What events led to the Trail of Tears?
Since the first contact with Europeans in the 1500s, Native American tribes were important in the formation of the United States. Many early interactions and conflicts between tribes and non-native groups involved land ownership. Native Americans, European governments, and the United States used treaties to establish rights for use of land. President George Washington used treaties with Native peoples as if they were a foreign government.
As the United States expanded, it pushed into Native American lands. Native Americans responded in different ways. Some used armed combat, while others chose to assimilate into white culture. The Cherokee Nation lived in much of what today is North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama. Influenced by the British and Americans, the Cherokee developed a written language, published a newspaper in both English and Cherokee, and established a government with a constitution.
White Americans believed themselves to be superior, meaning they did not believe the Cherokee had any real rights to their lands. The Georgia Gold Rush of 1828 caused many white Americans to flock to the area hoping to find their fortune. The Cherokee were angry at the constant invasion of their territory.
In response to the conflict, President Andrew Jackson called for the removal of all Native tribes east of the Mississippi River. He did this to promote the growth and expansion of Southern states and to open up land for white Americans. In 1830, Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act. It stated that Native Americans who lived east of the Mississippi River would have to move to present-day Oklahoma and give up their lands.
Many tribal members resisted removal. John Ross, Chief of the Cherokee Nation, used the American legal system to oppose. In 1831, the Cherokee Nation sued Georgia. In Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall ruled that the federal court could not stop the removal of the Cherokee to Oklahoma. A year later in Worcester v. Georgia (1832), Marshall ruled that Georgia could not enforce state laws on the Cherokee’s ancestral lands.
Ignoring that ruling, U.S. representatives negotiated the Treaty of New Echota in 1835. A small number of Cherokee signed it without the knowledge or consent of John Ross and many others. The treaty gave the military the authority to remove the Cherokee by force. John Ross protested the treaty by writing a letter to Congress, and more than 15,000 Cherokee opposed it too. The government ignored him and approved the treaty.
In 1838, thousands of U.S. soldiers and volunteers began imprisoning and assaulting Cherokee and other Native peoples. The U.S. government forced Cherokees onto “Indian reservations ” in present-day Oklahoma. Government agents drove nearly 16,000 Cherokee from their homes on a brutal 1,200-mile journey with few supplies. Many experienced starvation, disease, and exhaustion. About 4,000 Cherokee died on what would become known as the Trail of Tears.
Federal: highest level of government in the United States
Ancestral: inherited from your relatives or those who came before you
Reservations: areas of land set aside for Native Americans
Editorials are the only type of media writing that is subjective (biased, opinionated, not neutral). Types of editorials include:
- editorial cartoons (cartoons that send a message about the subject)
- editorial columns (written articles with an author’s byline)
Imagine that you are an editor for a local newspaper in the 1830s. You will either write a column or draw a cartoon for the North Carolina Gazette that explains the events that led to the Trail of Tears and takes a position on the justification of the Indian Removal Act and the roles of President Jackson and Congress. Follow the guidelines below for your chosen format.
- One drawing that uses symbols and words to convey an opinion and message on the topic
- Your cartoon should be hand drawn. (No internet sourced images)
- Answer these questions on a separate sheet of paper to accompany your political cartoon:
- What is your topic and reaction?
- What facts and evidence from the primary sources support your stance?
- What is the counter argument? Why is your position the right one?
- What conclusion do you want your audience to take away?
- 200 words (Google document, 1” margins, Times New Roman, 12 pt)
- Paragraph 1: Introduction and reaction
- State your opinion on the topic (1-2 sentences)
- Paragraphs 2-3: Supportive arguments for your stance
- This is where you sell your opinion. Use examples and facts from the primary sources and be as detailed as possible in explaining why they support your stance.
- Paragraph 4: The other side/counterargument
- This is where you’ll state the other side and then refute it. Use examples, facts and explanations as to why it’s not a valid argument.
- Paragraph 5: Suggestions, Solution or Conclusion
- What do you propose to solve the issue?