What was the effect on the life of the Cherokee nation after the "Trail of Tears"?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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One of the most significant effects on Cherokee life after the Trail of Tears was in sheer whittling of the population.  The facts of life after the Trail of Tears reflects a massive population shift and displacement:  Many Native Americans suffered from exposure, disease, and starvation while en route to their destinations, and many died, including 2,000-6,000 of the 16,542 relocated Cherokee."  Life after the Trail of Tears was fundamentally different for the Cherokee because so many of their society died under the brutality intrinsic to the Trail of Tears.  From an emotional or psychological standpoint, life was altered for the Cherokee as a result of the Trail of Tears.  In the Cherokee language, the event is called Nu na da ul tsun yi—“the Place Where They Cried”.   This helps to illuminate how those who did survive the Trail of Tears never forgot what happened in the experience of forced relocation. The savage brutality, the cold weather that caused many Cherokee to freeze to death, the executions, as well as the memories of watching a person die all contributed to a psychological condition where so many memories linger.  Life after the Trail of Tears was filled with unforgettable images of savage cruelty along with a sense of survivor's guilt.  Along these lines, life after the Trail of Tears consisted of mistrust of White Authority and government.  Even though many died from disease, starvation, and cold, Native Americans saw their property and territories violated: "Their homes were burned and their property destroyed and plundered. Farms belonging to the Cherokees for generations were won by white settlers in a lottery." Life after the Trail of Tears had much in way of mistrust, bitterness, and a sense of resentment towards White government.

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