The Relationship Between A President And Cherokee Chief Before The Trail Of Tears

May 27, 2015

The forced relocation of Native Americans is considered by historians to be one of the darkest periods for America. In a new book released this month, NPR Morning Edition co-host Steve Inskeep digs into the back story of what led to the 1830 Indian Removal Act, which started the process of tribes being moved to undeveloped western parts of the country.

In Jacksonland: President Andrew Jackson, Cherokee Chief John Ross and a Great American Land Grab, the unusual relationship between the men is examined. They started as allies in the War of 1812, with Ross and his tribe helping U.S. forces, but after being elected president in 1828, Jackson decides moving Indians out of areas east of the Mississippi River is in the best interest of the country.

While some tribal leaders accepted it, Ross fought back, employing tactics that in later years would be used by other minority groups seeking to assert their rights in the U.S. Ross even took his case to the U.S. Supreme Court, but it was a losing battle, with the five major tribes eventually being relocated. The long journey that was endured became known as the Trail of Tears, with thousands dying from starvation or disease. Many were brought through Arkansas, some over land trails, others up the Arkansas River to Oklahoma.

In an interview with KUAR News, Inskeep discusses what his research showed him, as well as other Arkansas connections, including that Ross' first wife died during her passage through the state, and it's believed was buried near Little Rock. You can hear the full interview above.