Trail of Tears: the Removal of the Cherokee Nation

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The old Cherokee nation was a large thriving tribe located in northern Georgia, North Carolina, Alabama, and Tennessee, which was a region known as Appalachia. Because of greedy landowners wanting more money, land for themselves and land for their crops, this forced the Cherokees out of their land and into another region. The government, specifically Andrew Jackson, wanted the land because it was land that he “needed”. He needed this land because he felt it would increase the white population and give him more wealth and power. He enforced a removal of the Cherokee nation and all natives in the south. This removal would later be known as “The Trail of Tears.”

The Cherokee were a civilized tribe of natives, more civilized than most native tribes. They were considered civilized because a lot of them were educated and they had their own language. They used all of their natural resources to their advantage. They were a very agriculturally based people. The women in the Cherokee tribes did the majority of the farming and the men hunted and cleared the land for farming. Descent was matrilineal, meaning everything was passed down through the women, not the men like in most societies. As more and more “civilized” people came into contact with the Cherokee, the more and more they started to lose their customs and traditions. They were picking up habits and customs of the white settlers in order to assimilate with them.

In 1783, the Treaty of Paris did not represent the Indians and had some of their land taken over by the United States. Henry Knox, Secretary of War, believed that by developing an Indian policy accepted by the Indians, would achieved the goal of the States. He figured that by “civilizing” the Natives he could bring them a sense of “Enlightenment.” Knox wanted the Natives to stop hunting and be “normal” farmers. Also, he wanted them to read and write in the English language, wear European style clothes, and most of all become Christians. He felt that by doing all of this he could make them better people and they could become part of the society. They would be able to assimilate to the “American way” and be able to survive. If they did not then they would simply just disappear because according to Knox, “uncivilized people could not live among the civilized.” The Cherokee wrote their own constitution, which emulated that of the United States Constitution. This was supposed to help them but it inevitably did not. This so called civilization of the Natives did not solve the problem.

Andrew Jackson was a big advocate for removing the Cherokee nation. Elected president in 1828, Jackson did everything in his power to get rid of the natives in the south. He believed that they were not supposed to be there and they were in the way of westward expansion of the government. Jackson and his cabinet members had a few different ideas on how to deal with the Natives. They were: allowing white settlers to violate Indian lands, having the federal government move in so they could enforce treaties, forcing the Indians to acclimate by taking away government protection, or removing them from the guaranteed land given to them by treaties and sending them to unsettled western lands. Andrew Jackson also said that, “The consequences of a speedy removal will be important to the United States, individual states, and to the Indians themselves.” This is to mean that he believes that removing the Indians from the south will help the United States in becoming a better nation.

In 1830, President Andrew Jackson signed the bill for the Indian Removal Act. This bill proposed to exchange public lands out west for Indian territories down in the south and to give them money for the removal process in the sum of five-hundred thousand dollars. Since the Cherokees were considered an independent republic in the state of Georgia, they were trying to fight for themselves so they didn’t lose their land. The Supreme Court case, Cherokee Nation v....
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