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What were the impacts of the Trail of Tears?

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The Indian Removal Act and its major consequence, the Trail of Tears, resulted in the further genocide and forced displacement of indigenous peoples living in their homelands southeast of the Mississippi, as well as the further colonization of indigenous people and land west of the Mississippi River. In 1830, the...

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The Indian Removal Act and its major consequence, the Trail of Tears, resulted in the further genocide and forced displacement of indigenous peoples living in their homelands southeast of the Mississippi, as well as the further colonization of indigenous people and land west of the Mississippi River. In 1830, the colonial settler and slaveowner president Andrew Jackson enacted the Indian Removal Act, which catalyzed the death, enslavement, imprisonment, and displacement of tens of thousands of indigenous peoples.

In particular, the Indian Removal Act sought to forcibly displace the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Muscogee Creek, and Seminole tribes from their homelands and force them to relocate west of the Mississippi River. Through the Indian Removal Act, the tribes were given a horrific ultimatum: they were told that they had to be either forcibly removed from their homelands or subjected to US laws that would strip away their rights and sovereignty while they remained on their lands.

The Indian Removal Act catalyzed the creation of "reservations," where tribes were forced to live (often on the least farmable tracts of land), and the creation of boarding schools, where indigenous children were stolen and forced to live and assimilate into whiteness. At these boarding schools, indigenous children were stripped of their cultures, stolen from their families, shamed and forbidden from speaking their native languages, and often physically, mentally, and sexually abused.

The cultural and physical genocidal effects of the Indian Removal Act, committed by the United States, are felt today through the continuation of colonization of indigenous land; the abuse, oppression, imprisonment, and murder of indigenous people; the refusal to give back stolen land; and the very existence of the US government on this stolen land.

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The Trail of Tears resulted in the forced relocation of tens of thousands of Native Americans from the southeastern United States to the territory of Oklahoma from the 1830s through 1850s. It is most commonly associated with the forced migration of the Cherokee in 1838. It also involved the relocation of the Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole tribes. As many as 8,000 Cherokee perished during the long march.

There were a number of significant impacts from this event. It opened up new lands for use by white Americans. After the removal, large plantations were established in former native territories where cash-crops such as cotton and rice were grown by massive numbers of enslaved Africans.

It led to the establishment and population of the Oklahoma Territory where most of the Native Americans were relocated. Adjusting to life in the territory was difficult for many. They were unaccustomed to farming in this different land and many starved after several failed harvests. The forced relocation also resulted in a lot of infighting among the tribes. Tribal leaders were blamed for the disaster and several were murdered. It would be decades until any semblance of stability would be established.

The Trail of Tears is seen by many today as one of the most shameful acts in American history. It directly resulted in the destruction of cultural practices of the tribes affected. It led to the growth of slavery in the southern United States, and it tarnished the image of a country that claimed to uphold ideals of individual freedoms and sovereignty.

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The impact of The Trail of Tears on the American Indians who were driven from their ancestral lands, by policies of the US government under Andrew Jackson, was profound. Approximately 15,000 people died on the forced journey west from exhaustion, exposure, malnutrition, and disease, to say nothing of the psychological and spiritual trauma they suffered. Over 100,000 were never able to return to their homes, and compensation was insufficient for their losses.

The impact for non-American Indians was also profound. Speculators in the gold rush of Georgia, including President Andrew Jackson, benefited economically. Besides gold, cleared, established land for farming and grazing came into the hands of whites, sometimes assisted by the US military.

Overall, the Trail of Tears represents the rapacity of European settlers often backed by corrupt practices of the US government and military.

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One of the most significant impacts of the Trail of Tears was that it marked a point where Native Americans lost any semblance of power.  The removal of different tribes to different parts of the United States disbanded them. It dislodged them from their homes and relegated them to a position of powerlessness. Native Americans would no longer be a formidable voice in negotiating with the American government.  The encroachment that started with the Trail of Tears continued throughout the 19th and 20th Centuries.  It is difficult to fathom that at one point in time, the land that is now firmly accepted as "American" was inhabited by another.  The Native Americans would argue that no one "owns" the land.  Yet, one of the most significant impacts of the Trail of Tears was that it showed that the Native Americans would never come close to exercising power over their destinies on this land.

Another significant impact of the Trail of Tears is that it forged Andrew Jackson's legacy as one of the most cruel Presidents.  Even the most ardent supporter of Jackson has to admit that the Trail of Tears brings out a rather dark side to the leader of "Jacksonian Democracy."  Jackson earned the nickname that Native Americans gave him, "Sharp Knife," through the Trail of Tears.  The idea that American government would enforce and support a policy in which the “trail where they cried" becomes a part of logistical practice is morally repugnant.  The zeal with which "Old Hickory" proceeded with Native American relegation has to be seen as a stain on American History.  This becomes another significant impact of the Trail of Tears.

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