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 Removal Policy.
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 Chickamauga. Chief Doublehead
of the Chickamauga, a branch of the Cherokee, signed a treaty to give away
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 Nation.
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.