I am part of the great Cherokee nation; my people lived throughout the great lands east of the Mississippi. My people lived on these lands peacefully for hundreds of years, we were not a nomadic people, and we had stationary homes, raised crops, tended cattle and raised our families. I wish to tell you a story of how my people were tricked, devastated and nearly destroyed by the white man’s government and greed, and my peoples walk along ‘The Trail of Tears’, according to, African in America, (n.d.), “In 1833, a small fraction agreed to sign a removal treaty of New Echota. The leaders of this group were not the recognized leaders of the Cherokee Nation and of 15,000 Cherokee-led by Chief John Ross-signed a petition in protest. The Supreme Court ignored their demands and ratified the treaty in 1836.” (p.5, para.3). The white government did not care that my people did not wish to leave our lands.
My people were given two years to leave on their own; those who did not were forced out of their homes by thousands of troops. My people were not allowed to gather anything, but forced to leave with only the clothes on their backs. At that time 16,000 of my people were forced from their lands into holding areas.
These so called holding areas where my people were held before being moved again were not fit for any man. According to Golden (2001), “Holding areas contained the Cherokee until they could be moved to one of the specialty forts further north. With minimum facilities the forts were little more than rat-infested prisons for these Cherokee.” (p. 2, para.3). My people were forced to live in these in human conditions for months until the government was ready to move them again. In these holding areas my people suffered the first deaths of thousands that would die during this forced migration to the new Indian Territory which is now in Oklahoma.
From the second stage of forts where my people were placed, the terrifying march began and was rightfully named, ‘The Trail of Tears’. This route according to Golden (2001), “began at the Cherokee agency near Rattlesnake Springs and headed northwest to the vicinity of Nashville, Tennessee, then to Hopkinsville, Kentucky. From here the Cherokee headed to a crossing of the Ohio just northwest of the confluence of the Tennessee River. From here the route Cherokee moved southwest, across the Mississippi, near Cape Giradeu, from here the route headed south-southwest across the Ozark Plateau to the Oklahoma Territory.” (p.2, para.6). My people walked for thousands of miles, lead like cattle with no regard to their health or comforts.
Along this horrible march 4,000 of my people died, from, hunger, disease, and exposure, the first of my people to die were the old, sick, weak and children, dropping off one by one, left along the trail, my people unable to tend to them as our customs required, as they were continually pushed forward.
Fewer of my people would have suffered and died if they had been allowed to move through white settlements, but because of the fears of the settlements my people were forced time and time again to go around these settlements, sometimes miles out of the way. According to Golden (2001), “For example at Cape, Giradeu, Missouri, the Cherokee had been fording the Mississippi at one point near downtown. City fathers, who were unhappy with the long lines of Indians passing through town asked that they cross two miles north, at a more difficult crossing known as Moccasin Springs.” (p.3, para. 2). Many of my people died during the crossing of an ice covered river there, this would not have happened if the settlers had allowed my people pass through town.
Once my people reached the new Indian Territory in Oklahoma worn weary and beaten down, we thought our troubles were over, that we could begin our lives as a nation again, but we were wrong. The government decided that in order to be accepted by the white settlers my people needed to be taught how to be ‘civilized’, and purposed a six step plan to do this. According to Remini (2010), “they presumed that once the Indians adopted the practice of private property, built homes, farmed, educated their children, and embraced Christianity, these Native Americans would win acceptance from the white Americans.” (p.2). my people had all of this minus Christianity; we had homes, taught our children, and had a government of our own. But in order to be accepted my people had to assimilate into the white man’s ways.
Golden, R. (2001). The Trail of Tears, Our Georgia History (p. 2, 3.)
Judgment Day, (n.d.) African in America (p.2)
Remini, R. (2010, March). Five Civilized Tribes. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (p.2),