The Trail of Tears is a term used to describe the tragic events within the American and Cherokee history. These events brought about the implementation of the Indian Removal Act of 1830. It advocated for the removal of the American Indians from the east of the Mississippi to the western side of the river. This involved the removal from Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina to the area of Oklahoma (Marsico 67).
England and Spain threatened the United States in the early 19th century. These two countries controlled most of the western parts of the continent. At this time, America needed more land for its citizens. Due to this, President Jefferson thought of the creation of a buffer zone that would insulate the Americans from the Europeans. This zone was to be inhabited by the American Indians and create room for America’s expansion of its territory up to the Mississippi River. The tribes that were to be relocated included Chickasaws, Creeks, Seminoles, Choctaws, and Cherokees. They signed more than 40 treaties that led to their ceding land to the USA (Ehle 14).
As far as the year 1791, there had been a series of treaties between the USA and the Cherokees who lived in Georgia. These treaties recognized the Cherokees as a Nation with their own customs and laws. These treaties never bore fruit, and it forced some Cherokees to flee far to the northwestern territory in Arkansas. This was as a result of several land cessions imposed on the Cherokees. In 1819, the Cherokees hardened their stand and claimed they would not cede any more land to the USA. The situation became even more complex with the prolonged conflict between Georgia and the Federal government (Ehle12). In 1802, Georgia decided to cede its land, and this included even the land for the Indians. Nonetheless, this never yielded any fruit as the Indians remained on their land based on the treaty. In 1828, a law was passed that pronounced all Cherokee laws null and void by June 1st 1830. This forced the Cherokees to hold their tribal meetings away in the Red Clay at Tennessee. The discovery of gold on this land intensified the process of dislodging the Cherokees from their land.
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The Routes used by Indians in their movement. (Bryers45)
In the case of the United States versus Georgia, the Chief Justice, John Marshall, ruled in favor of the majority that Cherokee was an independent nation domestically and due to this the state law of Georgia applied to them. The whites in the Cherokee region were forced to obtain a license from the governor, and also to be prepared to take the state’s oath of allegiance. This took place in the case of Worcester against Georgia. Some missionaries refused to adhere to this law and as a result they were imprisoned. Since the case involved the whites, the law was bent to favor the missionaries. The court ruled in favor of Samuel Worcester since the laws of the state could not be used to a sovereign nation like Cherokee. Worcester was then released from jail. The Cherokee adopted most of the white culture but failed to stop their removal (Bryers78).
A group known as the Treaty Party among the Cherokees began to negotiate several treaties upon the federal government. The group was led by Major Ridge together with his son John who was also known as Boudinot and the brother Stand Watie. In the treaty, they agreed to sell the Cherokee lands at $5 million. A minority of the Cherokees accepted to move much into the Indian Territory.