Friday, November 14, 2008

Trail of Tears

One of the most regrettable times for me in the history of the United States was the first half of the 19th century. The country was in the mode of expansionism and was willing to do it at the expense of doing what was right. The War of 1812 against the British essentially failed, but there was intent to join Canada to the independent states. Native Americans played a big role in the War of 1812. The expulsion of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints from the state of Missouri, and subsequently from Nauvoo Illinois were added blemishes on our country. This was all added upon by the deceptive actions used to entice Mexico into a war so the United States could take the territory between the Pacific Ocean and the western boundaries of the United States. But the most disgraceful part of it all, in my opinion, was the treatment of the Native Americans in an infamous fashion.

The event I am referring to is known as the "Trail of Tears". There is a fallacious belief that the conflict between the "cowboys and Indians" took place in the west. The conflict with the Indians began the day the Europeans arrived in the Americas. The systematic extermination and expulsion of the Indians was mostly coming to an end by the middle of the 1800's. In the early part of the century there were 5 groups of autonomous groups called the Indian Nations. These were composed of the Creek, the Chickasaw, the Seminole, the Choctaw, and the Cherokee.

There were independent governments of each of the nations, and they had a democratic style of government. The tribes had adopted a European style of life, raising cattle, growing crops, and living on fixed pieces of land. The Indians were persecuted and treated with disdain by those that were moving into the area. The expansion of the Europeans into the area found that the occupation by the Indians stood in the way of them taking their wealth. The Congress of the United States passed "The Indian Relocation Act", which called for trading the lands that were owned by the Indian Nations in the states of Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas for the lands west of the Mississippi River in what is now Oklahoma.

There were deceptive maneuvers used by those in negotiations with the Indians to get signatures on a treaty, which traded the lands in Oklahoma for the lands in the deep south. The Choctaw were the first to be relocated. They had the option of staying in the United States and becoming citizens and be given a homestead, or to relinquish their lands and have land given them in the west. Many chose to stay and become citizens. Those that stayed were now confronted with persecution. They were harassed and murdered. So much for Hollywood telling the truth.

The Choctaw chose to leave when confronted. Their departure from their homelands was handled in a way that resulted in about 1/3 of them dieing en route. The reason they gave for their leaving was to have freedom from an oppressive set of laws that were crafted without any input on the part of the Indians.

The eviction of the other tribes followed in similar fashion.

There were two of the tribes that resisted being removed, at least in part, the Cherokee and the Seminole.

The Seminole formed an army that fought with arms against the United States and their forced relocation. The cost to the US was about $20 million. This was an astronomical sum at the time. In the end the United States abandoned the war against the Seminole and there were about 100 that remained in the Everglades.

The Cherokee took another route. The formed a legal case against the law that was written to evict them. The Cherokee presented their case to the Supreme Court of the United States, where Justice John Marshall declared that the United States did not have jurisdiction to enact laws that affected a sovereign nation such as the Cherokee.

President Andrew Jackson declared "John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it!" He defied the very structure of the Constitution that was designed to limit the power of the Federal Government.

Andrew Jackson commanded the armies of the United States to evict the Cherokee. In November of 1838 they were driven from their homes and forced on a 1000 mile trek. The weather was abnormally cold. As a consequence of the circumstances, one third of the Cherokee that were evicted died.

This was a dark time in our history when it appears to me that deception and illegal action were the norm of how our country was led by corrupt men.


  1. This is really a sad commentary on our country. I cannot help but wonder how different our country would have been if there had been respect for the people were liviing on this continent when the Europeans arrived in the new world. We cannot rewrite history, and the sad thing seems to be that we fail to learn what history could teach us.

    I cannot help but wonder how people of that time could reconcile their belief in God with this treatment of his children.

  2. @Kent,

    I suspect that the people of that time that proclaimed to be men of God were of the ilk that came close to them with their mouths but their hearts were far from him.

    I fear that we are, as a nation, still a nation that thinks the rules apply to others but not us, that our country is blessed and we are the chosen, when in fact we serve the other side.

    Several years ago there was a release of volumes of information that was released because of the Freedom of Information Act. Jeanette and I discussed the horrible things that the government did to the people in asylums and in the military as using the occupants and soldiers as living test specimen. The nuclear blasts, infectious diseases, experiments, and other things that were done in the name of research. Then Jeanette stated the obvious, "What are they doing now?"

  3. I believe when men have power, they tend to see virtue conveniently. It's easy to rationalize behavior, by saying that what they want to do is "God's way". The crusades and many other wars were fought in the name of God.

  4. It is true that man's inhumanity to man is a fact that has happened since Cain killed Abel. We live in a world that is telestial and will be that way until the Savior comes. It is very important that we are not among those who treat others in a way that is not acceptable to our dear God. Most of those things that you mentioned in the things that our country did, filled the things that are mentioned in the scriptures. The treatment of the Indians, and gaining the parts of Mexico, to be a part of the United States. It was a blessing to the members of the church that we were driven to the West. Sometimes bad things are used to accomplish the plan of our God. It is really important for us to love everyone and keep our lives in tune with the things of the Gospel so we are not the offenders. The Lord said for us to be thankful for all things and all things will work together for good.


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