The story of the removal.
In 1838 Cherokee people were forcibly moved from their homeland and relocated to Indian Territory, now Oklahoma. They resisted their Removal by creating their own newspaper, The Cherokee Phoenix, as a platform for their views. They sent their educated young men on speaking tours throughout the United States. They lobbied Congress, and created a petition with more than 15,000 Cherokee signatures against Removal. They took their case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that they were a sovereign nation n Worcester vs. Georgia (1832). President Andrew Jackson ignored the Supreme Court decision, enforced his Indian Removal Act of 1830, and pushed through the Treaty of New Echota.
In 1838 Cherokee people were forcibly taken from their homes, incarcerated in stockades, forced to walk more than a thousand miles, and removed to Indian Territory, now Oklahoma. More than 4,000 died and many are buried in unmarked graves along “The Trail Where They Cried.”
The Cherokees resisted removal through every possible means. Even Junaluska, who had saved Andrew Jackson’s life at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, traveled to Washington to plead the Cherokee’s cause, but Jackson would not see him.
The Treaty of New Echota
In 1835, the Treaty of New Echota was signed by a minority of Cherokees, including Major Ridge, John Ridge, and Elias Boudinot, the three were assassinated by other Cherokee in 1839, for their part in agreeing to the removal. Major Ridge claimed to represent the Cherokee Nation, but he was only considering a small group of people. The Treaty would give Cherokee land west of the Mississippi to the US in exchange for $5,000,000. In 1836, the U.S. Congress ratified the treaty (by one vote in the Senate) and gave Cherokees two years to remove themselves. Meanwhile, the U.S. Army began constructing stockades in preparation for the removal, which would become known as the Trail of Tears.
The Cherokee Nation rejected the Treaty of New Echota. As a result, between May 1838 and March 1839, federal soldiers and state militia rounded up 16,000 Cherokees from Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, and North Carolina, taking them to stockades, and forcing them to get on boats and then march to Indian territory, present-day Oklahoma. At least 4,000 Cherokees died—one quarter of the population—and many were buried in unmarked graves. This devastating chapter in American history is known as the Trail of Tears.
During removal, three to four hundred Cherokees hid in the wooden mountains of Western North Carolina. In November of 1838, Tsali and his family killed two soldiers who were attempting to capture them. Tsali and his family became fugitives from the federal government. Aided by William Holland Thomas (Yonaguska’s adopted son), the American soldiers found Tsali. Tsali agreed to give himself up and be executed so that other Cherokees would be allowed to stay in their homes in the mountains.
Unto These Hills is a powerful retelling of Cherokee history, in a narrative about the Trail of Tears that is heartbreaking and hopeful. As one of the oldest outdoor dramas.