An Analysis of The Trail of Tears in United States of America

As we learn about the great history of the United States of America, sometimes we learn things that may be troubling to our ears. As I read “The Trail of Tears”, I was a bit angered about the decisions our great country took on this issue. Citizens of the United States are protected by rights. The Declaration of Independence clearly states, “…that all men are created equal…”. For the Cherokee Indians however, these words have no meaning. The Cherokee tribe, true natives to this country, were treated with no moral respect.

Dee Brown opens up our eyes to the unfair , unjust, and inhumane treatment these poor people received. Driven from their land and forced to migrate westward where their new homeland lay. The drastic measures taken by our forefathers can be forgiven, but never forgotten.

The Indians had lost much of their land to the white man. Specifically the areas of Kentucky and much of Tennessee. Now the American settlers wanted to take over the area of Georgia where the Cherokee tribe settled.

The Indians had approximately seventeen thousand settlers in 35,000 miles of land. In exchange for this land the Cherokees would receive five million dollars and another tract of land somewhere beyond the Mississippi River. These people saw this offer as an insult. How could a government which controls so much territory want the land where these proud people have settled for centuries? The tribe stood firm and refused to give up any more land.

In 1828, Andrew Jackson, a man once believed to be a friend of the tribe, was running for President.

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He promised the Georgians that if they helped to elect him, he would lend his support to opening up the Cherokee lands for settlement. Three weeks after Jackson was elected into office, 160 acre lots of Georgia land were sold to white men in public lotteries. John Ross, a Cherokee leader, immediately departed to Washington to protest. Meanwhile, families were having their land and homes seized by white citizens.

In 1834, the Cherokees appealed to congress with a memorial stating that they would never abandon their homeland voluntarily. They were told that their difficulties will only be remedied by their migration to the west of the Mississippi.

Later in 1835, it was announced that a council would be held in New Echota, Georgia for the purpose of negotiation and agreement on final terms. On December 29, Major Ridge and Elias Boudinot along with some of their followers signed a treaty which handed over the lands of the great Cherokee nation. Most of the other Cherokees were endorsing a petition to be sent to congress in opposition of this treaty. More than three-fourths of the Cherokee nation, 15,964, signed this petition in protest against the treaty.

Congress voted, overriding the petition. The Cherokees were given exactly two years from May 23, 1836 to leave their homeland forever. Then in early 1837, Major Ridge and about 500 follower departed west to their new homeland. The other 17,000 ignored the treaty and remained in Georgia with John Ross.

As the deadline approached, Winfield Scott was ordered in with his army to force compliance.

“Families at dinner were startled by the sudden gleam of bayonets in the doorway and rose up to be driven with blows and oaths along the weary miles of trail that led to the stockades. Men were seized in the fields or going along the road, women taken from their spinning wheels and children from their play.” They would then light up their homes in flames. The soldiers would also loot and pillage. The concentration camps many of the Indians died due to the contamination of the food and drinking water.“ First the young children would die, then the older people, and sometimes as many as half of the adults were stricken with dysentery and other ailments.”

When John Ross and other leaders reached the concentration camps, they petitioned to General Scott to postpone the departure until autumn. Scott agreed to wait until the summer drought was broken, or no later than the end of October. In turn the Cherokees agreed to organize the migration themselves.

Throughout October, eleven wagon trains departed, and then on November 4, the last Cherokee exiles moved out for the west. The trip was a long difficult and painful one. By the end of the journey each group had lost about thirty to forty Cherokees by death.” As well as could be estimated the Cherokees had lost about four thousand by death-or one out of every four members of the tribe”

At the end of the chapter we read a letter written by a citizen from Massachusetts. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote a letter to the President stating the inhumane approach taken by our government to drive these people out of their land. It questions the moral character of the government.

“In the name of God, sir, we ask you if this be so. Do the newspapers rightly inform us? Men and women with pale perplexed faces meet one another on the streets and churches here, and ask if this be so. We have inquired if this be a gross misinterpretation from the party opposed to the government and anxious to blacken it with the people. We have looked at the newspapers of different parties and find a horrid confirmation of the tale. We are slow to believe it. We hoped the Indians were misinformed, and that their remonstrance was premature, and will turn out to be a needless act of terror.”

I believe that our country was wrong in the decision it made. The answer to the question, “Why?” is greed. More land, more territory, a stronger nation. This is the way our nation’s leaders saw this situation, but ask those poor human beings that lost their land, their friends, and their families what they think.

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An Analysis of The Trail of Tears in United States of America. (2022, Feb 22). Retrieved from

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