Between 1790 and 1830, American settlers pushed back the Cherokee frontiers. In 1828, gold was found on Cherokee land spurring the idea that the Cherokee should be moved out of the way. In 1830, the Indian Removal Act signed by Andrew Jackson.

The Cherokee challenged the Removal Act in the U.S. Supreme Court in Cherokee Nation vs. Georgia and in Worster vs. Georgia, in which Chief Justice John Marshall ruled that the Cherokee Nation was sovereign, invalidating removal laws. Any future removal would have to be accomplished by treaty ratified by the U.S. Senate.

By 1835, the Cherokee were divided, and a minority (500 out of a population of 17,000) advocated removal. The Treaty of Echota of 1835, which passed by a single vote, gave Jackson the authority for removal, and work was begun on roads westward to accomplish his task.

In 1838, removal was ordered and U.S. Gen. John Wool resigned his command in protest. His replacement, Gen. Winfield Scott and 7,000 soldiers began their invasion of the Cherokee Nation on May 17, 1838. Many Cherokee were forced to leave their farms and homes with few personal possessions, tools, or food. They were forced to leave their livestock and cabins, cooking pots, seed corn, tools, personal momentos. The property of the Cherokee was almost immediately claimed by Americans, often with no remuneration to the Cherokee.

Between May and September of 1838, Cherokee were taken to Indian Removal Forts, temporary stockades with incredibly inhumane sanitary and dietary conditions. Birth rates for Cherokee dropped to near zero, and more than one-third of the 4,000 deaths attributed to the Trail of Tears occurred at these forts.

The Cherokee left the forts on foot, accompanied by U.S. soldiers, in the early fall of 1838. The Cherokee were underfed and ill-housed, a result of unscrupulous suppliers. They were forced to bury their dead in shallow, often multiple graves along the trail and at times were forced to leave their dead unburied. Because many of the Cherokee were not allowed to take enough personal belongings with them, many succumbed to the cold winter march. The Cherokee arrived in Oklahoma, the Cherokee Territory during the winter of 1838-1839.

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