The road to the Trail of Tears

Students will examine the responses of the Native American’s in the early 1800’s to government removal. They will determine if the actions of the Native American’s was changing the government from within the system, outside the system or trying to establish a different system. They will choose the path they believe should have been taken by the Native American’s before the Removal occurred.

Historical Background

In 1829 Andrew Jackson was elected President of the United States of America ending what was known as the Era of Good Feelings following the war of 1812. There was a sense that the “common man” had taken over the country. Tocqueville visited from France and reported that the Democracy is a “Tyranny of the Majority”. People with influence were not educated and the party following Jackson’s inauguration proved that anyone could trample the White House. During his presidency he dealt with three major ideas: the monopoly of big bankers, states and their belief in Nullification and the Indian Removal.

Although the Cherokee nation had been willing to become very Americanized there came a time that assimilation was not enough. This tribe of Indians lived on much of the land between Appalachia and the Mississippi River. In the early 1800’s this land became sought after with the invention of the cotton gin, the expansion of cotton farming and the gold and silver found on the land. In the case of Worcester vs. Georgia the Supreme Court found in favor of the Cherokee Indians. The lands of the Cherokee although within a state were not owned by the United States or any individual state. President Jackson would not enforce this decision. Jackson then established the “Indian Removal Act” in 1830.

Lesson Objective

Students will be able to examine documents and modern day tributes to Native American’s to determine the effect of their efforts to change the U.S. government from inside and outside the system

Students will be able to Identify why the Native American’s seem to have no choice when the military arrived to remove the Cherokee nation during the “Trail of Tears” by writing a thesis statement.



  1. Day One:
  2. Activating Prior Knowledge: Review the idea of Manifest Destiny, ask students to brainstorm all the things that might get in the way of an ocean to ocean nation. (Hopefully students will talk about landforms such as mountains, rivers, climate issues (desert and freezing times of year), Native American Tribes and foreign colonies such as Spanish) Remind students that Manifest Destiny was not just about land acquisition but also about the spread of Democracy.
  3. Introduce the idea that the Indian Nations are in the way of Manifest Destiny.
  4. Handout chart prior to beginning the flipchart.
  5. Explain to students that we are going to collect as much information as we can so we can make a judgment as to what choices the Native American’s had when the U.S. Troops came to remove them in the 1830’s during the Trail of Tears.
  6. Students will look at portraits of four Native American leaders: Osceola, Tecumseh, Sequoyah and Ross.
  7. Students will take time between each portrait to describe what they see in the portrait and take notes on a chart.
  8. Student groups will receive primary source documents from these leaders (Sequoyah’s Alphabet, Osceola knifing the Treaty of Fort Gibson, Tecumseh Brings the Choctaws and Chickasaws the Voice of Rebellion, Tecumseh’s Speech to the Osages, Chief John Ross, “To Senate and House of Representatives” and Chief Justice John Marshal’s decision on the Worcester vs. Georgia) and analyze the document using the MCPS Primary Source Analysis sheet. They can work together as a group. Use the attached PDF.
  9. Students will complete the analysis of their source for homework.
  10. Day Two:
  11. Student Groups will share their conclusions about the Native American’s from the document analysis.
  12. Individuals will take notes on their chart as student groups share.
  13. The teacher can use page two of the flipchart to record what the groups share.
  14. Students will view video clips that include information on the four leaders and take notes on their actions. (Videos are not embedded in the flipchart but are referenced in the bibliography.)
  15. Students will take notes on their charts and the teacher will also record in the flipchart.
  16. Students will analyze modern tributes to these men and describe how people in society view their actions today.
  17. Students will complete a thesis statement defending


Day 1: Complete the Primary Source Analysis Sheet assigned to the table group.

Day 2: Complete the following thesis statement: “Write a thesis statement explaining the choice the Cherokee had when the American troops came to remove them to the Oklahoma territory during the “Trail of Tears””.


Write a thesis statement explaining the choice the Cherokee had when the American troops came to remove them to the Oklahoma territory during the “Trail of Tears”.


The students will be working in groups. The primary sources they will be assigned will be at differentiated levels; at this time use the student reading levels to determine groups homogeneously. They will be jig-sawed back to a group with multiple levels to gather information from each other and discuss inferences.


Sequoyah, Cherokee Alphabet, “Our Tools of Learning” George Arthur Plimpton’s Gifts to Columbia University, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Libraries.

Sequoyah “Cherokee Alphabet”

Sequoyah and the Cherokee Language:

“Tecumseh Brings the Choctaws and Chickasaws the Voice of Rebellion”, Lapham’s Quarterly: Missippi Territory 1811

“Tecumseh’s Speech to the Osages” (Winter 1811-12),

Worcester v. Georgia. The oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 20 January 2012.

“Our Hearts are Sickened”: Letter from Chief John Ross of the Cherokee, Georgia, 1836.

Letter from Chief John Ross, “To the Senate and House of Representatives”; Red Clay Council Ground, Cherokee Nation, September 28, 1836.

Discovery Streaming Movie Clips, “Osceola_Resists_Indian_Removal_Act_, Sequoyah_Creates_Cherokee_Writing_System__, Chief_Tecumseh_Leads_the_Last_Great_American_Indian_Confederacy_, Indian_Removal_Act

Montgomery County Public Schools, Curriculum Archive; ©2009 MCPS Social Studies Advanced 8.2 Creating a National Political System and Culture; Image Analysis (page 12) and Primary Source Analysis (page 52)

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