Myth # 72: The Trail of Tears emptied the southeast United States of Indians.

National Geographic magazine says this is a common myth, so who am I to differ? I had never heard it, but then again, maybe that’s because I’ve long known the truth, living in the southeastern United States among several different Native American tribes.

After the passage of the shameful Indian Removal Act in 1830, all remaining southeastern tribes were supposed to be rounded up and herded west, a process that began in 1831 and ended in 1838-39 with the Cherokees and the infamous Train of Tears. This was a pitiful forced march that killed about a quarter of the people. A small number of Native Americans remained in the southeast, either because they were overlooked or because they evaded capture during the round-up. These people stayed on their ancestral homelands. They include some Choctaw in Mississippi, the Seminole in Florida, some Creek in Alabama, and some Cherokee in Tennessee and North Carolina. (See for a welcome to Cherokee, NC, from the chief of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee.)


4 Responses to Myth # 72: The Trail of Tears emptied the southeast United States of Indians.

  1. kenney11 says:

    first of all your map is wrong. Those other Indian removal trails are all Trails of Tears. There was no one trail. The Creeks called it the Deathmarch. The Choctaws were first, then the Chickasaws, then Creeks, then the Cherokee, and finally some Seminole who were really runaway Creeks. That’s what Seminole means in Creek is runaway.

  2. Mary Miley says:

    Sorry about the map–it was the best I could find available on the Internet. Yes, they were all trails of tears. Trails of death would be more like it. One of the most shameful episodes in American history.

  3. Joe Greeley says:

    Having lived in East Tennessee for a while, I found it very ironic that anybody whose family has lived there for more than a generation will usually claim to have Cherokee ancestry (Usually Cherokee Princess)

    • Mary Miley says:

      Well, of course, all Cherokee young ladies are princesses, right? So that’s understandable . . . Like you, I find it amusing that something once considered a “shame” is now something to brag about, so much so that people who have no business bragging about it do so.

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