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The Trail of Tears

With passage of the Indian Removal Act of 1830 the forced removal of Native Americans throughout the United States began. By the Spring of 1838 almost all tribes east of the Mississippi had been relocated further west or destroyed in battle. In Georgia The Cherokee tried to desperately hold onto their "Enchanted Land."

Their valiant fight was not with bow and arrow or guns. They used a printing press and a government to keep Georgia and the United States from taking their homeland. Georgia had successfully distributed the Cherokee lands to her citizens in the Sixth Land Lottery and a separate Gold Lottery, then sent the brutal Georgia Guard to ensure its citizens safety.

Next the state attempted to silence Christian missionaries who had been teaching the word of Christ in the Cherokee Nation for more than 25 years. This case ended in the Supreme Court as Worcester v. Georgia. In it the Court held that the Cherokee Nation was sovereign, so the state had no right to enact laws regarding the Cherokee. Only the federal government could deal with a sovereign nation, and they could only do it with a treaty.

The government tried desperately to negotiate a treaty. John Ross, Principle Chief, demanded $5 million dollars for part of the Cherokee Nation, with citizenship, including the right to vote, hold political office and testify in court, for the Cherokee who would live on the remaining land. This was totally unacceptable to both the United States and Georgia. Ross, with the backing of the Cherokee Nation then demanded $20 million for the Cherokee's complete, voluntary removal to Oklahoma. The fee was far more than the United States could afford, although it was significantly less than the value of the land.

Instead the federal government negotiated the corrupt Treaty of New Echota with the Treaty Party. The agreement called for voluntary removal by 1838 in exchange for 5 million dollars. John Ross, Principle Chief of the Cherokee, made it known to the Senate that the Treaty Party did not speak for the Cherokee Nation, but the Senate ratified the treaty by a single vote.

In May, 1838, federal and state troops invaded the Cherokee Nation, moving the inhabitants into filth-ridden "forts" until they could be moved north to the embarkation points, Ross's Landing (now Chattanooga) or the government agency at Rattlesnake Springs (Tennessee). Loss of life was high for the first parties heading west, so Ross asked General Winfield Scott for permission to lead the parties west himself in the cooler weather. Scott granted the request.

Ross's plan worked. In spite of traveling during the brutal winter of 1838-1839 and the indifferent attitudes of settlers along the way, the loss of life was significantly reduced among the parties led by the Cherokee. They arrived at their new homeland early in 1839. Today the land route taken by the Cherokee is known as The Trail of Tears or, as a direct translation, The Trail Where They Cried.

More information on the Cherokee Trail of Tears

Cherokee Trail of Tears from About North Georgia
Cherokee Trail of Tears from Our Georgia History


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