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The Trail of Tears             

The Museum of the Cherokee Indian is an official interpretive site for the National Park Service "Trail of Tears National Historic Trail," authorized by Congress in 1987. The Trail covers more than 2,200 miles of land and water routes in nine states.

This national long-distance trail commemorates the "Trail of Tears", regarded as the most significant event in Cherokee history. Between June and December 1838, more than 15,000 Cherokees were forced to depart their homes in the southern Appalachians and walk more than a thousand miles to Indian Territory. Between 4,000 and 8,000 Cherokees died on "Nunahi-duna-dlo-hilu-i", the Trail Where They Cried.

"We, the great mass of the people, think only of the love we have for our land. For we do love the land where we were brought up. We will never let our hold to this land go. To let it go will be like throwing away our mother that gave us birth."

              --Letter from Aitooweyah to John Ross, Principal Chief.



Charleston, TN--During the summer of 1838, nearly 13,000 Cherokees were held here for months, waiting to begin their journey. Whitepath and Fly Smith Graves--Hopkinsville--Whitepath, a Cherokee chief from Georgia, died and was buried here.  Whitepath led a movement to revitalize Cherokee traditions in the 1820's.  Most of the thousands of Cherokees who died on the Trail lie in unmarked graves. Water route--Four detachments of Cherokees traveled by water.  The military escorted three of these, which were the first groups removed. Most of them were Cherokees from Georgia, who were strongly opposed to removal. They suffered many casualties.  The fourth group to travel by water, later in 1838, consisted of the old and infirm. Land route--Thirteen detachments of Cherokees traveled overland, departing between June and December 1838. Fort Smith National Historic Site--Military post established in 1817. Cherokees traveling by water on the Trail of Tears passed by this site, now a national park. New Echota--Capital of the Cherokee Nation from 1825--1838, now part of the Georgia State Parks. Ross's Landing--More than 2,000 Cherokees were held here in 1838. Three large groups departed by water from this point, located in present-day Chattanooga. Fort Butler-one of five North Carolina stockades where Cherokees were held, now present-day Murphy.  Led to the Unicoi Turnpike, an ancient path used on the Trail of Tears, now designated a Millennium Trail. Fort Payne--Removal fort and internment camp for more than 1,100 Cherokees Tuscumbia Landing--Landing on the Tennessee River used by those traveling on the water route. Tahlequah--Now the center of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma, incorporated in 1843.  Named for Tellico, a  Cherokee town in Tennessee, this community includes the Cherokee National Capitol and Cherokee Supreme Court Building. Fort Gibson--end of the Trail of Tears for several detachments, who were formally received by the military.  Post  established 1824. Woodhall Homeplace--[OK and AR border] end of the Trail of Tears for many of the Cherokee detachments who traveled by land. Nashville Toll Bridge (Dedrick Street) site--This bridge across the Cumberland River was used by Cherokees on the Trail of Tears. Berry Ferry--All of the Cherokees crossing the Ohio River used this ferry. Cherokee, N.C. --Home of the Oconaluftee Citizen Cherokees, who were not removed on the Trail of Tears.  Now the site of the Museum of the Cherokee Indian Green's Ferry--This ferry carried Cherokees across the river on the Trail of Tears.  It is now part of the Trail of Tears State Park.

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