Although British and American governmental policy had been pushing Native Americans westward for much of the 18"th" and early 19"th" centuries, passage of the Indian Removal Act of 1830 brought this policy to a head. This act, which provided for the exchange of American Indian lands in the East for lands west of the Mississippi River and for the removal of the Indians to those lands, resulted in the relocation of an estimated 100,000 Native Americans.
Although many tribes were involved in this process, the most publicized removal was that of the Cherokees. In Voices from the Trail of Tears, Vicki Rozema draws from letters, military records, physicians' records, and journal excerpts to provide insight into what actually happened during this period. Through these primary sources, which are presented in chronological order, we follow the feuding within the Cherokee ranks about whether to accept the white man's ultimatum, and if so, how it should be implemented. We have firsthand accounts of how the Indians from Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee were rounded up to prepare for their removal. We hear the sympathetic white missionaries pleading for the Cherokees to be allowed to stay in their homeland, and we see how some of these same missionaries dealt with the testing of their faith as they accompanied the Indians on their westward journey. We read official reports and private musings from the soldiers who were ordered to carry out the removal, many of whom ended up sympathizing with their wards. We see the conditions that the people endured as they traveled on what they called "the Trail Where They Cried." We even follow the confusion that resulted when the new arrivals in the West faced assimilation into a culture already established by those who had emigrated 20 to 30 years earlier.
In Voices from the Trail of Tears, the actual participants give us a perspective on what happened during this infamous chapter in American history.