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 TRAIL OF TEARS
History

Leaves Shadow

During the first half of the nineteenth century, historians estimate that approximately 100,000 Native Americans were forcibly removed from their Eastern homelands and relocated to lands west of the Mississippi River. The purpose of the removal, which was supported and enforced by various state and federal agencies, was to secure Native American lands for the expansion of non-Indian settlements. The removal policies that were enacted in the Southeast focused on the displacement of the members of five primary tribes; Choctaw, Seminole, Creek, Chickasaw, and Cherokee. It is important to note that these policies also targeted the removal of all Native American peoples located throughout the Southeast, which included the descendants of smaller tribes such as the Timucuas, Natchez, Shawnee, Catawbas and Yuchis. Although various acts of removal had been on-going throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the final effort to secure all Eastern Native American lands culminated with the passage of the Indian Removal Act on May 28th, 1830.

 

The Indian Removal Act had become a primary initiative under the direction of President Andrew Jackson's administration and was effectively used to remove the remaining Southeast Native American tribes. Although the act was met with much resistance by both Indian and non-Indian representatives, it's passage eventually resulted in the signing of the treaty of New Echota. With the signing of this treaty, the Cherokees conceded their remaining land holdings to the United States government in exchange for 15 million dollars and a claim of land in the western territory known as Oklahoma. This led to the final steps of the removal process. In the early stages, approximately 4000 Cherokees voluntarily relocated to the western territory. However, a number of Cherokees did not agree with the establishment of the treaty of New Echota and refused to leave their homeland. As a result, the United States government rounded up approximately 17,000 Cherokees and placed them in stockades. From these stock aids, which were located within former Cherokee lands, the Native Americans were led along pre-established land and water trails to the western territory. The journey along these trails was designated "Nunna-da-ul-tsun-yi" by the Cherokee people, which translates as "the Trail Where They Cried.". To subsequent generations, the removal policies and actions have come to be known as the Trail of Tears.

The City of Pulaski, located in Giles County, Tennessee, has the unique distinction of being one of the only cities in the country where two of the Trail of Tears land routes overlapped. Beginning in 1838, John Bell led a group of approximately six hundred Native Americans along a land route that entered the City of Pulaski from the east. During this time, John Benge led another group of approximately 1,000 Native Americans along a land route that entered the City from the south. It is believed that both groups crossed Richland Creek is in the same bridge. After crossing the creek, the two groups continued westward along the same trail for  approximately six miles. At that point, each group chose to follow a separate route.

 

Prior to and subsequently following the events set in motion by the 1830 Indian Removal Act, Native Americans found that they had many advocates who supported their efforts to remain on their homeland territories. David Crockett, a native of Tennessee who lived near the City of Pulaski, was one of the many supporters who lobbied at the state and federal level to protect the Southeastern Indian tribes and ensure their right to remain on lands slated for non-Indian settlement. Crockett, a member of the United States Congress was vehemently opposed to the removal of Native Americans and spent much of his time and effort defending the rights of the Native American people. In 1834, Crockett lost his bid for re-election to Congress and left Tennessee for the western frontier. Two years later, he was killed in the Battle of the Alamo.

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