Perspectives on the Trail of Tears

Historical perspective on an event can vary dramatically depending on whether or not the person describing the event was involved in the event itself and if involved, how so; the amount of time between the event and the history; the existence of bias in sources used in studying the event; and the degree to which the experience is part of the author's cultural heritage. As an historical event the Trail of Tears, the story of the Cherokee removal from the southeastern U.S. to Oklahoma, is no exception. In the activity below your job as a student of the history of this event is to reflect on who is telling the story and how their telling may be colored by their own experiences, beliefs, and sources.

Points along the Trail of Tears are marked on the Recollections map below. Each point represents the approximate location of and year in which a description of the Cherokee removal was created. Some were created by participants; some by relatives of participants. Some of the descriptions were created at the time of the event; some over a century later. Some were created by Cherokee; some not. And some were personal accounts, while some were public. All these factors will affect your judgement of the reliability of the accounts and how readily you accept the stories presented as fact. In the end, your understanding, or your history, of the Trail of Tears will be a synthesis of the sources you find most credible.

Print a copy of the Analyzing Documents diagram for each of the accounts of the Trail of Tears that you examine. Use the worksheet to guide your reading of the documents and your evaluation of their quality as credible sources of information.

To Start You Thinking

1) Identify according to the information in the map where and when the first 5 secessions of Cherokee land occurred.

2) Approximately one third of the Cherokee population migrated west to Arkansas after the secessions of 1819. From where did they move?

3) Examine a biography of Daniel Boone and explain how his explorations are reflected in the shrinking limits of Cherokee territory.

Last modified in June, 2019 by Rick Thomas