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Native Americans - The Trail of Tears

The "Trail of Tears" was a forced removal of approximately twenty thousand Cherokee Indians.
Trail of Tears Mural
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The "Trail of Tears" was a forced removal of approximately twenty thousand Cherokee Indians. In 1838, the US government moved the tribe from their homelands in the mountain valleys of Appalachian Georgia and the Carolinas to western Indian Territory in present-day Oklahoma. The Cherokee call this trail Nunna dual tsun yi, meaning "The Place Where They Cried” and Tlo va sal, “Our Removal”.

Naturally, the forced removal of tribes created conflicts between the Indians and the white Americans. Promises were made and treaties signed, but they were not adhered to nor respected. Despite having land titles, the Cherokees were forced to move from their sacred hunting grounds. They bravely resisted on the way from their homeland to the undesirable and barren reservations that were intended as their final destination. About 4,000 Cherokee women, children and men perished during the winter of 1838–39, hence the name, The Trail of Tears.

The Georgia Gold Rush

It all started when tensions between the state of Georgia and the Cherokee Nation were brought to a crisis by the discovery of gold near Dahlonega in 1829. This discovery resulted in the Georgia Gold Rush, the first gold rush in US history. Hopeful gold speculators began trespassing on Cherokee lands, and pressure began to mount to clear the path for those hoping to strike it rich.

On an October morning in 1839, a brigade of four thousand soldiers led by General Winfield Scott entered the Cherokee Camp. Armed with bayonets and guns, they forced the Cherokees onto 645 wagons and drove them away from their territory. Many of the Indians were barefoot, and had nothing to protect them against the cold. Many children were separated from their parents. In the bitter cold, they slept in the wagons or on the ground. The young and the elderly were hit hardest, but a lot of strong adults died too. During the following months, many froze to death in sleet and snowstorms, or died of illnesses and exhaustion.


Use the following verbs to make sentences about the Native American Indians:

  • to remove
  • to promise
  • to resist
  • to perish
  • to discover
  • to trespass
  • to force
  • to drive (away)

Extra: write a paragraph telling about the Native American Indian’s forced removal by using the above verbs.


Write a Trail of Tears poem. Do a search on the internet on native poetry before you start writing.

Web Search

Search for Paul Revere and the Raiders and their song Indian Reservation. There are many good versions of this song on the web accompanied by slideshows illustrating the Cherokees’ history.


Study the mural in the picture. What can you tell from that mural?

CC BY-SASkrevet av Engelsk for videregående (Vega) og Catharine Ruud.
Sist faglig oppdatert 24.01.2019