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The Early YearsEdit
The Trail of Tears was the relocation and movement of Native Americans, including many members of the Cherokee, Creek, Seminole, and Choctaw nations among others in the United States, from their homelands to Indian Territory (present day Oklahoma) in the Western United States. The phrase originated from a description of the removal of the Choctaw Nation in 1831. Many Native Americans suffered from exposure, disease, and starvation while en route to their destinations, and many died, including 4,000 of the 15,000 relocated Cherokee.
In 1831, the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee-Creek, and Seminole (sometimes collectively referred to as the Five Civilized Tribes) were living as autonomous nations in what would be called the American Deep South. The process of cultural transformation (proposed by George Washington and Henry Knox) was gaining momentum, especially among the Cherokee and Choctaw. Andrew Jackson was the first U.S. President to implement removal of the Native Americans with the passage of the Indian Removal Act of 1830. In 1831 the Choctaw were the first to be removed, and they became the model for all other removals. After the Choctaw, the Seminole were removed in 1832, the Creek in 1834, then the Chickasaw in 1837, and finally the Cherokee in 1838. After removal, some Native Americans remained in their ancient homelands - the Choctaw are found in Mississippi, the Seminole in Florida, the Creek in Alabama, and the Cherokee in North Carolina. A limited number of Europeans and Africans (usually as slaves) also accompanied the Native American nations on the trek westward. By 1837, 46,000 Native Americans from these southeastern nations had been removed from their homelands thereby opening 25 million acres for settlement.