The Trail of Tears was the name given to the forced relocation of Native American nations from southeastern parts of the United States following the Indian Removal Act of 1830. A sad reminder of the Trail of Tears remains today in many uniquely shaped trees along the paths the Native Americans took.
President Andrew Jackson had long been an advocate of what he called Indian Removal. As an Army general, he spent years leading campaigns against the Creeks in Georgia and Alabama and the Seminoles in Florida. When he became president, he continued this crusade.
Indian Removal Act
In 1830, President Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act, which gave the federal government the power to exchange Native-held land in the cotton kingdom east of the Mississippi for land to the west, in the “Indian colonization zone” that the United States had acquired as part of the Louisiana Purchase.
The removal included many members of the Cherokee, Muscogee (Creek), Seminole, Chickasaw, and Chocta nations, among others in the United States, from their homelands to Indian Territory in eastern sections of Oklahoma. Indian removal took place even in the Northern states. In Illinois and Wisconsin, for example, the bloody Black Hawk War in 1832 opened to white settlement millions of acres of land that had belonged to the Sauk, Fox and other native nations.
Below are some Trail of Tears trees in
Izard County, Arkansas by
Trail Tree in South Carolina
Choctaw were the first to be moved
The Choctaw were the first to be removed in 1831, and they became the model for all other removals. By 1840, tens of thousands of Native Americans had been driven off of their land and forced to move to Indian territory. The federal government promised that their new land would remain unmolested forever, but as the line of white settlement pushed westward, “Indian country” shrank and shrank. In 1907, Oklahoma became a state and Indian territory was gone for good.
Trail Tree in Alabama
Forced to walk, ride in wagons or travel by flatboat more than a thousand miles
Typically, the Army built military posts approximately 10 to 20 miles apart. Each fort had access to major roads and each provided shelter for troops and supplies during the removal. Then Federal troops organized the Native Americans into groups of about 1,000 people. A conductor and his assistant led each group west to Oklahoma and Arkansas.
The Native Americans were forced to walk, ride in wagons, or on flatboat more than a thousand miles for many months to reach their new home. “The migrants faced hunger, disease, and exhaustion on the forced march. Over 4,000 out of 15,000 of the Cherokees died.”1
Is this why the trees are uniquely shaped?
A sad reminder of the Trail of Tears remains today in many uniquely shaped trees along the trails that the Native Americans took. The trees are believed to be part of an ancient grid of trail markers used by the Native Americans to point to hunting grounds, meeting places, water supplies and other areas important to their survival. Messages on the trees are written in code. Some historians also believe that the Native Americans believed they would be able to return to their homelands by reading the messages and retrieving cached valuables.
Native Americans used trees to mark trails for centuries. The tree below can be found in the Bankhead Forest of Alabama in Northwest Lawrence County. “Legend has it that over 200 years ago, warriors of the local Creek and Chickasaw tribes fought a bloody battle in the area now covered by the forest. Some say the tree was bent and molded to its current shape in order to point out the burial places of each tribe’s fallen braves.” 2
Check all books by Alabama Author Donna R. Causey
Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) – A novel inspired by the experiences of the Cottingham family who immigrated from the Eastern Shore of Virginia to Bibb County before Alabama became a state.
Filled with drama, suspense, humor, and romance, DISCORDANCE continues the family saga from the Tapestry of Love series with the children of Mary Dixon who married Thomas Cottingham.
Inspired by true events and the Cottingham family that resided in 17th century Somerset, Maryland and Delaware, colonial America comes alive with pirate attacks, religious discord, and governmental disagreements in the pre-Revolutionary War days of America.