10 Misunderstood Facts about the Trail of Tears that Your History Book Left Out

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The tribe most often associated in the public mind with the tragic events of the Trail of Tears is the Cherokee. They were not the only tribe forced from their ancestral land to locations west of the Mississippi. The Choctaw had their own Trail of Tears as did the Chickasaw, Seminole, and Creek. The forced relocations led to a decade long war with the Seminole in Florida, after that tribe’s delegation signed a treaty of peace and relocation, having inspected their new lands and finding them to be acceptable. The events set in motion by the Indian Removal Act in which the tribes were forced off their lands ran from 1830 to 1850.

George Washington had decades before proposed the assimilation of the eastern tribes through a process of transforming their culture. The process gained traction in the American South, some Creek Indians especially embraced the individual ownership of land, and many Indians occupying both private and communal lands owned slaves. Indians living on privately owned land were not affected by the relocation and were allowed to remain in the East. Beginning with the removal of the Choctaw in 1831, the Trail of Tears refers to more than a pathway, but to two decades of policy which led to the deaths of thousands, from malnutrition, disease, murder, drowning, and sometimes simple exhaustion.

Most of the actual migrations were led by the tribal leaders themselves, rather than the US government. Here are some events and facts about the Indian Removal Policies which led to the Trail of Tears.

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