Monday, November 5, 2012

What was the Trail of Tears?

I mentioned the Trail of Tears to a young lady today and she had no idea what it was.  After a quick poll of my facebook page, it turns out that many people have never heard of the Trail of Tears.  This is a situation that has to be rectified so I decided to write a quick blogpost about it.
President jackson

The Trail of Tears is a location and an event.  In 1838-1839, President Andrew Scumbag-er, I mean Jackson decided that the indians, particularly the Cherokee needed to be gotten rid of.  Now the Cherokee are very smart indians and they had decided that to survive the American invasion, they needed to assimilate.  They built european style homes, dressed in american clothing, even sent their children to american schools (like Harvard).  As a matter of fact, they assimilated so well that they started making really good money, which annoyed poor settlers.

Then on top of this, the Cherokee discovered gold.  Now that just isn't okay so President Scumbag (oops, I mean Jackson), decided to implement a policy of removal.  Some Americans actually fought this and it went all the way to the supreme court who said that this is wrong, unconstitutional, unethical and every other sort of bad and that President Jackson could not do this.

What was his response?  "You and what army can stop me?"  Yes, that was literally his response.  So he took the american military and forcibly removed 15,000 cherokee from Georgia and who knows how many other thousands of indians from the rest of the US, east of the mississippi and all the way up to the Canadian border.

Three paths of Trail of Tears
They were forced to march a thousand miles in winter all the way to Oklahoma where they were given reservations (until oil was discovered).  Of the 15,000 cherokees who made the march, 4,000 died.

In 1838, the U.S. military and Georgia militia expelled Cherokees from their homeland with little regard for Cherokee dignity or life. Families were rousted out of their cabins and directed at gunpoint by soldiers. Forced to leave most of their possessions behind, they witnessed white Georgians taking ownership of their cabins, looting and burning once cherished objects. Cherokees were loaded into “stockades” until the appointed time of their departure, when they were divided into thirteen groups of nearly 1,000 people, each with two appointed leaders. The travelers set out on multiple routes to cross Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri and Arkansas at 10 miles a day with meager supplies.
At points along the way, the straggling bands were charged fees by white farmers to cross privately owned land. The few wagons available were used to carry the sick, infant, and elderly. Most walked through the fall and into the harsh winter months, suffering the continual deaths of loved ones to cold, disease, and accident. Among these sojourners were African Americans and Cherokees of African descent. They, like thousands of other Cherokees, arrived in Indian Country in 1839 broken, depleted, and destitute.

Shawnee Warrior

My tribe, the Shawnee were also rounded up from Indiana.  Fortunately for my family, we were able to pass ourselves off as white and we were left alone.  My great grandmother never told her children they were indian and only admitted that we were Shawnee one time when a cousin confronted her.  This cousin was looking into family history for a school project and discovered an indian connection.  My great grandmother broke down crying and told the whole family story.  She told the cousin not to tell anyone because "they would take the children away."  She never admitted to being Shawnee again after that.

So this is the story of the Trail of Tears.  It's not the only such story, the Navajos have their Long Walk for example.  There all sorts of more detailed info online and every year, people actually travel the Trail of Tears in rememberance.

The Shawnee attacking Daniel Boone who was actually
adopted into a Shawnee family at one time and renamed
Big Turtle
Unlike some Native Americans, I can understand the American anger towards indians.  My tribe for instance was known for its cruelty and kidnapping whites and was an awesomely war-faring people who did everything in their power to hurt Americans.  You would not want to meet these people in a dark alley.

Does this justify something like the Trail of Tears?  No it doesn't.  But there were atrocities on both sides, with many innocent victims.  The Trail of Tears, I believe, was one of the instances of an atrocity against innocent victims.  It's just too bad we couldn't learn to co-exist before so many of the tribes like my own were annihilated.   I'm not sure even today we have learned to co-exist as much as the government has decided to overlook indians.  My tribe was basically annihilated fighting the Americans and I am proud that we fought so hard for what we believed in even if we did do go a bit overboard in the torture department.

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Kidnapping settlers

Shawnee Re-enactor