Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Trail of Tears by Ginger Simpson
The Trail of Tears is a sad testament of the greed displayed against Native Americans in the 1800s.  In order to achieve land and build states, the Native American tribes were forced to leave the lands they occupied, and moved against their will.  Although those who wanted to stay were allowed to remain and assimilate into society, there is no doubt they were not treated well as white men didn't look favorably upon those with red skin.

Oklahoma, not yet formed was the home of the Choctaw Nation, later named Indian Territory. The government's aim to achieve their personal goal was to relocate Native Americans to the west.  The Indian Removal At of 1830 allowed President Andrew Jackson to enact treaties allowing the removal of all tribes living east of the Mississippi.  For the most part, the removal of the Choctaw was peaceful, but those who resisted were eventually forced to leave if they didn't wish to assimilate into society.
The Creek refused to move, but in good faith, signed a treaty in March 1832 to surrender a large portion of their land as long as the remaining lands were afforded protection.  The US failed to deliver, and in 1837, the military forcibly removed the tribe without benefit of a treaty this time.
The Chickasaw realized they had no other alternative, and and signed a treaty in 1832 to include their protection until their move. The Chickasaws were forced to move earlier than expected as a result of white settlers.  The war department refused to intercede.
A small group of Seminoles signed a relocation treaty, but the majority of the tribe rebuked the agreement.. After resulting in what is known as the Second and Third Seminole Wars, those who survived were paid to move west..
In 1833, the Treaty of New Echota provided two years for the Cherokees in the state of Georgia to move west or face a forced exit.. By the deadline, only a small number of Cherokees had migrated westward and sixteen thousand remained steadfast on their land. As a result, the US sent seven thousand soldiers to enforce the treaty, not even giving the tribe time to gather their belongings.  The escorted march westward became known as the Trail of Tears because four thousand people died along the way.
The thousand-mile march began In the winter of 1838, many Cherokee covered only with skimpy clothing, most on feet without shoes/moccasins.  Beginning in Red Clay, Tennessee, the tribe crossed Tennessee and Kentucky, never allowed to step foot into any towns or villages because of the fear of disease.  Having to bypass these places added miles to their journey, but when they finally arrived at the Ohio River in Southern Illinois around December 3, 1838, they were subjected to a dollar per person toll to use Berry's Ferry.  The traditional charge was twelve cents per head, and the Indians were not allowed to cross until all others were served.  During their wait, as many of the tribe as possible sought shelter under "Mantle Rock," a  bluff on the Kentucky side of the river.  While huddled together, many died from exposure. Several Cherokee were murdered by locals.
The marchers reached southern Illinois on December 26.  An agent for the detachment wrote, "There is the coldest weather in Illinois I ever experienced anywhere.  The streams are all frozen over...  We are compelled to cut through the ice to get water... It snows here every two or three days...we are now camped in Mississippi swamp 4 miles from the river, and there is no possible chance of crossing the river... We have only traveled sixty-five miles in the last month, including the time spent at this place, which has been about three weeks.  It is unknown when we shall cross the river...."

"I fought through the War Between the States and have seen many men shot, but the Cherokee Removal was the cruelest work I ever knew.".
—- Georgia soldier who participated in the removal
The Trail of Tears
Historical information for the blog was gleaned from Wikipedia, including the map above.  Other photographs have been given attribution.


Sandy Semerad said...

Hi Ginger, I travel with my job and while working in Camden, AL (Wilcox Co.) I drove through Georgiana to get there. My GPS took me on a narrow road with potholes and too narrow for two cars to pass. Not safe. On the roadside I saw this sign: "Trail of Tears Road." I loved that I was driving on this historic road, but I wondered why noone had the gumption to repair it.

Ann Herrick said...

What a sad part of our history.

Unknown said...

Ann...with regard to Native Americans...we had very few proud moments. It is indeed very sad the unfairness they suffered at the hands of our government.

Unknown said...

That road is a testament to all the bad things we did to Native American's back in the day. Of course, if you saw any of the pictures I took going cross country, our President really is concentrating on the infrastructure. That bump ol' one land road is sure to be filled with orange cones in a short time. :)

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Ginger,
A tragic tale indeed. Most of it caused by greed.



Unknown said...

Truly, Margaret. I think this is one of the reason's I try to show the American Indians in a different light when I write.

On the other hand...I watched Twelve Years a Slave last night...and another sad testimony of why so many people of color carry around the excess baggage of their ancestors. When you hear it daily from Grandparents, great grandparents and people closer to the heart of the problem, it only seems natural to have to fight the hatred, even when it's non existent in most instances. Watching the movie didn't give me much pride in my ancestors, just as writing about the Trail of Tears made me question where was the compassion?