The Trail of Tears


The Trail of Tears:

The Exodus of the Cherokee to the West


In 1830 Andrew Jackson had forced the Indian Removal Act through Congress and then in 1835 Congress ratified the fraudulent Treaty of New Echota. One of the results of these two events was "The Ethnic Cleansing of Georgia." The Cherokee peacefully resisted with legal maneuvers all the way to the US Supreme Court. However, President Jackson refused to enforce the decision favorable to the Cherokee. Only after the Cherokee had been gathered up by the US Army and placed in "concentration camps" did Principal Chief John Ross accept responsibility for the removal to Indian Territory.

The exodus of the Cherokee to the West must be divided into two categories--
the voluntary and the forced removals.


Voluntary Removal:
In 1792, the first Cherokee contingent, under the leadership of Chief Bowl, moved to the Mouth of the St. Francis River, in what is now Arkansas, in Spanish Territory. In 1809, Tahlontuskee arrived in the new Louisiana Purchase with 1130 Cherokee and settled in west central Arkansas on the North Bank of the Arkansas River near the present day town of Russellville. Nine years later, John Jolly, a relative of Tahlontuskee, arrived with 13 flatboats and 4 keel boats, to join the settlements along the North Bank of the Arkansas River. In 1811-12, when the New Madrid earthquake occurred (believed to be near an 8 on the Richter Scale), Bowl left the mouth of the St Francis River and settled near Ola in Yell County on the south bank of the Arkansas River. In 1818, when east and west boundaries of the Cherokee lands between the Arkansas and White Riverswere surveyed, Bowl was told he must abandon the rich farmland the Cherokee had cleared in Yell County and move across to the North side of the Arkansas River. Being told to move, Bowl for the second time took his band of Cherokee and moved to Spanish Territory by migrating to Texas.

In 1819, the Arkansas County of Missouri Territory became Arkansas Territory. This new Territory encompassed what is the present state of Arkansas plus all of Oklahoma except the panhandle.

Pressure began to develop to get the Cherokee, now assigned to this large area of land between the Arkansas and the White Rivers, to move further west. Finally, in 1828, an agreement was reached whereby the Arkansas Cherokee, known as the "Old Settlers", would move further west to what would become known as "Indian Territory." In 1836, when Arkansas became a state, there were about 6,000 Cherokee living in Indian Territory who had moved west voluntarily, while some 17,000 still resisted moving west and remained in the East.


Forced Removal:

When the US Congress ratified the Treaty of New Echota in 1835, the pressure for the forced removal of the Cherokee remaining in the East gained momentum. For three years the Cherokee peacefully resisted removal by appealing to public sentiment and waging the first legal battle between an Indian Tribe and the United States Government. After carrying the case to the US Supreme Court and winning a favorable decision, President Jackson refused to enforce the decision with the statement, "that's John Marshall's decision; now let's see him enforce it." Their farms had been confiscated by the State of Georgia and issued to whites by lottery, and the Cherokee were "rounded up" and driven into "concentration camps." In an effort to avoid unnecessary hardship and suffering, Principal Chief John Ross agreed to accept the responsibility for removal.
Leaders were appointed to supervisory positions and the Cherokee were divided into Groups and started to the West.


Information on this page was provided courtesy of Bill Woodiel,
past Vice-President of the Arkansas Chapter of the Trail of Tears Association
and a former member of the Board of Directors for the National Trail of Tears Association.

> > E-mail Bill Woodiel at:

> > Learn more about each route. Study Woodiel's description
of each route along with a map of that particular route:
1. Northern
2. Water
3. Bell
4. Benge


Four Routes of the Trail of Tears

Map courtesy of the comprehensive Management and Use-Plan Supplement published by the Department of Interior-National Park Service in September 1992.


For more information:
National Trail of Tears Association
1100 North University, Suite 143
Little Rock, Arkansas 72207-6344
Phone: 501-666-9032
Fax: 501-666-5875

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