Trail of Tears National Historic Trail
—National Trails System —
"Long time we travel on way to new land.... Womens
cry.... Children cry and men cry...but they say nothing
and just put heads down and keep on go towards
West. Many days pass and people die very much."
-Recollection of a survivor of the Trail of Tears
The Trail of Tears - Land Route
After passage of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, the
United States government forced tens of thousands
of American Indians to leave their ancestral land in
the southeast for new homes in Indian Territory
(present-day Oklahoma). They traveled over
established land and water routes, all of which led
through Arkansas. Rather than risk disease and other
hazards of summer travel, many groups left in the fall
and faced, instead, treacherous winter weather.
Thousands died during the ordeal-remembered
today as the Trail of Tears.
Despite the hardships of the journey, the people of the
five tribes of the Southeast established new lives in the
West. They stand now as successful sovereign nations,
proudly preserving cultural traditions, while adapting
to the challenges of the 21st century.
In the 1830s, the federal government
forcibly removed approximately 16,000
Cherokee, 21,000 Muscogee (Creek),
9,000 Choctaw, 6,000 Chickasaw, and
4,000 Seminole from the
Federal Indian removal policy aroused fierce and bitter debate. Supporters of the policy claimed it was a benevolent action to save the tribes east of the Mississippi River from being over-whelmed and lost in the onslaught of an expanding American population. Opponents decried its inhumanity and the tragic consequences it would have for the Indian peoples. One thing was certain: removal freed millions of acres of Indian lands for use by American settlers.
In 1987, to commemorate this tragic
chapter in American history, the
United States Congress designated the
primary land and water routes of the
Cherokee removal as the Trail of Tears
National Historic Trail.
Today, the National Park Service
partners with the southeastern tribes;
the Trail of Tears Association and other
non-government organizations; federal,
state, and local agencies; and private
landowners to foster the appreciation
and preservation of historic sites and
segments and to tell the story of forced removal of the Cherokee people and
other American Indian tribes.
You can visit certified sites, segments
and interpretive facilities along the
Trail of Tears National Historic Trail by
following the Auto Tour Route. Look
for the official trail logo along the way.
For further information, see: