Trail of Tears

Analyze the reasons for the removal of Cherokee Indians 8.5G

Essential Question: What were the reasons for the removal and resettlement of Cherokee Indians during the Jacksonian Era?

What Was Going On Between American Settlers and American Indian Nations in the Jacksonian Era?

While the rapidly growing United States expanded into the lower South, white settlers faced what they considered an obstacle. This area was home to several American Indian nations, including the Cherokee nation. The Cherokee lived peacefully in Tennessee and Georgia. They spoke and wrote English, and had based their government on the U.S. Constititution. In the view of the American settlers, these Indian nations were standing in the way of progress. The various Indian nations lived on land that was valuable for agriculture and natural resources. Eager for land to raise cotton, the settlers pressured the federal government to acquire Indian Territory.
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What Were the Policies?

1. According to the Supreme Court in 1823, Native Americans could occupy U.S. land, but they could not hold title (own) the land.


2. Indian Removal Act - In 1830, this act gave the President the power to negotiate removal treaties with Indian tribes living east of the Mississippi. Under these treaties, the Indians were to give up their lands east of the Mississippi in exchange for lands to the west. Those who wished to remain in the east would become citizens of that state.


**This removal was supposed to be peaceful and voluntary. Some tribes agreed to the treaty and it was peaceful. However, the southeastern Indian nations resisted. When they did, President Jackson forced them to leave.

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Worcester v. Georgia

  • The Cherokee tried to protect their rights legally from settlers. They wrote a constitution declaring themselves to be a sovereign nation. The state of Georgia (where their nation was) did not recognize their sovereign status, but saw them as tenants living on state land. The Cherokee took this issue to the Supreme Court, which ruled against them.
  • In 1830, Georgia law prohibited whites from living on Indian territory after March 31, 1831 without a license. This law was created to justify removing white missionaries who were helping the Indians resist their own removal. The Cherokee took this back to the Supreme Court, and this time it ruled in their favor. The Court stated that the Cherokee had the right to self-government, and declared Georgia's law unconstitutional.

So.....What Happened?

Georgia refused to abide by the Supreme Court decision and Jackson refused to enforce the ruling.

Trail of Tears

In 1836, the Cherokee were given 2 years to leave voluntarily. At the end of the 2 years, they would be forcibly removed. By 1838, only 2,000 had migrated and 16,000 remained on their land. The U.S. government sent 7,000 troops to force the Cherokee out. They did not allow them time to gather belongings. As they left, their homes were looted. The Indians began their march westward, which became known as the Trail of Tears, in which 4,000 Cherokee people died of cold, hunger, and disease on their way to the western lands.
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