Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Fall 2008


Great Plains Quarterly Volume 28, Number 4, Fall 2008, pp. 325-26.


Copyright 2008 by the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Although the Cherokees were among a great number of Indian nations from all over the eastern half of the United States to be forced from their homeland by the 1830 Removal Act, in the popular imagination the term "Trail of Tears" refers to the exodus from their homes in present-day North Carolina, Tennessee, northern Alabama, and Georgia. In the decade before passage of the Removal Act, the Cherokees took defensive action, organizing their government along the lines of the American republic, and embracing some of the trappings of white civilization. However, this strategy failed; the Cherokees were left to follow the Muscogee (Creeks), Choctaws, and Chickasaws on their journeys to Indian Territory.

The authors limit their topic by focusing on what they call "forced removal," centering their story on the seventeen detachments that began their travels from June to October of 1838, especially those controlled by Chief John Ross. The main sections of the book are organized as itinerary narratives, tracing the movements of the separate detachments on the various water, land, and combined routes. This methodology is effective, allowing the authors to attend to the special circumstances of each group and to include portions of what commentaries survive. Three appendices provide helpful data on details of the detachments.