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                              History  Continued- Page 2

                                              TRAIL OF TEARS

"We, the great mass of the people think only of the love we have to our land for...we do love the land where we were brought up. We will never let our hold to this land let it go it will be like throwing away...[our] mother that gave...[us] birth."
(Letter from Aitooweyah, to John Ross, principal chief of the Cherokees.)

National policy to move Indians west of the Mississippi developed after the Louisiana Territory was purchased from the French in 1803. Whites moving onto these lands pressed the U.S. government to do something about the Indian presence. In 1825 the U.S. government formally adopted a removal policy, which was carried out extensively in the 1830's by Presidents Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren. The result was particularly overwhelming for the Indians of the southeastern United States - primarily the Cherokee, Chickasaws, Choctaws, Creeks, and Seminoles - who were finally removed hundreds of miles to a new home.

Traditionally the Cherokees had lived in villages in the southern Appalachians - present-day Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, western North Carolina, and South Carolina, northern Georgia, and northeastern Alabama. Here in a land of valleys, ridges, mountains, and streams they developed a culture based on farming, hunting, and fishing.

The Cherokees took on some of the ways of white society. They built European-style homes and farmsteads, laid out European-style fields and farms, developed a written language, established a newspaper, and wrote a constitution. But they found that they were not guaranteed equal protection under the law and that they could not prevent whites from seizing their lands. They were driven from their homes, herded into internment camps, and moved by force to a strange land.

The Cherokee situation was further complicated by the issue of state's rights and a prolonged dispute between Georgia and the federal government. In 1802 Georgia was the last of the original colonies to cede its western lands to the federal government. In doing so, Georgia expected all titles to the land held by Indians to be extinguished. However, that did not happen, and the Principal People continued to occupy their ancestral homelands, which had been guaranteed to them by treaty.

"...Inclination to remove from this land has no abiding place in our hearts, and when we move we shall move by the course of nature to sleep under this ground which the Great Spirit gave to our ancestors and which now covers them in their undisturbed peace."
Cherokee Legislative Council
New Echota July 1830

Georgia residents resented the Cherokees success in holding onto their tribal lands and governing themselves. Settlers continued to encroach on Cherokee lands, as well as those belonging to the neighboring Creek Indians. In 1828 Georgia passed a law pronouncing all laws of the Cherokee Nation to be null and void after June 1, 1830, forcing the issue of states' rights with the federal government. Because the state no longer recognized the rights of the Cherokees, tribal meetings had to held just across the state line at Red Clay, Tennessee. When gold was discovered on Cherokee land in northern Georgia in 1829, efforts to dislodge the Principal People from their lands were intensified. At the same time President Andrew Jackson began to aggressively implement a broad policy of extinguishing Indian land titles in affected states and relocating the Indian population.

"No eastern tribe had struggled harder or more successfully to make white civilization their own. For generations the Cherokee had lived side by side with whites in Georgia. They had devised a written language, published their own newspaper, adopted a constitution, and a Christian faith. But after gold was discovered on their land, even they were told they would have to start over again in the West."
The West, a documentary by Ken Burns and Stephen Ives

                                         The Roundup

"My friends, circumstances render it impossible that you can flourish in the midst of a civilized community. You have but one remedy within your reach, and that is to remove to the west. And the sooner you do this, the sooner you will commence your career of improvement and prosperity."
Andrew Jackson

President Martin Van Buren ordered the implementation of the Treaty of New Echota in 1838, and U.S. Army troops under the command of Gen. Winfield Scott began rounding up the Cherokees and moving them into stockades in North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee. Altogether 31 forts were constructed for this purpose - 13 in Georgia, five in North Carolina, eight in Tennessee, and five in Alabama. All of the posts were near Cherokee towns, and they served only as temporary housing for the Cherokees.

As soon as practical, the Indians were transferred from the removal forts to 11 internment camps that were more centrally located - 10 in Tennessee and one in Alabama. In North Carolina, for example, Cherokees at the removal forts were sent to Fort Butler, and by the second week in July on to the principal agency at Fort Cass. By late July 1838, with the exception of the Oconaluftee Citizen Indians, the fugitives hiding in the mountains, and some scattered families, virtually all other Cherokees remaining in the East were in the internment camps.

According to a military report for July 1838, the seven camps in and around Charleston, Tennessee, contained more than 4,800 Cherokees: 700 at the agency post, 600 at Rattlesnake Spring, 870 at the first encampment on Mouse Creek, 1,600 at the second encampment of Mouse Creek, 900 at Bedwell Springs, 1,300 on Chestooee, 700 on the ridge east of the agency, and 600 on the Upper Chatate. Some 2,000 Cherokees were camped at Gunstocker Spring 13 miles from Calhoun, Tennessee.

One group of Cherokees did not leave the mountains of North Carolina. This group traced their origin to an 1819 treaty that gave them an allotment of land and American citizenship on lands not belonging to the Cherokee Nation. When the forced removal came in 1838, this group--now called the Oconaluftee Cherokees - claimed the 1835 treaty did not apply to them as they no longer lived on Cherokee lands. Tsali and his sons were involved in raids on the U.S. soldiers who were sent to drive the Cherokees to the stockades. The responsible Indians were punished by the army, but the rest of the group gained permission to stay, and North Carolina ultimately recognized their rights. Fugitive Cherokees from the nation also joined the Oconaluftee Cherokees, and in time this group became the Eastern Band of Cherokees, who still reside in North Carolina.

Trail Where They Cried

                                        nu na hi du na tlo hi lu i 

"One by one Indian peoples were removed to the West. The Delaware, the Ottawa, Shawnee, Pawnee and Potawatomi, the Sauk and Fox, Miami and Kickapoo, the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Seminole. In all some 90 thousand Indians were relocated. The Cherokee were among the last to go. Some reluctantly agreed to move. Others were driven from their homes at bayonet point. Almost two thousand of them died along the route they remembered as the Trail of Tears."
Documentary: The West (Ken Burns/Stephen Ives)

During the roundup intimidation and acts of cruelty at the hands of the troops, along with the theft and destruction of property by local residents, further alienated the Cherokees. Finally, Chief Ross appealed to President Van Buren to permit the Cherokees to oversee their own removal. Van Buren consented, and Ross and his brother Lewis administered the effort. The Cherokees were divided into 16 detachments of about 1,000 each.

                                             History Continued

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