Saturday, July 2, 2016

Documentary Review: We Shall Remain: Trail of Tears

This show was hard to watch, but good to watch.  The Cherokee as a people did everything they could to appease the White Easterners.  Many accepted Christianity.  The Cherokee were one of the Civilized Tribes.  Some had Black slaves.  Many lived in fancy American style houses.  They had been granted their land, their reservation if you will.  However, many of their neighbors coveted the land.  However, when Andrew Jackson came into power as president, he came with a mandate from his constituents to remove the Indians to the West.  He was true to this campaign promise.  David Crocket and others opposed him in congress, but this opposition was not successful, and congress passed a bill in 1830 and President Jackson sign the Indian Relocation Act, authorizing him to remove the Indians. 
After passage of this act, the State of Georgia divvied up the Indian territory, and made it available to citizens of Georgia.  They began to push the Native Americans aside, and some were killed.  This issue went to the Supreme Court.  The court ruled that as the Cherokee were an independent nation, the state had no jurisdiction and they could not be removed without a new treaty.  Chief Justice John Marshall said, "The Cherokee nation, then, is a distinct community occupying its own territory in which the laws of Georgia can have no force. The whole intercourse between the United States and this Nation, is, by our constitution and laws, vested in the government of the United States."
However, President Jackson chose not to enforce the ruling of the Supreme Court.  He made it clear he would not interfere with the State of Georgia, and in fact encouraged them to keep the "heat on."  This continued pressure split the nation.  John Ridge and his son and Elias Boudinot argued that removal was inevitable and they should negotiate with the government for compensation for their lands.  John Ross, the tribal chair at this time (John Ridge had been) followed the wishes of his constituents and refused to negotiate a treaty for giving away their lands.  Ridge, his son and Boudinot signed a treaty document ceding their lands for lands in Indian territory, $3 million dollars, and a guarantee of assistance in moving.  This was known as the Treaty of Echota.  It passed the Senate by only one vote.  They left, with about 2000 others before the required date, and were helped to move and reestablish themselves.  
John Ross held out hope of a change in heart.  They gathered a petition signed by almost every remaining Cherokee, about 15,000 signatures.  However it was not to be presented to Congress.  Other matters took precedence, and when the day came for removal, military and locl militia forced Indians out of their homes with just the clothes on their backs.  The rounded them into cattle corrals.  
Some would stay for some time in these corrals, facing the weather as the first group to travel hit illness.  The rest wanted to wait for the passing of the sick season.  They finally began their journey in the Fall.  However the weather caught them.  This season was exceedingly cold, with considerable amounts of snow.  Because of the weather they were delayed, and consequently their food ran out.  Of the 16,000 being forced to travel, a quarter would pass away.  All would suffer hardship, hunger and fatigue.
Cherokee law had been passed stating that if you sold Cherokee land your life was forfeit.  This payment was extracted from Ross sr. and JR as well as Boudinot.
I think it is important to watch this movie even though seeing the suffering is hard.  As a country, we treated the native Americans very harshly.  At one point a commentator said these acts were akin to genocide.  

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