Mark Anthony Rolo: Recalling the Trail of Tears
"The Trail of Tears began 170 years ago this week. We should recall it not as an aberration but as a logical outgrowth of an inhumane policy. And we should insist, in its memory, that Indian treaties and Indian sovereignty be honored.

When President Andrew Jackson ordered the Cherokee Nation off its Georgia homelands, the U.S. government signed a treaty with the Cherokees, promising them a $5 million payment upon successful removal west of the Mississippi.

But the bad intentions of the federal government became clear right away.

Cherokee homes were raided, crops ransacked, livestock and land stolen. At gunpoint, nearly 15,000 Cherokees were forced into concentration camps to await final orders to trek, mostly on foot, for nearly 1,000 miles. While many would die on that trail through snow and mountains, others would never even make the journey. Sordid conditions in the camps left many, especially the elderly and children, vulnerable to exposure, disease and starvation.

By the time the remaining Cherokees reached Oklahoma, nearly 8,000 of their relatives had perished. For those who resettled in Oklahoma (Indian Territory), the U.S. government broke the treaty by not paying the Cherokee the $5 million.

The story of the Trail of Tears is an integral part of American Indian history. It is taught in most public schools. The National Park Service has commemorated the physical trail and archived its past online.

But remembering the Trail as mere history, as an isolated, ugly chapter in the nation’s coming of age is shortsighted."

Get the Story:
Mark Anthony Rolo: Trail of Tears was trail of betrayal (The Progressive 5/22)

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