Trail of Tears
Image Credit: The Granger Collection, New York

Trail of Tears - American Genocide

Cherokee Removal

NOTE: The following is what Robert Jackson, chief American prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials, had to say about genocidal behaviour:”

“No regime bent on exterminating another peoples will describe their intent in so many words, since such intent is imbedded in the very operation of the system of extermination. On the contrary, the actions of the agencies of murder are enough proof of such intent, and therefore when the transporting of people into the conditions of disease and death is condoned and facilitated by a government, and when these crimes are concealed from the scrutiny of the world of the same government or other agencies, it can be safely asserted that this regime intends to annihilate the targeted people and is guilty before the world of crimes against humanity.”


The Trail of Tears was the forced relocation and movement of Native Americans from their traditional territories to far removed locations in what is the United States of America. It has been described as an act of Genocide.

Gen. Winfield Scott's Address to the Cherokee Nation
(May 10, 1838)

From the Cherokee Agency, Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott delivered an ultimatum to the Cherokees remaining in northern Georgia - they had to go west, and they had to go now:

"Cherokees! The President of the United States has sent me with a powerful army, to cause you, in obedience to the treaty of 1835 [THE TREATY OF NEW ECHOTA  ], to join that part of your people who have already established in prosperity on the other side of the Mississippi. Unhappily, the two years which were allowed for the purpose, you have suffered to pass away without following, and without making any preparation to follow; and now, or by the time that this solemn address shall reach your distant settlements, the emigration must be commenced in haste, but I hope without disorder. I have no power, by granting a farther delay, to correct the error that you have committed. The full moon of May is already on the wane; and before another shall have passed away, every Cherokee man, woman and child in those states must be in motion to join their brethren in the far West.

My friends! This is no sudden determination on the part of the President, whom you and I must now obey. By the treaty, the emigration was to have been completed on or before the 23rd of this month; and the President has constantly kept you warned, during the two years allowed, through all his officers and agents in this country, that the treaty would be enforced.

I am come to carry out that determination. My troops already occupy many positions in the country that you are to abandon, and thousands and thousands are approaching from every quarter, to render resistance and escape alike hopeless. All those troops, regular and militia, are your friends. Receive them and confide in them as such. Obey them when they tell you that your can remain no longer in this country. Soldiers are as kind-hearted as brave, and the desire of every one of us is to execute our painful duty in mercy. We are commanded by the President to act towards you in that spirit, and much is also the wish of the whole people of America.

Chiefs, head-men and warriors! Will you then, by resistance, compel us to resort to arms? God forbid! Or will you, by flight, seek to hid yourselves in mountains and forests, and thus oblige us to hunt you down? Remember that, in pursuit, it may be impossible to avoid conflicts. The blood of the white man or the blood of the red man may be spilt, and, if spilt, however accidentally, it may be impossible for the discreet and humane among you, or among us, to prevent a general war and carnage. Think of this, my Cherokee brethren! I am an old warrior, and have been present at many a scene of slaughter, but spare me, I beseech you, the horror of witnessing the destruction of the Cherokees.

Do not, I invite you, even wait for the close approach of the troops; but make such preparations for emigration as you can and hasten to this place, to Ross's Landing or to Gunter's Landing, where you all will be received in kindness by officers selected for the purpose. You will find food for all and clothing for the destitute at either of those places, and thence at your ease and in comfort be transported to your new homes, according to the terms of the treaty. This is the address of a warrior to warriors. May his entreaties by kindly received and may the God of both prosper the Americans and Cherokees and preserve them long in peace and friendship with each other!

Source: Edward J. Cashin (ed.), A Wilderness Still The Cradle of Nature: Frontier Georgia (Savannah: Beehive Press, 1994), pp. 137-38.

Please click Trail of Tears: "cruellest work I ever done   to read a column I wrote about this tradegy.

The Cherokee Nation Website: http://www.cherokee.org/  

The genocide included many members of the , , , and nations among others in the United States, from their homelands to (present day ) in the Western United States. The phrase originated from a description of the removal of the in 1831. Many Native Americans suffered from exposure, disease, and starvation while on route to their destinations, and many died, including 4,000 of the 15,000 relocated Cherokee.

In 1831, the Cherokee, , Choctaw, Muscogee-Creek, and Seminole (sometimes collectively referred to as the ) were living as nations in what would be called the American . The process of cultural transformation (proposed by and ) was gaining momentum, especially among the Cherokee and Choctaw. continued the removal of the Native Americans with the passage of the .

In 1831 the Choctaw were the first to be removed, and they became the model for all other removals. After the Choctaw, the Seminole were removed in 1832, the Creek in 1834, then the Chickasaw in 1837, and finally the Cherokee in 1838. After removal, some Native Americans remained in their ancient homelands - the Choctaw are found in Mississippi, the Seminole in Florida, the Creek in Alabama, and the Cherokee in North Carolina. A limited number of non-native Americans (including African-Americans - usually as slaves) also accompanied the Native American nations on the trek westward. By 1837, 46,000 Native Americans from these southeastern states had been removed from their homelands thereby opening 25 million acres for White settlement.


Cherokee Removal - Russell Thornton

The land of the Cherokees had once been immense. It had extended from the Ohio River south almost to present-day Atlanta, Georgia, and from Virgi- nia and the Carolinas west across Tennessee, Kentucky and Alabama to the Illinois River. By the close of the Revolutionary War, Cherokee tribal lands had shrunk considerably in the north and east, as populations of whites had settled there; by the mid-1830s, Cherokee territory encompassed only the area where North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama more or less con- verge.

During this period, the Cherokees were increasingly subjected to invasions of armed men from Georgia, "forcibly seizing horses and cattle, taking possession of houses from which they had ejected occupants, and assaulting the owners who dared make resistance," they were all but helpless to retaliate. The situation grew worse in 1828 when the state of Georgia passed an act annexing Cherokee country, declaring Cherokee laws null and void, and allowing no Indian "as a witness or party in any suit where a white man should be defendant"

Subjected also to pressure from the U.S. Government to cede the remainder of their lands and move west of the Mississippi River, the Cherokee resisted as best they could. They took several cases to the U.S. Supreme Court, winning an important case which involved the missionary, Samuel A. Worcester, who resided on Cherokee land with tribal permission. Arrested by Georgia militia for helping the Cherokees, Worcester and the Cherokee tribe contended that Georgia had no right to interfere as the Cherokees were "a nation with a guaranteed and definite territory" The Supreme Court agreed, but Georgia refused to release Worcester. President Andrew Jackson is reported to have said in response to the decision, "John Marshall had made his decision, now let him enforce it" After three years of further turmoil, the Treaty of New Echota was signed by some individual Cherokees, but not by the principal officers of the Nation. It called for an exchange of eastern lands for lands west of the Mississippi River in Indian territory, and for the payment of $15,000,000 to the Cherokees. Although the leaders of the Cherokee Nation, including Chief John Ross, pro-tested the treaty, it was eventually consumated. During these events, some Cherokees had voluntarily moved west into Arkansas and Indian Territories. Most, however, remained in their homelands, still not believing they would be forced to leave. In 1838 the Cherokees were disarmed, and General Winfield Scott was sent to oversee their removal.

Mooney summarizes some of the events of the relocation:

The history of this Cherokee removal of 1838, as gleaned by the author from the lips of actors in the tragedy, may well exceed in weight of grief and pathos any other passage in American history. Even the much-sung exile of the Acadians falls far behind it in its sum of death and misery. Under Scott's orders the troops were disposed at various points throughout the Cherokee country, where stockade forts were erected for gathering in and holding the Indians preparatory to removal. From these, squads of troops were sent to search out with rifle and bayonet every small cabin hidden away in the coves or by the sides of mountain streams, to seize and bring in as prisoners all the occupants, however or wherever they might be found. Families at dinner were startled by the sudden gleam of bayonets in the doorway and rose up to be driven with blows and oaths along the weary miles of trail that led to the stockade. Men were seized in their fields or going along the road, women were taken from their wheels and children from their play. In many cases, on turning for one last look as they crossed the ridge, they saw their homes in flames, fired by the lawless rabble that followed on the heels of the soldiers to loot and pillage. So keen were these outlaws on the scent that in some instances they were driving off the cattle and other stock of the Indians almost before the soldiers had fairly started their owners in the other direction. Systematic hunts were made by the same men for Indian graves, to rob them of the silver pendants and other valuables deposited with the dead. (Mooney 1975, 122) John G. Burnett, a soldier who participated in the removal, describes other incidents: Men working in the fields were arrested and driven to the stockades. Women were dragged from their homes by soldiers whose language they could not understand...

To obtain more information Goggle "Cherokee Removal" - Russell Thornton

Click Indian Removal Act of 1830, it's the legislation of the USA Congress that Autorized the Genocidal Removal

Click European and British Genocide to read more about Caucasian genocidal practices in the Americas

Click First Nations History - We Were Not the Savages - 2006 Edition to find out how to acquire a book that gives a good detailed picture of how European genocidal practices developed in the Americas.

Click to read about American Indian Genocide

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