History of the Trail of Tears

Trail of  Tears Map

The history of the Trail of Tears refers to the forceful removal on the Cherokee Indians in 1838. The Cherokees were driven out of their homes in Georgia and forced to the Western region of the United States. This unfair emigration resulted in the deaths of over 4,000 Native Americans. Let’s take a look at the time line of events that led to this tragic moment in U.S. history.

The history of the Trail of Tears started prior to the actual event itself. Between the years of 1790 and 1830 the population of the Georgia area where the Cherokee Indians dwelled had been flooded with settlers. The Georgia government signed the Compact of 1802 agreeing to give up a portion of its land to the national government in exchange for help with the removal of the Native Americans.

The Cherokee Indians refused to be moved out. In fact, the history of the Trail of Tears points out that they instead built a capital city of New Echota in 1825 in an effort to maintain their right to land. However, the discovery of gold followed by the Georgia Gold Rush of 1829 added to the tensions between the Cherokees and the Georgians.

In 1831 the matter went to the U.S. Supreme court. The court decided that the Cherokees were entitled to their land. However, the state of Georgia ignored the ruling, and President Andrew Jackson refused to enforce it. Instead President Jackson used the Indian Removal Act of 1830 to try to get the Cherokees to agree to leave.

The history of the trail of Tears continued when in 1835 the U.S government offered the Cherokee Indians 4.5 million dollars to relocate in the West. The Indians declined this offer. At this time the Treaty of New Echota was drafted and despite the fact that no official member of the Cherokee Council signed the document Congress ratified the document in 1836.

The deadline for removal was May 23, 1838. At that time 7,000 soldiers forced over 17,000 Cherokee Indian to the west. Over a three week period the Indians were marched out of their homes and forced to head west in one of the greatest injustices in our countries history.