Forcible Removal from Your Homeland

Maude Jarrett was having a conversation with her granddaughter about her past. “We lived on a beautiful farm nestled between a chain of hills. I loved living on that farm. Our farm animals were my friends. Even when times were tough, our pantry was well stocked with canned food. Then all of that ended when the power company took over our land and flooded it for a hydroelectric dam. We had no way to stop them.” 

Just imagine if this had been your heritage. Most of us would be resentful, and outraged with the ability of a government agency or other entity to take our homeland from us. Just imagine how the Cherokee Indian nation felt. 

In the latter part of the 18th century, the Cherokee nation occupied most of northern Georgia and small tracts of land in three other states. The Georgia legislature wanted to have the Cherokees removed. They asked President John Quincy Adams to negotiate a treaty to move the Cherokees to largely unoccupied land further west. He refused. 

When Andrew Jackson became President, the Georgia legislature found a champion for moving the Cherokee Nation. The Cherokee Nation had all land stripped from them except for private residences. 

After a period of maneuvering that would make for a compelling Netflix drama, the Treaty of New Echota was signed in 1835 by the federal government and a minority group of the Cherokee Nation. The majority government of the Cherokee Nation did not approve the treaty. 

In 1836, the Cherokee Nation was forcibly removed from their homeland and moved to Indian Territory, a loosely defined area that has subsequently been encroached on whenever states or the federal government deem it desirable. The removal of the Cherokee Nation is known today as the Trail of Tears. 

A provision of the treaty was that a representation of the Cherokee Nation would serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. That provision of the treaty has not been honored. 

As our nation continues to confront threats to our democracy, just imagine how Native Americans feel about what has been done to them since the founding of our nation. Each of us needs to reflect on how we would feel if we were forced to move from our homes by governmental action. 

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“Money may talk, but it still hasn’t learned to speak Cherokee.” 

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