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The Trail of Tears


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Cherokee Nation

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Cherokee had long called western Georgia home. The Cherokee Nation continued in their enchanted land until 1828. It was then that the rumored gold, for which De Soto had relentlessly searched, was discovered in the North Georgia mountains.

~In his book Don't Know Much About History, Kenneth C. Davis writes:

Hollywood has left the impression that the great Indian wars came in the Old West during the late 1800's, a period that many think of simplistically as the "cowboy and Indian" days. But in fact that was a "mopping up" effort. By that time the Indians were nearly finished, their subjugation complete, their numbers decimated. The killing, enslavement, and land theft had begun with the arrival of the Europeans. But it may have reached its nadir when it became federal policy under President (Andrew) Jackson.~

The Cherokees in 1828 were not nomadic savages. In fact, they had assimilated many European-style customs, including the wearing of gowns by Cherokee women. They built roads, schools and churches, had a system of representational government, and were farmers and cattle ranchers. A Cherokee alphabet, the "Talking Leaves" was perfected by Sequoyah.

In 1830 the Congress of the United States passed the "Indian Removal Act." Although many Americans were against the act, most notably Tennessee Congressman Davy Crockett, it passed anyway. President Jackson quickly signed the bill into law. The Cherokees attempted to fight removal legally by challenging the removal laws in the Supreme Court and by establishing an independent Cherokee Nation. At first the court seemed to rule against the Indians. In Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, the Court refused to hear a case extending Georgia's laws on the Cherokee because they did not represent a sovereign nation. In 1832, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Cherokee on the same issue in Worcester v. Georgia. In this case Chief Justice John Marshall ruled that the Cherokee Nation was sovereign, making the removal laws invalid. The Cherokee would have to agree to removal in a treaty. The treaty then would have to be ratified by the Senate.

By 1835 the Cherokee were divided and despondent. Most supported Principal Chief John Ross who fought the encroachment of whites starting with the 1832 land lottery. However, a minority(less than 500 out of 17,000 Cherokee in North Georgia) followed Major Ridge, his son John, and Elias Boudinot who advocated removal. The Treaty of New Echota, signed by Ridge and members of the Treaty Party in 1835, gave Jackson the legal document he needed to remove the First Americans. Ratification of the treaty by the United States Senate sealed the fate of the Cherokee. Among the few who spoke out against the ratification were Daniel Webster and Henry Clay, but it passed by a single vote. In 1838 the United States began the removal to Oklahoma, fulfilling a promise the government made to Georgia in 1802. Ordered to move on the Cherokee, General John Wool resigned his command in protest, delaying the action. His replacement, General Winfield Scott arrived at New Echota on May 17, 1838 with 7000 men. Early that summer General Scott and the United States.

In one of the saddest episodes of our brief history, men, women, and children were taken from their land, herded into makeshift forts with minimal facilities and food, then forced to march a thousand miles(Some made part of the trip by boat in equally horrible conditions). Under the generally indifferent army commanders, human losses for the first groups of Cherokee removed were extremely high. John Ross made an urgent appeal to Scott, requesting that the general let his people lead the tribe west. General Scott agreed. Ross organized the Cherokee into smaller groups and let them move separately through the wilderness so they could forage for food. Although the parties under Ross left in early fall and arrived in Oklahoma during the brutal winter of 1838-39, he significantly reduced the loss of life among his people. About 4000 Cherokee died as a result of the removal. The route they traversed and the journey itself became known as "The Trail of Tears" or, as a direct translation from Cherokee, "The Trail Where They Cried" ("Nunna daul Tsuny").

Ironically, just as the Creeks killed Chief McIntosh for signing the Treaty of Indian Springs, the Cherokee killed Major Ridge, his son and Elias Boudinot for signing the Treaty of New Echota. Chief John Ross, who valiantly resisted the forced removal of the Cherokee, lost his wife Quatie in the march. And so a country formed fifty years earlier on the premise "...that all men are created equal, and that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among these the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.." brutally closed the curtain on a culture that had done no wrong.  

The Legend of the Cherokee Rose.

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No better symbol exists of the pain and suffering of the Trail Where They Cried than the Cherokee Rose(pictured at top of page). The mothers of the Cherokee grieved so much that the chiefs prayed for a sign to lift the mother's spirits and give them strength to care for their children. From that day forward, a beautiful new flower, a rose, grew wherever a mother's tear fell to the ground. The rose is white, for the mother's tears. It has a gold center, for the gold taken from the Cherokee lands, and seven leaves on each stem that represent the seven Cherokee clans that made the journey. To this day, the Cherokee Rose prospers along the route of the "Trail of Tears". The Cherokee Rose is now the official flower of the State of Georgia.


John Ross

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John Ross
a North Georgia Notable

Born:Turkeytown(near Center), Alabama, October 3, 1790
Died:Washington, D.C., August 1, 1866

Cherokee leader

John Ross was the first and only elected Chief of the Cherokee Nation from the time it was formed until his death in 1866. Highly regarded for his role in leading the fight against removal and leading his people to their exile in Oklahoma, controversy was his constant companion once the Georgia Cherokee arrived.

Ross had a private tutor as a youth. Although only one-eighth Cherokee, Ross played Native American games and kept his Indian ties. Early in his life he was postmaster in Rossville, Ga. and a clerk in a trading firm. The town he founded as Rossville Landing grew much larger than it's namesake as Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Growing up with the constant raids of whites and Indians, Ross witnessed much of the brutality on the early American frontier. The future Walker County was a hunting ground for both white and Cherokee raiding parties, strategically located midpoint between head of Coosa and Col. John Sevier's band of marauders from Tennessee.

"Little John" served as a Lieutenant in the Creek War, fighting with many famous Americans including Sam Houston. When future president and Cherokee oppressor Andrew Jackson called the Battle of Horseshoe Bend "one of the great victories of the American frontier," losing 50 men while killing 500 Creek men, women, and children, John Ross penned the words.

Ross was invaluable to Moravians who established a mission on the Federal Highway near present-day Brainerd, Tennessee. Serving as translator for the missionaries, just as he had for Return J. Miegs, Indian agent for the Cherokee, Ross acted as liaison between the missionaries, Miegs, and the tribal council. He proposed selling land to the Moravians for the school, a radical idea in a society that did not understand the concept.

Ross was viewed as astute and likable, and frequently visited Washington. After the death of James Vann, Ross joined Charles Hicks, with whom he worked, and Major Ridge as a member of the Cherokee Triumvirate. During the trip to negotiate the Treaty of 1819 in Washington, D. C. he became recognized for his efforts.

Ross, one of the richest men in North Georgia before 1838 had a number of ventures including a 200 acre farm and owned a number of slaves. He would not speak Cherokee in council because he felt his command of the language was weak.

After the death of Charles Hicks, and others in the early 1820's, settlers believed that the Cherokee time was short. Ross and others decided to make legal moves to prevent the forced removal including organizing the Cherokee tribe as a nation, with its own Constitution, patterned after the Constitution of the United States of America. As president of the Constitutional Convention that convened in the summer of 1827 he was the obvious choice for Principal Chief in the first elections in 1828. He held this post until his death in 1866. Ridge, his close friend and ally, would serve the last years in Georgia as "counselor," for lack of a better word to describe the roll.

Over the first 10 years of his rule he fought the white man not weapons but with words. As the encroachment of the settlers grew, he turned to the press to make his case. When the Land Lottery of 1832 divided Cherokee land among the whites he filed suit in the white man's courts and won, only to see the ruling go unenforced. His old friend Major Ridge and the Treaty Party signed away the Cherokee land in 1835. Ross got 16,000 signatures of Cherokees to show the party did not speak for a majority of the tribe, but Andrew Jackson forced the treaty through Congress. He lost his first wife, Quatie, on the "Trail Where They Cried," or as it is more commonly known, the Trail of Tears

After his forced departure from the State of Georgia, Ross was embroiled in a number of controversies. Internal and external conflict kept him busy for the rest of his life.

Buried:Ross Cemetery
Park Hill
Cherokee County

Elias Boudinot

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a North Georgia Notable

Born 1800, Pine Log, Cherokee Nation East (now Georgia)
Died June 22, 1839, Park Hill, Cherokee Nation West (now Oklahoma)

Editor of the Cherokee Phoenix, Leader of the Treaty Party

Although he lived less than 40 years, few people had a more profound effect on the Cherokee Nation than Elias Boudinot. His legacy includes:

  • Editor, Cherokee Phoenix
  • Leader of the Treaty Party
  • Signed Treaty of New Echota

Born in 1800 (shortly after the arrival of his lifelong friend and cousin John Ridge) Gallegina, or Buck, Watie would be educated by the Moravians at Spring Place, not far from his parent's home in the Oothcaloga Valley.  he was the elder brother of Stand Watie. He was sent to Cornwall, Connecticut, to attend the American Boarding School. He enrolled in school as Elias Boudinot after having met and been impressed by another Elias Boudinot, a writer, poet and statesman who was once President of the United States under the Articles of Confederation, and director of the U. S. Mint.

In 1818 he journeyed north to the American Board School in Cornwall, Connecticut. During this journey he visited two former American presidents, Thomas Jefferson at Monticello and James Madison at Montpelier. Both were pleased to see young Buck and the other Cherokee and Choctaw youths who accompanied him.

Moving north from Virginia the young men stopped in Washington, D. C. and Burlington, New Jersey, where Buck met with Dr. Elias Boudinot, a writer, poet and statesman who is probably best-known for his election to a one-year term as President of the United States under the Articles of Confederation, his role as director of the U. S. Mint for many years, and his fight for Negro rights in New Jersey. The doctor took a strong liking to Gallegina and offered to support the Cherokee financially. Buck agreed to use his name from that day forward.

During his stay at the college Buck would visit home, frequently traveling with his friend John Ridge. They had many secrets to share, including the women that each had fallen in love with. In Buck's case, young Harriet Gold was the woman of his dreams.

Harriet's father reluctantly agreed to the wedding, but requested secrecy because of the angry reaction of the town to the engagement of John Ridge and Sally Northrup. It did no good. Within days word of the engagement was out and Miss Gold was burned in effigy on the town square. When she entered her church she was asked to leave. When the couple wed in March, 1826, it was the beginning of what was, by all accounts, a very happy union. Unfortunately, the fervor of racism that swept the town after the second interracial marriage forced the school to close its doors forever.

About this time the Cherokee tribe completed a 25-year move towards nationalism. The establishment of a capital at New Echota, creation of a bicameral council and Supreme Court was the formal start of the Cherokee Nation. Boudinot was selected as editor of the national newspaper because of his experience, his ability to use both English and the new "Talking Leaves," a written language contributed by the warrior Sequoyah, and his friendship with Samuel Worcester, known to the Cherokee as "The Messenger."

After touring the United States on a speaking tour to raise money to print the Cherokee Phoenix, Boudinot returned to New Echota and his new home. It was only a short walk from his house to the presses of the Phoenix. Worcestor moved to the Cherokee capital as well. The first issue rolled off the press in February, 1828, and circulation grew quickly. Boudinot wrote on a wide variety of subjects from the settlers' thirst for land and gold to more mundane topics such as the evils of alcohol.

In 1829 Editor Boudinot's pay increased from $300.00 to $400.00 annually and he got an assistant. Harriet ran the Boudinot house which included a school, hospital (of sorts), boarding house for relatives, and a Christian mission. Strangely, in the autumn of 1829 both Boudinot and John Ridge strongly supported the enactment of the death penalty for giving away Cherokee land. It was under the terms of this law that Boudinot and Ridge (and Ridge's father, Major Ridge) would lose their lives 10 years later.

Buried: Worchester Cemetery
Tahlequah, Cherokee County, Oklahoma



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Sequoyah(a.k.a George Gist)
a North Georgia Notable

Born: 1776 near Tuskeegee, Tennessee
Died: 1843, near Tyler, Texas.

Developed the Cherokee alphabet

Near the town of Tanasee, and not far from the almost mythical town of Chote lies Taskigi(Tuskeegee), home of Sequoyah. In this peaceful valley setting Wut-teh, the daughter of a Cherokee Chief married Nathaniel Gist, a Virginia fur trader. The warrior Sequoyah was born of this union in 1776.

Probably born handicapped, and thus the name Sequoyah (Sikwo-yi is Cherokee for "pig's foot"), Sequoyah fled Tennessee as a youth because of the encroachment of whites. He initially moved to Georgia, where he acquired skills working with silver. While in the state, a man who purchased one of his works suggested that he sign his work, like the white silversmiths had begun to do. Sequoyah considered the idea and since he did not know how to write he visited Charles Hicks, a wealthy farmer in the area who wrote English. Hicks showed Sequoyah how to spell his name, writing the letters on a piece of paper. Sequoyah began to toy with the idea of a Cherokee writing system that year(1809).

He moved to Willstown, Alabama, and enlisted in the Cherokee Regiment, fighting in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, which effectively ended the war against the Creek Redsticks. During the war, he became convinced of the necessity of literacy for his people. He and other Cherokees were unable to write letters home, read military orders, or record events as they occurred.

After the war, he began in earnest to create a writing system. Using a phonetic system, where each sound made in speech was represented by a symbol, he created the "Talking Leaves", 85 letters that make up the Cherokee syllabary (he would later add another symbol, making the total 86). His little girl Ayoka easily learned this method of communication. He demonstrated his syllabary to his cousin, George Lowrey by sending Ayoka outside the house, then asking Lowrey to answer a question. Sequoyah wrote the answer down on a piece of paper, then had Ayoka read the answer to Lowrey. Lowrey encouraged Sequoyah to demonstrate the syllabary in public. A short time later in a Cherokee Court in Chattooga, he read an argument about a boundary line from a sheet of paper. Word spread quickly of Sequoyah's invention. In 1821, 12 years after the original idea, the Cherokee Nation adopted Sequoyah's alphabet as their own. Within months thousands of Cherokee became literate.

The crippled warrior moved west to Arkansas. Mining and selling salt for money he was active in politics. In 1824 the National Council at New Echota struck a silver medal in his honor. Later, publication began on the first Native American newspaper, The Cherokee Phoenix in the same town. The painting of Sequoyah was made in 1828 on a trip to Washington to negotiate terms for removal from Arkansas to Oklahoma. Leaving the state in 1829, he had lived in Oklahoma for 10 years when Principal Chief John Ross led North Georgia Cherokee on the "Trail of Tears" to the state.

He died in Mexico (now Texas) in 1843 after possibly visiting family in a band of Chickamauga Cherokee who had moved there earlier.

Perhaps the most eloquent praise paid to Sequoyah was by H.A. Scomp, member of Emory College faculty, when he said "...perhaps the most remarkable man who has ever lived on Georgia soil was neither a politician, nor a soldier, nor an ecclesiastic, nor a scholar, but merely a Cherokee Indian of mixed blood. And strange to say, this Indian acquired permanent fame, neither expecting or seeking it."


Major Ridge

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North Georgia Notable

Born 1771, Hiwassee, Cherokee Nation
Died June 22, 1839, White Rock Creek, AR.(disputed)

Cherokee Chief

man finishes describing his vision to the highest Cherokee council by saying anyone who denies this dream will be struck dead by the Cherokee Mother. Ridge sits silent as a great chatter arises amongst the chiefs. The vision is decidedly anti-settler, possibly provoked by Tecumseh, who issues a call for war shortly before the meeting in May of 1811. Rising to speak after the room had quieted, Ridge's voice fills the hall. "What you have heard is not good. It will lead us to war with the United States, and we shall suffer. It is not a talk from the Great Spirit, and I stand here and call it false. Let the death come upon me. I test their words."

Before he finishes speaking men are upon him, fighting him, trying to stab him with knifes. Cherokees in support of Ridge fight back. As the battle rages, Ridge stands, clothes torn and bloody. The fighting pauses. Louder than before Ridge repeats "I stand here and call it false," adding this time, "I continue to live so these prophets are deceivers." Again fighting breaks out, but this time the elder chiefs stop it.

His words alter the course of the Cherokee Nation. Not for the first time, nor the last, Ridge takes a stand for something in which he believes. It was a trait that would mark him throughout his life as a visionary, and end in his death for the betrayal of his people.

Born Kah-nung-da-tla-geh in 1771, by most people's guess, Man Who Walks on Mountaintop is the son of Oganstota, Dutsi or Tar-chee. His mother, a mixed blood Cherokee, belongs to the Deer Clan. In 1785 the Cherokee leaders sign the Treaty of Hopewell, in which many of the tribe put great faith. By the time Ridge becomes a warrior in 1788, the agreement at Hopewell has been repeatedly broken by both sides and the Chickamauga (Ridge's tribe) are in revolt.

In his first war party, the future member of the Cherokee Triumvirate witnesses the atrocity of war. Cherokee and settlers battle across southeast Tennessee. Near present-day Maryville the Cherokee attack settlers in the field and turn on John Gillespie's station, killing all the men in the stockade. Ridge's leader, John Watts saves the lives of the 28 women and children. They then attack 2 more stations on the Holsten, and head for the Smoky Mountains. John Seiver ambushes the war party. Ridge escapes, wounded, but 145 Cherokee die.

Exposure to this kind of fighting continues for years. By the mid 1790's Ridge, as did many of his fellow Chickamaugan, begin to desire an end to the fighting. "I will hunt deer, not men," he tells his fianc%uFFFDe Susanna. His tribe decimated, two separate events that affect Ridge occur. He moves to Pine Log, in present-day Bartow County, Georgia, and under orders of President Washington, the United States begins to introduce technology to the Cherokee in the form of spinning wheels and cotton combs.

Now married, Ridge is surprised to find when he returns home that Susanna has woven cloth worth more money than all the pelts he captures in six months of hunting. Pleasantly surprised. And the men he begins to associate with in Pine Log are not warriors but farmers. His association with James Vann and Charles Hicks influences Ridge towards ending the fighting with settlers, and Ridge, in turn, influences the Cherokee Nation to ending the constant warring.

By 1795 a change had overcome the warrior. Representing Pine Log in council Ridge proposes a modest change in the ancient vengeance code. This change, which passes, prompts Ridge's rise. He is 25(or so) at the time. By 1800 the tribal council acknowledges the Cherokee Triumvirate of Ridge, Vann and Hicks. They often disagree with the elders and frequently win.

Ridge turns his attention to his family as Vann and Hicks lead the fights in council. Susanna gives birth to a girl, then a boy, John. A third, another boy, dies at birth. Later additions to his family would include Walter or "Watty" and Sarah, who they called Sally. His brother David Watie (or Oowatie) and sister-in-law, living nearby, give birth to Gallegina or "Buck" and Stand. It is during this time that the United States and the State of Georgia legally agree to the removal of "indians" from the state at a later date.

By 1805 Ridge's attention returns to the council, and he, Hicks and Vann are extremely unhappy at what they see. Tribal elders, most notably Doublehead, are getting rich at the expense of the tribe. The Cherokee Triumvirate lead a group in a complex series of events generally referred to as "The Revolt of the Young Chiefs."

Doublehead betrays the Cherokee on many occasions. After the cession of Wofford's tract in 1804, Doublehead begins to rapidly sell the real assets of the tribe under the direction of Indian Agent Return J. Miegs. By 1806 a significant portion of remaining land is sold, with most of the proceeds going to Doublehead and those who aligned with him. Vann and Ridge break with the council. Although almost entirely alone at first, they slowly build support across the nation. Within 2 years a large vocal group support the two rebellious chiefs.

In a bold plan in August, 1807, possibly approved by the tribal council, Ridge, Hicks, and Vann plot the murder Doublehead. Deeply involved, neither the federal government or the Cherokee clan of Doublehead take any action against Ridge. He turns back a settler near Vann's Tavern, and later, in the presence of Meigs, usurps his power on the council. The council quickly begins to nationalize and Ridge is put in charge of the first Cherokee police, the Lighthorse Patrol. At Ridge's insistence the ancient blood vengeance code is abolished.

Just as the Triumvirate reaches it's acme, Hicks quits (or is forced to quit) his job assisting Miegs and Vann is killed. Now Ridge, who desperately seeks to lead his nation, sees his power in council dwindling. It is now that the man who has the vision addressed the council and Ridge rises to call him a liar. This is a dramatic moment in Cherokee History. Once again reinstated for this bold move, the council appoints Ridge to journey to Tecumseh's council with the Creeks and others. After the meeting, Ridge takes Tecumseh aside and explains that if Tecumseh comes to the Cherokee council, Ridge will personally kill him.

With the onset of the Creek War(1813-1814), Ridge raises an army of Cherokee volunteers. Elected a leader of the unit, Andrew Jackson appoints him Major, a title Ridge uses for the rest of his life. It is said that Ridge's canoe is the first to cross the Tallapoosa River as the Cherokee attack from the rear during the Battle of Horseshoe Bend(1814). He leads the Cherokee during the Seminole War(1818) as well and his daughter dies during child-birth.

After the end of the Seminole War Ridge returns home to an elected position as Speaker of the council in the lower house. His wealth expands to rival, but not surpass, that of his late friend James Vann. The Ridge house is completely remodeled and records indicate the vast holdings as including:

  • 1141 peach trees
  • 418 apple trees
  • 280 acres under cultivation
  • a ferry
  • a store
  • 30 black slaves
  • other slaves including Creek captives

~Ridge was known as being kind to his slaves. For years Susanna Wickett, his mixed-blood wife would tell him, "Remember, they are people, too."~

During the 1820's the Cherokee Nation is institutionalized, and John Ross wins election as tribal leader, a position that Ridge wanted for most of his adult life. He is happy his close friend and ally John Ross gets elected. After the election Ridge assumes a position that could best be described as "counselor" and for the next 7 years advises Principal Chief Ross on matters before council.

It is during this time that John, his son, decides to marry a white woman. The woman's parents move to prevent the marriage on religious grounds and Ridge confronts the Moravians with a direct question -- "Is there anything in your Bible to prevent such a marriage?" The Moravians assure him that there is not, but they are concerned that the powerful chief does not believe them. Shortly after the women's parents relent and John Ridge and she were married.

Now aging, Ridge sees his son John and Buck Oolwatie(Elias Boudinout) as the future of the tribe. Buck, as editor of the Cherokee Phoenix, eventually espouses removal to Oklahoma as a viable solution to the problem of white encroachment. Ridge is convinced over a period of several years, but John Ross and an overwhelming majority of the Cherokee are against removal.

In December, 1835, Ridge, his son John, Buck Oolwatie (Elias Boudinot), and Stand Watie sign the Treaty of New Echota, which results three years later in The Trail of Tears. Ross promptly gathers 16,000 signatures of Cherokees who oppose removal. Indian-hater Andrew Jackson forces the treaty through Congress by a single vote.

Ridge did not wait to move to Oklahoma. Between 1836 and 1838 he and hundreds of other Cherokee travel to their new home. Along the way he stops to meet his old friend Andrew Jackson at the Hermitage.

Three years later, in clear violation of constitutional law as interpreted by the Supreme Court, the Cherokee are forced to leave for Oklahoma because of Ridge's conviction in his beliefs.

After Major Ridge signs The Treaty of New Echota he says, "I have just signed my death warrant," and indeed he had. Ridge, John and Buck lay dead less than six months afterr the arrival of the Cherokee in the Oklahoma Territory. In an orchestrated plot Ridge is shot while travelling to Arkansas. A few minutes later a group of Cherokee drag his son John from his home and stab 43 times in front of his wife and children. Elias Boudinot is murdered shortly after leaving Samuel Worcester's house.

As brilliant a statesman and politician that Ridge had been, he is forever doomed to a role of betrayer of Cherokee Nation. No other Cherokee has a greater affect on the tribe.

Did Ridge really betray his nation?
Major Ridge's house is now the Chieftain's Museum on Georgia's Historic High Country's Chieftain's Trail.

In August, 1997, the editors of Welcome to North Georgia named Ridge as the most influencial person in the makeup of today's North Georgia.

Birth:   1771, USA Death:   Jun. 22, 1839, USA  
Born in Cherokee Nation; Deer clan. Husb. of Susanna Wickett. Cherokee Washington,D.C. As Speaker of the Cherokee Nation, he was considered by them and non-Indians alike as a powerful intellect and voice of reason, as well as a great speechmaker. Father of
John, Nancy, Sarah(m.Paschal)& "Watie". Assassinated by Cherokee Indians who were political rivals.
Polson Cemetery
Delaware County
Delaware County
Oklahoma, USA

Trail of Tears Map

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The Trail of Tears lives as one of the darkest episodes of American history. Called "Nunna daul Tsuny" or "Trail where they cried" by the Cherokee, more than 4,000 men, women and children perished as a direct result of the events that occured.

Trail of Tears Painting

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In the fall and winter of 1838-1839, the Cherokees were driven from their homes and pushed along a dreary march westward.
Of sixteen thousand who started that miserable journey, more than four thousand died along the way from disease, hunger and exposure. The march lasted nearly a year and ever after it was known as:
"The Trail Where They Cried..."
"Getsika Hvda Anegvi....."

Cherokee Forts

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As settlers moved into the area these forts were built for the express purpose of housing the Cherokee before their removal. Sources list the following forts (Counties are listed based on present political boundaries):

One of seven[sic] such forts erected in the Cherokee territory, Gilmer was the temporary headquarters of Gen. Winfield Scott, under whose command the removal was effected. The reluctant Indians were brought here and guarded until the westward march began

Pickens County

Fort Newnan (Talking Rock Fort)
Cherokee County
Fort Buffington (East of Canton) Fort Sixes (Camp Hinar Sixes)
Forsyth County
Fort Campbell Fort Scudders (Fort Eaton, Frogtown)
Lumpkin County
Fort Dahlonega (or Fort Embry)
Towns County
Fort Chastain
Walker County
Fort Cumming (LaFayette)
Murray County
Fort Hoskins Camp (Fort) Gilmer : Fort Gilmer, built in 1838 to garrison U.S. troops ordered to enforce the removal from this region of the last Cherokee Indians under terms of the New Echota treaty of 1835.
Gilmer County
Fort Hetzel (East Ellijay)
Gordon County
Fort New Echota (Fort Wool)
Floyd County
Fort Rome
Polk County
Fort Cedartown
Bartow County
Fort Means (Kingston)  

Among the other Cherokee Removal Forts were Fort Red Clay, Fort Cass (about four miles south of present-day Charleston), Fort Marr in Old Fort, all in Tennessee and Fort Butler in Murphy, North Carolina.

Cherokee Forts are built

Earliest of the forts in Georgia, known as Camp Hinar Sixes, was built in September, 1830, shortly after the Congress passed the Indian Removal Act of 1830. This camp was used to house members of the infamous Georgia Guard who took it upon themselves to brutalize the Cherokee even though at this time the settlers were illegal immigrants. In one instance in 1830, during the construction of the camp the Guard, without provocation, destroyed equipment that Cherokee miners were using to extract gold. The Georgia Guard did not officially exist until December of that year.

After Cherokee Nation vs. Georgia, in which the Supreme Court refused to hear a case about Georgia extending its laws on the Cherokee, construction on the forts sped up. A year later the settlers were stunned when the Court ruled that Georgia could not extend its laws on a sovereign nation such as the Cherokee, but were again heartened by Andy Jackson's rumored statement (he probably never said it), "Well, John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it."

Georgia Settlers and Removal

Settlers were greatly divided on the issue of removal. Families that had lived in the Nation before the Georgia Gold Rush tended to be more supportive of the Cherokee. One reason for the strong bond was the acceptance of them by the tribe. White settlers were easily accepted into Cherokee society. The reverse was not true. In general, Georgians viewed the Cherokee as somewhat higher on the social level than slaves, but not much. Another reason that settlers were greatly divided was the support Cherokee had given struggling early settlers in their time of need.

Some settlers would taunt the Cherokee, telling them the forts were to be their new home. With great concern, Principal Chief John Ross and Whitepath, among others, journeyed to Washington to meet with Jackson. Jackson hypocritically told them "You shall remain in your ancient land as long as grass grows and water runs." In early 1835, before the Treaty of New Echota, work began on road improvements to move the Cherokee to the starting point for their removal.

Military Operations begin

After Major Ridge and other members of the Treaty Party sign the Treaty of New Echota, The Principal People hoped their leaders would get it modified so they might stay on their ancestral land. Even while a Cherokee delegation was in Washington Governor George Gilmer of Georgia and Secretary of War Joel Poinsett were plotting the invasion.

Local operations began on May 18, 1838, mostly carried out by Georgia Guard under the command of Colonel William Lindsey. The first Cherokee round-up under orders from United States General Winfield Scott started on May 25, 1838 with General Charles Floyd in charge of field operations.

General Scott was shocked during a trip to inspect Fort New Echota when he overheard members of The Guard say that they would not be happy until all Cherokee were dead. As a result, he issued meticulous orders on conduct and allowed actions during the action. Troops were to treat tribal members "with kindness and humanity, free from every strain of violence." Each Cherokee was to receive meat and flour or corn regardless of age. Scott's orders were disobeyed by most troops that were not directly under his control.

Occupying the Forts

Some Cherokee reported to the forts, not knowing the fate that awaited them, simply because John Ross had told them this is what they should do. Others stayed and were working in the fields when the soldiers came. The Georgia Guard had identified Cherokee homes. Aided by troops from Alabama, Florida, North and South Carolina, and Tennessee, Georgia militia would typically approach a home and enter the house. The resident(s) would then be forced to leave. The amount of time given residents to collect belongings varied greatly. Some were forced to leave immediately while others had enough time to sell valuables to local settlers at bargain rates. There are numerous instances where settlers attempted to intervene when the Guard was being particularly rough on a family.

Conditions at the forts were horrible. Food intended for the tribe was sold to locals. What little the Cherokee had brought with them was stolen and sold. Living areas were filled with excrement. Birth rates among the Cherokee dropped to near zero during the months of captivity. Cherokee women and children were repeatedly raped. Soldiers forced their captives to perform acts of depravation so disgusting they cannot be told here. One member of the Guard would later write, "During the Civil War I watched as hundreds of men died, including my own brother, but none of that compares to what we did to the Cherokee Indians."

Towards the Trail

For a number of reasons nothing seemed to go right during the removal. The round up that began in mid-May was completed on June 2, 1838. Some Cherokee were forced to live in these conditions for up to five months before the start on the journey whose name is "Nunna daul Tsuny (Trail Where They Cried)."

As many as one-third of the 4,000 deaths as a direct result of the removal can be attributed to conditions in the prisons. Unfortunately, many of the Cherokee Removal Forts are unmarked and lost to time.

Update, May 2003: Since this article first appear on About North Georgia in 1998, interest in the Cherokee Removal Forts has grown. This article was reprinted in the Trail of Tears Newsletter and members of the organization have been working on preserving sites in Georgia and other states.

Built to protect the settlers from the Cherokee in 1814, Fort Marr is the only remaining portion of a Cherokee Removal Fort. This blockhouse, built in each corner of the standard removal fort featured gunports drilled every two feet or so(inset).


Monument at Jerome

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But, for one man in Jerome, Missouri, the Trail of Tears has not been forgotten.  Or, better yet, by his own testimony, the ghosts of the Cherokee who once traveled the old trail, would not let him forget.  According to Larry Baggett, an eccentric elderly gentleman who lived just outside of Jerome along old Route 66, he would often be awakened in the middle of the night with a knock on his door.  However, when he would get up to answer, no one would be there.  Even the sleeping dogs just next to the door were not disturbed.


Sometime later, Larry was visited by an old Cherokee Indian who he said looked to be about 150 years old.  The old Indian told Baggett that his house was built on the Trail of Tears and it was blocking the path.


The Indian  further conveyed how they were made to walk hundreds of miles and how the Cherokee had camped right near Larry's home.  Sometime previously, Larry had built a stone wall adjacent to his house and the Indian told him to put stairs there because the spirits were unable to get over the wall.  Well, Larry did just that.  He built those stairs to nowhere and when they were complete, the knocking stopped.

Baggett originally acquired the property with the intention of building a campground, but these plans were changed when his wife died.  Instead he has built a tribute to the Trail of Tears.  At the entrance to his property is a stone archway labeled "Trail of Tears" that sits between a statue of himself on one side, and another pouring water out of a bucket on the other side.  On the property is a number of stone walls, more statues, a wishing well, several rock gardens, and a sign that describes the plight of the American Indians who suffered along the Trail of Tears.  His big stone house is constructed around three living trees.

Larry himself, is as interesting as the place that he has constructed.  Though born in 1925, he claims to be only about 30 years old, because that's when he started living.  Only after a doctor gave him 18 months to live, because of two heart attacks and a severe case of diabetes, did his life begin.  Larry has a unique perspective on life and death and everything else in between, as he tells you about his astral travels, views on religion, astrology, and all manner of other topics.

Baggett's memorial has attracted all kinds of attention and has made him into a local legend as the media focuses on "local curiosities" and tourists seek out cultural oddities on old Route 66.  He has been featured on several local stations as well as in a documentary televised in Great Britain. 


The monument is located on an abandoned stretch of Route 66 near Jerome, Missouri about a quarter-mile from the remains of the former Stonydell Resort. 



Trail of Tears Painting

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The above poster shows the location of the Cherokee Nation prior to their forced removal to Oklahoma, as well as prominent individuals associated with the Cherokee removal, the routes of taken on the Trail of Tears, and the location of new Cherokee Nation. The poster was done in water colors by Judy Kirkland, a retired eighth grade Georgia Studies teacher at Harlem Middle School in Harlem, Georgia.

Capsule Biographies of people on the poster and others associated with the Trail of Tears, also done by Judy Kirkland:

Elias Boudinot (originally Buck Watie) -- I was John Ridge's cousin and Stand Watie's brother. I took my name from a patron. At school in Connecticut, I fell in love and married a white gir1, Harriet Gold. Her brother and neighbors burned her in effigy to show their displeasure. We had five children before she died. I became editor of The Cherokee Phoenix, a newspaper published in both Cherokee and English. I was part of the faction that signed the Treaty of New Echota. My house and property were not seized because of an agreement I had with Governor Lumpkin to wait until my family moved west. I had indeed moved west and was living with my second wife and six children when members of the Ross faction killed me. I was helping a neighbour build a house when three men asked for medicine. Halfway to the house they split my head with a tomahawk.

Reverend Jesse Bushyhead --I was a Cherokee who was a Baptist convert. I led my flock in prayer to try to help them while we were in the stockade at Camp Hetzel awaiting removal. One daughter died just before we crossed the Mississippi, but my wife gave birth to another daughter after we crossed the Mississippi River in January 1639. I was a friend to Sequoyah. My descendants include Robert Bushyhead who explores the music of his ancestors and performed on the tape you heard earlier.

Henry Clay --I was a white politician best known for the doctrine of states rights and nullification. I advocated the War of 1812, a protective tariff, and the national bank. I was also a strong supporter of slavery and the annexation of Texas. I became known as the Great Compromiser because I helped settle bitter disputes over slavery and did much to hold the nation together during the first half of the 1800's. I drafted the Missouri Compromise, the Compromise of 1850, and the compromise tariff that kept S.C. from seceding. I served in both the U. S.
House and Senate. I ran for president five times without winning. I was defeated by John Q. Adams but became his secretary of state. I was also defeated by Andrew Jackson who never liked me.  I thought the Schermerhorn treaty, or the Treaty of New Echota as it was called, was "un-just, dishonest, cruel, and short sighted in the extreme."

Sam Houston --I was born in Virginia but lived in Tennessee when I ran away at 15 to join the Cherokees.  They called me "Blackbird", and Chief Jolly let me stay for three years before he told me to return home to avoid problems with the surrounding whites.  I was appointed subagent to help supervise the removal of the Tennessee Cherokees to Arkansas, but when I wore Cherokee leggings to Washington, Secretary of War Calhoun quickly got rid of me.  I became governor of Tennessee and married Eliza Allen.  When she left me, I was Secretary of State, but I resigned and went back to the Cherokee.  This time they called me Ootsetee Ardetahskee, which translates Big Drink.  I was ignored in my addresses to Washington about the Indian removal until Jackson decided to send me to handle the affairs of the Texas Comanches.  There I became a leader who helped win Texas's independence from Mexico.  I married a soft-spoken girl who weaned me from the whiskey bottle.  I had always valued Jackson’s friendship and was on my way to bring the good news to him in person that Texas had been admitted to the union when he died.  I arrived at his bedside just a couple of hours too late.

Chief Junaluska-- I was born and grew up in what is now North Carolina and was friends with Will Thomas.  I led a war party that joined the army of Jacksa Chula Harjo at Horseshoe Bend.  I swam a river to get canoes and got the Cherokee forces behind the Red sticks so that we won the battle.  I also saved Jackson's life.  "If I had known that Jackson would drive us from our homes, I would have killed him that day at the Horse Shoe."  I thought he was a good man.  I could not believe that he ran us from our homes.  I led one of the groups that left on the Trail of Tears in October 1833 but I was determined to return home.  I walked bock to North Carolina travelling through woods and unoccupied districts to avoid recapture.  My friend Will Thomas helped me reclaim a former residence.  That state gave me citizenship rights.  My descendants still live there.

Andrew Jackson --I was President of the US when the Treaty of Removal was negotiated, but Van Buren had to execute the removal of the Cherokees.  I was the first president born in a log cabin, an orphan at 14.  I carried a scar from the American Revolution because I would not black on officer's boots.  When he struck me with his sword, I threw up my arm, but he cut my hand and head to the bone.
I become a lawyer in North Carolina and a prosecutor in Nashvi11e.  There I met Rachel.  We f e 11 in 1ove and were married on1y to 1earn two years later that her first husband had not divorced her when he said he did.  We were married again, but I fought many dues defending Rache1's honor.  I served in the House and the Senate representing Tennessee, but I 1iked riding the circuit for Superior Courts much better.
My troops nicknamed me "Old Hickory" because I was tough as wood in the War of 1812.  When I went to fight the Creeks after the Fort Mims massacre I had 2500 men including Davy Crockett.  After our victory at Horseshoe Bend, I sent Rachel a Creek orphan boy that we raised as our own until Lincoyer died of tuberculosis.  We never had children) but we adopted a twin boy from Rachel's brother and raised at least five other children, and we were guardians for two families of Butler children.
I won the Battle of New Orleans with no weapons except what I could take from the civilians and with he1p from the pirate Jean Lafitte.  After some mi1itary exploits in Florida, I got a reprimand and was sent back as governor to get me out of the way.  I believed a good citizen should never seek an office and never decline one.  I won the popular vote for president in 1824 but lost the election when Clay threw his support to Adams and became his Secretary of State.
The campaign of 1828 was very bitter and I am convinced that the mudslinging about Rachel he1ped kill her.  She died before I was sworn in.  The people nearly wrecked the White House that day, smashing china and muddying chairs with their boots as they c1imbed up to see me.  We had to move the punch out onto the lawn to get them out.
There were a number of issues during my two terms: I refused to recharter the Bank of the United States or to let supporters of nullification break up the Union over tariffs.  I got the Indian Remova1 Act passed and made France repay their debt owed from the Napoleonic wars.  I wanted to see Texas admitted as part of the union, and I learned just before I died that this had finally occurred.

John Howard Payne --I was known best for writing "Home Sweet Home," but I was looking for material for a book In Tennessee when I met John Ross.  I stayed with Ross several days and was arrested with him by 25 members of the Georgia guard who tried to spread rumors to get us both lynched.  They said I was a northern abolitionist here to stir up trouble.  Not many believed them, and we were released without charges in 13 days.  From that time on, I wrote a lot of articles about the mistreatment of and broken promises to the Indians.

John Marshall—I was the 4th chief justice of the United States and served longer than any other justice, from 1801 to 1835.  When I became chief justice, the Supreme Court commanded little respect.  I was sometimes ignored, especially by Andrew Jackson in the Indian issue, but I still raised the court to a level equal to the executive and legislative branches.  I believed that we needed a strong central government to grow, and my arguments gave the court power to overrule states when national and state interests collided.  I become known as the "'Great Chief Justice" because of my impact on the judicial system.

Major Ridge was my English name.  It came from Ka-nun-da-cla-geh in Cherokee, which meant "he who walks on the mountains.”  The English shortened it to The Ridge, and I took Major from my rank when I served with Andrew Jackson at Horse Shoe Bend.  I didn't always fight with the Americans.  I had taken many sca1ps during the Revolution.  But even as a full-blooded Cherokee, I could see some value to the white ways.  I became e thriving p1anter with 30 s1aves and 280 acres with 1500 fruit trees and a ferry on the Oostenaula River.  I remodelled my cabin into a Piedmont style planter's house end sent my son John to a mission school in Connecticut.  I spoke only a few words of English, but I understood more.  I had ki1led Doub1ehead when he signed away land in 1802 without sanctions of the tribe, but I finally decided my people would do better to take what we could get and leave safely.  I was one of the ones who signed the Treaty of New Echota, knowing that I was signing my death warrant.  I left with my relatives and 600 followers equipped with slaves, horses, oxen, carriages, and wagons and arrived in Indian Territory in time to p1ant spring crops on choice land.  My group was the only one to arrive with no deaths.  But I knew my days were numbered.  I was murdered just as I had killed Doublehead, according to the law of our tribe.  I was ambushed by people of the Ross faction, shot twelve times, end trampled by my frightened horse.

John Ridge—I was the son of Major Ridge of the Deer Clan.  An alumnus of New England missionary schools, I wrote poetry and married a white girl, Sarah Northrup.  I spent much time travelling and speaking to raise money to convert the Indians.  Although a full-blood, I turned my back on what I had been taught to see as savagery.  I left Georgia with my father and followers before the forced removal and settled near Honey Creek.  Shortly after the Ross faction arrived, I was pulled from my bed and stabbed to death 25 times in view of my wife and children.  This was my payment according to Cherokee law for signing away land without the tribal sanction.

John Ross --Although only 1\8 Cherokee, I became the principal chief of the Cherokees.  I was born in what became Etowah County, Alabama.  My father was a Scotsman who owned a store and tannery and had built the town of Rossville.  I was sent to schools in Tennessee and was a classmate of Sam Houston.  The Indians called me Cooweescooweee, or White Bird.  I chose to go the Indian way and married a young full-blood widow with one daughter.  My wife was called Quatie.
During the War of 1812 and the Creek War, I held the rank of major and served as adjutant to Andrew Jackson.  Afterwards, I built a store, warehouse, and boat dock that I sold to buy a plantation.  By 1835 I had 19 slaves.  When I returned from a trip to Congress, I found Quatie and two children imprisoned in a bedroom, a result of the Georgia land lottery.  We moved to Tennessee to the log cabin where my father had been.  I fought through the courts to keep the Cherokee land for my people.  I knew every US politician who sympathized with the Cherokee: Henry Clay, David Crockett, Sam Houston, Daniel Webster, Edward Everett, Horace Everett, Peleg Sprague, Theodore Frelinghuysen, and Henry Wise.  It was not enough.  When I could not prevent the removal, I took charge and helped supervise so my people would get better treatment.  We could not control the drought and then the sudden, sudden winter so we lost many people.  I buried Quatie at Little Rock.
Some tried to blame me f or the Ridge and Boudinot murders, but I was not responsible.  I tried to get my people to live in peace and to settle in peace.  I remarried later and built Rose Cottage.  I died in Washington, D. C., still negotiating for the Cherokee.

Reverend J. F. Schermerhorn--Although a minister, my principles were flexible enough to permit me to license the proprietors of grog shops that were daily stupefying Indian patrons.  I acted as an agent for the U. S. government and handled the signing of the Treaty of New Echota by some of the Cherokees.  They called me "Devil’s Horn."

General Winfield Scott -I was an army officer for more than 50 years, serving in the War of 1812, the Mexican War, and the Civi1 War.  My troops ca11ed me "Old Fuss and Feathers" because I believed in details.  I prepared the first complete manual of military tactics in the U. S. Army.  I was sent to roundup and move the Cherokees to the West because they had not gone according to the treaty.  I instructed my men to treat them fairly and allowed Ross to supervise the removal and delay until after the drought and heat.  When the Civil War broke out, I refused to join the Southern forces and retired from the army.

Sequoyah My English name was George Guess.  My father was a white trader.  I had a lame leg so I turned to drawing and painting and became a fine silversmith and blacksmith.  I had wondered about the words white men put on paper and wanted to do the same for my language.  In the War of 1812 I served as a private and fought at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend.  Afterwards, I married Sally.  In 1818 I left for Arkansas with Chief Jolly and 330 others.  There I continued to work to invent a written language for my people.  My wife threw some of my first work into the fire.  My daughter found a speller, and I figured out that whites used only 26 characters.  After twelve years of work, I finally made 85 symbols for the sounds in Cherokee.  Some neighbors who thought I was dabbling in witchcraft, burned my cabin, but my daughter and I remembered the symbols and wrote them again on buckskin.  I knew I had to convince the Cherokee Triba1 counci1 in the Southeast, so I went back to do that.  I was given a special medal, the first literary prize ever given in America, and $500 a year as a reward for my efforts.  When the Eastern Cherokee emigrated to Indian Territory, I tried to help the factions form 8 new, government and was able to help some. I died in 1843 in Mexico while on a journey trying to see if a11 Indian languages came from one.

Will H. Thomas --My father was a white trader who died when I was young, and I was adopted by Chief Yonagusta as a boy.  I prepared for law by se1f study and became the attorney for my adopted people.  I was able to obtain money for them on severa1 occasions and served in the North Caro1ina Senate.  During the Civi1 War, I served as a colonel for the Confederacy and led 200 of the Qualla on guard duty in mountain passes between Gatlinburg and Cherokee.  I came out of the war sick and heavily indebted because of land speculations.  When the courts got through trying to separate my personal investments from those done for my people, they found some 67,000 acres, mostly unsurveyed, belonging to the Indians I had represented.  The courts had this surveyed and placed it under trusteeship of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs in Washington, D. C., designating the Indians as the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

Charlie Tsa1i-- When the roundup for removal began, my fami1y was herded toward a stockade.  An impatient soldier prodded my wife with a bayonet, a real insult to my race and my family.  When I got the chance, I jumped the so1dier, ki11ed him, and escaped with my family into the mountains.  General Scott sent Will Thomas to find me.  He offered to 1et the others stay hidden in the mountains if my sons and I would come to be shot.  We did.  My youngest son was just a boy, so he was spared.  Today in Cherokee, North Caro1ina, you can see my descendants and hear our story in the drama "Unto These Hil1s."


Elkhorn Tavern

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Trail of Tears Elkhorn Tavern Site Pea Ridge, Arkansas


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Old Stone Presbyterian Church

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 Located on GA 2 east of US 41 at Tiger Creek in Catoosa County, Georgia.

'The trail where we cried...'

Region plays major role in tragic history of Trail of Tears By Adam Testa, The SouthernRain poured from the sky, and winds blew with tremendous force as the congregation huddled together on an unseasonably warm day in January.

Such were the conditions as a mass of Cherokee tribe members waited for weather to subside and allow continuation of their forced migration to land west of the Mississippi River in the winter of 1838-39.

Mother Nature displayed the same temperament 169 years later as a group of about 75 gathered at a Pope County farm to remember the tragedies on the Trail of Tears. The National Park Service dedicated the first Illinois site on the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail at the Crabb Abbott Farm near the Pope-Johnson county line Tuesday.

Sandra Boaz, president of the Illinois chapter of the Trail of Tears Association, discovered the atmospheric anomaly upon comparing the dedication date to a 19th century journal. The historic log belonged to a minister who accompanied more than 10,000 Cherokees to Indian Territory in what later became Oklahoma.

'Dumping ground'

Students learn about 1803's Louisiana Purchase and its effect on the expansion of the United States early in elementary school, but historians note other impacts of the $20 million transaction.

Rowena McClinton, associate history professor at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, said the new land became a "dumping ground for Indians America didn't want" and ensured that slavery and racism crossed the Mighty Mississippi.

In 1830, U.S. President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act, which exchanged land inhabited by American Indians in the east for the uninhabited lands west of the Mississippi. Chiefs of the five primary tribes never agreed to the act passed by the U.S. Congress.

President Martin van Buren enacted Jackson's law in 1838 and called for the mobilization and exile of American Indian tribes. More than 17,000 Cherokees were forced to endure the 800-mile trek from Georgia and other southern locales to their new land.

"It's important that our story be told, so that America can be aware of what happens when greed combines with prejudice," said Jack Baker, president of the national Trail of Tears Association and Cherokee Nation Tribal Council member.

'...Where we cried'

Exiled Cherokees followed at least three different paths on their westbound journey, with one crossing Pope, Johnson and Union counties in Southern Illinois, where they suffered their greatest losses.

The stretch of Illinois from Golconda, where they ported the Ohio River, to two crossing points on the Mississippi proved to be the shortest portion of the trail in length but the most costly in terms of time and life. Both rivers froze during the winter months, essentially trapping the Cherokees in the 65-mile span between the rivers.

Death and racial prejudice continued to take their toll, said McClinton, who serves on the board of directors for both the Illinois chapter and national Trail of Tears Association.

Landowners would scornfully send away those Cherokee who set up tents on their land, forcing them to find another place to sleep at night, she said.

Cheryl Jett, secretary of the association's Illinois chapter, estimated 3,000 Cherokee fatalities in Southern Illinois. Estimates for the total number of lives lost on the trail, known to Cherokee as Nunna daul Isunyi or "the Trail Where We Cried," range from 4,000 to 6,000 deaths.

Lasting legacy

  While many Cherokee lost their lives on the journey, most believes it's important to note that several thousand members of the tribe survived the journey, and the Cherokee Nation continues to thrive today.----------------                                                                                                                              

The Cherokee Nation has 170,000 members worldwide, with many of them residing in designated territory in northeast Oklahoma. The organization's Tribal Council consists of 17 members, 15 representing those Cherokee living in the designated land and two, including Baker, representing the outside population.

A  small number of members of the Cherokee Nation live in Southern Illinois, Indiana or Kentucky, he said. The Cherokee Nation and the Trail of Tears Association continue to work together on many projects preserving the history of the Trail of Tears and its significance to American history.

While other portions of the trail still exist, Boaz said the Southern Illinois area offers accessible authenticity many places cannot anymore. A portion of the trail near Nashville, Tenn., some in Ky and even part now sits beneath an airport, and many other sites have met the same fate, she said.

"People can't go there and just stand in the place where it happened like they can in Southern Illinois," Boaz said. "Once you take a bulldozer to something, you can't ever restore it to the way it was."

The Trail of Tears by Florence Ouellette

The blue-coated soldiers of the cavalry rounded up many
Indian tribes from their lands of West,
thinking they were doing what was best.
They marched them on a trail of tears,
not caring one bit of their fears.
It was a dreadful journey, through stifling heat and high winds.
With no food or water given, the poor Indian people were driven and driven.
Then came the freezing cold and snow,
the poor down-trodden people knew not where to go.
No one seemed to care about the Indians who were dropping dead
beside the trail and not even given a descent burial.
Many more Indian people, young children and elders, died of starvation as they arrived at the reservations in Oklahoma and Florida.
The tribes had dwindled down to very few.
The poor, innocent tribes knew not what to do.
They could not even go hunting to gather food for their people;
they were not allowed to go to the hunting grounds.
They were treated like animals and given very little food and blankets.
They were treated very wrong by the vicious white men in this great land.
The proud Indian people finally took a stand and won out over the white man.

Contributor: bgill
Created: June 14, 2007 · Modified: April 13, 2009

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