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Cherokee and the Trail of Tears

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Before the Trail of Tears occurred, the Cherokee were living peacefully in the Southeast regions of the United States, North Carolina, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee. They also adjusted to the European culture. They used their farming techniques and started to plant more, different crops, and some of their farms even became plantations that African slaves would usually be working on. They built schools and roads and Cherokee women would wear gowns, like Europeans. However, this “perfect” society was ruined with the Indian Removal Act in 1830.

This Act was the beginning of a very long and difficult journey known as the Trail of Tears. The settlers in Georgia became greedy for land and started to encroach on Cherokee lands, hoping they would leave willingly. When they did not leave, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act to force the Natives off their land. However, the Natives came back with the Treaty of New Echota, which traded the rest of the Cherokee land for land in northern Oklahoma. After this treaty was approved, the Cherokee had two years to leave their land and make their way towards Oklahoma, thus beginning the Trail of Tears.

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Martin Van Buren, the current president at the time, ordered for federal soldiers to go collect the Cherokees and remove them from the land. The journey to Oklahoma was very rough. Of the 15,000 Indians who set out for Oklahoma, only about 4,000 actually lived through the trip. They lacked the proper amount of food and supplies, and the government didn’t provide enough for their over 1,000 mile journey.

My name is Adsila, which means “blossom” in Cherokee culture. It has been ten days since me and my family left our home and began our trip to Oklahoma. We are here with four other tribes, the Creek, Seminole, Choctaw and Chickasaw. I have been trying to make new friends with the other tribes, but everyone is so scared of dying that they do not want to get near me. It is getting harder and harder to stay optimistic. Everyone is scared for their life and many of my friends and family have died due to the lack of food and multiple diseases going around. I had gotten smallpox about a week ago and it is a miracle I am still alive. I cannot stop thinking about my life before we were forced out of our land. I miss my home. I miss the hills and the warm air. I miss running around with my friends and farming with my mother. I wish I could go back.

We are about halfway through the journey. I heard that some people got to stay behind and took shelter in the hillsides. I heard others got to live with some nice white folks. It must be nice not having to worry about starving or a new disease killing you. We all live in constant fear of what will we will find, who we will come across and how we will deal with it. The government did not even do anything to help us. Our population is decreasing more and more everyday and I do not even know if I will make it to Oklahoma.

I had a dream last night that I was back in North Carolina. I was with my friends and we were talking about the cute boy we had seen that day. We talked about how lucky we were to be with our families and friends and able to live a happy, stable life. My dream quickly turned into a nightmare. I saw my dead grandparents and friends. They were staring at me and I could not get their image out of my head. I quickly woke up and realized it was all in my head.

I keep having recurring nightmares of my dead relatives. I think I may even be hallucinating from the continuous cold temperatures and the harsh conditions. I feel like I am close to the end. But, then I am told that we have arrived in Oklahoma. I am overcome with emotions. I am happy and relieved that I made it to Oklahoma alive and that I can finally try to start a new life in a new area. I am, however, scared that the government will force me and my family to leave again, but I am optimistic for the future and I am ready to start a new life.

The Dawes Commission came together, in 1893, to allot land to the Five Tribes, including Cherokee, which was the largest. Congress tried to quicken the process by passing the Curtis Act in 1898 and in 1906 the Oklahoma Enabling Act gave admission for the Indian territories and united the Indian and Oklahoma territories as well. The tribes also had full control over themselves and did not have to fall under the hand of the government.8 After the long difficult Trail of Tears, the tribes finally had a stable and happy living in Oklahoma.

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