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Exhibit in the visitor center at Trail of Tears State Park.
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Where did the Cherokee cross Missouri on their Trail of Tears to Oklahoma?

The removal of the Native American population east of the Mississippi River was essentially determined by the election of Andrew Jackson in 1828. He was dedicated to that purpose as a measure of progress for the economic development of the new American nation. In his view, the Indian population was "in the way." In 1830 he signed the Indian Removal Act which began the process of relocation to the newly acquired lands west of the Mississippi, some of which were created specifically to receive the re-located people.

The Cherokee vigorously resisted relocation efforts. They hired skilled attorneys and sued to over-turn the law. The case went to the U. S. Supreme Curt in two cases, Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (1831) and Worcester v. Georgia (1832). In effect, the results of the cases indicate that the Cherokee won the argument and the court ruled they could keep their lands and stay where they were. President Jackson, however, refused to accept the results and he and his successor, Martin Van Buren, forced the removal. Seven thousand U. S. army troops under the command of General Winfield Scott forced the Cherokee out of their homes and off of their land, placing them in "concentration" camps in preparation for the journey to the western lands.

The first were moved by steamboat in 1838, under difficult conditions and results. The remaining Cherokee left their camps in late August and early September to travel overland in 16 separate groups. Various routes were taken and, as many of the routes were only used once, they are difficult to document and retrace. Military journals and old newspaper accounts provide basic and sometimes unclear routing. According to Duane King, a Cherokee historian who has helped map the trail, "the trail started at the door of every Cherokee." It ended in Indian territory (now Oklahoma), or tragically, along the trail. The entire trek is referred to as "the trail of tears."
The majority of the Cherokee traveled west across Tennessee, southwestern Kentucky, southern Illinois, southern Missouri, and northwest Arkansas. In Missouri they are known to have crossed the Mississippi north of Cape Girardeau at Moccasin Springs (now the site of the Trail of Tears State Park), slightly south of that location at Bainbridge, and one group south of cape Girardeau near present-day Scott City.

From Cape Girardeau the overland groups traveled by different routes in order to live off the land. One route was as far north as Salem, the others were generally across the center of the state, all coming together in the vicinity of present-day Springfield, and from there to Fayetteville, Arkansas and on to Tahlequah, Oklahoma, which became the center of the new Cherokee homeland.
Center for Regional History
Carnahan 301   MS2950
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Last modified   07/18/2009

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