The Trail of Tears

Forced Removal of Native Americans (Photo Courtesy of Smithsonian Learning Lab)

The Trail of Tears was the forced removal of Native American Tribes from tribal lands in the Southeastern United States to reservations in Oklahoma. The Trail of Tears was the product of clashes over land between Native American tribes in the Southeast and and white settlers moving into the territory in the early 19th century.

Much of the tribal land was taken by the federal government by signing treaties with individuals who did not have the authority to sign on behalf of their tribal nation.

Creek War (1813-1814)

The United States Government wanted unthreatened access to lands east of the Appalachians, and, after years of unlawful land deals, Native Americans in the Southeast saw their tribal lands being taken over. This led to an increase in violence in the southeast now known as the Creek War [Redstick War] (1813-1814). In an effort to take back their land from settlers, Creek warriors (Redsticks) s attacked the settlement at Fort Mims. In what becomes known as the Fort Mims Massacre. The response of the federal government was to swiftly put down the native rebellion in Alabama, and send General Andrew Jackson from Tennessee to put down the rebellion. Jackson broke the Creek resistance at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend by attacking the Creek Village at the bend of the Tallapoosa River and killing over 800 Creek.

Andrew Jackson (Photo Courtesy of Smithsonian Learning Lab)


It gives me pleasure to announce to Congress that the benevolent policy of the Government, steadily pursued for nearly thirty years, in relation to the removal of the Indians beyond the white settlements is approaching to a happy consummation.


- Andrew Jackson

"Map of the Trail of Tears" National Parks Service https://www.nps.gov/trte/planyourvisit/maps.htm

Indian Removal (1820 - 1838)


After the Creek War, White fear of Native Americans was at an all time high, and in light of this the U.S. Government began their initiative to push the Native American tribes out of the Southeastern United States. Through various treaties and unfair land deals, Native Americans were forced to give up portions of tribal lands in order to maintain their presence in the Southeast. However during the decades following the Creek War, many Native American families, in an effort to maintain control of their own lives and destinies went west toward Oklahoma before what is known as the Trail of Tears.


These treaties with the U.S. Government that took Native American lands culminated in the Indian Removal Act of 1830. This Act, signed by President Andrew Jackson, saw the five tribes of the Southeast (Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee, Creek, and Seminole) forcibly removed from their homes by the U.S. Army and made to travel to Oklahoma to a newly designated land for them to settle on.


The Trail of Tears tells the story of these men and women who made the long journey never to return. The following sites on the Decatur Trail of Tears Walking Tour offer a glimpse of the hardship these people endured.