Revisited Myth # 72: The Trail of Tears drove all the Indians out of the southeastern United States.


National Geographic magazine says this is a common myth, so who am I to differ? I had never heard it expressed, 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.)


3 Responses to Revisited Myth # 72: The Trail of Tears drove all the Indians out of the southeastern United States.

  1. Kevin Myers says:

    The above answer repeats another, even more common myth: that the Indian Removal Act of 1830 called for Indians to be “rounded up and herded west.” All the Indian Removal Act did was authorize the president to negotiate land swap treaties with Native tribes. The shameful part came later, when tribes were forced to comply with shady land swap treaties signed by Natives under duress or without authority to sign.

  2. Joe Greeley says:

    What I find interesting is, that after all the effort to get rid of them, if you go to East Tennessee nowadays, practically everyone claims to have a Cherokee ancestor-usually a Princess . . .

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