An American Betrayal: Cherokee Patriots and the Trail of Tears


Many readers interested in Native American history may already know much about the infamous Trail of Tears suffered by the Cherokees in the 19th century as a result of Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act. The loss of their property and possessions; the hunger, disease, and death the Cherokees experienced as they made a 900-mile forced migration West to a new home in Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) is a legendary story that still lives deep in the consciousness of the Cherokee people.

In this informative study of the Cherokee removal, author Smith goes beyond the facts of the Trail of Tears itself to show how the Indian Removal Act caused violent dissension among the Cherokee people – those wanting to remain in their eastern homeland, led by Chief John Ross, and those arguing for removal, led by Major Ridge, his son John, and Elias Boudinot. These three understand the might of the U.S. government and the greed of white neighbors and favor a removal to Indian Territory, where they could start anew.

Smith also shows how the U.S. Supreme Court and President Andrew Jackson came to oppose each other on the issue of Cherokee removal and how the issue was argued in Congress along sectional lines, a harbinger of the civil war that was only a few decades in the future.

This is an excellent study of one of America’s most shameful events.

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