The Trail of Tears refers to the forceful relocation and eventual movement of the Native American communities from the South Eastern regions of the U.S. as a result of the enactment of the Indian Removal Act in the year 1830. In the year 1838, in line with Andrew Jackson’s policy of the Indians’ removal, the Cherokee community was forced to surrender its land to the east of Mississippi River and migrate to the present day Oklahoma. This journey was referred to as the “Trail of Tears” mainly due to its devastating effects it had to the Indian people. The migrants faced extreme hunger, diseases and exhaustion due to the forced march while more than 50,000 people died (Cave, 2003). The Trail of Tears resulted in a devastating effect for the Indians such as extreme hunger, diseases and exhaustion due to long walk and massive injustices and abuse of fundamental human rights.
According to Perdue (2008), the Trail of Tears is regarded as one of the tragic eras in the U.S. history mainly due to the forceful relocation of the Indians. This is also considered as the beginning of the Indian extermination by the U.S. government even though they had lived in the country several centuries before the white settlers set their foot in America. After the American Revolution and the eventual creation of the U.S., the Indians were regarded as a separate nation within a sovereign country even though they were fully committed to a peaceful coexistence with the white settlers. However, the white settlers were mostly interested in the resources of rich and productive land under the occupation of the Indians. As a result, the U.S. government embarked on a long campaign – marked by false promises, broken and false treaties, and threats of military force and racist attitudes – to oust the Indians from their native territory.
The U.S. government committed a heinous incident in its long history when it passed the Removal Act in the year 1830, which later resulted in the Trail of Tears. The Indians were moved to the west in an exodus that would ensure the new American settlers continued growing and prospering in their new country. The most famous of those forced from their native land by the U.S. government included Five Civilized Tribes comprising of the Choctaw, Cherokee, Seminole, Chickasaw and Creek (Cave, 2003). These tribes constituted the majority of more than 60,000 Indians driven out of their land and they were distinguished from other Indian populations due to their leadership forms and organization. They had functional social systems based on property ownership, government offices and established schools much like in Europe (Perdue, 2008). However, the U.S. government could not recognize them to be civilized enough to be their neighbors necessitating their forceful relocation.
The Trail of Tears created a period of immeasurable misery and despair among the Indians who were being relocated against their wishes. In order to relocate the Indian tribes swiftly and effectively, the Indians tribes were prearranged into wretched and miserable traveling caravans. During the trail, the Indians passed through horrible living conditions that were unbearable, for instance, the Indians slept in the mud, lacked shelter and enough food. On the other hand, they were usually forced to march in chains or manacles. In most cases, if the poor living conditions did not kill them, severe disease outbreaks killed most of the Indians. They were plagued with diseases such as dysentery, pneumonia, whooping cough, pellagra and tuberculosis, which usually wiped out entire families (Cave, 2003). Consequently, the Trail of Tears resulted in massive deaths among the Indians apart from damaging the Indian American spirit and self respect.
The 1830 Indian Removal act gave President Jackson the power to relocate the Indians under their consent while the act required that they be compensated for the relocation. However, this is not the manner in which the policy was implemented as the government engaged in false treaties with the Indians, broken promises and perpetrated lies while dealing with the Indians (Cave, 2003). The Choctaw Indians in 1831 were the first who were relocated and they became a perfect model for the successful relocations. The Seminole followed the Choctaw in 1832, then the Creek in the year 1834, the Chickasaw Indians in the year 1837, and lastly the Cherokee Indians in 1838. As a result, by 1837, it is estimated that more than 46,000 Native Indians from these southern states had forcefully been relocated from their homelands thus opening about 25 million acres for mainly white settlement (Perdue, 2008).
In conclusion, the Trail of Tears is a perfect expression of the U.S. government’s act of inhumanity towards the Indians. The new white settlers in the U.S. had escaped the oppression in Europe and they were obsessed with their new freedoms in America that they easily trampled on the freedom and rights of the Indians. The Trail of Tears resulted in a devastating effect for the Indians who were forced to walk over 1,000 miles to Oklahoma in a trip where they walked without shoes or enough clothing (Perdue, 2008). The food provision was scarce, they suffered from severe diseases and a large number of the Indians died from the harsh conditions and diseases. The U.S. must never forget these shameful and sad moments in its long history with the hope that the country learns from the past, in order to prevent the occurrence of other atrocities similar to the Trail of Tears.
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