The Trail of Tears, was it unjust and inhumane? What happened to the Cherokee during that long and treacherous journey? They were brave and listened to the government, but they recieved unproductive land and lost their tribal land.
The white settlers were already emigrating to the Union, or America. The East coast was
burdened with new settlers and becoming vastly populated. President Andrew Jackson and the
government had to find a way to move people to the West to make room. President Andrew Jackson
passed the Indian Removal Policy in the year 1830. The Indian Removal Policy which called for the
removal of Native Americans from the Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia area, also
moved their capital Echota in Tennessee to the new capital call New Echota, Georgia and then eventually
to the Indian Territory. The Indian Territory was declared in the Act of Congress in 1830 with the Indian
Elias Boudinot, Major Ridge, and John Ridge and there corps accepted the responsibility for the
removal of one of the largest tribes in the Southeast that were the earliest to adapt to European ways.
There was a war involving the Cherokee and the Chickasaw before the Indian Removal Policy
was passed. The Cherokee were defeated by them which caused Chief Dragging Canoe to sign a treaty in
1777 to split up their tribe and have the portion of the tribe in Chattanooga, Tennessee called the
Chief Doublehead of the Chickamauga, a branch of the Cherokee, signed a treaty to give away
their lands. Tribal law says "Death to any Cherokee who proposed to sell or exchange tribal land." Chief
Doublehead was later executed by Major Ridge.
Again there was another treaty signed in December 29, 1835 which is called The Treaty of New
Echota. It was signed by a party of 500 Cherokee out of about 17,000. Between 1785 and 1902 twenty-five
treaties were signed with white men to give up their tribal lands.
The Cherokee would find themselves in a nightmare for the next year. In 1838 General Winfield
Scott got tired of delaying this longer than the 2 years he waited already so he took charge in collecting
the Cherokee. The Cherokee were taken from their homes and their belongings. The were placed in
holding camps so none would escape. The Cherokee were to be moved in the fall of 1838.
The journey did not occur in October, 1838 because of bad weather. They were now supposed to
move 13,000 Cherokee in the spring of 1839 a distance of eight-hundred miles.
The Cherokee were fed on meager rations and suffered malnutrition. They were badly clothed for
the spring and many caught diseases and died. Many Cherokee tried to escape and some succeeded. The
Cherokee knew these woodlands and knew where to go. The white men couldn't find them without the
help of other Cherokee and bribes. Most of the Cherokee hid in the mountains and could not be found.
During the eight-hundred mile trek many children and spouses were separated from their
families when the Government would split up the Cherokee into groups of 1,000 for ease of removal.
About one-third of the original Cherokee they collected died in the holding camps and between the trek
from the Southeast section of the Union to Indian Territory.
They would have to learn a new way of life and adjust. They lost their negro slaves, and their
possessions. The Cherokee were farmers, and the land was infertile. The land was meant for cattle raising,
which they didn't know ho to do.
They built a capital city called Tahlequah, and their nation was declared in September 6, 1839.
Their culture was bred here along their new way of life. John Ross who was elected by the Cherokee as the
President of the Cherokee nation in 1827 continues his roll in the land, shared with another seventy tribes.
They had opened up schools in the Indian Territory to continue their education for their children. The first
Cherokee school opened in 1801 when the people were learning their language. Their written language
which consists of 85 characters, was said to be created by a Sequoia (1760-1843) , a Cherokee leader.
Sequoia translated the Bible, wrote many books, and helped publish the newspaper,"The Cherokee
Phoenix." This was contradicted in Dialogue-Everyman's Encyclopedia Story #1989130. It said the man
who created the 85 character written language was George Guess.
The Cherokee Phoenix was published in both languages-English and the Cherokees'. The
Cherokee had mixed blood from the early British settlers and traders. Therefore, the Cherokee were
educated in both languages.
For over half a century the Cherokee have abstained from becoming American Citizens until
1906 when the Unites States made all tribal members U.S. Citizens. A year later the Indian Territory was
admitted into the Union as the state of Oklahoma.
During this period many Cherokee started breaking away and mixing their blood. In 1930 forty-
five thousand two hundred thirty-eight Cherokee left Oklahoma and headed East from where they came.
The Cherokee started slowly changing their religion. There are many who are Jewish,
Episcopalian, and Hindu.
The 10,000 Cherokee that survived the Trail of Tears and the other Cherokee that were not taken
for the removal slowly gained back in population in a century. The Tahlequah Agency in Oklahoma has
said there were 42,992 Cherokee living in Tahlequah in 1982. The U.S. Census has shown 293,074
Cherokee are living in more than 30 states in the United States. Now the Cherokee Nation is under control
of the first woman chief. In November 1983 Wilma Mankiller was elected to the office of the Cherokee
The Cherokee survived the hardships of the Trail of Tears and the loss of their loved ones and all
that belonged to them. Their population continues to grow inspite of the immense number of tribal
members that were lost during this era.