In the 1830s, the Cherokee and other tribes were systematically removed from their homelands by the federal government — the forced march is memorialized as the Trail of Tears.
Even though the United States Supreme Court sided with tribes’ legal rights to continue living in their homelands, President Andrew Jackson ordered the forced removal of over 40,000 people from across the Southeast. Invoking the Indian Removal Act, Cherokee people and other tribal members were marched from their homes at gunpoint – including children, the sick and the elderly.
The Trail of Tears consists of multiple routes in the region encompassing over 7,000 miles. Thousands of people died during these marches, including 4,000 Cherokee people.
Some were successful in retreating to the mountains, including members of the Eastern Cherokee band in North Carolina. Some in the Seminole tribe in Florida remained hidden for years deep in the swamps. But the bulk of the tribal peoples of this region were forced onto reservations in eastern Oklahoma and the Trail of Tears is today a glaring reminder of how the First Peoples were treated.