently waiting for the Cherokees to be removal for their own benefit. This opening of southern land was also an opportunity to use for the expansion of slavery in the south. It was a terrible tragedy that the Cherokees had to completely leave behind their belongings and ancestral lands that they have been living on for years. All for the greed of wealth, this catastrophe went to the point of making laws forbidding them to dig up any of their precious gold. In the end, they had to be forcefully removed by the army leaving 10 percent of the Cherokees who survived the Trail of Tears in the western lands to cultivate and reconstruct their civilization.