Our Mission

By | September 22, 2022
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An Act of Congress

In 1830, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, which required the various Indian tribes in today’s southeastern United States to give up their lands in exchange for federal territory which was located west of the Mississippi River. Most Indians fiercely resisted this policy, but as the 1830s wore on, most of the major tribes – the Choctaws, Muscogee Creeks, Seminoles, and Chickasaws – agreed to be relocated to Indian Territory (in present-day Oklahoma). 

Trail of Tears Statues
Photos from insider the Cherokee Heritage Center

The Cherokee Diaspora Begins

The Cherokee were forced to move because a small, rump faction of the tribe signed the Treaty of New Echota in late 1835, a treaty that the U.S. Senate ratified in May 1836. This action – the treaty signing and its subsequent Senate approval – tore the Cherokee into two implacable factions: a minority of those who were allied with the “treaty party,” and the vast majority that bitterly opposed the treaty signing.

In May 1838, the Cherokee removal process began. U.S. Army troops, along with various state militia, moved into the tribe’s homelands and forcibly evicted more than 16,000 Cherokee Indian people from their homelands in Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, and Georgia. They were first sent to so-called “round up camps,” and soon afterward to one of three emigration camps. 

The Routes

Once there, the U.S. Army gave orders to move the Cherokee west. In June 1838, three detachments left southeastern Tennessee and were sent to Indian Territory by water. Difficulties with those moves, however, led to negotiations between Principal Chief John Ross and U.S. Army General Winfield Scott, and later that summer, Scott issued an order stating that Ross would be in charge of all future detachment movements. Ross, honoring that pledge, orchestrated the migration of fourteen detachments, most of which traveled over existing roads, between August and December 1838.

The Cost in Human Lives

The impact of the resulting Cherokee “Trail of Tears” was devastating. More than a thousand Cherokee – particularly the old, the young, and the infirm – died during their trip west, hundreds more deserted from the detachments, and an unknown number – perhaps several thousand – perished from the consequences of the forced migration. 

The tragic relocation was completed by the end of March 1839, and resettlement of tribal members in Oklahoma began soon afterward. The Cherokee, in the years that followed, struggled to reassert themselves in the new, unfamiliar land. Today, they are a proud, independent tribe, and its members recognize that despite the adversity they have endured, they are resilient and invest in their future. – Source: The United States National Park Service

Our Focus

This website represents a collaboration of many individuals who believe it is important to increase awareness, document the events, and share resources about the people who experienced the Trail of Tears within the State of Missouri. No one site can claim to be authoritative nor speak for the people involved. The goal of this effort is to share the information we have collected so these events may never be forgotten, and so that others might benefit from our work. – Dr. William Ambrose, Jefferson City, Missouri, 2022

3D Diorama Along the Trail of Tears

By William Ambrose

On the western side of the state of Missouri, the Trail of Tears is generally the Springfield to St. Louis Road.  The General Land Office (GLO) surveyors, those earliest government surveyors who surveyed the unsettled frontier lands ahead of any land sales, were required to draw the existing roads on the township plats beginning at about the time they surveyed the western half of Missouri.  The Springfield to St. Louis Road was pre-historic – it was a trace on the ground from Springfield to St. Louis used by Native Americans for travel for trade and hunting long before Americans arrived in the state.  The GLOs were the building blocks of President Jefferson’s rectilinear survey system, known as the Public Land Survey System, created by the Land Ordinance of 1785, a federal law. The system was laid out in 6-mile-by-6-mile squares, each square being known by its north-south “Township” number and its east-west “Range” number. 


By William Ambrose

From 1837 to 1839, the Federal Government forcibly removed 17,000 Cherokees from their centuries-old homelands in Georgia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, and Alabama.  The Cherokee families were rounded up at gunpoint by Federal troops, held prisoner in detention camps, divided up into detachments of about 1000 people, and then forced to walk the 1000 miles to “Indian Territory,” now Oklahoma. Approximately 4000 died during that process. 

If you have any suggestions, comments, or critiques please email Chris.Dunn@GeoVelo.com

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