In 1838 and 1839, as part of Andrew Jackson’s Indian removal policy, the Cherokee nation was forced to give up its lands east of the Mississippi River and to migrate to an area in present-day Oklahoma. The Cherokee people called this journey the “Trail of Tears,” because of its devastating effects.
Some 100,000 American Indians forcibly removed from what is now the eastern United States to what was called Indian Territory included members of the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole tribes.
The US Army and state militias built forts and roads in the Cherokee Nation to gather and forcibly remove a nation of people, over 15,000 Cherokee, 3,500 of whom lived in North Carolina.
In 1838 and 1839 U.S. troops, prompted by the state of Georgia, expelled the Cherokee Indians from their ancestral homeland in the Southeast and removed them to the Indian Territory in what is now Oklahoma.
The final battle at Horseshoe Bend resulted in the total defeat of the Creek Nation. Of the 22,000 Creek Indians who set out on the Trail of Tears, only half actually made it to Oklahoma. Creek Tribal Chief Sam Moniac was among the approximately 4000 who died on the Trail due to exposure, starvation and disease.
“Trail of Tears” has come to describe the journey of Native Americans forced to leave their ancestral homes in the Southeast and move to the new Indian Territory defined as “west of Arkansas,” in present-day Oklahoma.
With the first wave in 1831, Choctaws were the first tribe to cover the Trail of Tears, so named because of the suffering and loss of life on the march.
During this removal, more than 300 Cherokee hid in the mountains and escaped arrest. Over a period of years, these Cherokee managed to remain in the area, and eventually were recognized by the U.S. government as the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians in 1868. Those who remained in Oklahoma became the Cherokee Nation.
In 1837, soldiers operating out of Fort Armistead in Tennessee pursued Creek (Muskogee) Indians into the mountains of North Carolina, when Creeks tried to escape their own nation’s Removal by seeking refuge in Cherokee territory. A year later, in 1838, US troops and state militia began gathering Cherokees.
Whooping cough, typhus, dysentery, cholera and starvation were epidemic along the way, and historians estimate that more than 5,000 Cherokee died as a result of the journey.
Due to the lack of preparation and funding by the United States government, 4,000 Cherokees died from exposure, starvation, and disease on their way to Oklahoma. The Cherokees named this forced march “the trail on which we cried,” aka the Trail of Tears.
As the 1838 deadline for removal approached, President Martin Van Buren—Jackson’s successor—directed General Winfield Scott to force the Cherokees to move west. Seven thousand U.S. Army soldiers rounded up Cherokee families at bayonet point.
Those who stayed suffered raids by Western Indians who invaded Creek settlements at night. A delegation of Chickasaw, who were exploring the west for possible emigration, observed that the Creek emigrants were “in a poor condition” and were “continually mourning for the land of their births.”
Upon defeat, the Creeks ceded 23,000,000 acres of land (half of Alabama and part of southern Georgia); they were forcibly removed to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) in the 1830s. There with the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Seminole, they constituted one of the Five Civilized Tribes.
Summary and Definition: The Creek tribe, aka the Muskogee, descended from the mound builders located in the Mississippi River valley. The people moved across the southeast and established large, organised settlements in Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina and Florida.