Trail of Tears – Forced Relocation and Removal

The Trail of Tears was the forced relocation and removal of Native American communities from the Southeast region of the United States to Indian territory located west of the Mississippi River. This included many Native American tribes including Creek, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Seminole and most famously the Cherokee tribe. Estimates from tribal and military records from this time suggest that about 100,000 Native Americans were forced from their homes during this, of the 100,000 approximately 15,000 died during their journey. The Trail of Tears is infamously known for it’s devastating impact on the Native Americans which included diseases, starvation, and extreme exhaustion due to the 1,000 mile journey, this was a extreme injustice and an abuse of basic human rights. (Pauls, 2017).

The journey that the Cherokee’s were forced to make is referred to as the “Trail of Tears” due to the devastating effects that the trip had on the Cherokee people. The “Trail of Tears” has also been considered as the beginning of the Indian extermination by the United States government even though the Native Americans were just that, Native to America, they were settled in these areas long before white settlers came to stake their claim on what is now known as the United States (Pauls, 2017). During the trip of the many that perished most of those were the elderly and children, they were most sensitive to to conditions that the Natives experienced on the Trail of Tears. At each authorized stop, those who had died were buried. Hearing this many tried to escape by hiding in areas that no one would travel to or look for them (swamps, hills), the Natives learned the hard way that by signing to be removed that they were also signing their death warrants. Even though the journey was devastating, those in charge reported nothing but peaceful progress, which clearly was not the case (Satz, 1989).

After the United States was officially created, Native Americans were seen as a separate nation within an sovereign country, and yet they were fully committed to living peacefully amongst the white settlers. The white settlers had different plans however, they were mostly interested in the rich land and resources that were occupied by the Native Americans, as a result the United States government set out to gain control of the land and relocate the Native Americans that occupied the land. The forced removal of Native American communities were a result of the Indian Removal act in 1830. The Indian Removal Act was an act signed by President Andrew Jackson that authorized the federal government to relocate any Native Americans residing in eastern territory west. In return the Native Americans were then supposed to be compensated for their land however, they were not treated justly, the government engaged in false treaties with the Native Americans as well as broken promises and not treating them with basic respect that all human beings deserve. Of the Native Americans, those who wanted to remain east of the Mississippi could become citizens and receive 640 acres of farmland. Those who wanted to keep their tribal sovereignty could trade their lands that they occupied east of the Mississippi for federal land located west. Either way the Native Americans no longer would remain on their own land (Frank 2008).

Nearly eight years later in 1838 with help from the Indian Removal Act the Cherokee community was forced to give up its land which was located east of the Mississippi River, and migrate to what is now know as Oklahoma. During the trip from east of the Mississippi River to west the migrants faced starvation, exhaustion and diseases. Due to the forced trek more than 4,000 Native Americans perished. In 1831 the Choctaw Indians were the first to be relocated, they were the model for successful relocation. In 1832 the Seminole Indians followed, as well as the Creek Indians in 1834, the Chickasaw Indians in 1837 and finally the Cherokee Indians in 1838. It is estimated that by 1837 that more than 46,000 Native Americans from eastern states had been removed from their lands, leaving over 25 million acres open for white settlement (Frank, 2008).

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Trail of tears - forced relocation and removal. (2021, Mar 17). Retrieved September 23, 2022 , from

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