Cherokee Indian jewelry, as well as every
other aspect of their culture was deeply
affected by the Indian Removal of 1838
After much legal wrangling, President
Jackson ordered troops to enter the Cherokee lands in Tennessee, North and South Carolina, and Alabama to
remove the Cherokee Indians from their homeland.
The United States Army in 1838 and 1839 removed the Cherokee Indians people by force, with the exception of
a few hundred who hid in the mountains of North Carolina-where their descendants still live.
The Cherokee Indian, having resisted longest, suffered most in the process of removal, nearly one-fourth of their
entire population dying on the way. An effort was made to include the Seminole of Florida in the general removal
from the Southeast- this brought on war, which lasted until 1842 and cost the lives of 1,500 American troops and
20,000,000 in military expenses. Its most publicized feature was the capture of the young Seminole chief
Osceola by the American General T. S. Jesup.
When the much-wanted Cherokee Chief Osceola at last set up a conference under a flag of truce, General Jesup
sent an officer to the appointed place, seven or eight miles from St. Augustine, and while the conference was
going on had the conference ground quietly surrounded by a body of troops, who at a signal made Osceola and his
This means of capturing prisoners was used repeatedly by General Jesup against the Seminoles-once with the
inadvertent help of a well-intentioned Cherokee Indian peace delegation. The shocked Cherokee Indian chief John
Ross wrote to the Secretary of War, "1 do hereby most solemnly protest against this unprecedented violation of
that sacred rule ... of treating with all due respect those who had ever presented themselves under a flag of
truce." But, unfortunately, it was the only means that worked.
Wrote General Jesup, "No Seminole proves false to his country, nor has a single instance ever occurred of a
first rate warrior having surrendered." Osceola was captured and died in a military prison three months after his
capture. But the war went on.
Seminole women (as some of the women of the Creek resistance had done) killed their small children to free
themselves to fight beside their men, and the war developed into a game of hide-and-seek in the swamps of the
Florida Everglades; obviously it could never be won by either side.
Peace was finally made on quite honorable terms worked out by Army Colonel Ethan Allen Hitchcock, who during
the war wrote, "Five years ago I came [to Florida] as a volunteer, willingly making every effort in my power to be
of service in punishing as I thought, the Indians. I now come, with the persuasion that the Indians have been
wronged .... "
Most of the Seminole moved west to Indian Territory but several bands remained in the region of the Everglades
and are still there, having resisted, down through the decades, inducements to emigrate such as have seldom been
offered to any other tribe.
Cherokee Indians who had made possible the Horseshoe Bend victory that had launched General Jackson's
national career, came off no better in the removal than the ancient hostiles. Ex-hostiles such as Menewa, who
had become steadfast American allies (Menewa adopted the army uniform of an American general), fared no
better than the implacable anti Americans who remained implacable.
Those who believe that Indians don't cry haven't looked over the official reports of the Great Removal. They are
still crying about the loss of their homeland.
So, the Indian nations were gone from their warm and charming land in the Southeast. But something more had
happened than the mere uprooting of 50,000 or so people from their homes.
The frontier spirit had clearly paraded the black horse of its evils coupled to the white horse of its virtues.
Natural resources-in this case, people had been merrily exploited in an open conspiracy involving the President of
the United States and large portions of the population.
Young America, in short, had been told a most effective bedtime story of crime without punishment. The nation,
in short, had been exposed to quite a spectacle of dirty business, and it is reasonable to suppose the sinuous
folds of the young American mind had picked up a new wrinkle or two.
The Cherokee Indian resilience helped them to rebuild a new homeland in Indian Territory, now part of Oklahoma.
They built schools, homes, churches, a new Cherokee Indian government, but they still remember the "Trail of
Tears." Copyright 2010
Conley, R. J. The Cherokee Nation: A History. 2008.
Ehle, J. Trail of Tears: The Rise and Fall of the Cherokee Nation. 1997.
Finger, J. R. Eastern Band Of Cherokees: 1819-1900.1984.