Posted at April 27, 2020

Trail of Tears


In May 28, 1830 president Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal act to allow for the expansion of white settlers and cotton farmers. With the act in place, Native Americans were forced off their land roughly east of the Mississippi River and forced to migrate to an area in present Oklahoma. This journey was known as the Trail of Tears. The Cherokee “Trail of Tears” has been described one of the most regrettable events in American history. The “trail of Tears” refers to the forcible removal of over 16,000 of Cherokees from their native lands and where they marched over 5,000 miles inland. During this event, “4,000 Cherokee people died of cold, hunger, and disease on their way to the western lands” (Indian Removal, n.d., pp. 15).

The trial of tears was an event that led to the evacuation of Native American nations in the southeastern United States. Based on my research to date, I will try to support the following thesis:Through the years, The Trail of tears which commenced in 1831 remains to be a regrettable event in American history that continues to affect Native American culture today by evidence of their high suicide, poverty, and substance abuse rates.

In 2016 the polemic construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) “gained national and international attention when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers accepted an application filed by Energy Transfer Partners, a Texas-based developer behind the project” (Treaties Still Matter, 2019). According to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, the construction of the pipeline violates article II of the Fort Laramie Treaty. “In the spring of 1868 a conference was held at Fort Laramie, in present day Wyoming, which resulted in a treaty with the Sioux. This treaty was to bring peace between the whites and the Sioux who agreed to settle within the Black Hills reservation in the Dakota Territory” (Treaty with the Sioux-Brule, 1868). During this time gold was discovered in this area which resulted in conflict between the two groups. The treaty secures “the undisturbed use and occupation of reservation lands surrounding the proposed location of the pipeline” (Treaties Still Matter, 2019). The Standing Rock Sioux tribe opposed the construction of the pipeline because it would destroy valuable cultural resources. This ensued a long battle with the Energy Transfer Partners and the tribe. Protestors were arrested, assaulted, and shot down with water during this long protest that gained national attention. The trail of tears has affected native Americans today by providing them with a lesson on perseverance when standing up for what you believe in. United States Native Americans couldn’t stop the Trail of Tears because they were outmanned and outgunned. Modern day Native Americans have gained knowledge and perseverance to cease removal of their lands and were able to stop this event that would have contaminated their water, disrupted their home, and removed them from their homelands.

The Indian Removal Act was what ultimately caused the Trail of Tears. The Indian Removal Act was signed into decree by President Andrew Jackson on May 28, 1830. The reason for the Indian Removal Act was to allow the expansion of white settlers and cotton farmers into Indian land to use the land and make a profit. “Working on behalf of white settlers who wanted to grow cotton on the Indians’ land, the federal government forced them to leave their homelands” ( Editors, 2009). President Andrew Jackson was a continuous advocate for the transfer of thousands of Indian lands to white farmers. Another cause of the Indian removal act was the Treaty of New Echota. “The Treaty of New Echota gave the Cherokees $5 million and land in present-day Oklahoma in exchange for their 7 million acres of ancestral land” (NC DNCR, n.d.). This treaty was a negotiation completed by self-proclaimed representatives of the Cherokee nation. The majority of the Cherokee people opposed this treaty. Only 2,000 American Indians voluntarily moved the rest were forcibly removed.  American Indians were considered alien to the European colonizers. American Indians were dark, they spoke a foreign language, and had different beliefs then the white settlers. In the eyes of the white settlers they needed to become civilized. An important participant regarding the Trail of Tears was President Andrew Jackson. In an address to congress he stated, “They have neither the intelligence, the industry, the moral habits, nor the desire of improvement which are essential to any favorable change in their condition. Established in the midst of another and a superior race…they must necessarily yield to the force of circumstances and ere [before] long disappear.” (Fixico, 2019).


The Trail of Tears impacted American society because it still considered one of the most horrendous acts throughout history. Some have even described it as a racial genocide. “From 1830 to 1840, the U.S. army removed 60,000 Indians—Choctaw, Creek, Cherokee and others—from the East in exchange for new territory west of the Mississippi” (Fixico, 2019). These removals were completed forcibly while the white settlers raided the homes of Native Americans. Thousands of American Indians died during this long journey. The Trail of Tears has remained a memorable point in history because of the foul extent the American government went to acquire something they desperately wanted. Today, the trail of tears is used as a reminder to American Indians to stand up for what they believe in and not allow the government to take what rightfully belongs to them. This action can be seen through the NoDAPL movement among others.


The American government has attempted to tumble the Native American civilization throughout history. Since the moment Columbus set foot in the new Americas and brought death and disease to the people, United States Native Americans have had the odds against them. Failed policies and generations of mistreatments has resulted in high suicide rates and high levels of poverty within the native American culture. “One-quarter of Indian children live in poverty, versus 13 percent in the United States. One-quarter of Indian children live in poverty, versus 13 percent in the United States” (Horwitz, 2014).  “Compared to other racial/ethnic groups in the U.S., American Indians/Alaska Natives (AI/ANs) have the highest rates of alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, and hallucinogen use disorders” (Dickerson, Spear, Marinelli-Casey, Rawson, 2011).  The federal government continues to seize native American land to use as it wants. Standing rock was a visible reminder of continued oppression towards this group and how the Trail of Tears is still relevant to Native American society.


This event is important to me because when I lived in Minnesota, I went to Standing Rock during thanksgiving to protest the pipeline. During my time there, I learned about the tragic history of the treatment of Native Americans by the United States government. I visited reservations that demonstrated a culture hanging on by threads. There suicide, poverty, and substance abuse rates are one of the highest from any minority group in our country. There has been a lot of emotional and physical abuse inflected on Native Americans throughout the years. For this reason, I was very interested on how the Trail of Tears continues to affect the Native American population.

My research of this historical event was very eye opening. When I visited various reservations and tribe schools during my time in Minnesota, I was aware of some of these issues but not to the extent of my research findings. I was alarmed by the high suicide rates and drug abuse in the reservations. During history classes in High School, we discussed the Trail of Tears. However, during my research I found out the tragic details of the Indian removal act and the actual Trail of Tears. A future thesis statement could delve into this topic. I would potentially continue this research by finding out if the Trial of Tears led to the loss of Native American Culture? I would also think they would discuss how the Trail of Tears changed Native American culture.


Dickerson, D. L., Spear, S., Marinelli-Casey, P., Rawson, R., Li, L., & Hser, Y. I. (2011). American indians/alaska natives and substance abuse treatment outcomes: positive signs and continuing challenges. Journal of addictive diseases, 30(1), 63–74.

Fixico, D. (2019, August 16). When Native Americans Were Slaughtered in the Name of ‘Civilization’. Retrieved from: Editors. (2019, September 30). Trail of Tears. Retrieved from:

Horwitz, S. (2014, March 9). The hard lives — and high suicide rate — of Native American children on reservations. Retrieved from:–and-high-suicide-rate–of-native-american-children/2014/03/09/6e0ad9b2-9f03-11e3-b8d8-94577ff66b28_story.html

Indian Removal. (n.d.). Retrieved from:

NC DNCR. (n.d.) The Treaty of New Echota and the Trail of Tears. Retrieved from:

Treaties still Matter. (2019.). Retrieved from:

Treaty with the Sioux-Brule, Oglala, Miniconjou, Yanktonai, Hunkpapa, Blackfeet, Cuthead, Two Kettle, San Arcs, and Santee-and Arapaho. (1868, April 29). General Records of the United States Government; Record Group 11; National Archives

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