Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Trail of Tears? From 1837 to 1839, thousands of Cherokee were removed from their homelands in the Appalachian Mountains. The Cherokee or the Principal People (Ani'Yun'wiya) did not leave willingly. The 1830 Indian Removal Act required that they surrender their land. In the decade that followed, the federal government forcibly removed Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole from their homes in the Southeast and relocated them to Indian Territory in present-day Oklahoma.

Where is the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail?
The "Water Route" had Indians floating in flatbed boats down the Tennessee River to its confluence with the Ohio River and on to the Mississippi River before ascending the Arkansas River to Indian Territory present-day Oklahoma. Most of the land detachments took the main route (Northern Route) and walked to the northwest, through Kentucky and southern Illinois, before heading west and southwest through Missouri and northwestern Arkansas to reach Indian Territory. A few detachments, led by John Bell, John Benge, and others, used other routes to head west. Go to View Park Map under Park Tools on this website for an up-to-date route map. Go to Maps to find a variety of Trail of Tears maps.

Why did the Trail of Tears happen? In late 1829, President Andrew Jackson gave a speech to Congress, saying that it was time to take all Native Americans living east of the Mississippi River and move them west to Indian Territory (Oklahoma). In response, Congress in 1830 passed the Indian Removal Act.

How are the tribes today? Today the Cherokee and other removed tribes endure as vigorous Indian nations. The Trail of Tears story is one of racial injustice, intolerance, and suffering, But it is also a story of survival, of people thriving in the present while remembering their past in the homeland of southern Appalachia.

Where can I obtain the official map and guide brochure? A brochure for the trail is available on this website. Please feel free to download and print or to order one via email.

How can I travel the trail? Go to the Places To Go web pages for travel suggestions in North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Illinois, Missouri, Alabama, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. Check out the interactive map!

Where can I get my Passport stamped? Go to the Passport for Your National Parks web pages on this website for stamp locations in North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. Check out the interactive map!

When did the trail obtain national designation? Congress established the trail in December 1987.

Who administers the trail? The trail is administered by the National Park Service in conjunction with various partners. These include the Trail of Tears Association; the Cherokee Nation; the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians; federal, state, county, and local agencies; private landowners, nonprofits, and interested groups. National Trails Intermountain Region does not own any land on the trail.

What is a national trail? Much like a national park, a national trail is created by an act of Congress. There are currently 30 national scenic and historic trails in the National Trails System. National scenic trails are hike-through trails designated for their natural beauty, environmental importance, and opportunity for outdoor recreation. National historic trails commemorate historic trade, migration, and other routes important to American culture.

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