(Larry W. Jones 04/16/2007) (song#4587)
Trail of Tears - The Dream We Dreamed 

There was a time of life sublime
The corn grew tall and strong
Good harvest times were nearing

There was a time of forests prime
Bluebirds sang for all a song
And their song was so endearing

There was a time when life was seldom wrong...

We dreamed a dream in the long ago
When the land was ours without the grieving
We dreamed of peace like a rainbow
And we never dreamed of the day of leaving

Our braves were young and unafraid
But the dreams that they made were all wasted
White men came and the Indians paid
And the bitter Trail of Tears is what we tasted

Buffalo used to roam at night
Their hooves made sounds of thunder
Now our dream is out of sight
White men turned our lives to shame

We used to sleep by the river side
And view the heavens in their wonder
And we never dreamed about the tide
That would sweep away all the game

And still we dreamed that peace would be
That we could live in the land together
But our dreams white men could not see
Our dreams washed away in stormy weather

We dreamed a dream of peace and love
And everything was right, or so it seemed
But the day came we never dreamed of
When white men killed the dream we dreamed

Andrew Jackson

In 1835, Jackson appointed a treaty commissioner by the name of Reverend John F. Schermerhorn who offered to pay the Cherokee Nation 4.5 million dollars to move. In October, 1835, the terms were rejected by the Cherokee Nation. Both Chief Ross and John Ridge traveled to Washington in an attempt to open new negotiations, but they were turned away and told to deal with Schermerhorn. Schermerhorn soon organized a group of pro-removal members and issued a summons for attendance by the Cherokee members. Though only about 500 of the Cherokees (out of thousands) attended, the Treaty of New Echota was agreed to which provided for the Cherokee Nation to cede its lands in exchange for $5,700,000 and new lands in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma .) Though the actions was repudiated by more than nine-tenths of the tribe and was not signed by a single elected tribal official, Congress ratified the treaty on May 23, 1836. Chief Ross and the Cherokee National Council maintained that the document was a fraud and presented a petition with more than 15,000 Cherokee signatures to congress in the spring of 1838. Other white settlers also were outraged by the questionable legality of the treaty. On April 23, 1838, Ralph Waldo Emerson appealed to Jackson's successor, President Martin Van Buren, urging him not to inflict "so vast an outrage upon the Cherokee Nation. But it was not to be. As the deadline for voluntary removal on May 23, 1838 approached, President Van Buren appointed General Winfield Scott to lead the forcible removal operation. Commanding some 7,000 troops, Scott arrived in Georgia on May 26th beginning a forcible evacuation at gunpoint. An estimated 17,000 Cherokees, along with about 2,000 black slaves, were forced to move over the next three weeks. The swift and brutal process drove men, women and children out of their homes, sometimes with only the clothes on their backs. They were then gathered in camps where conditions were terrible. Many of the Cherokee died while waiting in the camps, where food and supplies were limited and disease was rampant. Fortunately, about 1,000 Cherokee escaped to the North Carolina mountains. Others who lived on individually owned land (rather than tribal domains) were not subject to removal. Those lucky enough to have not been evacuated would eventually form new tribal groups including the Eastern Band Cherokee, based in North Carolina that continues to exist today. Two routes were utilized to move the thousands of Cherokee. The first of three detachments, totaling about 2,800 people, left on June 6th by steamboats and barges on the Tennessee River at present-day Chattanooga, Tennessee. After several transfers, including a short railroad detour, they at the mouth of Salisaw Creek near Fort Coffee on June 19, 1838. The other two groups suffered more because of a severe drought and disease (especially among the children), and they did not arrive in Indian Territory until the end of the summer. The rest of the Cherokee were not so fortunate, forced to travel to Indian Territory on overland trails. For those forced to march by land, the Cherokee petitioned for a delay until cooler weather would make the journey less hazardous. Chief Ross, who had finally accepted defeat, also managed to have the remainder of the removal turned over to the supervision of the Cherokee Council. Organized into detachments of 700 to 1,600 people, each was headed by a conductor and an assistant appointed by Chief John Ross, the marches began on August 28, 1838 consisting of thirteen groups. The most commonly used overland route followed a northern alignment, while other detachments followed more southern routes, and other slight variations. The northern route began in Tennessee, crossed southwestern Kentucky and southern Illinois. After crossing the Mississippi River north of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, these detachments trekked across southern Missouri and the northwest corner of Arkansas before arriving in Oklahoma near present day Westville. Along the 2,200 mile journey, road conditions, illness, cold, and exhaustion took thousands of lives, including Chief John Ross' wife Quatie. Though the federal government officially stated some 424 deaths, an American doctor traveling with one the party estimated that 2,000 people died in the camps and another 2,000 along the trail. Other estimates have been stated that conclude that almost 8,000 of the Cherokee died during the Indian Removal. When they finally reached Oklahoma , the groups were often met by US. troops from Fort Gibson and the Arkansas River. Most of the Cherokees went to live with those who had already arrived, settling near present-day Tahlequah, Oklahoma. P roblems quickly developed among the new arrivals and those Cherokees who had already settled. Reprisals were taken against the group who had signed the Treaty of New Echota leading to the assassinations of Major Ridge, John Ridge, and Elias Boudinot. Only Stand Watie eluded his assassins. As these problems were resolved, the Cherokees proceeded to adapt to their new homeland, reestablishing their own system of government. The population of the Cherokee Nation eventually rebounded, and today the Cherokees are the largest American Indian group in the United States. In the end, members of the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Seminole Nations suffered the same fate as the Cherokees. Considered to be one of the most regrettable episodes in American History, the U.S. Congress designated the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail in 1987. Commemorating the 17 Cherokee detachments the trail encompasses about 2,200 miles of land and water routes, and traverses portions of nine states. The National Park Service, in partnership with other federal agencies, state and local agencies, non-profit organizations, and private landowners, administers the Trail of Tears.

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