246 - Trail of Tears
When the 1830s began, nearly 125,000 various tribal members lived on millions of acres of land in Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina and Florida - land where their ancestors had lived for centuries. By the end of that decade, only a handful of indigenous Americans would remain in the southeastern United States. The federal government had forced them to leave their homelands and walk hundreds of miles to a specially designated “Indian territory” across the Mississippi River - present day Oklahoma. And this difficult and deadly journey - thousands would die along the way - would be known as the Trail of Tears.
As new waves of European settlers kept pouring into America, farming land along the coasts was quickly taken up. Farming land for growing cotton in Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina, Florida, and Tennessee was especially coveted. New settlers wanted that land and they would do almost anything to get it - including taking it from tribe members who yes, had lost their battles against the US government, but also - could’ve been treated far more fairly in the aftermath. Rather than work to assimilate the tribes into American culture - the US federal government under President Andrew Jackson and his Indian Removal Act, passed by Congress in 1830, chose to banish them to less desirable land. Though the entire process of Indian Removal that lasted from 1831 to 1877 would come to be known as the Trail of Tears, one march in particular would become emblematic of the entire misguided and heartless venture - the 2,200 mile 1838 journey of seventeen Cherokee detachments. Historians estimate that between 1/4 and 1/3 of what remained of the Cherokee population died during that journey. We look at this journey and other tribe's journey's today, talk about what led up to them, examine the history of European contact with the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Seminole, and Chickasaw, and go over so much more in this jam-packed-with-historical-information episode, let's learn from our mistakes so we don't repeat them edition, of Timesuck.
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