The Cherokee Trail of Tears

The Cherokee Trail of Tears


The forced relocation of American Indians began with the Indian Removal Act of 1830. In 1838 the Cherokee Indians became the fifth major tribe to experience forced relocation to Indian Territory, present-day Oklahoma. Along the trail nearly 4,000 Cherokee died of starvation, exposure, or disease. The forced removal of the Indians remains a black mark on American history, and reminds those who desire freedom, that all people deserve a life of liberty regardless of race, religion, or ethnicity.

Treaty of New Echota

  • Georgia

The Treaty of New Echota meant forced emigration for the Cherokee Indians. Cherokees who favored removal, known as the “Ridge Party” led by John Ridge, engineered the treaty which agreed to pay the Cherokee nation $4.5 million to leave Georgia peacefully. The bulk of the Cherokee nation opposed this treaty and rejected its terms. However, the treaty commissioner, John F. Schermerhorn, went ahead without the support of the Cherokees or Chief John Ross. On December 30, 1835, a pro-removal council met at New Echota, Georgia. On that day, twenty-one Cherokees signed away all the Cherokee land east of the Mississippi river. Even though none of the Cherokee Council signed the document or even took part in the drafting of the treaty, the U.S. government used this document to force the migration of over 16,000 Cherokees into the Indian Territory. The treaty gave the Cherokees two years to migrate, and in 1838 the government forcibly removed the Cherokees via the path that is now called the “Trail of Tears,” where thousands died on the way to their new government-regulated home.

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