From the Trail of Tears to the Mother Lode

Joan Jackson
By Joan Jackson December 15, 2010 16:16

It was called “nu na hi du na tlo hi lu I” or the “Trail Where They Cried.”

In 1838, the U.S. government forced nearly 20,000 Cherokees from their homes in Tennessee, Georgia, the Carolinas and several other states under the Indian Relocation Act of 1830. Increasing demand for land by white settlers and greed for the gold discovered in Georgia brought the forced evacuation.

Millie Batchelor with map of Cherokee migration

While some Cherokee escaped into the Smoky Mountains or into Canada, most were rounded up, placed in stockades and then relocated to internment camps. From these camps the Cherokee were force-marched to Indian Territory, current-day Oklahoma, nearly 1,200 miles to the west. Suffering from starvation, exposure, disease, and harsh treatment by soldiers, as many as 4,000 died during the yearlong trek that became known as the “Trail of Tears.”

Under the Relocation Act, nearly 90,000 Native Americans, including Delaware, Ottawa, Shawnee, Pawnee, Potawatomi, Sauk, Fox, Miami, Kickapoo, Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Seminole were forced from their homelands.

In the 1840s and 1850s, bands of Cherokee Indians traveled across the Great Plains to California. Many who had been miners in Georgia were drawn to the Mother Lode by California’s Gold Rush. California Historical Landmark No. 445 on Tuolumne Road North commemorates the Scott brothers, half-blood Cherokees, who discovered gold there in 1853. Over time the Cherokees moved away, and their former lands are now held by the Me-Wuk Indians.

Oklahoma has the nation’s largest Cherokee population, about 32,000 households, and California the second largest at nearly 11,000 households, census figures show.

© 2010 Friends and Neighbors

Joan Jackson
By Joan Jackson December 15, 2010 16:16