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Trail of Tears was an important experience that forever changed the history of the Cherokee Nation and the United States. Several thousand Cherokee Native Indians lost their lives when forced to leave their homelands through laws put in place by Federal authorities. The beginning of the negotiation of several treaties to establish land boundaries and trade routes started in 1776 between the nation of Native Americans and the United States. The influx of European-Americans and other countries desiring more of the fertile southern lands for farming and homesteads continued to encroach upon the lands of the Native owners.
The beginning of the end came when a smaller representative delegation of Cherokee Natives who did not have authority were either coerced or agreed to sign a treaty in 1835. The Echota Treaty signed in Echota, GA was accepted as a legal document and ratified by the United States Congress in 1836. The Treaty terms were to give up all lands to the south and east of the Mississippi River for $5 million dollars in exchange for land in Oklahoma out to the west (F. 1830). Though a petition with over 14,000 signatures was presented to Congress that were in opposition to the Echota Treaty, Congress was not willing to re-evaluate the decision (F. 1830). The terms of the Echota Treaty was that the Cherokee Nation leave their land and move within two years under their own volition to Georgia. The President at that time was Andrew Jackson who was willing to force the removal of the peoples using the U.S. military if they were not willing to move voluntarily (Jackson, 1830). The beginning of this two-year period started in 1837 and the military was employed to get the Cherokee to leave their homelands. Some were transported by wagons across the country others by steamboat or a combination of the two. However the journey was difficult as many were not predisposed to winter climates as they traveled through the winter months. There were 4,000 that lost their lives due to disease, hunger, and exposure to the elements. This exodus from the South to Oklahoma is noted in U.S. history as the Trail of Tears.
The area of the country that was considered the entry to the western part of the country was Illinois through roads in Springfield that intersected several of the trade routes that had been established at that time. The roads were the Springfield Fayetteville Road, the White River Road or Trail of Tears Road, and the St. Louis Road (Burnette, 1890). This journey was over more than 2,000 miles long and the Trail of Tears trek is now a Historic National Monument (Woodward, 1963).
The Cherokee Nation had a Constitution that speaks of deference, appeal for direction, and acknowledgement to the creator of the Universe in establishing the nation of peoples. They speak of the desire to promote morality, education, and peace for their nation. The Constitution was ratified in 1827 (Cherokee Constitution, 1827).
The State of the Union Address by former President Andrew Jackson in 1830 appears very biased and self serving in claiming that the purpose of the move was to promote less 'savage habits' and become a 'more interesting, civilized and Christian community' (Jackson, 1830). It appears that the citizens of the U.S. believed this to be an amicable solution to gain control of the fertile lands of the south. To simply force the Native Cherokees off their lands to make room for White settlers. The fact that the White settlers and Jackson Administration believed it their right to take what belonged to the Cherokee by military force is truly as arrogant, uncivilized, or savage act as any (Delegation 1836). Jackson went on to say in this address that the U.S. would provide transportation and foot the bill for the move including food and any other supplies required. Stating that this was a good deal for the Cherokee, his words being "to purchase his lands, to pay the expense of his removal, to support him for a year in his new abode," make it sound like a mutually sound deal (Jackson, 1830). However for the Cherokee 13,000 which were moved during the winter months, this was anything but a mutually beneficial arrangement. With the thousands of petition signatures protesting the move, from the Cherokee Nation going ignored this mass transport of humanity began.
In retrospect, though the wars among the Native Nations served as an excuse for the United States to step in and forge Treaties. This could be seen as only a maneuver to move the peoples considered 'savage' by the U.S. President of the time, to gain support of the Indian leaders as well as 'legal' permission to buy the Native lands. The infighting was a result of encroachment on the territories all originally owned by the Native Americans. The different tribes were forced to move into neighboring tribal lands for food as the lands were continuously invaded by immigrants (Johnson, 2010). The fact that there was not an overall government among the Indian peoples allowed the United States to act uniformly in the total removal of the original Native Peoples from their own land and then have the gumption to pay them for it (Johnson, 2010). It is not an anomaly, but standard operating procedure of the government of the 18th and 19th centuries. These lands were given and sold to white settlers many in the south who then brought and bought other peoples, African nations for example to force into slavery to work the land making profits off their enslavement (Johnson, 2010).
The seceding of the lands west of the Mississippi led to removal of other Native Americans and the importation of other races in forced labor.
Some of the other Native Americans that were moved west from their homelands due to federally enforced treaties due to the ever advancing immigration of European settlers include Osage, Foxes, Kickapoo, Missouris, and Shawnee (Prusinowski, 2011). Many begin migrating to the west of their own accord in the 1790s (Prusinowski, 2011). Some moved due to conflicts with other Native American nations such as the Osage, Sauk and Fox nations (Prusinowski, 2011). The Osage moved from Missouri to areas of Arkansas, for example (Prusinowski, 2011). Many also fought with the Delaware tribes, which led to further migrations west. Wars ensued among the Native Peoples causing the United States Federal government to intervene by rallying several of the warring Native American Nations under a U.S. treaty in 1826 (Prusinowski, 2011). The Delaware were continually pushed west by settlers and a treaty was signed requesting the seceding of their land in the Indiana territories under the St. Mary's Treaty of 1818. They were moved to areas in Missouri near the James River by 1822. The Delaware tribes living in Ohio also ceded lands the U.S. government by 1829. Those in Missouri however found that food was scarce and willingly gave up the land in Missouri to move further west toward Kansas by 1829 (Prusinowski, 2011).
The total numbers of Indian peoples moving West total over 92,000 with many dying along the way as they trekked to their new homes. During one relocation the tribes were of many nations such as the Delaware, the Ottawa, Shawnee, Pawnee and Potawatomi, the Sauk and Fox, Miami and Kickapoo, the Choctaw, Chicksaw, Creek and Seminole" according to Woodward, 1963).
The forced relocation was often treacherous and cruel as the United States military demanded give up their homes, lands, and property. Local white settlers that were moving into the lands that were forcibly abandoned often stole farms, destroyed property of Indian land owners, and intimidated other Indian families who had bought land from the U.S. In the attempt to terrorize them into leaving. One of the Cherokee leaders, Chief Ross traveled to meet President Van Buren to request that the tribes manage their own removal from the lands to save lives. At this point the President agreed and the U.S. militia were recalled (J.Ross, 1830) . Chief Ross along with an close relation, Lewis separated the peoples into bands of 1,000 each for orderly travel. Some traveled using barges and steamboats by way of Ross Landing (Ross, 1830). Others traveled the Tennessee River through Alabama and even journeyed by railway through Decatur, ala (Ross, 1830). This route took them north by Tennessee and Kentucky toward the Ohio River. From the Ohio they journeyed to the Mississippi and Arkansas Rivers. In this journey many more arrived safe and sound by way or Arkansas which was a northwest doorway to the Indian Territories (Woodward, 1963).
The most treacherous journeys were by lands through northern states. Going north by way of Tennessee, the people crossed into Kentucky then the southern part of Illinois (Woodward, 1963). After traveling through Illinois they would cross the Mississippi River, then continue through Missouri and Arkansas. The areas of Southern Illinois were most dangerous as many died while waiting for better weather due to the cold and ice covered Mississippi River.…[continue]
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