This Day in History

May 23, 1838: The Trail of Tears Began

Time Periods: 1800
Themes: Democracy & Citizenship, Imperialism, Native American

On May 23, 1838, the forced removal of the Cherokee, Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Seminole, Chickasaw, Choctaw and other Native American nations officially began — a land theft, massacre, and attempted genocide known as the Trail of Tears. A petition was signed by close to every member of the Cherokee nation (16,000) in protest of the planned removal. This resounding, democratic voice was ignored.

Elizabeth “Betsy” Brown Stephens, a Cherokee woman who walked the Trail of Tears. Image Source: Lmaotru.

See the film segment of We Shall Remain and use the Cherokee/Seminole Removal Role Play to introduce students to the history outside of the textbook about the organized efforts to resist relocation and the horror of the internment and subsequent death marches.