American History 1785 - 1849

United States History The Trail of Tears

After American raids into Florida between 1810 and 1813, the Spanish decided to sell that land to the United States. A treaty with Spain was signed in 1819 giving Florida to the United States.

The Cherokee Indians of the early 1800's were intelligent and hard-working people. Most could read. Many wore "white man's" clothing. Some lived in log cabins and others lived in large houses.

A Cherokee named Sequoyah made an alphabet for his language, so it could be read and written as well as spoken.

In 1826 the Cherokee tribe held a convention and drafted a tribal constitution. In 1828 an Indian newspaper called the Cherokee Phoenix was published in Georgia. As early as 1802, the state of Georgia and the federal government had signed an agreement with the Indians that stated that the Indian land belonged to Georgia.

The federal government said it would help get the Indians off their land. In 1829 President Jackson had a "removal bill" introduced to Congress. The bill said that all Cherokee Indians would have to move to a reservation in Oklahoma. Georgia took the Indians' land and began to break it into small pieces to be given to the white settlers. All contracts between Indians and whites were canceled. Anyone owing money to an Indian didn't have to pay. Some whites attacked and burned the Indians' homes.

John Ross

Chief of the Cherokee, John Ross, took his case to the United States Supreme Court. He claimed Georgia had no right to do what it was doing to his people. John Marshal, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, made a ruling in 1832. He ruled with sympathy, but he ruled against the Cherokees.

Indian leaders were arrested, and their homes were taken away. The Phoenix was closed down by U. S. soldiers.

In 1835 two Cherokee who were not elected leaders of the tribe signed a treaty with the federal government. The treaty arranged for the Indians to move away from Georgia. They had two years to leave.

Chief Ross said the treaty was not good because no elected leader had signed it. More than 16,000 Cherokee signed a petition asking that the treaty be canceled. President Jackson refused.

Between 1836 and 1838 some Cherokee moved to the Oklahoma Territory. Fifteen thousand remained in Georgia. In 1838 ten thousand American troops were sent to Georgia to remove the Cherokee from the land they had lived on as long as anyone could remember. They were taken to a makeshift prison until the trip west could begin. Many Indians got sick in the crowded prisons. The white men sold the Indians bad whiskey and food.

The trip to Oklahoma began in cold weather. The Cherokee were forced to move first by flatboat then on foot. Some escaped to North Carolina and hid in the mountains. More than four thousand Native Americans including Chief Ross's wife died on the trip. One fourth of the tribe died on the trail known as the "Trail of Tears".

Trail of Tears

Indian Removal Map

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