The Trail Of Tears Essay

The primary reason for the Indian Removal Act of 1830 was that the white settlers of this country discovered gold in the northern part of Georgia and became hungry for more land. This brought about a gold rush to most of the state and gave president Jackson a reason to push the Indians out of the area in order for more white Americans could come to Georgia (A Brief Histroy). President Jackson also felt a need to protect the United states from threats on the inside of our country in reference he was speaking about the Indians that lived in our country (Prucha, 528).

After the American Revolution, the Americans wanted to act civilly toward the Indians and turn over a new leaf by trying to get along with and help the Indians. The Cherokee Indians were even starting to assimilate to the white settlers ways with different laws and based their government around the United States (Teaching History). The hope of most humanitarians were to teach the younger generations the ways of the white settlers in hope that in doing this would make the process of the white culture being dominant would take place (Prucha, 535).

Thomas Jefferson was another attributing factor for the Indians trying to get them to assimilate (Prucha, 535). The assimilation started to change the Cherokee Indian males gender roles in different ways as well by having them take a more female approach to farming and other house work that female Indians usually did all because of the assimilation (Teaching History). Even after this assimilation the whites in the southern states like Tennessee, Georgia, and North Carolina wanted the Indians out in order for them to acquire more land and look for gold (Teaching History).

This was not President Jackson’s first or last treaty either, he went on to sign or force many other treaties to ultimatley get his way with the land that he wanted. From 1814 to 1824 President Jackson negotiated nine different treaties with the Indians with the promise of leaving their native lands would assure them greater land in the west (Indian). The removal of the Indians were expected to be a peaceful process with little to no resistance but in the case of the Cherokee and other Indians did not go quietly (Indian).

The reason that this proposition had little resistance from the American people is that most of the supporters that supported the Indian Removal Act were white southerners (The Trail of Tears). As this Act was passed most Indians were pressured into signing the peace treaty of New Echota either for strategic reasons or just to move away form the white harassment that had been going on (Indian).

This treaty was made so that the Indians would give up all of the land east of the Mississippi River in exchange for food, cattle and other benefits promised to them on arrival to the new territory set aside for the Indians to live in (A Brief Histroy). President Jackson’s convictions toward the Indians came from the basis of the Indian groups not being sovereign nations in which they did not deserve formal treaties as other nations did (Prucha, 532). “When these pro-removal Cherokee leaders signed the Treaty of New Echota, they also signed their own death warrants” (A Brief Histroy).

The Cherokee nations leaders in there government had already put into writing that if any Cherokee signed the treaty agreeing with giving up their homeland that they would in turn be put to death. This led to fighting with the Indians that made it to the new reservations with other Indians that didn’t believe they should have signed the Treaty of Echota that ultimately led to more casualties. The treaty was eventually signed; yes by Cherokee Indian leaders but only a very small number of them agreed and the rest did not want any part of the Treaty (National Park Service).

The largest Cherokee resistance came from the leader John Ross that was chief of the Indian tribe the Cherokee. Chief Ross did not sign the Treaty agreement and fought against President Jackson and his federal troops until the very end (The Trail of Tears). “About 20,000 Cherokees were marched westward at gunpoint on the infamous Trail of Tears. Nearly a quarter perished on the way, with the remainder left to seek survival in a completely foreign land” (The Trail of Tears).

These Indians were marched at gunpoint with very little compassion along a trail that cost many of them their lives; according to most studies three to four thousand Indians lost their lives on the Trail of Tears either due to starvation, weather, or illness. The Cherokee people were very resilient in many ways not just in war; they also took the state of Georgia to court in Cherokee Nation vs. Georgia. When Georgia ignored the claims of the Indians in court, they ended up taking it to the Supreme Court and won the decision.

The Supreme Court ruling was that Georgia had no right to take away Native territory. Even after the decision that was passed down from the Supreme Court President Jackson and the state of Georgia completely turned a blind eye to the ruling and sent troops in anyway to start the removal act (The Trail of Tears). The government mainly used treaties to get what they wanted out of people or the states but when the treaties failed the government would defy the treaties and even the supreme court rulings in order to further the movement of white settlers west (Milestones).

The treaty that was signed with the Indians were for twenty million acres of land but the Indians thought they were getting a great deal as well from the Americans. “As incentives, the law allowed the Indians financial and material assistance to travel to their new locations and start new lives and guaranteed that the Indians would live under the protection of the United States Government forever” (Milestones). As we know the Trail of Tears originated from this treaty because if the United States or White settlers stayed away from the Indian territory there would have never been a trail for the Indians to suffer on.

The greed of the European white settlers drove this removal act across Georgia and across many other states until they kicked the Indians and Cherokee out of their native lands for good (Milestones). At the very end of the march and the treaties were signed there were almost no Indians left in the south United States because they have either been driven out to the Trail of Tears forcefully or have been killed fighting the federal troops besides the tiny number of Seminoles mixed throughout Florida (Milestones).

The next point I will be moving in to is the topic of my paper, the Trail of Tears. Around twenty thousand Indians traveled the Trail of Tears either on horseback, wagons, steamboats, keelboats, or by foot (The Trail of Tears). All along this Trail of Tears were a series of stops along the way called forts. These forts were put into place for the Indians to have a place to stop and rest for a while along their tough journey and also a way for the Indians to be documented along the trail to keep a tab on them but these forts turned out to be awful living conditions for the Indians.

These forts were usually overrun with human wastes and barely holding enough food for one person let alone how ever many thousands were passing through (The Trail of Tears). Many people think that the trail itself and the arduous journey killed a good amount of the Indians and that would be true but the fact that most everyone misses is that these so called “forts” that were built for the Indians were killing them just as fast (The Trail of Tears). One of these specific campsites was known as Mantle Rock.

Mantle Rock was in Livingston county Kentucky and was just another stop off that the Cherokee had to make before getting back on the trail (National Park Service). The waiting at these camps were “cramped, often unhealthy, conditions meant that some of the Cherokee died at Mantle rock” (National Park Service). Many of the Indians that stayed in these “stockades” died from the lack of nutrition and unhealthy living conditions (Pearson). The reason for the slow progress was that there were rivers that Indians had to cross while taking the trail west and the ferries could only take a certain amount of people across a day.

This meant that the Indians that didn’t get to cross had to stay in the camps and if it happened to be winter this only made the situation worse on the cramped and unhealthy living style they were apart of in the fort (National Park Service). The winter months were especially brutal on the Trail of Tears for the Indians that left in the month of November by foot because winter would be upon them before there arrival in present day Oklahoma (National Park Service).

Most Cherokee did end up taking the land route and followed Lieutenant B. B. Cannon, 17 total detachments ended up traveling the Trail of Tears and most of them were on foot and were the willing parties that decided to sign the Treaty and move west with the promise of land and other necessities (National Park Service). The Cherokee had a long and arduous journey from walking over 1,200 miles westward and with the journey came famine and disease from some of the emigrants. Around 4,000 Cherokee perished either along the trail or some perished when they eventually made it to the Indian Territory (Pearson).

A soldier’s account of what happened along the trail during the drive west was an atrocity. Most of people that were being driven out of their homes were also driven out so quickly that they never got the chance to bring any blankets or shoes to carry with them (Soilder). When the weather came through most of the Indians died from pneumonia, ill treatment, or just the cold. This soldier grew up with these Indians in the backwoods of Tennessee and described that he could not bear to watch sad sights that were happening to his friends that he grew up with (Carolina).

Most of the Indians that were driven out of their homes did not have the time to gather the essential needed for the long trip on the Trail of Tears. “There was much sickness among the emigrants, she recalled, and a great number of children died of whooping cough” (Pearson). This was a young Indian girl that gave her account about how all of the children in the wagons and some of women that were with the children were getting sick and dying. The emigrants would end up giving these diseases to the children and to some of the adults as well; from this the Indians could not fight this off and ended up perishing (Pearson).

So much is made of the Indians being moved out forcefully but the man behind the removal was President Jackson. He furthered his agenda by defending his position by saying that the reason for the Indian Removal Act was needed because safety was a concern for the lower half of the nation that had Indians residing there (Prucha, 529). Jackson said that the Indians were to weak to be able to hold off any outside threat presented to the United States and this needed to be addressed by densely populating the region with more white settlers (Prucha, 529).

President Jackson’s attitude towards the Indians portrayed the tribe as children in which he looked down upon (Indian). He believed firmly that it would be in the Indians best interest to move westward because of their savage like behavior. “Jackson’s attitude toward Native Americans was paternalistic and patronizing—he described them as children in need of guidance”(Indian). In his view they needed to be treated like children and by forcing them and telling them what to do was the only way they could be dealt with accordingly (Indian).

Jackson was known for being an Indian fighter well before he was president of the United States (Prucha, 527). “He is depicted primarily, if not exclusively, as a western frontiersman and a famous Indian fighter, who was a zealous advocate in dispossessing Indians and at heart a Indian hater” (Prucha, 527). From this knowledge, President Jackson did have a certain amount of hatred toward the Indians and it was shown through the brutal acts of removal.

Moving to present day the question arises if President Jackson’s actions during the Trail of Tears and the Indian removal act should keep him off of the twenty-dollar bill that is used in the US today? There are many critics today that believe that President Jackson’s actions of the brutal Indian removal should be held against him to this day and that is why Americans are calling for him to be taken off the US currency that is circulated throughout America.

Tubman, an African American and a Union spy during the civil war, would bump Jackson- a white man known as much for his persecution of Native Americans as for his war heroics and advocacy for the common man” (Calmes). President Jackson is viewed by some people today as a slave owner and persecutor of the Native Americans during the 1800’s (Calmes). This is the main cause of people wanting him off of the twenty-dollar bill while being replaced by Harriet Tubman, a civil rights leader in her time and abolitionist.