Trail of Tears

The Trail of Tears was a series of forced displacements of approximately 60,000 American Indians of the "Five Civilized Tribes" between 1830 and 1850 by the United States government.[3] Part of the Indian removal, the ethnic cleansing was gradual, occurring over a period of nearly two decades.[4] Members of the so-called "Five Civilized Tribes"—the Cherokee, Muscogee (Creek), Seminole, Chickasaw, and Choctaw nations (including thousands of their black slaves[5])—were forcibly removed from their ancestral homelands in the Southeastern United States to areas to the west of the Mississippi River that had been designated Indian Territory.[3] The forced relocations were carried out by government authorities after the passage of the Indian Removal Act in 1830.[6] The Cherokee removal in 1838 (the last forced removal east of the Mississippi) was brought on by the discovery of gold near Dahlonega, Georgia, in 1828, resulting in the Georgia Gold Rush.[7]

Trail of Tears
Part of Indian removal
The Trail of Tears memorial at the New Echota Historic Site in Georgia, which honors the Cherokees who died on the Trail of Tears
LocationSoutheastern United States and Indian Territory
Date1830 to 1850
Attack type
Forced displacement
Ethnic cleansing[1][2]
DeathsCherokee (4,000)
Creek
Seminole (3,000 in Second Seminole War – 1835–1842)
Chickasaw (3,500)
Choctaw (2,500–6,000)
Ponca (200)
Victims"Five Civilized Tribes" of Cherokee, Muscogee, Seminole, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Ponca and Ho-Chunk/Winnebago nations
PerpetratorsU.S. Federal Government, U.S. Army, state militias
MotiveAcquisition of Native American land east of the Mississippi River.

The relocated peoples suffered from exposure, disease, and starvation while en route to their newly designated Indian reserve. Thousands died from disease before reaching their destinations or shortly after.[8][9][10][11][12] According to Native American activist Suzan Shown Harjo of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, the event constituted a genocide,[13] although this label has been rejected by historian Gary Clayton Anderson.[14]


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