Red over Black: Black Slavery among the Cherokee Indians

By R. Halliburton Jr. | Go to book overview

5 The New Nation in the West

Despite the heroic efforts of such champions of their cause as Henry Clay, Davy Crockett, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Edward Everett, Theodore Frelinghuysen, Sam Houston, John Howard Payne, and Daniel Webster, the Cherokees were forced to emigrate en masse to the West. The Georgia legislature had authorized the survey of Cherokee lands and disposal of the choice properties by a state lottery. The estates of John Ross and other wealthy Cherokees were confiscated. Spring Place Mission, long a center of learning and culture, was included in the lottery. The individual who drew this ticket was a bartender, and he immediately converted the mission into a saloon. Although many slaveowners, especially the larger ones, had already removed to the West, "hundreds" of owners remained "just previous to removal."1

The Treaty of New Echota, ceding all Cherokee lands east of the Mississippi River, had been signed in December 1835. It gave the Cherokees approximately six million acres in present-day northeastern Oklahoma and allowed two years for the removal. The bulk of the Eastern Indians did not migrate until 1838 and 1839, however. The hardships suffered during that migration are well known. Principal Chief John Ross's wife, Quatie, died at Little Rock, Arkansas, during the journey. The Cherokees refer to the trek as Nuna-da-ut-sun'y, "The Trail Where They Cried," which is commonly known as the Trail of Tears. It is not commonly known that many black slaves also tramped that trail and that 125 to 175 of them perished during the journey.

Andrew Ross, a brother of Principal Chief John Ross, brought slaves with him from the East and settled in the valley of Sallisaw Creek.2

-61-

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