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Trail of Tears Watercolor Painting

This poster shows the location of the Cherokee Nation prior to their forced removal to Oklahoma, as well as prominent individuals associated with the Cherokee removal, the routes taken on the Trail of Tears, and the location of new Cherokee Nation. The poster was done in water colors by Judy Kirkland, a retired eighth grade Georgia Studies teacher at Harlem Middle School in Harlem, Georgia.

Capsule Biographies of people on the poster and others associated with the Trail of Tears, also done by Judy Kirkland.

Elias Boudinot (originally Buck Watie) – I was John Ridge’s cousin and Stand Watie’s brother. I took my name from a patron. At school in Connecticut, I fell in love and married a white girl, Harriet Gold. Her brother and neighbors burned her in effigy to show their displeasure. We had five children before she died. I became editor of The Cherokee Phoenix, a newspaper published in both Cherokee and English. I was part of the faction that signed the Treaty of New Echota. My house and property were not seized because of an agreement I had with Governor Lumpkin to wait until my family moved west. I had indeed moved west and was living with my second wife and six children when members of the Ross faction killed me. I was helping a neighbour build a house when three men asked for medicine. Halfway to the house they split my head with a tomahawk.

Reverend Jesse Bushyhead – I was a Cherokee who was a Baptist convert. I led my flock in prayer to try to help them while we were in the stockade at Camp Hetzel awaiting removal. One daughter died just before we crossed the Mississippi, but my wife gave birth to another daughter after we crossed the Mississippi River in January 1839. I was a friend to Sequoyah. My descendants include Robert Bushyhead who explored the music of his ancestors.

Henry Clay – I was a white politician best known for the doctrine of states rights and nullification. I advocated the War of 1812, a protective tariff, and the national bank. I was also a strong supporter of slavery and the annexation of Texas. I became known as the Great Compromiser because I helped settle bitter disputes over slavery and did much to hold the nation together during the first half of the 1800’s. I drafted the Missouri Compromise, the Compromise of 1850, and the compromise tariff that kept S.C. from seceding. I served in both the U. S. House and Senate. I ran for president five times without winning. I was defeated by John Q. Adams but became his secretary of state. I was also defeated by Andrew Jackson who never liked me. I thought the Schermerhorn treaty, or the Treaty of New Echota as it was called, was “un-just, dishonest, cruel, and short sighted in the extreme.”

Sam Houston – I was born in Virginia but lived in Tennessee when I ran away at 15 to join the Cherokees. They called me “Blackbird,” and Chief Jolly let me stay for three years before he told me to return home to avoid problems with the surrounding whites. I was appointed subagent to help supervise the removal of the Tennessee Cherokees to Arkansas, but when I wore Cherokee leggings to Washington, Secretary of War Calhoun quickly got rid of me. I became governor of Tennessee and married Eliza Allen. When she left me, I was Secretary of State, but I resigned and went back to the Cherokee. This time they called me Ootsetee Ardetahskee, which translates Big Drink. I was ignored in my addresses to Washington about the Indian removal until Jackson decided to send me to handle the affairs of the Texas Comanches. There I became a leader who helped win Texas’s independence from Mexico. I married a soft-spoken girl who weaned me from the whiskey bottle. I had always valued Jackson’s friendship and was on my way to bring the good news to him in person that Texas had been admitted to the union when he died. I arrived at his bedside just a couple of hours too late.

Chief Junaluska – I was born and grew up in what is now North Carolina and was friends with Will Thomas. I led a war party that joined the army of Jacksa Chula Harjo at Horseshoe Bend. I swam a river to get canoes and got the Cherokee forces behind the Red Sticks so that we won the battle. I also saved Jackson’s life. If I had known that Jackson would drive us from our homes, I would have killed him that day at the Horse Shoe. I thought he was a good man. I could not believe that he ran us from our homes. I led one of the groups that left on the Trail of Tears in October 1838 but I was determined to return home. I walked back to North Carolina traveling through woods and unoccupied districts to avoid recapture. My friend Will Thomas helped me reclaim a former residence. That state gave me citizenship rights. My descendants still live there.

Andrew Jackson – I was President of the U.S. when the Treaty of Removal was negotiated, but Van Buren had to execute the removal of the Cherokees. I was the first president born in a log cabin, an orphan at 14. I carried a scar from the American Revolution because I would not black an officer’s boots. When he struck me with his sword, I threw up my arm, but he cut my hand and head to the bone. I become a lawyer in North Carolina and a prosecutor in Nashville. There I met Rachel. We f ell in love and were married on1y to learn two years later that her first husband had not divorced her when he said he did. We were married again, but I fought many duels defending Rachel’s honor. I served in the House and the Senate representing Tennessee, but I 1iked riding the circuit for Superior Courts much better. My troops nicknamed me “Old Hickory” because I was tough as wood in the War of 1812. When I went to fight the Creeks after the Fort Mims massacre I had 2500 men including Davy Crockett. After our victory at Horseshoe Bend, I sent Rachel a Creek orphan boy that we raised as our own until Lincoyer died of tuberculosis. We never had children, but we adopted a twin boy from Rachel’s brother and raised at least five other children, and we were guardians for two families of Butler children. I won the Battle of New Orleans with no weapons except what I could take from the civilians and with help from the pirate Jean Lafitte. After some military exploits in Florida, I got a reprimand and was sent back as governor to get me out of the way. I believed a good citizen should never seek an office and never decline one. I won the popular vote for president in 1824 but lost the election when Clay threw his support to Adams and became his Secretary of State. The campaign of 1828 was very bitter and I am convinced that the mudslinging about Rachel helped kill her. She died before I was sworn in. The people nearly wrecked the White House that day, smashing china and muddying chairs with their boots as they climbed up to see me. We had to move the punch out onto the lawn to get them out. There were a number of issues during my two terms: I refused to recharter the Bank of the United States or to let supporters of nullification break up the Union over tariffs. I got the Indian Removal Act passed and made France repay their debt owed from the Napoleonic wars. I wanted to see Texas admitted as part of the union, and I learned just before I died that this had finally occurred.

John Howard Payne – I was known best for writing “Home Sweet Home,” but I was looking for material for a book in Tennessee when I met John Ross. I stayed with Ross several days and was arrested with him by 25 members of the Georgia guard who tried to spread rumors to get us both lynched. They said I was a northern abolitionist here to stir up trouble. Not many believed them, and we were released without charges in 13 days. From that time on, I wrote a lot of articles about the mistreatment of and broken promises to the Indians.

John Marshall – I was the 4th chief justice of the United States and served longer than any other justice, from 1801 to 1835. When I became chief justice, the Supreme Court commanded little respect. I was sometimes ignored, especially by Andrew Jackson on the Indian issue, but I still raised the court to a level equal to the executive and legislative branches. I believed that we needed a strong central government to grow, and my arguments gave the court power to overrule states when national and state interests collided. I become known as the “Great Chief Justice” because of my impact on the judicial system.

Major Ridge – This was my English name. It came from Ka-nun-da-cla-geh in Cherokee, which meant “he who walks on the mountains.” The English shortened it to The Ridge, and I took Major from my rank when I served with Andrew Jackson at Horse Shoe Bend. I didn’t always fight with the Americans. I had taken many scalps during the Revolution. But even as a full-blooded Cherokee, I could see some value to the white ways. I became a thriving planter with 30 slaves and 280 acres with 1500 fruit trees and a ferry on the Oostenaula River. I remodeled my cabin into a Piedmont style planter’s house and sent my son John to a mission school in Connecticut. I spoke only a few words of English, but I understood more. I had killed Doublehead when he signed away land in 1802 without sanctions of the tribe, but I finally decided my people would do better to take what we could get and leave safely. I was one of the ones who signed the Treaty of New Echota, knowing that I was signing my death warrant. I left with my relatives and 600 followers equipped with slaves, horses, oxen, carriages, and wagons and arrived in Indian Territory in time to plant spring crops on choice land. My group was the only one to arrive with no deaths. But I knew my days were numbered. I was murdered just as I had killed Doublehead, according to the law of our tribe. I was ambushed by people of the Ross faction, shot twelve times, and trampled by my frightened horse.

John Ridge – I was the son of Major Ridge of the Deer Clan. An alumnus of New England missionary schools, I wrote poetry and married a white girl, Sarah Northrup. I spent much time traveling and speaking to raise money to convert the Indians. Although a full-blood, I turned my back on what I had been taught to see as savagery. I left Georgia with my father and followers before the forced removal and settled near Honey Creek. Shortly after the Ross faction arrived, I was pulled from my bed and stabbed to death 25 times in view of my wife and children. This was my payment according to Cherokee law for signing away land without the tribal sanction.

John Ross – Although only 1\8 Cherokee, I became the principal chief of the Cherokees. I was born in what became Etowah County, Alabama. My father was a Scotsman who owned a store and tannery and had built the town of Rossville. I was sent to schools in Tennessee and was a classmate of Sam Houston. The Indians called me Cooweescooweee, or White Bird. I chose to go the Indian way and married a young full-blood widow with one daughter. My wife was called Quatie. During the War of 1812 and the Creek War, I held the rank of major and served as adjutant to Andrew Jackson. Afterwards, I built a store, warehouse, and boat dock that I sold to buy a plantation. By 1835 I had 19 slaves. When I returned from a trip to Congress, I found Quatie and two children imprisoned in a bedroom, a result of the Georgia land lottery. We moved to Tennessee to the log cabin where my father had been. I fought through the courts to keep the Cherokee land for my people. I knew every U.S. politician who sympathized with the Cherokee: Henry Clay, David Crockett, Sam Houston, Daniel Webster, Edward Everett, Horace Everett, Peleg Sprague, Theodore Frelinghuysen, and Henry Wise. It was not enough. When I could not prevent the removal, I took charge and helped supervise so my people would get better treatment. We could not control the drought and then the sudden, cold winter so we lost many people. I buried Quatie at Little Rock. Some tried to blame me for the Ridge and Boudinot murders, but I was not responsible. I tried to get my people to live in peace and to settle in peace. I remarried later and built Ross Cottage. I died in Washington, D. C., still negotiating for the Cherokee.

Reverend J.F. Schermerhorn – Although a minister, my principles were flexible enough to permit me to license the proprietors of grog shops that were daily stupefying Indian patrons. I acted as an agent for the U.S. government and handled the signing of the Treaty of New Echota by some of the Cherokees. They called me “Devil’s Horn.”

General Winfield Scott – I was an army officer for more than 50 years, serving in the War of 1812, the Mexican War, and the Civil War. My troops called me “Old Fuss and Feathers” because I believed in details. I prepared the first complete manual of military tactics in the U. S. Army. I was sent to roundup and move the Cherokees to the West because they had not gone according to the treaty. I instructed my men to treat them fairly and allowed Ross to supervise the removal and delay until after the drought and heat. When the Civil War broke out, I refused to join the Southern forces and retired from the army.

Sequoyah – My English name was George Guess. My father was a white trader. I had a lame leg so I turned to drawing and painting and became a fine silversmith and blacksmith. I had wondered about the words white men put on paper and wanted to do the same for my language. In the War of 1812 I served as a private and fought at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. Afterwards, I married Sally. In 1818 I left for Arkansas with Chief Jolly and 330 others. There I continued to work to invent a written language for my people. My wife threw some of my first work into the fire. My daughter found a speller, and I figured out that whites used only 26 characters. After twelve years of work, I finally made 85 symbols for the sounds in Cherokee. Some neighbors who thought I was dabbling in witchcraft, burned my cabin, but my daughter and I remembered the symbols and wrote them again on buckskin. I knew I had to convince the Cherokee Tribal council in the Southeast, so I went back to do that. I was given a special medal, the first literary prize ever given in America, and $500 a year as a reward for my efforts. When the Eastern Cherokee emigrated to Indian Territory, I tried to help the factions form a new government and was able to help some. I died in 1843 in Mexico while on a journey trying to see if all Indian languages came from one.

Will H. Thomas – My father was a white trader who died when I was young, and I was adopted by Chief Yonagusta as a boy. I prepared for law by self study and became the attorney for my adopted people. I was able to obtain money for them on several occasions and served in the North Carolina Senate. During the Civi1 War, I served as a colonel for the Confederacy and led 200 of the Qualla on guard duty in mountain passes between Gatlinburg and Cherokee. I came out of the war sick and heavily indebted because of land speculations. When the courts got through trying to separate my personal investments from those done for my people, they found some 67,000 acres, mostly unsurveyed, belonging to the Indians I had represented. The courts had this surveyed and placed it under trusteeship of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs in Washington, D. C., designating the Indians as the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

Charlie Tsali – When the roundup for removal began, my family was herded toward a stockade. An impatient soldier prodded my wife with a bayonet, a real insult to my race and my family. When I got the chance, I jumped the soldier, killed him, and escaped with my family into the mountains. General Scott sent Will Thomas to find me. He offered to let the others stay hidden in the mountains if my sons and I would come to be shot. We did. My youngest son was just a boy, so he was spared. Today in Cherokee, North Carolina, you can see my descendants and hear our story in the drama “Unto These Hills.”

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Trail of Tears Watercolor Painting
Source: Judy Kirkland