The Trail of Tears State Park is located in Jackson Missouri. This beautiful, yet solemn vast of woodlands conceals a tragic tale of history that occurred in the 1830’s. Take a journey into the life of the Cherokee Indians. Walk the same route they once did, when a total of thirteen tribes were forced to relocate from their homelands.
During the nineteenth century, Thomas Jefferson proposed a plan that would allow for the westward expansion from the original colonies to the Mississippi River. This would provide more land for American settlers. In 1830, the Congress of the United States passed the “Indian Removal Act.” While many Americans were against this proposal, President Jackson swiftly signed the bill into law. This would force the remaining tribes to move west of the Mississippi River. Nearly 100,000 American Indians who lived between Michigan, Florida, and Louisiana were forced to move west. During this time, many Indians died due to brutal conditions.
The same year the Indian Removal act was passed, 1830, gold was found on the Cherokee lands. Land and gold rights were given to whites from Georgian lotteries. During this time, the Cherokee Indians were not allowed to mine for gold, conduct business, or testify in courts against the whites.
Many of the Cherokee Indians were against the removal and continued to fight. They felt as if a treaty were signed with the United States, they would survive as a tribe. On May 23, 1836, The Treaty of New Echota was approved. This treaty was signed by twenty and surrendered all Cherokee territory that was located east of the Mississippi River to the United States-all for new homelands and five-million dollars.
In May 1838, the Cherokee Indians were forced to move. This was a saddened time in history. The elderly were forced at gunpoint; mothers were separated from their very own children. Tribes were given only a few minutes to gather their most cherished possessions and start out on a journey that would prove fatal.
Three of the Cherokee groups left in the summer. Following what is now known as the Chattanooga, they traveled by boat and wagon. Due to illness and drought, three to five deaths a day occurred. Fifteen thousand captives waited at the camps for their own departure. They were crowded among each other in poor, unsanitary conditions. After asking for the removal to be postponed until the fall, their request was granted.
During 1838-1839 the rest of the nine groups made their way across an eight-hundred mile journey. Stagnant water, disease, starvation, and harsh winter conditions brought death to over four-thousand lives-nearly a fifth of the Cherokee population.
Trail of Tears State Park
Today, the Trail of Tears State Park offers a wide variety of recreational activities to its visitors. Acquired in 1957, this peaceful, serene setting is full of beautiful eye catching landscapes despite its tragic history. Many believe that Princess Otahki, also known as Nancy Bushyhead Hildebrand, died during the journey and is buried within the state park. In respect, the Bushyhead Memorial is a tribute to all the Cherokee Indians who died while on the trail.
The Trail of Tears State Park is preserved to appear as though the Cherokee still camp there. Its woodlands offer the nature enthusiast over three thousand acres of beautiful, calm landscape. An overlook provides a breathtaking view of the river and beyond. In the winter, avid bird watchers can view bald eagles as they roost within the cliffs among the river. Visitors can learn more about the actual journey at the visitor center where you can view exhibits of the forced relocation.
Lake Boutin and the Mississippi river provide bass, bluegill, and catfish for those who enjoy fishing. Numerous picnic areas are scattered throughout the park for a truly, enjoyable experience. Campsites are available for those who want to get away from their hectic, everyday life and get in touch with nature.
Endless Trails offer hiking opportunities, backpacking and camping. In fact, the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail is nearly 4,900 miles long and covers nine states throughout water routes and land. Enjoy wildlife as it truly exists while hiking among these wondrous and majestic trails.
To find out more information, or visit the Trail of Tears State Park, you may visit:
429 Moccasin Springs
Jackson, MO 63755