What Is The Trail of Tears?

Historical Context

In 1830, the Indian Removal Act was signed by Andrew Jackson. The law’s purpose was to negotiate with Native American tribes and help them relocate from land in the deep south to land that was west of the Mississippi River called The Indian Territory. As one would assume, the Cherokee Nation and other Indian tribes were not as enthusiastic to leave their homeland and were forced to relocate.

What Is The Trail Of Tears?

The Trail of Tears is not a literal trail but refers to a series of forced relocations of Native Americans from their land.

Between the years of 1830 and 1850, the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, Seminole, and Cherokee people were held at gunpoint and forced to march across the United States. The most infamous march was the Cherokee removal in 1838. Due to a discovery of gold on their land, 16,543 Cherokees were forced to leave their home.

During these death marches, many Native Americans died of disease and starvation before even reaching their intended destination. It’s estimated that up to 6,000 Cherokee’s died during their removal in 1838. Some Indians were given money to purchase food during the trail, but some suppliers sold them bad food which caused much of the starvation.

Where Does The Name Trail of Tears Come From? 

The terminology “Trail of Tears” comes from this removal as many Cherokee’s wept for their loved one’s death during this relocation. In Cherokee history, the event is called nu na da ul tsun yi (“the place where they cried”) or nu na hi du na tlo hi lu i (the trail where they cried).

What Was The Aftermath?

The Trail Tears is considered one of the darkest and most shameful events in American History. In 1987, about 2,200 miles of trails were labeled the “Trail of Tears National Historic Trail” which crosses over 9 states. It’s to commemorate all of the Native Americans who lost their lives during this time.