Unearthing the Trail of Tears: A Dark Chapter in American History
The Trail of Tears: An Unjust Exile of Native Americans
The Trail of Tears was the removal of the Native Americans from the Southeast of the United States. Cherokee, along with the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, Seminole, and more Indian tribes from the southern United States, were forced to walk through nine states and across the Mississippi River. This event was due to the Indian Removal Act that started with Thomas Jefferson and ended with Andrew Jackson.
In 1786, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “It may be regarded as certain that not a foot of land will ever be taken from the Indians without their consent.” On May 28. 1830, Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act, forcing Native Americans of the southeastern United States to relocate west of the Mississippi River. Jackson believed that Native Americans were like children who needed direction and to be taught how to live. His view towards them was condescending.
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The Condescending View and Implementation
According to Andrew Jackson’s Message to Congress, “On Indian Removal,” He states, “Can it be cruel in this Government when, by events which it cannot control, the Indian is made discontented in his ancient home to purchase his lands, to give him a new and extensive territory, to pay the expense of his removal, and support him a year in his new abode? How many thousands of our own people would gladly embrace the opportunity of being removed to the West under such conditions? If the offers made to the Indians were extended to them, they would be hailed with gratitude and joy.
Jackson’s Rationale and the Controversy
And is it supposed that the wandering savage has a stronger attachment to his home than the settled, civilized Christian? Is it more afflicting to him to leave the graves of his fathers than it is to our brothers and children? Rightly considered, the policy of the General Government toward the red man is not only liberal but generous. He is unwilling to submit to the laws of the States and mingle with their population. To save him from this alternative, or perhaps utter annihilation, the General Government kindly offers him a new home, and proposes to pay the whole expense of his removal and settlement.” He believed that he was doing them a favor and being “generous.” He was motivated by greed, and it got worse when he wanted to separate the Native Indians and the Europeans. He argued that the survival of the Native Americans depended on separation.
The Tragic Journey and Lasting Impact
The Trail of Tears was one of the worst events in American History. Over ten thousand Native Americans were pushed off of their land because of greed. The Trail of Tears stretched over five thousand miles across nine states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.
- Hakim, J. (2003). Thomas Jefferson: Young Virginian. Oxford University Press.
- Jackson, A. (1830). Message to Congress “On Indian Removal.”