Tennessee lawmakers “regret Trail of Tears"

07/01/2014


Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. gives testimony on the impact of the Trail of Tears on the Cherokee Nation during an event Friday at the Tennessee Capitol. Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilor Jack Baker who also serves as National Trail of Tears Association President also attended. (Photo Credit/Lawrence Boothby)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. —Tennessee lawmakers have apologized to the Cherokee Nation for actions taken by President Andrew Jackson that 175 years ago forced up to 16,000 Cherokees off Tennessee lands.

To commemorate the 175th Anniversary of the Trail of Tears, the Tennessee General Assembly passed House Joint Resolution 553 at an event Friday at the Capitol.

Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Tribal Councilor Jack Baker, who also serves as the National Trail of Tears Association President, attended the event. Leaders of federally recognized tribes were presented with copies of the resolution and allowed to address the audience.

“We thank the Tennessee General Assembly and Governor’s office for recognizing this tragic event in our nation’s history, and for making the overtures to the Cherokee Nation to begin a conversation about healing the wounds from 175 years ago,” said Hoskin Jr. “Today, we are one of the strongest tribal governments in the United States with successful businesses and a thriving, living culture. Our history as a people will always be connected to the Trail of Tears and the historic injustices done to Natives through the Removal Act. However, our innate resilience and capacity to not only survive, but thrive is what means the most to us.”

According to HR553, the Tennessee General Assembly acknowledges the role played by the Volunteer State that led to Cherokees’ homes and lands being confiscated before being rounded up and removed to Indian Territory starting in 1838 and concluding in 1839.

“The state of Tennessee wishes to both acknowledge this tragedy and renounce any role it may have played in what is a stain on our collective histories,” the resolution states.

The Cherokee Nation quickly rebuilt its government after reestablishing its capital in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, and signing a Cherokee Nation Constitution in 1838.

It established the first female seminary of higher learning west of the Mississippi several years later.

Today, the Cherokee Nation has more than 300,000 citizens, runs the largest tribal health care system in the country, owns multiple businesses, and is the first tribe to offer tribal car tags statewide. The Cherokee language is also the first Native American language available on iPhones, Gmail and Microsoft.

The passing of the Indian Removal Act, pushed for and signed by President Andrew Jackson, resulted in the forced removal of the Five Tribes from the Southeast.

“An opponent of the act was Congressman David Crockett from Tennessee, for which he was vilified by the people of Tennessee. By opposing the act, he lost his bid for reelection and subsequently moved to Texas and lost his life at the Alamo. He never lived long enough to see the results of the act where we, the Cherokees, and the other four tribes lost our lands and many lives on the Trail of Tears,” said Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilor Jack Baker. “We survived and prospered in our new lands. The state of Tennessee has lost out on the great economic boon that our Indian Nations are providing to the state of Oklahoma.”

Baker said the resolution vindicates David Crockett for voting against the Indian Removal Act.

“I appreciate that the state of Tennessee has passed this resolution to issue their deepest regret for those decisions made so long ago,” he said.


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