The Trail of Tears took place today, it is a Motorcycle ride that recognizes the suffering of thousands of Indians in 1838-39 when whites forced them from their Southeastern reservations on a brutal march to Oklahoma. The Five Feathers Festival kicked off today's annual ride, where possibly 200,000 motorcyclists will travel from Chattanooga, Tenn., to Florence or Waterloo, the traditional ending place where the Indians were put onto boats to carry them west.
Huntsville Times has this article "Patricia Young, historian for the group that organizes the bike ride, said whites shunned the Indians from the South partly because they were bewildered by their culture. In a telephone interview Wednesday, she said remembering the Indians' plight is essential to understanding how to handle present-day social problems. "We don't have to annihilate things we don't understand," Young said. "We can still be wary of things, but we don't need to wipe them off the face of the Earth. "Maybe, if we remember the Trail of Tears, nothing like it will happen again. History forgotten is history repeated."
In 1830 the Congress of the United States passed the "Indian Removal Act." Although many Americans were against the act, most notably Tennessee Congressman Davy Crockett, it passed anyway. President Jackson quickly signed the bill into law. About 4000 Cherokee died as a result of the removal. the Cherokee "Trail of Tears," one of the darkest episodes in relations between the United States and Native Americans.
The process was swift and brutal. Detachments of soldiers arrived at every Cherokee house and drove men, women, and children out of their homes with only the clothes on their backs. They were placed in concentration camps where conditions were horrendous. Food and supplies were limited and disease was rampant. Many perished. By late June of 1838, the upper Tennessee River had become too low for navigation due to a drought. The U.S. government hired wagonmaster J.C.S. Hood to transport 1,070 Native Americans by foot and wagon from Ross's Landing in Chattanooga, Tennessee to what is now Waterloo, Alabama - about 230 miles. The route they traversed and the journey itself became known as "The Trail of Tears" or, as a direct translation from Cherokee, "The Trail Where They Cried" ("Nunna daul Tsuny"). Here is the National Park website, that also contains a map of the Trail of Tears. Here is the Official Trail of Tears Motorcyle Ride website. Here is one person's take on the Trail of Tears. This is a link to a website that has links to some personal stories of the trail. At this website you will find a geneology of the Trail of Tears with lists of names and groups and dates and times.
Trail of Tears makes one stop and think about Freedom and Rights. I read somewhere that when they came to the Florence area, they were treated well by the people living there. I don't know if that's true or not, and I could not find the news article that that was in. But just how are the Indians in our country treated today? Have we learned anything from this dark time in our history? May there never be another Trail of Tears.