How to Use the Context
When English and European immigrants arrived on the North American continent, they found many people whose appearance, lifestyle, and spiritual beliefs differed from those they were familiar with. During the course of the next two centuries, their interactions varied between cooperation and communication to conflict and warfare. The newcomers needed land for settlement, and they sought it by sale, treaty, or force.
Between 1790 and 1830, tribes located east of the Mississippi River, including the Cherokees, Chickasaws, Choctaws, Creeks, and Seminoles, signed many treaties with the United States. Presidents George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison struggled to find a balance between the obligation of the new nation to uphold its treaty commitments and the desires of its new citizens for more land. Ultimately, the federal government was unwilling or unable to protect the Indians from the insatiable demands of the settlers for more land.
The Louisiana Purchase added millions of less densely populated square miles west of the Mississippi River to the United States. Thomas Jefferson suggested that the eastern American Indians might be induced to relocate to the new territory voluntarily, to live in peace without interference from whites. A voluntary relocation plan was enacted into law in 1824 and some Indians chose to move west.
The 1828 election of President Andrew Jackson, who made his name as an Indian fighter, marked a change in federal policies. As part of his plans for the United States, he was determined to remove the remaining tribes from the east and relocate them in the west. Between the 1830 Indian Removal Act and 1850, the U.S. government used forced treaties and/or U.S. Army action to move about 100,000 American Indians living east of the Mississippi River, westward to Indian Territory in what is now Oklahoma. Among the relocated tribes were the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole. The Choctaw relocation began in 1830; the Chickasaw relocation was in 1837; the Creek were removed by force in 1836 following negotiations that started in 1832; and the Seminole removal triggered a 7-year war that ended in 1843. These stories are not told in this lesson plan. The trails they followed became known as the Trail of Tears. The Cherokees were among the last to go and it is the Cherokee's story that is the subject of this lesson pan.