“Long time we travel on way to new land… Many days pass and people die very much.”
-- Survivor of the Trail of Tears
By the turn of the 19th century, the United States was outgrowing its borders. Thomas Jefferson proposed expanding settlements to the eastern bank of the Mississippi River, and moving American Indians to the Great Plains to serve as a buffer between the U.S. and Spanish and English colonies in the West.
Over the next 30 years, many tribes in what is now Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, Alabama, Illinois, and North Carolina signed over their ancestral lands to the United States. Those who did not willingly cede their lands were forced to leave under the Indian Removal Act of 1830.
The Cherokee faced double pressure to emigrate when gold was discovered on their land in Georgia. When the Supreme Court upheld the Cherokee’s land rights, President Jackson famously said, “John Marshall has made his decision. Let him enforce it now, if he can.”
The Chief Justice could do nothing as more than 16,000 Cherokee were forced to relocate to Oklahoma via rail, boat, wagon, and on foot. By some estimates, 4,000 Indians died along the way.
The Trail of Tears National Historic Trail traces their route to Tahlequah, Oklahoma, the current capital of the Cherokee Nation. An exhibit at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Tahlequah includes 16,000 hand-crafted beads representing the people who made that awful journey.
State:Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee
Category:National Historic Trail
National Parks Articles
» More Info