Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cherokee Removal to Indian Territory

A little history lesson today. The Trail of Tears

Between 1790 and 1830 the population of Georgia increased six-fold. The western push of the settlers created a problem. Georgians continued to take Native American lands and force them into the frontier. By 1825 the Lower Creek Tribe had been completely removed from the state under provisions of the Treaty of Indian Springs. By 1827 the Creek Nation was gone.
Cherokee had long called western Georgia home. The Cherokee Nation continued in their enchanted land until 1828. It was then that the rumored gold, for which De Soto had relentlessly searched, was discovered in the North Georgia mountains.

In his book I Don't Know Much About History, Kenneth C. Davis writes:

"Hollywood has left the impression that the great Indian wars came in the Old West during the late 1800's, a period that many think of simplistically as the "cowboy and Indian" days. But in fact that was a "mopping up" effort. By that time the Indians were nearly finished, their subjugation complete, their numbers decimated. The killing, enslavement, and land theft had begun with the arrival of the Europeans. But it may have reached its nadir when it became federal policy under President (Andrew) Jackson."

The Cherokees in 1828 were not nomadic savages. In fact, they had assimilated many European-style customs, including the wearing of gowns by Cherokee women. They built roads, schools and churches, had a system of representational government, and were farmers and cattle ranchers. A Cherokee alphabet, the Talking Leaves was perfected by Sequoyah.

In 1830 the Congress of the United States passed the "Indian Removal Act." Although many Americans were against the act, most notably Tennessee Congressman Davy Crockett, it passed anyway. President Jackson quickly signed the bill into law. The Cherokees attempted to fight removal legally by challenging the removal laws in the Supreme Court and by establishing an independent Cherokee Nation.

Trail of Tears - by Robert Lindneux at Woolaroc

By 1835 the Cherokee were divided and despondent. Most supported Principal Chief John Ross, who fought the encroachment of whites starting with the 1832 land lottery. However, a minority(less than 500 out of 17,000 Cherokee in North Georgia) followed Major Ridge, his son John, and Elias Boudinot, who advocated removal. The Treaty of New Echota, signed by Ridge and members of the Treaty Party in 1835, gave Jackson the legal document he needed to remove the First Americans. Ratification of the treaty by the United States Senate sealed the fate of the Cherokee. Among the few who spoke out against the ratification were Daniel Webster and Henry Clay, but it passed by a single vote. In 1838 the United States began the removal to Oklahoma, fulfilling a promise the government made to Georgia in 1802. Ordered to move on the Cherokee, General John Wool resigned his command in protest, delaying the action. His replacement, General Winfield Scott, arrived at New Echota on May 17, 1838 with 7000 men. Early that summer General Scott and the United States Army began the invasion of the Cherokee Nation. (Map and text excerpted from Oklahoma Historical Society)

In one of the saddest episodes of our brief history, men,
women, and children were taken from their land, herded into makeshift forts with minimal facilities and food, then forced to march a thousand miles Some made part of the trip by boat in equally horrible conditions. Under the generally indifferent army commanders, human losses for the first groups of Cherokee removed were extremely high. John Ross made an urgent appeal to Scott, requesting that the general let his people lead the tribe west. General Scott agreed. Ross organized the Cherokee into smaller groups and let them move separately through the wilderness so they could forage for food. Although the parties under Ross left in early fall and arrived in Oklahoma during the brutal winter of 1838-39, he significantly reduced the loss of life among his people. About 4000 Cherokee died as a result of the removal. The route they traversed and the journey itself became known as "The Trail of Tears" or, as a direct translation from Cherokee, "The Trail Where They Cried" ("Nunna daul Tsuny").

This brick capital was built in 1870.

Tahlequah was established as the Cherokee capital by the Cherokee people in 1839 at the close of the Trail of Tears. The county seat of Cherokee County in the eastern section of Oklahoma, Tahlequah is only forty miles from the Arkansas state line at the intersection of U.S. Highway 62 with State Highways 10, 51, and 82.

The town soon became a community that planned for the future through sound government, good schools, prosperous businesses, strong religious entities, and a desire to grow in Indian Territory.

The Cherokee were a vital, progressive people, and the town grew around the capital square, a government complex of log or frame buildings. During the hostilities of the Civil War, the differing Cherokee factions destroyed most of the capital complex.

After the war ended, a brick capitol was built and was first occupied in 1870. After 1907 statehood, this building was used as the Cherokee County Courthouse. It was returned to the Cherokee Nation in 1970. (Excerpts from About North Georgia, Photo is the authors)


Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

Sadly, fascinating piece of American history - thank you.


Yogi♪♪♪ said... [Reply to comment]

Its a tragic story that not many people know about, especially outside Oklahoma.

Elleona said... [Reply to comment]

Bonjour, Bill.
Au moins, ça c'est de la documentation et très intéressante de surcroît.

Terri said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you for posting this. We need to be reminded that most of us were once "illegal aliens."