Trail of Tears

[treyl] [uhv] [teers]

What does Trail of Tears mean?

The Trail of Tears was the forced relocation of approximately 100,000 Native Americans in the 1830s, in which thousands of indigenous people lost their lives. It’s remembered today as a great human-rights atrocity and a shameful period in the oppression of native peoples by the United States Government.

Examples of Trail of Tears


Examples of Trail of Tears
“Several news organizations reported that some Greenfield-McClain High School cheerleaders held up the banner at a Friday night game against the Hillsboro High Indians. It read: 'Hey Indians, Get Ready for a Trail of Tears Part 2.' The reference was to the 19th century forced relocation of Indians. Thousands died of starvation, illness or exposure.”
Associated Press, “Ohio high school apologizes after 'Trail of Tears' banner displayed at football game,” Fox News (October 30, 2016)
“Evicted from their Southeastern homeland by the federal government in the 1830s, Native Americans were sent on forced marches to eastern Oklahoma that became known as the Trail of Tears, an ordeal of disease, starvation and death. Now a study of Cherokee remains suggests that the stress interfered with the normal growth of their skulls.”
Sindya N. Bhanoo, “The Trail of Tears, and of Damaged Skulls,” The New York Times (April 21, 2014)
“Stretching from the Deep South to Oklahoma, the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail tells of the forced removal of most of the Cherokee people from their ancestral homeland.”
Marty Roney, “Trail of Tears: Heartbreaking look at an 'arduous journey',” USA Today (July 3, 2013)

Where does Trail of Tears come from?


In 1830, President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act, which aimed to “move” indigenous populations out of their ancestral lands on the east coast of North America in order to make way for white settlers.

Though many tribes and nations were displaced (with suffering and death accompanying their movement), the Cherokee Nation was one of the largest native groups in America, and their removal took the longest. The Cherokee were forced to leave their homes and march more than 5,045 miles inland to present-day Oklahoma. Beginning in the summer of 1838 and continuing on into the winter, approximately 15,000 Cherokee were relocated, and more than 4,000 died from disease, exhaustion, or exposure. In the Cherokee language, this event is referred to as “the trail where they cried,” giving rise to the English term Trail of Tears.

The Trail of Tears remains a horrific chapter in the history of indigenous Americans, because of its unspeakable cruelty and the crippling effect it had on the power and spirit of the removed peoples. Today, the Trail of Tears is remembered in museums and by brass plaques along its route. It has also been documented by the National Parks Service, which provides a guide for visitors who want to understand more about the Trail of Tears and its history.

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