The Trail of Tears Remembered on its 175th Anniversary

What would happen today if an American president told the Supreme Court, “You’ve made your ruling. Now how are you going to enforce it?”

That’s exactly what President Andrew Jackson did when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Cherokee nation and against the president’s plan to seize the Cherokee’s land. Jackson went ahead with his plan. He sent General Winfield Scott and 7,000 soldiers to force the entire Cherokee Nation into stockades. White settlers then raided the Cherokees’ homes, stealing their belongings.

General Scott’s army forced the Cherokees, including elderly people, women and children, to walk nearly 2,000 miles across what was then largely unsettled territory to Oklahoma.

Starvation, dysentery, typhus, whooping cough and other completely preventable horrors killed thousands of Cherokees along the way. Cherokee people have not forgotten or forgiven this violation of their human and civil rights that they call the Trail of Tears. Among other things, they stage a play dramatizing the event in the Ampitheater at Tsa La Gi. The drama is performed every Thursday, Friday and Saturday through the end of August. For information or reservations, call (918) 456-6007 or (888) 999-6007.

In addition, Oklahoma’s State Senate is currently displaying a painting depicting the Trail of Tears in its conference room. The painting commemorates the 175th anniversary of the forced removal of the Cherokee Nation from their rightful property, the many deaths and terrible suffering of the Trail of Tears.

Wayne Cooper is the artist who created the painting. It was commissioned by Chief Bill John Baker and supported by Cherokee Nation businesses.

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  • pagansister

    One of many misdeeds in our United States history. White man pulling the “we’re superior” thing on those who they felt were not like us—us being the”white” people. In the superiority was the right to take the land of those who weren’t equal. Some Native Americans continue to pay the price.

  • peggy-o

    We have a Trail of Tears state park along the Mississippi River. My children’s paternal great grandmother was full blooded Cherokee. I need to learn more about this painful past. It’s shocking to me that this happened after a Supreme Court victory. What might that mean if something similar could happen in today’s climate?

    • Theodore Seeber

      Maybe not today’s, but I feel it’s appropriate to repost my link from above to what happened in 1957 on the Oregon/Washington border:

      • peggy-o

        I’d love to go back in time and see the falls and the village and fish with the natives!

        • Theodore Seeber

          Me too. In fact, despite the fact that I now *directly* profit off the dam (in that I use the free services of Google, who has a data center in The Dalles because of the dam) I would love to see a reasonable accommodation made.

          One I’ve heard proposed within the Army Corps of Engineers is to once a year, during the spring salmon run, go ahead and shut down both The Dalles and Bonneville for maintenance- open the floodgates and drain both Lake Bonneville and Lake Celilo, and let the river run free through the dams.

          This would have the cultural benefit of returning the First Salmon traditional dinner to the tribes, the economic benefit of increasing wild fish stocks by allowing salmon, steelhead, and sturgeon to get to breeding grounds that haven’t been open in nearly 70 years, and give the Corps of Engineers a chance to get to areas of the dams that are currently underwater. It would have to be done carefully so not to flood downstream communities, and the understanding would have to be in place that if needed due to weather, the maintenance period could be ended with very short notice, but I think with today’s communications technology, it could be done safely.

  • Manny

    Andrew Jackson was one of the most dispicable presidents this country has ever had. I can’t think of a single thing I like about him. He essentially was the founder of the Democratic Party, but he had all of the worst traits of the Party and very few of the good traits.

  • Theodore Seeber

    I have some Cherokee Ancestors, quite far removed, but who were a part of this event (BTW, never mentioned it here before- my maternal grandfather was an Okie, moved to Oregon during WWII, met my grandmother- and even learned enough Chinook to deal with the horse breeders at Celilo before a similar event happened in 1957- ).