The Trail of Tears is one of the more shameful legacies of US history. In the 1830’s nearly 60,000 Native Americans were forcibly removed from their homes and made to walk thousands of miles to a new territory in modern day Oklahoma. This chart shows the Trail of Tears Indian Removal statistics.
Ever since the first colonists arrived including those on The Mayflower, there has been a tenuous balance with the Natives Americans whose land the settlers encroached upon. Over the centuries, Native American tribes signed hundreds of treaties ceding land with the US government, only to see those broken time and time again.
At the time of the formation of the United States the founding fathers generally favored an approach to “civilize” the natives and have them adopt western customs and religion. Several tribes were able to do this and the largest ones were called “The Five Civilized Tribes”. They consisted of the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Seminole.
Trail of Tears Indian Removal Statistics
All five of these tribes were located in what’s considered the “Deep South”. Through previous US legal rulings, they all lived as autonomous nations with their own recognized leaders and lands crafted out of past treaties with the government.
Despite this, the tribes continually had to deal with encroachment on their lands from American settlers. Throughout the early 19th century, southern politicians tried many times to take these lands and open them to settlement. With the election of Andrew Jackson in 1829, the opportunity finally arose.
Jackson was famed for his hardline stances. Among those included favoring the relocation of Native Americans. In 1830 his allies in Congress passed the Indian Removal Act. This act allowed for the negotiation of the tribes relocation to lands west of the Mississippi.
Some tribes agreed to move willingly (Choctaw and Chickasaw). They saw the writing on the wall and knew that the federal government would not protect them or their lands from encroachment of settlers. It would only escalate further.
Others did not agree willingly. The Seminoles refused to leave, and a long and costly series of wars were fought to try and force them to move.
The Cherokee also did not willingly move. The US government cheated the tribe by signing the Treaty of New Echota with members of the tribe that were not recognized leaders. Despite this, in 1838 federal troops forcibly removed the Cherokee from their homes and forced them to walk thousands of miles to their new home along what is now known as the Trail of Tears.
Thousands died along the way, as the US failed to provide the natives with adequate food and supplies. Between all the tribes nearly 13,000 of 60,000 natives died in route, a horrific event.