History Week 11. The Trail of Tears

Again, do not read this long essay unless you really feel motivated to do so!

The Trail of Tears

Introduction

In this essay I discuss the event known as The Trail of Tears. The essay is made up of several paragraphs that review the background of this event, going through to the event itself.

In 1492, when Cristopher Columbus found the new world, he triggered a huge colonising period. Countries such as England, France, the Netherlands, Spain and Portugal, started a race to establish colonies in not only what we now know as the US, but around the world. This colonising era saw the rise of countries to becoming world powers. Still, to colonise North America was an especially large objective. Soon small settlements were springing up on the east coast, as European countries sent groups of settlers to colonise the lands in America. But the colonists were soon faced with a problem. There were native people who had been living in America generations before the settlers arrived!  

These came to be known as ‘Indians’ because of Cristopher Columbus’ mistake in thinking that he had found India, when he had actually discovered North America. By the late 1600s, the British, French and Spanish, had already been establishing settlements on the east coast of North America. All these settlements on the east coast meant that the Indians living there were pushed out. This happened through small wars with the settlers and the deaths of hundreds of Indians due to diseases brought by the colonists. 

Over next hundred years, the mother countries of colonies in America started to fight each other for control of North America. But by the mid 18th century, Britain arose as the dominant force in America. Having wrestled Canada from the French, the British added this chunk of land to their already prominent thirteen colonies on the east coast. For a time, everything was going well. Borders had been established between the Indian lands and the colonies, which made everything seem simple. But problems soon arose.

Britain had accumulated large debts from the French and Indian Wars, which had given the British control over Canada. To pay off these debts, Britain started to impose taxes on the thirteen colonies. Many of these taxes were imposed on everyday needs and were back then considered to be high taxes too. The colonists did not like these high and unreasonable taxes. In fact, the taxes contributed to the American War for Independence, in which the thirteen colonies separated from their mother country Britain. This resulted in the birth of The United States of America. As an independent country, the government of the US could do things that they could not have done when they were under Britain.  

The American-Indian border had always been dangerous. Indian raids were frequent and many times these resulted in homes being destroyed and the inhabitants killed. This caused fear and resentment among the white settlers living close to the frontier. This resentment of Indians was followed by the worldview called “Manifest Destiny” this belief was that America should extend all the way to the west coast. This meant chasing out the Indians and colonising vast tracts of land. This concept was put in place several times, as the expanding nation of America started pushing westward, as early as 1830. This is commonly referred to as the “Indian Removal” and was justified with the “Indian Removal Act” by Congress.

This is were we get to The Trail of Tears. The Trail of Tears was a forced removal of the Choctaw, Creek and Cherokee tribes. Theses tribes were forced from their native lands around modern day Mississippi and Oklahoma. The Indians had to walk miles to reservations, often at bayonet point from US soldiers. Many thousands of Indians died from disease and starvation along the way. From 1831-1840 this “removal” took place until almost ten thousand Indians had been removed. 

Sadly, this would not be the last removal of Indians. Over the next few decades, the US would continue to push Indians further and further off their lands. Those who resisted were forced to give up their lands. Many Indian-American wars would take place, up till the point where the last Indians lived in small reservations mostly forgotten or ignored. 

The Trail of Tears has a legacy of being an infamous act of evil from the US government and although the Indians did sometimes attack the American settlers, these removals were definitely not morally justified.

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