The Trail of Tears was a journey which thousands of Native Americans made from southeastern United States all the way to Oklahoma in 1838 and 1839.
This journey was thousands of miles. The government of the United States of America wanted the land owned by the Native American tribes in southeastern America, so they forced the Native Americans tribes to leave their homeland and move to Oklahoma.
On the march, the Native Americans were accompanied by American soldiers who forced them to leave their homes and then travel for many months.
The Native American tribes of Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Seminole didn’t want to leave their homeland which was in the present-day states of Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. But the American government forced them to leave.
They had to leave their houses, take their families and travel for almost 1000 miles. On this journey, they had to face bitter winter, hunger, outbreak of diseases, lack of food and many other problems. This resulted in the death of 4000 people of the Cherokee tribe alone. Such tragic loss of human life eventually led to the march being called the ‘Trail of Tears’.
In the years before the march took place, the American government passed the Indian Removal Act in 1830. This Act gave the government the authority to remove Native American tribes from their homelands and relocate them. Using this act, the government asked the Cherokee Nation, who lived in southeast America, to leave their homeland.
They refused and took their case to the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ruled in their favour. But President Andrew Jackson simply ignored the Supreme Court’s ruling and asked the Cherokee to vacate their land. When they didn’t, President Andrew Jackson sent General Winfield Scott with an army to forcefully remove them.
In the early 19th century, United States of America was expanding from eastern coastline of North America towards the West. Settlers, miners, farmers, landowners and other people from eastern states moved towards west to explore new opportunities.
In 1830s, gold was discovered in the land originally owned by the Cherokee Nation. Before this time, the US government had allowed the Cherokee to live in their land. But after the discovery of the gold, the government simply wanted them to give their land into government ownership.
When President Jackson asked the army to remove the Cherokee from their land, the army surrounded the Cherokee and took them to large prison camps in 1838. They weren’t allowed to gather their possessions before leaving. Soon afterwards, they were forced to march towards Oklahoma.
On the journey which lasted a thousand miles, most of the Native Americans had to walk on foot. Severe winter, difficult terrain, the lack of money and food, and other problems slowed down the march. The government did little to help them along the way.
The Cherokee finally reached their new home in Oklahoma in 1839. Oklahoma was a desolate place at this time and so, they had a new challenge facing them when they reached there.