The Trail of Tears

By: Jack Maher

The Cause

When Andrew Jackson was running for president, he promised to get back American land by finding a solution for the Native Americans living in U.S. territory. He knew people would like to have their land back, so he thought that if he carried out this plan he would be very popular. Though, when he became president in 1828, he now had to carry out his promise, which turned out to be pretty hard. In order to do this, he told the Natives that that they could either assimilate (adapt to the American culture) or move to the west. The Cherokee tribe wanted to keep their land, so they started to wear different clothes and made there own written language, created by a Cherokee called Sequoyah, containing 86 characters in order to assimilate. This attempted to prove that they were "civilized," as Americans said. Jackson still wanted them out but the government forced him to make a treaty enforcing that he would trade them land for theirs. The treaty was created and given to the Natives for them to sign. Then, gold was found on the Native land. So Jackson changed his mind and forced the Natives to move. He asked Congress to create a law to allow him to do this. In 1830, the Indian Removal Act was created and declared that all of the Native Americans living in U.S. territory were granted new land in exchange for their land. Native Americans didn't agree with this, and there was a rebellion on the rise.
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The Trek

The U.S. government designated a spot of land to put the Native Americans into. This included parts of modern day Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska. They called it Indian territory. In 1831, the Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Creek tribes had all started to move west. The Cherokee, though, went to the Supreme Court to keep their land from Georgia. This was called the case of Worcester vs. Georgia. In 1832, the Court said that only the federal government could make laws regarding the Cherokee, not the state of Georgia. Jackson was furious, so he ignored the court and sent in 16,000 troops and forced the Cherokee to leave. The Florida Seminoles also tried to rebel. They used sneak attacks in the everglades, but eventually lost when their leader, Osceola, was imprisoned and died.

The Trek to the Indian Territory was brutal. Jackson had made sure to enforce the law in the fall, not the spring, so that the Natives would have to walk through the Winter. Their walk was 1,200 miles long, through the cold and rain on foot, horse, or in a makeshift fort. They had nothing but their clothes they had on when they left. Most of the trip was on land, but they even had to travel through the water on this cold, winter trip. Many suffered from Whooping Cough, Typhus, Dysentery, Cholera and starvation on the way. They were given blankets, so that they could stay warm. However, these blankets were infested with small pox purposefully. Many of the soldiers didn't support these murderous actions because they were cruel. Finally the trek ended and the Natives were in their new home; which didn't actually seem like home. The Natives could only describe the trek in one way, Nunna daul Tsuny, which in Cherokee means "The Trail Where They Cried".

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The Effect

When the Trail of Tears ended, the Natives were in a new home. This new home made Natives relieved that they didn't have to walk any further, but this home also had new features. These new characteristics in the land, caused the Natives have to adapt to the new environment. This caused a big change in their culture. Because they couldn't make very good weapons and didn't know where the food was, many people died. These deaths added to the 5,000 out of about 15,000 to 20,000 that died in the Trail of Tears. Another outcome of the Trail of Tears was that gold was found. When the Natives had to leave it was partially because the Americans found gold there. This was important because of Jackson's decision to only pay with gold and sometimes silver. The problem with this was that the people ran out of gold to get payed, and to pay with. So when the new gold was found, it was very important to get the Natives off of the land, and to get the gold. The Trail of Tears main outcome was that it showed how President Jackson was a tyrant in his years as president. He would do anything to get his way or "to help the people". He did this by disobeying the Constitution and the Supreme Court, using the military to force people to where he wants them, and doing the worst things possible to the Natives on the way there. His use of his power as president will never be forgotten in the decisions he made on the Trail of Tears.
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My Reaction

I believe that the Trail of Tears was one of the worst actions in American history. This is because our president disobeyed the Constitution, and became a tyrant. This was shown through his ignorance with the Supreme Court and the murderous decisions he made. America being a democratic republic, our president should never be allowed in office as a tyrant. When our country makes those decisions to kill people on purpose, that is when people in the nation and in other nations start to question you. One of the things that America is based on, is trust and to be the country that connects with and helps other countries. So when people start to question your country, distrust will occur. If the distrust is bad enough, war can break out. Thankfully our presidents, and overall decisions, have been more trustworthy since then. Because if you lose trust in your country, you lose your country. This is why the Trail of Tears was one of the worst actions in American history.
Trail Of Tears Short Documentary