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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course United States Migration Patterns  by Beverly Whitaker, CG. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

The Cherokee Removal—The Trail of Tears

The Cherokee Indians were driven from their eastern tribal lands by the national government—over the Trail of Tears. Between 1825 and 1840, they were marched westward by federal troops, to establish what was supposed to be a “permanent” Indian frontier beyond the 95th meridian. In 1836, when Arkansas became a state, there were about 6,000 Cherokee living in Indian Territory who had moved west voluntarily, while some 17,000 still resisted moving west and remained in the East.

When the US Congress ratified the Treaty of New Echota in 1835, the pressure for the forced removal of the Cherokee remaining in the East gained momentum. For three years, the Cherokee protested, but eventually came the forced removal in groups or detachments, following four different routes. The Cherokee roundup began May 23, 1838. The last group reached Oklahoma in March, 1839. Much suffering occurred in this perilous journey. It is estimated that over 4,000 died, nearly a fifth of the Cherokee population.

In Tennessee and North Carolina, about 1,000 Cherokee escaped the roundup. They gained recognition in 1866 and established their tribal government in 1868 in Cherokee, North Carolina. Today, they are known as the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.


Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course United States: Migration Patterns offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website at We can be contacted at

We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.