The Trail of Tears

DBQ Lesson Student Copy

"Trail of Tears" painting by Robert Lindneux Woolaroc Museum, Bartlesville, Oklahoma

All answers in this document are to be in purple

All answers except the People, Objects,  and Activities in Painting Analysis are to be in complete sentences

All answers in this document are to be in purple

Parts A Step 1. Observation

a. Study the painting for 2 minutes. Form an overall impression of the painting/photograph and then examine individual items. Next divide the image into quadrants and study each section to see what new details become visible.

b. Use the chart below to list people, objects, and activities in the painting

People: A lot of people are old, children, infants, and young people.

Objects: There are horses and wagons. There are also many blankets to keep them warm.

Activities: The people are riding horses and wagons going through the same direction.

Step 2. Inference

Based on what you have observed above, list three things you might infer from this

painting. 1. They are Native Americans. 2. They are all going the same direction or place. 3. There are infants, children, young, and old people.

Step 3. Questions

a. What questions does this painting raise in your mind?

How did they survive? How many died? How many made it all the way?

The Trail Of Tears

Part B. Analyzing Sources

Directions: Answer the following questions that follow each document..

DBQ 1: Andrew Jackson's Second Annual Message

On December 6, 1830, President Andrew Jackson delivered his annual message to the United States Congress. In his message, Jackson informs Congress of the progress made concerning Indian removal, and explains the advantages of his policy for both the United States and the Native Americans.

First close read this paragraph. Use comments to define words you may not know. Highlight important points in BLUE, At the end of this paragraph write a summary in your own words in purple

The consequences of a speedy removal will be important to the United States, to individual States, and to the Indians themselves. The pecuniary advantages which it promises to the Government are the least of its recommendations. It puts an end to all possible danger of collision between the authorities of the General [National] and State Governments on account of the Indians. It will place a dense and civilized population in large tracts of country now occupied by a few savage hunters. By opening the whole territory between Tennessee on the north and Louisiana on the south to the settlement of the whites it will incalculably strengthen the southwestern frontier and render the adjacent States strong enough to repel future invasions without remote aid. It will relieve the whole State of Mississippi and the western part of Alabama of Indian occupancy, and enable those States to advance rapidly in population, wealth, and power. It will separate the Indians from immediate contact with settlements of whites; free them from the power of the States; enable them to pursue happiness in their own way and under their own rude institutions; will retard the progress of decay, which is lessening their numbers, and perhaps cause them gradually, under the protection of the Government and through the influence of good counsels, to cast off their savage habits and become an interesting, civilized, and Christian community.

Paragraph Summary:

What good man would prefer a country covered with forests and ranged by a few thousand savages to our extensive Republic, studded with cities, towns, and prosperous farms embellished with all the improvements which art can devise or industry execute, occupied by more than 12,000,000 happy people, and filled with all the blessings of liberty, civilization and religion?

1. Why does Jackson think that the speedy removal of the Native Americans is

advantageous for the United States?

Jackson thinks that the speedy removal of the Native Americans is advantageous, because it puts an end to all possible danger of collision between  the authorities of the General and State Government.

2. Why does Jackson think that the speedy removal of the Native Americans is

advantageous for the Native Americans? He also thinks this, because  the consequences of the speedy removal will be important for United States,  to the individual states, and to the Indians themselves.

Part C

A soldier recalls the Trail of Tears

Story of Private John G. Burnett, Captain Abraham McClellan’s Company, 2nd Regiment, 2nd Brigade, Mounted Infantry, Cherokee Indian Removal, 1838–39.


a) One can never forget the sadness and solemnity of that morning. Chief John Ross led in prayer and when the bugle sounded and the wagons started rolling many of the children rose to their feet and waved their little hands good-by to their mountain homes, knowing they were leaving them forever. Many of these helpless people did not have blankets and many of them had been driven from home barefooted.

b) Men working in the fields were arrested and driven to the stockades. Women were dragged from their homes by soldiers whose language they could not understand. Children were often separated from their parents and driven into the stockades with the sky for a blanket and the earth for a pillow. And often the old and infirm were prodded with bayonets to hasten them to the stockades.

c) In one home death had come during the night. A little sad-faced child had died and was lying on a bear skin couch and some women were preparing the little body for burial. All were arrested and driven out leaving the child in the cabin. I don’t know who buried the body. In another home was a frail mother, apparently a widow and three small children, one just a baby. When told that she must go, the mother gathered the children at her feet, prayed a humble prayer in her native tongue, patted the old family dog on the head, told the faithful creature good-by, with a baby strapped on her back and leading a child with each hand started on her exile. But the task was too great for that frail mother. A stroke of heart failure relieved her sufferings. She sunk and died with her baby on her back, and her other two children clinging to her hands.

1. Does this soldier who is helping to remove the Cherokee seem in favor of the removal or against it. Cite examples from the reading to support your opinion.

The soldier seems against the removal, because  from reading, it states that  one can never forget the sadness and solemnity of that morning. He had led in prayer.

Part D Interpreting Maps

1.  Approximately how long is the Trail of Tears.

The Trail of Tears is about 1,200 miles.

2.  Which Native American groups had settlements in Mississippi?

The Choctaws had settlements in Mississippi.

3. What body of water did the Seminoles cross on their route to the Indian Territory?

They crossed the Gulf of Mexico.

4. Which states did the Potawatomis cross on their route?

They crossed Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, and Iowa Territory.

5. In what present-day states was the Indian Territory located?

The Indian Territory was located in the present states of Louisiana, Indiana, Kentucky, Georgia, West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.

6. Approximately how many Creek Indians were transported to the Indian Territory?

A little more than 14,000 Creek Indians were transported to the Indian Territory.

Part E: Worcester v. Georgia (1832) Supreme Court Decision

The Cherokee nation, then, is a distinct community, occupying its own territory... in which the laws of Georgia have no force.... The Acts of Georgia are repugnant (disgusting) to the Constitution, laws, and treaties of the United States. They interfere forcibly with the relations established between the United States and the Cherokee Nation, the regulation of which according to the settled principles of our Constitution, are committed exclusively to the government of the Union.

Marshall, C.J., Opinion of the Court, Supreme Court of the United States, 31 U.S. 515

1. What does the Supreme Court declare the Cherokee nation to be? What is the

significance of this?

The Supreme Court declares the Cherokee nation to be independent  of the state of Georgia. The significance of this is that the Cherokee nation was not  regulated  by the constitution.

2. What does the Supreme Court declare about Georgia’s actions?

They declared that Georgia did not have the right to  govern  the way things were.

Part F: Excerpts from John Ross's words to delegates of the Iroquois


John Ross was a Cherokee chief that represented tribal interests to the Federal government.

'Brothers: The tradition of our Fathers ... tells us that this great and extensive continent was once the sole and exclusive abode of our race.... Ever since the whites came we have been made to drink of the bitter cup of humiliation; Treated like dogs . . . our country and the graves of our Fathers torn from us ... through a period of upwards of 200 years, rolled back, nation upon nation [until] we find ourselves fugitives, vagrants and strangers in our own country.. 'The existence of the Indian Nations as distinct Independent Communities within the limits of the United States seems to be drawing to a close. . . . You are aware that our Brethren, the Choctaws, Chickasaws and Creeks of the South lave severally disposed of their country to the United States and that a portion of our own Tribe have also emigrated West of the Mississippi — but that the largest portion of our Nation still remain firmly upon our ancient domain. . . . the position [sic] there may be compared to a solitary tree in an open space, where all the forest trees around have been prostrated (knocked down) by a furious tornado."

1. What is John Ross’s opinion about the way the U.S. treated the Indian tribes?

John Ross’s opinion about the way they treated the Indian tribes was that the federal government had treated all Indians unequally.

2. What did John Ross mean when he described the Cherokee as “.... compared to a

solitary tree in an open space, where all the forest trees around have been prostrated by a furious tornado.”

Parts G: Step 1. Observation

a. Study the painting for 2 minutes. Form an overall impression of the painting and then examine individual items. Next divide the image into quadrants and study each section to see what new details become visible.

b. Use the chart below to list people, objects, and activities in the painting

People: The people in this picture are very young. There is child and an infant. There are also soldiers, and the people are Indian.

Objects: There are wheel barrels, and one little house

Activities: They are taking away the Indian men, and leaving the women to defend themselves.

Step 2. Inference

Based on what you have observed above, list three things you might infer from this

painting. 1. Abuse 2. Racism 3. Separation of families

Step 3. Questions

a. What questions does this painting/photograph raise in your mind?

Why did they just take the men? What led to this decision?

Part H: Excerpts from the Treaty of New Echota, December 29, 1835

On February 28, 1835, a delegation of the Cherokee nation and the United States government created a treaty, which provided the Cherokee with compensation for their removal from Georgia. Below are excerpts from this treaty.

ARTICLE 1. The Cherokee nation hereby cede relinquish and convey to the United States all the lands owned claimed or possessed by them east of the Mississippi river, and hereby release all their claims upon the United States for spoliations of every kind for and in consideration of the sum of five millions of dollars...

ARTICLE 6. Perpetual peace and friendship shall exist between the citizens of the United States and the Cherokee Indians. The United States agree to protect the Cherokee nation from domestic strife and foreign enemies and against intestine wars between the several tribes. The Cherokees shall endeavor to preserve and maintain the peace of the country and not make war upon their neighbors...

ARTICLE 8. The United States also agree and stipulate to remove the Cherokees to their new homes and to subsist them one year after their arrival there and that sufficient number of steamboats and baggage wagons shall be furnished to remove them comfortably, and so as not to endanger their health, and that a physician well supplied with medicines shall accompany each detachment of emigrants removed by the Government.

ARTICLE 9. The United States agree to appoint suitable agents who shall make a just and fair valuation of all such improvements now in the possession of the Cherokees as add any value to the lands; and also of the ferries owned by them, according to their net income; and such improvements and ferries from which they have been dispossessed in a lawless manner or under any existing laws of the State where the same may be situated.

1. How much money did the Cherokee receive from the United States government in

return for their land in Georgia?

They received the sum of five million dollars.

2. According to the treaty, what do the Cherokee promise to do in return for peace?

They promised to endeavor to preserve and maintain the peace of the country and not make war.

3. List three things the government agrees to do to help the Cherokee removal be

more comfortable.

The government promised to subsist them one year after their arrival, the steamboats and wagons will be furnished, and they will have physicians to help medically.  

4. According to the treaty, which group has the final say in Cherokee possessions,

the United States Government or the Cherokee nation?

The Cherokee nation had the final say.

Part I: Journal Entry of a Cherokee Tribe Member The Trail of Tears

March 9, 1837

Word has just arrived from the army, the Creek Nation have the worst reports yet of the Nunna dual Tsuny, which they were forced to walk this past winter. Although we have, in the past, had many wars with the Creek Nation, it saddens me to hear of their pain and sorrow. Out of the 15,000 tribesmen who walked the Nunna dual Tsuny, 3,500 of them died in the death march. We have heard tales that if anyone were too weak or too tired to walk they were chained together and forced to continue on. I pray that our great nation does not have to face the same death march. (Mintz, 2007)

May 18, 1838

The army came today, it was complete chaos. We were corralled like cattle into these forts that were not fit to house a pig, the floors were covered in dung. Our belongings, the little we were allowed to bring with us, are being stolen by the guards and sold. The little food we are offered is not enough for all of us. Our bellies remain empty.

June 1838

We are forced from one fort, which is just a more pleasant way to say prison, to another. Many are dying every day from starvation, cruelty, exposure, and exhaustion. The toughest thing so far has been the orphaning of children, and the death of other children. Many adults have been giving the little food they get to their children. The silent tears that run down the faces of my friends and family are devastating. Most are malnourished and near death, their skin just laying over bones. We are weary and tired.

August 28, 1938

Our journey is over, for those of us who made it. Over 2000 people crossed over to join our ancestors in the great sky during that long journey of the Nunna dual Tsuny. After much harassment, the soldiers leave. We are left to fend for ourselves and make a new life in this strange place.

1. Describe in your own words the suffering of the Cherokee people.

According to this journal, the Cherokee people endured  the worst  inhuman  treatment  by the government soldiers. Cherokee people were dying by the thousand, because of starvation, illness, and the weather.

2. According to the diary entry of March 9, 1837 about what percentage of Creek Nation died along the way to Indian Territory?

About 30% of the Creek Nation died along the way.

3. According to the author what does he compare the natives treatment to?

He compares the natives treatment worse than animal treatment.

4. According to the author what does he say the most difficult thing was?

He says the most difficult thing was the orphaning kids and the  amount of dying kids, cause by the treatment.

Part J: “Trail of Tears” painting

1. List 2 images within this picture that show that the Trail of Tears might have been a

voluntary removal of Cherokees from their native lands.

Two things that show they volunteered, you can see entire families going, also they took material possessions and domestic animals with them.

2. List 2 images from this picture show that this removal was forced by the U.S

government and that the Cherokees did not want to leave.

Two things that show that they were forced was that the soldiers are present in this picture, and also the climate of the day is bad.

Part K: Government agents distribute sacks of food rations to Native Americans.

1. This photograph was taken was taken in the new Indian Territory of Oklahoma. What does it say about the new life style of the Native Americans?

The photograph shows that the Native Americans were dependent entirely from the government to survive in their new environment.

Exercise L. Writing about Related Sources

Directions: Write a letter to President Jackson in response to the Big Question below. Be sure to include in your answer at least four details from the documents on the previous pages.

The Big Question:

Was the United States fair and justified in their policies towards the Native Americans in the Southeast?

President Andrew Jackson

Presidents House

Washington D. C.

January 3, 1838

Dear President Jackson,

        I am writing to let you know , that I am ashamed of how our government treated the Native Americans when they were forced to move away from their homes and into new land that the government gave them.  The Trail of Tears is a journey that the Native Americans endured just to comply with our government. The pain they endured through this journey was very heart and soul breaking for them. 3,500 Native Americans died on this trail.  I think our government is responsible for their deaths.

        15,000 Native Americans were removed from their land and they were treated like animals by our government soldiers. Women, children, and all people were the first to die. All of them were innocent of anything, but being Native American.

        To my judgement, the United States was unfair and unjustified with the policies about the removal of the Native Americans from their lands.

                                                                                   Sincerely yours,

                                                                          Clarissa Barrios

Grading Rubric

Grade of 40:

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