Houghton Mifflin Social Studies
A More Perfect Union

Understanding Primary Sources:
Indian Removal

Objective: Students analyze the words of two statesmen from the 1830s and write reports on the subject of Indian removal.

What You Need:

Suggested Time:
2-3 hours over 2 days

Building Background:
During the 1830s the federal government under President Andrew Jackson advocated the removal of Native American tribes in southeastern states to western territories. This was a controversial act. Many citizens of Georgia and North Carolina welcomed removal because it allowed them to move into the Native Americans' lands. Other Americans felt removal was cruel and wrong.

At the time, the Cherokee people were prospering as an independent republic with its own Constitution. Despite a 1791 treaty recognizing Cherokee territory in Georgia and appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court, American soldiers eventually rounded up and expelled 15,000 Cherokee in 1838-1839. The Cherokee were forced to abandon their homes, livestock, and ancient burial grounds and travel to Tennessee. From there they were moved, in severe winter weather, another 800 miles to Indian Territory in present-day Oklahoma. About 4,000 people died during the journey. The path the Cherokee followed became a national monument in 1897 symbolizing the wrongs suffered by Indians at the hands of the U.S. government. The Trail of Tears National Historic Trail extends from North Carolina to Oklahoma.

What To Do:

1. Explain to students that the question of Indian removal was an important political issue in the 1830s. Tell them that in 1835 President Andrew Jackson favored of removal, but that the Cherokee opposed it. Have students discuss why Jackson favored removal.

2. Print and distribute the Indian Removal: Two Points of View worksheet. Have students read the statements of Andrew Jackson and the Cherokee Principal Chief, John Ross. Encourage students to work together to answer the questions.

3. Have students use their textbooks, the school or local library, and the Internet to research the causes and effects of moving the Cherokee from their homes in Georgia. If you have Internet access, students can explore these sites for information:

History of the Cherokee

This site provides primary source photographs and documents from Cherokee history as well as information about the Trail of Tears.

The Trail of Tears

This site provides an article on the Trail of Tears with hyperlinked biographical and background information.

4. Challenge students to use their notes to write reports on Indian removal, focusing on the experiences of the Cherokee people. Students should explain who supported and who opposed the removal and why. Encourage students to include information on significant dates, important documents, and influential people on both sides of the issue. Students can also create timelines, maps, drawings, and cause and effect charts to illustrate their reports.

Discuss with students what happened as a result of the Cherokee removal. Have them use the words of Andrew Jackson and John Ross to evaluate which man more accurately predicted the effects of Indian removal.


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