Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Trail Of Tears - Part 2 of 2

continuation from earlier post...

"At this point having a treaty agreed to from bribery was considered fraudulent, but since Jackson had friends in high places, the treaty was ratified, even though few chiefs had signed it and it had gone against arguments concerning the exchange of land with the tribes. Simultaneously the Cherokee had their own representatives meeting with President Madison and his cabinet, along with several senators. Chieftain Major Ridge and his Scottish interpreter Lieutenant Ross were well received by all. Since they were such a hit they actually managed to get Jacksons bought and ratified treaty rescinded.

This move by Jackson served as a unifier amongst the Cherokee, polarizing them against any treaties or removal of them from their lands. This is all well and good, but the state governments involved were of the mind that the states had formed the Union, not the other way around. IF you guys are thinking, “WTF is he talking about?” Remember this, about 40 years later, there would be a little scuffle contesting the power of states’ rights and powers versus those of the federal government, it was called the Civil War. Yeah, that scuffle.

In the short period of time that it had taken the Cherokee to become civilized according to “modern doctrine”, many white citizens felt threatened by either the enthusiasm of the Cherokee to assimilate. Or they were just holding on to severely outdated prejudices that found basis in other less “civilized” tribes or even smaller violent minority groups within those of the Cherokee. Think modern Islam and violent minor sects today.

Speaking out for the “citizenry”, state governors began taking steps to limit the power of the Cherokee tribes, specific to their own state boundaries, but would often be cited and supported when other states began taking measures against the Cherokee and other tribes. Tennessee’s governor, Joseph McMinn being a supporter of Jackson, asked for federal troops to come to the aid of his state’s citizens based on unsubstantiated threats on life and property. He went on to accuse half breed Chiefs, Major Ridge, Little John Scot, and Charles Hicks of breeding sedition and objection to missionaries teaching the Cherokee things they did not have a need to know. Stuff like English and Arithmetic, the top secret stuff.

While Tennessee was still trying to get assistance from Federal government concerning the Cherokee “issue”, Georgia decided to flex their own muscle. They began passing laws limiting the natural autonomous freedoms of the Cherokee to act on the state level and within their own lands. The laws annexed all lands belonging to the Cherokee within Georgia’s borders, voided the Cherokee constitution and all laws established there in, and pretty much voided any actions by the autonomous governments of the Cherokee council. These went hand in hand with the “Black Codes” established by state governments to restrict the freedoms of free African Americans of the day. Both these sets of laws would be drawn upon later to set up the “Jim Crow” laws after the Civil War.

By 1829 when gold was discovered in Dahlonega, Georgia, matters concerning the Natives slipped from ridiculous to absurd. With Andrew Jackson firmly in presidential office, the Federal Congress passed the Indian Removal Act. By 1832, treaty commissioners began to utilize the growing divisions within the Cherokee Nation, specifically the Treaty Party, and the Nationalist Party. For the next several years the Cherokee councils tried fruitlessly to renegotiate these treaties. Remember during this time, citizens wanting to take “free land” the Cherokee were just “squatting” on, would just break in to homes, assaulting, pilfering, and generally acting like ass clowns towards hard working people in established homes. This was just the lower every day citizens, the upper class citizens (lawyers and businessmen) sought financial gain, by purchasing the recently state claimed lands, and requiring back rent or other means from Cherokee farmers who had once again worked their lands for years.

With the failure of negotiations, the federal government stepped in to take count, collecting many Cherokee in concentration camps, and prepare the Nation for removal. On January 1, 1837 the first group of 600 Cherokee left following a land route, making it to their destination with no reported deaths, they joined the 4000-5000 Cherokee already immigrated earlier in the century. During the collection of the Cherokee, many were literally just taken out of the homes with nothing allowed to be taken but the clothes on their backs. A few lucky ones would be able to go back and pack for the impending journey or gather the few things that had personal value more than anything, but most were never able to return.

This whole time, the Cherokee leadership tried so hard to get the Treaty of Removal, rescinded, but to no avail. Instead seeing their people mustered under guard and made to stay in the collection camps, they finally capitulated and began organizing themselves to make the journey under their own autonomy rather than that of the federal governments. So they arranged for transport and lodging at certain points along the proposed routes, they also arranged for food and supplies to be left at certain points. They did allow for the escort of federal troops merely as assistance. Unfortunately, most of the time, the planned assistance would never come through, and people would be left waiting for much needed supplies to get to them in the sweltering camps of the summer, or the freezing camps of the winter. They would suffer death not from bullets and sabers, but small pox and dysentery. They would indeed shed tears with every step of this forced journey.

There is a little more to it, but I had to figure out how many high spots to this period in history there were worth sharing. Already I feel like its way long for a blog, but this is something that needs to be shared and it is not a nursery rhyme about a long walk. It’s about a forced removal of people; no matter how “legal” it was supposed to be with paperwork like treaties. The areas we will be riding through on the run are these people’s lands whether they live there anymore or not. Let’s respect it.

Story By Josh

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