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Laurel Boars
Laurel Boars

4 : Waterways Make Life Feel Complete

Twenty men, none of them elected officials of the tribe, signed the treaty, ceding all Cherokee territory east of the Mississippi to the U.S. in exchange for $5 million and new homelands in Indian Territory. Major Ridge is reported to have said that he was signing his own death warrant.The Treaty of New Echota was widely protested by Cherokees and by whites. The tribal members who opposed relocation considered Major Ridge and the others who signed the treaty traitors. After an intense debate, the U.S. Senate approved the Treaty of New Echota on May 17, 1836, by a margin of one vote. It was signed into law on May 23. As John Ross worked to negotiate a better treaty, the Cherokees tried to sustain some sort of normal life--even as white settlers carved up their lands and drove them from their homes. Removal had become inevitable. It was simply a matter now of how it would be accomplished.Questions for Reading 21. Based on the quotations from Chief Womankiller and Major Ridge, how did the Cherokee feel about their land? Why did the majority of the Cherokees oppose the treaty?2. In Andrew Jackson's letter of 1835 to the Cherokee council, he says that the tribal fathers were well-known to him "in peace and in war." What war is he referring to? What was his relationship to the Cherokees during that war? What is the tone of his letter? If needed, refer to Reading 1.3. What points does Major Ridge make in his speech to the tribal council? Why was Ridge in favor of the treaty? Do you think he makes a persuasive case for approval?4. Why was the Treaty of New Echota so widely criticized? The U.S. Constitution required that the treaty be ratified by the U.S. Senate. Under the Cherokee Constitution, treaties had to be approved by the Cherokee National Council. Did this occur with the treaty of 1835? Do you think the U.S. government had the right to enforce this treaty?

4 : Waterways Make Life Feel Complete

On March 24, 1839, the last detachments arrived in the west. Some of them had left their homeland on September 20, 1838. No one knows exactly how many died during the journey. Missionary doctor Elizur Butler, who accompanied one of the detachments, estimated that nearly one fifth of the Cherokee population died. The trip was especially hard on infants, children, and the elderly. An unknown number of slaves also died on the Trail of Tears. The U.S. government never paid the $5 million promised to the Cherokees in the Treaty of New Echota.Questions for Reading 31. What is the tone of General Scott's message to the Cherokees? Would you have tried to resist the removals after hearing Scott's message?2. What happened to the Cherokee between May and October of 1838? What was life like for the Cherokee during that period?3. With little time to plan and prepare, 17,000 Cherokee with their possessions, horses, and wagons moved from their homelands to Oklahoma. This type of mass migration was unprecented in the early 19th century. What sort of arrangements would be needed to prepare for and carry out such a mass movement of people? If you were given a short amount of time to leave your home and move to an unknown place, how would you feel? What would you take with you?4. What do you think would have been the worst part of the entire removal process?5. Do you think Robert Thomas's story about his grandmother is based on a real event? What do the students think the white road represented? In oral traditions, the speaker often "telescopes" historical time, collapsing one or more generations. Do you think the woman in Thomas's account was really his grandmother? Is that important? Do you think the story was intended as factual history? If not, what was it intended to record?

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