The Trail of Tears

The Indian Removal Act of 1830

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Today you will be learning about Jackson's Indian policy of the 1830's and how it impacted Native American lives.

Each section is a new subtitle in your notes. Each section should contain AT LEAST 3 bullets containing main ideas and vocabulary from that section.

Native Americans in the Southeast

  • Since the 1600s white settlers had pushed Native Americans westward as they took more and more of their land. However, there were still many Native Americans in the East in the early 1800s. Some whites hoped that the Native Americans could adapt to the white people’s way of Life. Others wanted the Native Americans to move. They believed this was the only way to avoid conflict over land. Also, many whites felt that Native Americans were “uncivilized” and did not want to live near them.

  • A brilliant Cherokee named Sequoya invented a writing system of 86 characters, for the Cherokee language.

  • By the 1820s about 100,000 Native Americans remained east of the Mississippi River. The majority were in the Southeast. The major tribes were the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole. Whites called them the Five Civilized Tribes because they had adopted many aspects of white culture. They held large areas of land in Georgia, the Carolinas, Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee.
Cherokee Pride

Jackson’s Removal Policy

  • Andrew Jackson had long supported a policy of moving Native Americans west of the Mississippi. He first dealt with the Southeastern tribes after the War of 1812. The federal government ordered Jackson, then acting as Indian treaty commissioner, to make treaties with the Native Americans of the region. Through these treaties forced on the tribes, the government gained large tracts of land.

  • Jackson believed that the government had the right to regulate where Native Americans could live. He viewed them as conquered subjects who lived within the borders of the United States. He thought that Native Americans had one of two choices. They could adopt white culture and become citizens of the United States, or they could move into the Western territories. They could not however, have their own governments within the nation’s borders.

  • After the discovery of gold, whites began to move onto Cherokee land. Georgia and other Southern states passed laws that gave them the right to take over Native American lands. When the Cherokee and other tribes protested, Jackson supported the states.

  • To solve the problem, Jackson asked Congress to pass a law that would require Native Americans to either move west or submit to state laws. Many Americans objected to Jackson’s proposal. Massachusetts congressman Edward Everett opposed removing Native Americans against their will to a distant land. There, he said, they would face “the perils and hardships of a wilderness.” Religious groups such as the Quakers also opposed forced removal of Native Americans. After heated debate, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act in 1830. The act called for the government to negotiate treaties that would require Native Americans to relocate west.
  • Jackson immediately set out to enforce the law He thought his policy was “just and liberal” and would allow Native Americans to keep their way of life. Instead, his policy caused much hardship and forever changed relations between whites and Native Americans.

Worcester v. Georgia

Based on their accomplishments, the Cherokees rejected Jackson's proposal. When the State of Georgia tried to remove them, the Cherokees took their case to the U.S. Supreme Court in Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, they claimed they were an "independent" nation, protected by treaty. John Marshall held that the tribe was a "dependent" nation subject to federal, not state, law. The Cherokees won their case, but Jackson was determined to remove them anyway. He concluded a treaty with some Cherokee tribe members giving them two years to relocate to Oklahoma.

Worcester v. Georgia. Meanwhile, Georgia passed a law in 1830, stating that any white person living among Indians without a license from the governor would be sent to prison. State legislators feared white missionaries were encouraging Indians to resist removal. Samuel Worcester, a missionary, was arrested and sentenced to prison for four years for living among the Cherokees. Worcester sued to obtain his freedom. His case came before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1832.

In Worcester v. Georgia, John Marshall freed Worcester and declared:

" The Cherokee Nation is a distinct community, occupying its own territory, with boundaries accurately described, in which the laws of Georgia can have no force, and the citizens of Georgia have no right to enter without the [permission] of the Cherokees themselves. The whole [relationship] between the United States and this nation is, by our Constitution and laws, [placed] in the government of the United States. The act of Georgia under which the plain tiff was prosecuted is void.... The cats of Georgia are [against] the Constitution, laws, and treaties of the United States."

Jackson ignored this ruling and judicial review, and continued with his plan for removal.

Open the link below, and answer the questions on a Google Form.

Based on the above excerpt, why did the U.S. Supreme Court free Worcester? (answer on the form link below)

How did President Jackson justify the Indian Removal Act?


Andrew Jackson - 9of10
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Answer this question in the form.

Using the map above and google maps, how long would it take you to walk from Marietta, Georgia to Tulsa, Oklahoma?

Look below for directions

Open the link below, and click the key and press play. (Interactive Map of Indian Removal)

The Trail of Tears

  • As whites invaded their homelands, many Native Americans saw no other choice but to sign treaties exchanging their land for land in the West. Under the treaties, Native Americans would be moved to an area that covered what is now Oklahoma and parts of Kansas and Nebraska. The area where the Native Americans were relocated came to be called the Indian Territory.

  • Beginning in the fall of 1831, the Choctaw and other Southeast tribes were removed from their lands and relocated in Indian Territory. The Cherokees, however, first appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to protect their land from being seized by Georgia. In 1832, the Court led by Chief Justice John Marshall, ruled that only the federal government, not the states, could make laws governing the Cherokees. This ruling meant that the Georgia laws did not apply to the Cherokee Nation. However, both Georgia and President Jackson ignored the Supreme Court. Jackson said, “John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it.”

  • A small group of Cherokees gave up and signed a treaty to move west. But the majority of the Cherokees, led by John Ross, opposed the treaty. Jackson refused to negotiate with these Cherokees.

  • In 1828, federal troops commanded by General Winfield Scott, rounded up about 16,000 Cherokees and forced them into camps. Soldiers took people from their homes with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Over the fall and winter of 1838-1839, these Cherokees set out on the Long Journey west. Forced to march in the cold, rain and snow without adequate clothing, many grew week and ill. One fourth died. The dead included John Ross’s Wife.
  • This harsh journey of the Cherokee from their homeland to Indian Territory became known as the Trail of Tears.

Native American Resistance (YOU DO NOT HAVE TO TAKE NOTES ON THIS) Just answer the questions below.

  • Not all the Cherokees moved west in 1838.
  • Other Southeast tribes also resisted relocation. In 1835, the Seminoles refused to leave Florida. This refusal led to the Second Seminole War. One elderly Seminole explained why he could not leave: “If suddenly we tear our hearts from the homes around which they are twined, our heart strings will snap.”
  • But the Seminoles continued to fight. Some went deeper into the Florida Everglades, where their descendants live today. Others moved west. The Second Seminole War ended in 1842.
  • The Shawnee, Ottawa, Pottawatomie, Sauk and Fox were removed to Indian Territory.

Finish answering the questions on the Form

  • In what ways did Native Americans resist the Indian Removal Act?
  • What were the consequences of the Indian Removal Act?

Last question! You did it!!!!

  • Does this change your opinion of Andrew Jackson? Explain your answer