Trail of Tears

The Trail of Tears was a part of the Indian Removal, which involved forced displacements and ethnic cleansing of approximately 60,000. These were carried out by the Five Civilized Tribes between 1830-1850 by the United States government. Tribal members "moved slowly, with complete migration occurring over a nearly a decade." The Five Civilized Tribes, which included the Cherokee, Seminole (Creek), Seminole (Creek), Chickasaw and Choctaw nations, were forcibly moved from their ancestral homelands in Southeastern United States to areas west of the Mississippi River, which had been designated Indian Territory. After the Indian Removal Act was passed in 1830, the government ordered the forced relocations. The Georgia Gold Rush, which saw the discovery of gold near Dahlonega in Georgia in 1828, led to the Cherokee removal in 1838.

While en route to their newly-designated Indian reserve, the relocated peoples were exposed to disease, starvation, and exposure. Many died of disease before they reached their destinations, or shortly thereafter. Suzan Shown Harjo, Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, describes it as a genocide.

Unto These Hills, a historical drama based upon the Trail of Tears written by Kermit Hunt, has sold more than five million tickets since its opening July 1, 1950. It was performed both on tour and at the Cherokee Historical Association's outdoor Mountainside Theater in Cherokee, North Carolina.

The Cherokee Trail of Tears Sesquicentennial Commemorative medallion was designed by Troy Anderson, a Cherokee artist. The seven-pointed star that is the symbol of seven Cherokee clans, can be seen on the falling-tear medallion.

On May 18, 1905, the United States Court of Claims ruled in favor of Eastern Cherokee Tribe's claim to the U.S. This resulted the appropriation by the United States Court of Claims of $1 million, which is equivalent to $27.438,023.04 today, to the Tribe's eligible families and individuals. Guion Miller, an Interior Department employee, created a list using multiple rolls and applications to verify tribal enrollment in order to distribute funds. This list is known as the Guion Miller Roll. The court approved over 30,000 applications to share in the funds. [page needed]

Federal law authorized 2,200 miles (3.500 km) of trails in 1987 to commemorate the dissolution of 17 Cherokee detachments. It is also known as the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail. It crosses nine states and includes water routes.

There were exceptions to the removal. About 100 Cherokees managed to evade the U.S. soldiers, and they lived off the land in Georgia and other States. The Cherokees who lived on privately owned lands, rather than tribally owned land, were not subject to removal. North Carolina's 400 Cherokees were sometimes called the Oconaluftee Cherokee because they lived near the river. They were owned by William Holland Thomas, a white man who was adopted by Cherokees as an infant. Therefore, they were not subject to removal. Additional 200 Cherokee from Nantahala were allowed to remain in the Qualla Boundary, after they helped the U.S. Army to capture the family of Tsali (who was subject to a firing squad). These North Carolina Cherokees were the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation.

The Highland Messenger, a local newspaper, reported July 24, 1840 that "between nine hundred and a 1000 of these deluded entities... are still hovering around the homes of their dads, in the county of Macon, Cherokee" and "that it is a great annoyance for the citizens" who wanted land there believing the Cherokee had gone. The newspaper reported that President Martin Van Buren stated that "they... are, according to his opinion, free to either go or stay."

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