Teaching Activities (Free)

The Cherokee/Seminole Removal Role Play

Teaching Activity. By Bill Bigelow.
What led up to the Trail of Tears? Students role play the decision to remove the Cherokee and Seminole people from their lands.

Time Periods: 19th Century, Early 19th Century: 1800 - 1849
Themes: Democracy & Citizenship, Native American, Racism & Racial Identity
The Cherokee Seminole Removal Role | Zinn Education Project

Waynetta Lawrie, left, of Tulsa, Okla., stands with others at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City, in March 2007, during a demonstration by Cherokee Freedmen and their supporters. Image: AP Photos.

The events leading up to the infamous Trail of Tears, when U.S. soldiers marched Cherokee Indians at bayonet-point almost a thousand miles from Georgia to Oklahoma, offer a window into the nature of U.S. expansion in the early 19th century, but also throughout this country’s history.

The Cherokees were not the only indigenous people affected by the Indian Removal law and the decade of dispossession that followed.

The Seminoles, living in Florida, were another group targeted for resettlement. For years, they had lived side by side with people of African ancestry, most of whom were escaped slaves or descendants of escaped slaves. Indeed, the Seminoles and Africans living with each other were not two distinct peoples. Their inclusion in this role play allows students to explore further causes for Indian removal, to see ways in which slavery was an important consideration motivating the U.S. government’s hoped-for final solution to the supposed Indian problem.

The role play encourages students to explore these dynamics from the inside. As they portray individuals in some of the groups that shaped these historical episodes, the aim is for them to see not only what happened, but why it happened—and perhaps to wonder whether there were alternatives.



Beyond Heroes and Holidays (Teaching Guide) | Zinn Education Project: Teaching People's HistoryOriginally published by Teaching for Change in Beyond Heroes and Holidays: A Practical Guide to K-12 Multicultural, Anti-Racist Education and Staff Development. Beyond Heroes and Holidays offers essays, articles, analysis, interviews, primary documents and interdisciplinary lessons.