The roundup began in Cherokee County on May 24, 1838. Many of those detained in Cherokee County were housed at Fort Buffington in east Cherokee County.
Once the Cherokee people were taken into custody locally, they were marched to detainment camps in Alabama and Tennessee, according to a book written for the Cherokee County Historical Society.
Executive Director for the Reinhardt Funk Heritage Center Dr. Joseph Kitchens said the Trail of Tears is “central in the modern Cherokee experience.”
“It’s the dislocation from their homeland,” Kitchens said. “It’s relevant in the same way as the diaspora of the Jewish people.”
The Trail of Tears was only one of the many treks taken by Native Americans during the forced removal. The Cherokee Indian Removal of 1838 and 1839 led to the death of an estimated 4,000 or more Cherokee people of the 16,000 who were forcibly removed
from the Southeast.
Kitchens said although the forced removal of the Cherokee people was a tragedy, it’s also a story of courage.
“I think it’s ultimately a story of triumph and perseverance,” Kitchens said, “which the Cherokee represent today.”
Martha Hout, program coordinator for the Reinhardt Funk Heritage Center, said this spring the center was designated as an interpretive center for the Trail of Tears by the National Parks Service. The center will host its Native American Day on Nov. 9. Hout said this year the program will focus entirely on the Trail of Tears.
Hout said the center plans to work with the Georgia chapter of the Trail of Tears organization and the National Parks Service to expand their exhibit on the Cherokee people and the Trail of Tears.
The Funk Heritage Center also hosted an event Tuesday.
The New Echota Treaty of 1835 relinquished Cherokee claims to land east of the Mississippi River, according to the Friends of New Echota, a nonprofit group which held a memorial service in Calhoun Saturday to mark the anniversary. The majority of the Cherokee people considered the treaty fraudulent, the release said.
“On May 26, 1838, the United States Government and the State of Georgia began the forced removal of more than 16,000 Cherokee people from their homelands to Indian Territory (today known as Oklahoma). Although the exact number is not known, disease, exposure, and sickness claimed thousands of Cherokee lives during the course of their capture, imprisonment, and removal,” the release said.
Today three federally recognized Cherokee sovereign nations exist: The Cherokee Nation, Oklahoma (Principal Chief Bill John Baker); the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, Oklahoma (Chief George Wickliffe); and the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation, North Carolina (Principal Chief Michell Hicks,) according to the release.
From May to July an exhibit observing the Cherokee Trail of Tears will be at the I-75 South Georgia Visitor Information Center near Ringgold.
Other commemorative events are being planned. Collaborating groups and museums include: Friends of New Echota, New Echota State Historic Site in Calhoun, the Georgia Trail of Tears Association, Friends of the Chief Vann House, Chief Vann House State Historic Site in Chatsworth, Red Clay Historic Area, Cleveland, TN, Funk Heritage Center at Reinhardt University in Waleska, Bandy Heritage Center of Dalton State College, Northeast Georgia History Center of Brenau University in Gainesville, the Chieftains Museum/Major Ridge Home in Rome, the Georgia Department of Economic Development/Regional Tourism, and the Georgia Visitor Information Center on I-75 South/Ringgold.