Nu na hi du na tlo hi lu I
Nu na hi du na tlo hi lu I
Trail of Where They Cried
“One by one Indian people were removed to the West. The Delaware, the Ottawa, Shawnee, Pawnee and Potawatomi, the Sauk and Fox, Miami and Kickapoo, the Choctaw, Chicksaw, Creek and Seminole. In some 90,000 Indians were relocated. The Cherokee were among the last to go. Almost two thousand of them died along the route westward which they remembered as the Trail of Tears.”
During the roundup intimidation and acts of cruelty at the hands of the troops, along with the theft and destruction of property by local residents, further alienated the Cherokees. Finally, Chief Ross appealed to President Van Buren to permit the Cherokees to oversee their own removal. Van Buren consented, and Ross and his brother Lewis administered the effort. The Cherokees were divided into 16 detachments of about 1,000 each.
Three detachments of Cherokees, totaling about 2,800 persons, traveled by river to Indian Territory. The first of these groups left on June 6th by steamboat and barge from Ross’s Landing on the Tennessee River. They followed the Tennessee as it wound across northern Alabama, including a short railroad detour around the shoals between Decatur and Tuscumbia Landing. The route then headed north through central Tennessee and Kentucky to the Ohio River. The Ohio took them to the Mississippi River, which they followed to the mouth of the Arkansas River. The Arkansas led northwest to Indian Territory, and they arrived aboard a steamboat at the mouth of Salisaw Creek near Fort Coffee on June 19th.
The rest of the Principal People traveled to Indian Territory overland on existing roads. They were organized in detachments ranging in size from 700 to 1,600 with each detachment headed by a conductor and an assistant conductor appointed by John Ross.
The most commonly used overland route followed a northern alignment, while other detachments followed more southern routes. The northern route started at Tennessee, and crossed central Tennessee, southwestern Kentucky, and southern Illinois. After crossing the Mississippi River north of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, these detachments trekked across southern Missouri and the northwest corner of Arkansas.
Road conditions, illness, and the distress of winter, particularly in Southern Illinois while detachments waited to cross the ice-choked Mississippi, made death a daily occurrence. Mortality rates for the entire removal and its aftermath were substantial, totaling approximately 8,000.
“I saw the helpless Cherokees arrested and dragged from their homes, and driven at the bayonet point into the stockades. The trail of exiles was a trail of death. They had to sleep in wagons and on the ground without fire.” – Private John G. Burnette
In the Indian Territory problems quickly developed among the new arrivals and Cherokees who had already settled, especially as reprisals were taken against the contingent who had signed the Treaty of New Echota. As these problems were resolved, the Cherokees proceeded to adapt to their new homeland and they reestablished their own system of government, which was modeled on that of the United States.
“A common ancestry promotes understanding between Cherokee full bloods and mixed bloods. They are poles apart in many respects but, under the skin, are still brothers. For one thing, they have Cherokee traditions in common and no amount of white blood can dilute the remembrance of what happened in centuries past to the Cherokee people” – Grace Steele Woodward.