The Trail of Tears (1838-1839)
Social Studies Research Project: By Esha Sharma
Research Question: How were the conditions on the Trail of Tears?
After a young boy of the Cherokee Tribe had sold a nugget of gold to an American settler, news spread quickly amongst greedy men, and everyone was fighting to force the Cherokee Nation out of Georgia- many lives of the Cherokee were at stake. Years after standing their ground, a minor faction of political members finally negotiated a treaty with the US Government known as the Treaty of New Echota. Although actual elected political members of the Nation or Head Chief John Ross did not agree with the conditions of the Treaty, the document was already ratified and amended by the US Government in March 1836. The only reason the Cherokee actually agreed to the treaty was because they thought that they would be generously escorted to a comfortable Indian Camp after they ceded their land to the US- but what they didn't know was that they were believing a lie, many lives were about to go down the deep end, and all of their lives were going to take a turn for the worse.
- "Treaty of New Echota." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 4 June 2015.
I chose this research question to study on because the Trail of Tears carries the stories of many Native American forgotten lives, survivors, and trekkers that lost much both emotionally and physically. This was a tragic time period in the history of US shaping- and many primary and secondary resources could have been useful in getting to the approximate answer of the research question.
The First time they got the Hint
After the signing of the New Echota, the Cherokee Natives waited for the US Government officials to escort them towards the Indian camps. But instead, gruff soldiers pounded on their doors, broke them down, and arrested them or kicked them out of their homes- only to be squeezed into a cramped carriage, wagon, or horse. Alarmed, the Cherokees tried to resist against the soldiers' grips to collect precious items, but only to be hurt even more by the person who held them captive. On one website, I found out that right after all the Natives were evacuated, American farmers looted houses, many held lotteries on farmland, traded priceless native heirlooms for cheap rates, and many leftover soldiers burned down houses containing many loved items.
- "Life on the Trail." Trail of Tears. Web. 4 June 2015.
- "Trail of Tears." ***. Web. 4 June 2015.
Hopeless life on the Trail
Cherokees were trudging the Trail of Tears for days, and days turned to months. Many women, such as Mary Tustenuggee Tiger, leader of the Seminole tribe, were abused by soldiers who considered themselves superior to the Natives in every way possible. Many elderly natives were too old to walk because of their weak heart rates. If they stopped walking, they would be commanded to get up and walk again- and if they did not heed the soldiers' orders, they would either be whipped, or kicked and beaten to death. Blood would be splattered on trees, and bodies would lying in every angle of sight. The stench of blood would spin through the still, humid air; and the sounds of pitiful sobbing and moaning would float on the wind to a better place. Food portions were small, the only food they would get was a two glasses of warm water, a stale piece of bread, and a miniature turnip. Many died of starvation in the winter of 1838. Soldiers were lazy, and took up the horse-drawn carriages mostly all to themselves- leaving the Indians no choice but to walk, or ride a horse. Soldiers would only go out once or twice in the thick summer air to hunt for a buffalo or two, and then drag it back to camp. Babies would cry in the day, and through the night. If babies cried even when the soldiers told the mother to make it quiet, the soldiers would either drown it in a river, or smash it against a tree until it was dead. Mourning wasn't allowed because it took too much time according to the soldiers. Life went on for a year like this, with barely any stops. Forests were dense, and people could barely move through them. Many Indians made landmarks, such as pieces of clothing tied to a branch. Soldiers mostly fed saltwater to the Natives, but if they found a freshwater site, they would make a quick stop. Many freshwater places did not come so quickly, so many died of thirst. After reaching the main site, 4,000 of the 15,000 Cherokee Indians died. This forced march later became known as the Trail of Tears.
- McNamara, Robert. "Indian Removal and the Trail of Tears." AboutEducation. Robert McNamara. Web. 4 June 2015.
- "10.8 A Soldier Recalls the Trail of Tears." A Soldier Recalls the Trail of Tears. Web. 4 June 2015.
Climate During the FOrced march
All the while, the Cherokee Indians were mourning the losses of their lost ancestors and family. But what made it even worse were the harsh climates that accompanied them. There were three major Cherokee groups that traveled to their designated camp. There were two major land groups, and one major water group. The water group faced much bad weather, being on the water. Heavy winds and thunderstorms shook the boat, and often they would have people swim in the water to keep the boat stable. Although they were on the water, the most people died of dehydration because all they had in store after a few weeks was salt water. The land groups faced almost the same conditions in harshness. Forests were dense, and the winters were harsh with heavy snowfall. In the summers, some would perish of heat and dehydration.