Following a Trail of Tears
For yet another third period, I walked through the faded pink door into the fluorescent-lit room. I walked along the back wall, past the poster of the “Pledge of Allegiance” spelled out with license plates. I sat down in my seat. This would be my first of two periods in a row with Mrs. Sorenson, the quirky history/English teacher who would bring out her fiddle and sing songs based on the unit of U.S. history we were working on. This day, Mrs. Sorenson wasn’t singing any songs. There weren’t many songs she knew about the Trail of Tears. She reminded us about how the American Indians had owned the land before the Europeans came and how the new settlers wanted to keep the natural resources found in the Indians’ homelands. Mrs. Sorenson explained that the Cherokee Indians, a tribe of Native Americans, were forced off their land and marched thousands of miles on foot to be moved to the designated Indian Territory. She mentioned that many died, but more Cherokees cried. To me, this was merely information to be absorbed for the test, and then squeezed out to make room for the next unit. I had bigger problems than mere thousands of people in the past being paraded to some other place. Little did I know that in five years I would study literature extensively on the Trail of Tears for my college English class.
The Trail of Tears was the Cherokee removal in 1838 from the southeast states of the United States into Indian Territory in present-day Oklahoma. Remembering back to eighth grade, I vaguely recall the Indians being forced off their land and moved to Indian Territory with the violent assistance of soldiers; however, all the research I have done point out that only a few were moved under soldier control. A majority of the Cherokee tribe had permission to move themselves. The remainder were given a small stipend for supplies, broken into thirteen detachments, and trailed by soldiers to ensure actual removal. Each detachment took a minimum of four months to complete the over 1,000 mile trip. Only the sick and elderly were allowed to sit on the wagons, and by the end of the trip, all the wagons were full. The research reveals the deaths of many Cherokees mostly because of disease and terrible conditions. The bodies were left on the side of the trail, which was unheard of in Cherokee tradition. Women, children and even men cried about the loss of their land, families, and friends, hence the name, the Trail of Tears.
I started the research fairly open to all information I found out, although I did start with sympathy towards the Cherokee. The Cherokee had become fully assimilated under advisement of Thomas Jefferson; they had a written language and written laws, and they changed the family to being patriarchal as opposed to matriarchal. I started my research looking for personal narratives about the actual removal to Oklahoma. Unfortunately, I could only find short quotes on websites from...