Field Trips

Native American Tree and Plant Gathering: Commemorating the Trail of Tears

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Grade Level:
Upper Elementary: Third Grade through Fifth Grade
Social Studies
State Standards:
Social Studies: 3.4 3.6 3.7 3.11 4.2 4.3
Science: 3.10 4.5 5.9 6.7
English: 4.7 4.8


The students will gain understanding of the plants and trees handled by American Indians. They will be given a sheet with GPS coordinates on it, and then will go to that location and sketch what they find at that coordinate. After they find the coordinates the students will view a powerpoint on some of the plants and trees on the trail. The students will learn about plants in the park area and how American Indians used them. 

Teacher Information

The Trail of Tears National Historic Trail

Tens of thousands of American Indians were taken from their homes, rounded up and relocated to Indian Territory (Oklahoma). They were taken from Georgia, North Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi and Florida.Some walked as far as eight hundred miles. Many succumbed to the harsh conditions along the gruesome trail.

In 1800 there were more than eight thousand Cherokees living in the Southeastern United States. They prospered by farming, gathering, trading and hunting. They enjoyed playing games and had their own rituals and beliefs. The five largest groups of tribes were the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, Cherokee and Seminole. The Choctaw were located in central and southern Mississippi and western Alabama. The Chickasaw lived in northern Mississippi and parts of Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky. The Creek occupied eastern Alabama. The Cherokee lived in Northeast Alabama,Northwest Georgia, Southwest North Carolina and Southeast Tennessee. The Seminole lived the Florida Panhandle. By the 1700s these cultures traded for European goods such as pots, dishes, cloth, blankets, horses, metal tools and guns. European customs and dress were adopted by the American Indians and mixed with their own culture. Some leaders of the Cherokee practiced plantation agriculture and even acquired black slaves.

Sequoyah known as George Guess developed a tribal syllabary. It had 85 symbols representing all the sounds of the Cherokee language. It was used by the first American Indian newspaper. The paper was called the "Cherokee Phoenix." The Cherokee also developed a written constitution. Friction occurred between full blooded Cherokee Indians and mixed bloods. Some full blooded Cherokee Indians resisted contact with the white population. They did not want to make any accommodations. Sometimes these outbreaks turned violent.

After the War of 1812 many settlers wanted the rich farmland east of the Appalachians which was perfect for growing cotton. For many years a great number white people including Thomas Jefferson wanted the American Indians to be moved west. State officials increased pressure on American Indians to give up their land to the White settlers. When Andrew Jackson was elected in 1828 congress gave him a Removal Act. This Removal act was granted in 1830. American Indians were then forced to leave their homeland.

Elliott West, Trail of Tears Western Publisher National Parks Association p1-4

Fort Payne

According to undocumented local tradition, Fort Payne was named after John G. Payne. It was built as a temporary fort in 1838 for the removal of the Cherokees in 1838. This internment camp was built to hold the Cherokees during the removal process.Other removal forts in Alabama include nearby Fort Likens, Fort Lovell, and Fort Turkeytown.  Removal forts were built to hold American Indians temporarily, during May and June. Many of the Cherokees from outside of Alabama had to stay the entire summer in the internment camps. The living conditions were terrible. The Cherokees stayed in Fort Payne until General Winfield Scott sent orders for groups to leave.

Rozema, Vicki. Footsteps of the Cherokees. John F Blair Publisher, 1995

Additional Resources

National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees,

Dr. Jaroslav Kresanek. Healing Plants, New York, Arco 1982.

Micael J.Caduto and Joseph Bruchac Keepers of the Earth,Golden, CO, Fulcrum 1988.

Dan Moerman Native American Ethnobotany,



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Last updated: October 23, 2015