Forced Relocation of Native Americans

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Forced Relocation of Native Americans essay
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Migration is a concept that is known all over the world. People move from one area to another in search for a better life, to escape prosecution, environmental issues, and many other reasons. However, not all migration is good. One of these types of migration is called forced relocation. Forced relocation is when a group of people are forced from their home region, and relocated to another region. This has happened all over the world, and even here in the United States. The most common forced migration that took place in the United States was The Trail of Tears. The Trail of Tears was when the U.S. government forced the migration of Native Americans from the Easter region to West of the Mississippi river.

The Trail of Tears was due to the United States Government. In 1830, the government passed an act called the Indian Removal Act, however, the actual removal did not happen until a decade later. Due to this act, the Native Americans were forced from their home regions, and relocated west of the Mississippi river. The U.S. government took the Native Americans from their homes, and most of the time burnt the homes. Then, they packed the Native Americans onto steamboats and shipped them through the Tennessee, and Ohio rivers to the Mississippi river, then made them walk the rest of the way (Thornton, 1984). This caused a lot of disease and mortality due to the poor conditions, and the stifling heat. After that, the Cherokees found a resolution, and asked if they could remove themselves. The U.S. complied, and the Cherokee people were on the move. The trail from the Eastern part of the United States to out west that the Native Americans used was called Nunna daul Tsuny, or translated as the “Trail of Tears” (Thornton, 1984). Many people walked, or rode in wagons. The walk itself was a short term effect, even though it was brutal due to the mass of people which lead to the spread of disease, and the little food and water that they had. This was a short term effect because the mortality rate did not spike until a year after they were relocated. Then, due to starvation and disease in the new land, many died. This high mortality had a lasting effect on their culture. Using the logarithmic formula, it is said that before the “Trail of Tears”, the Cherokee had 23,170 people, then after that 5 year period that the relocation took place (1835-40) their numbers went down to 13,032 people (Thornton, 1984). That is a 10,138 person difference. That is a lasting effect due to loss of that many Cherokee people. It also took a lasting toll on their culture, because all of those people could have passed down their legacy, so their children could carry on the tradition. It was harder for the Native Americans to maintain their cultural norm. They had to move to a completely new region that they are not used to, and they also have to deal with the matter that half of their people died. They had to change what their “normal” day is to accommodate for what the new environment entails. This all around changed their cultural identities.

The Trail of Tears was a significant event that was forced upon the Native Americans by the U.S. government. It caused the Cherokee people to get up and move from their home region in the East, and go all the way West of the Mississippi river. The trail they used to get there (The Trail of Tears) was long and brutal, but not as brutal as the year after arriving in the West. The year after led to disease and starvation, which added to the number of deaths that eventually added up to 10,138 people (Thornton, 1984). With the high mortality rate and movement from East to West, it affected their culture, and cultural identities. They did not have as many people to pass down their traditions, and activities that they did on a normal basis. They also had to adapt to a new region, that did not produce what they were used to. Ultimately, the forced migration took a toll on that of the Cherokee people.


  1. Thornton, R. (1984). Cherokee Population Losses during the Trail of Tears: A New Perspective and a New Estimate. Ethnohistory, 31(4), 289. doi: 10.2307/482714

My Opinion

My opinion on the Trail of Tears is that it was very wrong of the United States government to forcefully make the Native Americans move from their homes to all the way West of the Mississippi river. It baffles me that the United States did not realize that the Native American population would be reduced greatly due to disease and starvation. It makes me wonder if they knew the deaths would happen, and they just did not care. The long term effects that happened to the Native Americans is sad as well. They lost so many people, 10,138 to be exact using the logarithmic formula (Thornton, 1984). Having lost this many people had to have taken a toll on their culture. All of those people could have passed down their traditions to their children and among others. The Native Americans also had to adapt to their new surroundings. The Western part of the United States is very different compared to the Eastern portion. Especially if the Native Americans came from the North Eastern part of the United States. In the NE, there are more trees and a cooler climate. Where the South West it is hot, and arid. The Native Americans had to adjust to wherever they decided to take up residency. Even though the journey there was more of a short term effect, it was very rough. Some of the people were not as fortunate to have rode a horse, or rode in a wagon, instead they had to walk the entire way. Then, when they got there, they did not have it easy due to the lack of food, and the abundance of disease (Thornton, 1984). In my opinion, if the U.S. government was rude enough to force these people out of their homes, they should have at least set up some sort of housing, or food supply to the Native people. That way they could settle down without the worry of food or shelter.

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Were Native American forced to move to reservations?
The Indian Appropriations Act of 1851 authorized the creation of Indian areas in what is now Oklahoma. Native peoples were again forced to move to even smaller parcels of land now called reservations.
Who forced Native Americans to move west?
President Martin Van Buren sent General Winfield Scott and 7,000 soldiers to expedite the removal process. Scott and his troops forced the Cherokee into stockades at bayonet point while his men looted their homes and belongings. Then, they marched the Indians more than 1,200 miles to Indian Territory.
Who forced Native Americans to move?
More than 46,000 Native Americans were forced— sometimes by the U.S. military —to abandon their homes and relocate to “Indian Territory” that eventually became the state of Oklahoma. More than 4,000 died on the journey—of disease, starvation, and exposure to extreme weather.
Why was the Native Americans forced to move?
Working on behalf of white settlers who wanted to grow cotton on the Indians' land , the federal government forced them to leave their homelands and walk hundreds of miles to a specially designated “Indian territory” across the Mississippi River.
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