The Trail of Tears refers to a grim piece of Native American History in our country. This was at time of “relocation and movement of Native American nations from southeastern parts of the present-day United States”. (Wikipedia, p.1) The Native Americans were forced out of their own land by the white man to make way for the whites to grow and prosper. During this trek to a new land, many Native American’s lost their lives due to sickness and poor weather conditions. “One who was there reported that ‘there was a silence and stillness of the voice that betrayed the sadness of the heart’.” (National Park Service, p.1)
President Andrew Jackson was in charge of the government at the time of the removal of the Native Americans from their land. He passed the Indian Removal Act of 1830. “In 1831 the Choctaw were the first to be removed”, “after the Choctaw, the Seminole were removed in 1832, the Creek in 1834, then the Chickasaw in 1837, and finally the Cherokee in 1838.” (Wikipedia, p.1) Some Native Americans remained in their ancient homelands, but the majority moved to new lands. “The Choctaw are found in Mississippi, the Seminole in Florida, the Creek in Alabama, and the Cherokee in North Carolina.” (Wikipedia, p.1)
The boundaries of these tribal nations were subject to invasion by squatters and by military forces. “As these territories became US states, state governments sought to dissolve the boundaries of the Indian nations within their borders, which were independent of state jurisdiction, and to expropriate the land therein.” (Wikipedia, p.1) This only grew to be a larger ordeal with the onset and expansion of slavery in the south.
“More than 125,000 Native Americans lived in the forests and prairies east of the Mississippi in the 1820’s.” (Kennedy, Cohen, Bailey, p.283) On the Trail of Tears, which in the native Cherokee language is called “the Trail Where They Cried”(Wikipedia, p.7), many lives were lost. Their demise was brought about by smallpox, frigid weather conditions, and inadequate food supplies. “In the winter of 1838 the Cherokee began the thousand mile march with scant clothing and most on foot without shoes or moccasins. The march began in Red Clay, Tennessee, the location of the last Eastern capital of the Cherokee Nation. The Cherokee were given used blankets from a hospital in Tennessee where an epidemic of small pox had broken out.”(Wikipedia, p.8) Thus, the onset of the dreaded small pox disease had descended upon the Native American tribe. The white man was only out for the betterment of his own people at any cost of the Native Americans. One Georgia soldier who participated in the removal wrote, “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.” (Wikipedia, p.8)
This walk for removal was often called the “death march”. (Wikipedia, p.10) The Native Americans at this time were also placed in concentration camps and forced to live their lives in unacceptable conditions. These conditions caused the spread of communicable diseases quickly throughout the closely quartered areas. They were also subjected to violence and extortion along the route to removal. They were treated poorly due to their race. “The escorting troops refused to slow the forced march so that the ill could recover, and some four thousand Cherokees died on the 116-day journey.” (Kennedy, Cohen, Bailey, p.284)
When the Native American’s were crossing Tennessee and Kentucky, they arrived in Southern Illinois in early December 1838. They were starving and cold. Many died at Mantle Rock huddled together from the frigid weather waiting to cross the ferry. They were over charged a fee to ride the…