The Trail of Tears

By: Katherine Wittner

When? Where? Who?

The Trail of Tears occurred from 1838 to 1839 during the presidency of Andrew Jackson. The Trail of Tears was apart of Jackson's Indian Removal Act. It forced the Cherokee Nation to give up their homeland east of the Mississippi River and move to a federal territory in present-day Oklahoma. The ancestral homeland became federal territory used for farming.


The Trail was the enforcement of The Treaty of New Echota, an agreement signed under the provisions of The Indian Removal Act. The whites were very selfish for the land because there had been rumors of gold in the land. The Cherokees did not want a forceful removal, but Andrew Jackson forced 300 tribe members to sign The Treaty Of New Echota. The whites forced the Cherokee to evacuate immediately and the tribe was unable to gather their belongings.

How did it get the name "the trail of tears"?

It was named "The Trail of Tears" because of the devastating effects. Over 4,000 Cherokee out of the 15,000 traveling died because of exhaustion, hunger, and disease.

How was america impacted?

It has become the symbol in American history that signifies carelessness of American policy makers toward Indians. Indian lands were held hostage by the states and the federal government. The Indians had to agree to the removal to protect their identity as a tribe, but retaliation acts were taken against the people who signed The Treaty of New Echota. The retaliation led to the assassinations of Major Ridge, John Ridge, and Elias Boudinot.

how are we impacted today?

The removal has led to some debate in terms of statistics. The extreme loss of life among those who traveled has an impact on people being able to maintain community structures. Debates about the impact of the epidemic continue among scholars today. Loss of large numbers of family members through epidemic disease and the hardships of removal disrupt communities. Congress dedicated The Trail of Tears national historic trail in 1987 that traced the 2,200 mile path and water routes they took.


"The white not satisfied with the land beyond the mountains, or the land beside the Watauga, or the land along the Nolichucky. Now he wants still more. And what we do not give him, he will take away until our whole Nation is gone from this earth...."

-- Dragging Canoe, Chickamauga Chief
son of Cherokee Chief Attakullakulla

"You say, for example, "Why do not the Indians till the ground and live as we do?" May we not ask with equal propriety, "Why do not the white people hunt and live as we do?"

-- Principal Cherokee Chief Old Tassel, November 18, 1785
Hopewell treaty discussion with the United States