June 12th


ON THIS DAY in North Carolina history…


The Indians that lived across the Deep South called themselves the Five Civilized Tribes: the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee, and Seminole. They had watched as their fellow Native Americans of the coastal plains, especially the Tuscaroras of Eastern North Carolina, had been driven entirely off their ancestral lands when they tried armed rebellion against the encroaching white settlers. They had watched three times as the Great White Tribes went to war against each other, in what they called The French and Indian War, and later, the Revolution, and the War of 1812, and each Indian Tribe had taken the position that seemed best to them. That they had found themselves on opposite sides then, did not matter now, for those were white man’s affairs and white man’s wars.


Once the Great Tribe of whites that ruled from the place called ‘Washington’ had driven the other white tribes from their territory, the Five Civilized Tribes had sought to live in peace, to assimilate themselves, especially the Cherokee and Choctaw, to the white man’s ways, and so hold on to their ancestral lands.


But they underestimated the greed that emanated from the place called “Washington”. In “Washington” they drafted words that would remove the Native Americans from the land of their ancestors; although some in the place called “Congress” would protest vehemently. One such was Davy Crockett, the congressman from Tennessee, who would protest so hard for the rights of the Indians that he would lose reelection, and so being out of work would find himself at a lonely Texas Mission called the Alamo. The Whites called these words “The Indian Removal Act of 1830.” The Indians simply called it: “The Trail of Tears.”


And so ON THIS DAY, General Winfield Scott orders troops to begin rounding up Cherokee Indians for internment at Fort Butler (near what is now Murphy, North Carolina) and eventual relocation to Oklahoma.


President Martin Van Buren fears that the mountains of southwest North Carolina will be the focal point of a new Indian War unless the Indians are removed quickly. Under the Indian Removal Act of 1830, the Cherokee, and all the Five Civilized Tribes of Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama and North Carolina are to be removed, forcibly if necessary, to Oklahoma. And indeed, General Scott does move quickly. By early July, nearly 2,500 Cherokee were in custody. Those and approximately 12,500 others would ultimately make the journey westward on the Trail of Tears between October 1838 and March 1839.


Of those Native Americans who are forced to make the long 1000 mile journey to Oklahoma, nearly 6000 will die from exposure, disease, and starvation. The devastation of this event will almost wipe the Native American population of the Southeastern United States out of their homeland. However, between 300 and 400 Cherokee escape to the high mountains of North Carolina, and survive there. In 1866 they are granted freedom to live in North Carolina, as thanks for their active support of North Carolina and the Confederacy during the War of Northern Aggression. In fact, the Cherokee and Highlander regiment of North Carolina troops (Thomas Legion) are never defeated in battle.


Pictured: The Trail of Tears


Web Source: North Carolina Expatriates Facebook Page
Author: Kevin Spencer
Post: June 11, 2017