Honors History 10
28 April 2010
The Trail of Tears
The Trail of Tears was a removal route of Native American tribes from the southeast to the state that is now Oklahoma. They were forced to take this route by orders of President Andrew Jackson. The removal was endorsed when Congress passed the Indian Removal Act (Trail??¦). The trail stopped in Oklahoma. About 100,000 Native Americans were moved along this trail (Minges, 2). The Choctaw, Chickasaw, Muscogee, Seminole, and Cherokee were the Five Civilized Tribes that were forced to travel the Trail of Tears (Birchfield, 26). The Five Civilized Tribes faced many hardships while traveling this trail, some even fought against the forced removal, and the people removed had to adjust to new life and land after they were moved to the stranger area.
The first of the Five Civilized Tribes to be removed was the Choctaw. The Choctaw were originally from Mississippi. This tribe was chosen to be moved first because they were former allies with the United States. With this, the government thought the removal of this tribe would get the whole process going well (Birchfield, 27). The Choctaws knew that the removal could not be avoided, so a faction of the tribe negotiated the best terms they could in the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek (Birchfield, 27). This treaty was the first of removal treaties. Under the terms of the treaties made between the United States Government and the Native Americans, the tribes owned the land that they were being sent to (Birchfield, 27). The United States??™ Army enforced the removal and guided the tribes along the trail (The Story??¦). The removal took place in the winter of 1831 through 1832, unfortunately (Birchfield, 27). The Choctaws suffered greatly because of the harsh winter conditions. The severe weather caused many to freeze to death, while others became fatally ill (Birchfield, 28). ???The Choctaws walked for twenty-four hours barefoot through the snow and ice before reaching Vicksburg,??? an officer named William S. Colquhoun described (Birchfield, 28). While the army traveled in wagons, most of the Native Americans had to walk. Another group of Choctaws were also removed. The second winter removal of about 6,000 Choctaws in 1832 through 1833 coincided with a devastating epidemic of cholera, even though this removal was better managed by the army (Birchfield, 30). The death toll was even higher than that of the first group??™s removal. Only about 1,000 Choctaws could be induced to move during the third winter, leaving about 6,000 landless Choctaws in Mississippi (Birchfield, 30). Of the 11,000 Choctaws who were moved, 2,500 died during the removal or shortly afterward, when sickness and starvation took their toll (Birchfield, 31). This removal gave many Native American tribes great fears of being removed.
The Chickasaw tribe, like the Choctaw, lived in the area around northern Mississippi before they were forced to move. The removal of the Chickasaw tribe was soon after the Choctaw removal even though President Jackson knew the troubles that the Choctaw tribe went through in their removal. The Treaty of Ponotoc, the removal treaty for the Chickasaw tribe, was negotiated in 1832 (Birchfield, 31). The treaty had to be amended in 1834 before the Chickasaws would agree to move (Birchfield, 31). Once this treaty became fully valid, the Chickasaws were forced to move. The Chickasaws remembered the horror of the stories told about the Choctaw removal; therefore, they insisted on providing many of their own wagons and a plentiful amount of their supplies (Birchfield, 31). Most of the Chickasaws were moved in 1837 (Birchfield, 31). Rain was an immense disadvantage for the Chickasaws??™ traveling. The rain made the journey mostly about sickness and mud. About 600 Chickasaws died of smallpox while being moved through Arkansas (Birchfield, 32). This tribe, like the Choctaw, lost many of its people before they reached Oklahoma.
The Muscogee tribe inhabited eastern Alabama before their removal. This tribe was known for their excellence in agricultural activities (Jahoda, 32). Before a treaty or removal could get underway, greedy Americans swarmed into the Muscogee homeland and literally kicked many of the Muscogee people out of their homes (Birchfield, 32). The Muscogee people were angry and some even retaliated. The United States Army sent in troops to move the Muscogee tribe out of the area by force (Birchfield, 32). In 1836, about 2,500 of the Muscogee people, classified as hostiles, were put in chains and marched to the west during the winter of 1836 through 1837 (Birchfield, 32). On this trail, hundreds of Muscogee people died because of conditions and starvation. The remaining people were hastily removed under such horrible conditions that 3,500 of those who survived the removal were so weakened by it that they died within a year (Birchfield, 32). The Muscogee removal was as brutal and devastating as the removals of the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes.
The Seminole tribe presided in almost the whole state of Florida before they were forced to leave. Treaty of Payne??™s Landing was the removal treaty for the Seminoles that a faction of the tribe negotiated (Birchfield, 33). The Seminole removal was not one of as many hardships as the other tribes??™ removals. Some Seminole people left Florida, traveling by boat to Louisiana and then heading north (Birchfield, 33). Many people refused to be moved, however, and fought the Americans for years (Birchfield, 33). This was known as the Seminole Wars. These wars were first led by Native American men Osceola, Wildcat, and former slave John Horse who stayed with large numbers of Seminoles in Florida and fought against removal (Birchfield, 33). One thousand United States??™ soldiers were sent in to remove the Seminoles by force but were defeated (Birchfield, 33). Unfortunately for the Seminoles, more soldiers were sent, and the Seminoles fled to the Everglades of southern Florida, where they held out against the Americans (Birchfield, 33). By 1842, three thousand Seminoles had been captured and removed by force (Birchfield, 33). For every two Seminoles removed, however, it cost the life of one American soldier. The United States simply gave up after this and left the remaining few hundred Seminoles in the Everglades (Birchfield, 33). The Seminoles were best known for their unyielding actions against the forcing of their people to leave Florida.
The Cherokee tribe was mostly in northeast Georgia, but some were in southeast Tennessee and northeast Alabama. The Cherokee removal treaty was the Treaty of New Echota (Trail??¦). Many Cherokee people opposed this treaty. A small minority of the Cherokee tribe signed the Treaty of New Echota in 1835, because they believed that signing the treaty was the only way that they could survive as a people (Trail??¦). The large majority of Cherokees, however, under chief John Ross, refused to acknowledge the removal treaty (Birchfield, 34). In 1838, the United States Army swept into the Cherokee nation with 7,000 troops and rounded up most of the Cherokee people (Birchfield, 34). Thousands of the Cherokee people were held in prison camps under terrible conditions until the removal got underway (Birchfield, 34). This Cherokee removal became the most infamous of all the removals, because by that time the tragedy of the situation had, at last, attracted the attention of the American people (Birchfield, 34). Many Americans, mostly from northern states, protested against the policy, but without success (Birchfield, 35). Most of the Cherokee people were removed at one time during the winter of 1838 through 1839, in thirteen groups of about 1,000 each (Birchfield, 35). The death toll was about 4,000 people, including those who had died back in the prison camps (Birchfield, 35).
Most of the Native American people tried to adjust to life on the new land and recover from the suffering of the trail. However, in the first few years, life in the new land had proved almost as deadly as the removals had been (Birchfield, 36). This was because these people were basically moved to the uninhabited area without food, clothing, or shelter. For agricultural peoples, such as the Muscogee tribe, uprooted from their farms and transplanted into a wilderness, starvation was the first enemy that had to be faced (Birchfield, 37). The government had obligated itself to provide food for a year after removal, but corruption in the government occurred (Birchfield, 37). More people of the tribes died because they never received the food or supplies that were promised to them by the United States. With adjusting to the new life, tension among the tribes occurred. The Seminoles and Muscogees were not fond of each other and neither were the Choctaws and Chicksaws (Birchfield, 38). Despite the high tensions and their great loss of many of their people, the tribes survived (Birchfield 39). To adjust more to the new land they set up Constitutions for their government, organized school systems for their children, and harvested crops (Birchfield, 39). The Five Civilized Tribes soon recovered from the removal.
The Five Civilized Tribes of the Trail of Tears faced many hardships, fought against removal, and adjusted to their new life on the new land. The Trail of Tears was a fascinating time period. The suffering of harsh weather conditions to the spread of disease showed how bad the hardships were that they faced. The way the Seminoles fought back and were left alone in the end showed their determination. The creation of constitutions and school systems clarified that they adjusted to new life and recovered from the removal. The Trail of Tears will always be thought of as a dismal time in American history.
Birchfield, D. Landmark Events in American History: The Trail of Tears. Milwaukee, WI: World Almanac Library, 2004. Print.
Jahoda, Gloria. The Trail of Tears. New York: Wings Books, 1975. Print.
Minges, Patrick. Beneath the Underdog: Race, Religion, and the ???Trail of Tears???. US Gen Net, 1994. Web. 22 March 2010. .
The Story: The Trail of Tears. Trail of Tears Association. Web. 23 March 2010. .
Trail of Tears National History. National Park Service, 2007. Web. 23 March 2010. .