The Trail of Tears started in 1838 and ended around March in 1839. Over 100,000 Native Americans lived on millions of acres of land in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee. This land had been passed down for generations but by the end of the 1830’s, very few Native Americans remained. Because the natives worked for white settlers who wanted to use this land to grow cotton, the government required the natives to move thousands of miles away to a specific “indian territory” beyond the Mississippi River. This long, dreadful journey is known as the Trail of Tears.
Many white Americans feared the natives because they were very unfamiliar and the only thing they knew of the Native Americans was that they wanted their land. Many people, particularly officials (like George Washington), thought that the only way to deal with these uncivilized Indians was to help become more like the whites. They wanted to make Native Americans as similar to white Americans as they could. They believed the natives should learn to speak English, read, write, convert to Christianity and practice things such as owning individual land. In the Southern states, many Native Americans such as Cherokee, Seminole, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Creek became familiar with these customs and were then known as the “Five Civilized Tribes.” Their land continued to be valued and white settlers desired the fortune they earned from growing cotton. At this point they didn’t care if the natives were civilized or not, they just wanted money. The white Americans stole livestock, burned houses that did not belong to them, committed murders, etc. The government didn’t seem to notice how unfair this was for the natives and they even put effort into driving them out of the south. Some of the states passed a law stating that Native Americans have very little to no rights and could not intrude on their land. There was a few cases that didn’t go through, such as Cherokee vs. Georgia. The court wouldn’t pass the law, but even then the Natives were still mistreated. The white americans in the south bent over backwards to make sure they had a hold of the land.
In 1830, Andrew Jackson, the president at the time, signed the Indian Removal Act. This act gave the government the ability to trade the natives land. The law forced the government to trade fairly. President Jackson or anybody in general, could not persuade the Natives in giving up their property. Nobody seemed to care about this law and they continued to force natives to leave the land that they had owned for generations. The Choctaw Indians were the first to go. They had to travel to their new territory with no food, water, supplies, etc. causing thousands of native americans to die, this is where the trail of tears was created. A Choctaw leader told an newspaper writer in Alabama, a “trail of tears of death.”
The Indian removal process didnt stop and in 1836 they all started to divide and go separate ways. Some wanted to stay and fight for their land, others thought it would be less problematic to just leave and collect the money given to them. Soon after, Cherokee representatives exchanged their land east of Mississippi for $15MIL, this is known as the Treaty of New Echota. By 1840, thousands of indians had been forced off their land and Native americans began to disappear. Oklahoma soon became a state and the indian territory vanished.
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