Audio & Video Sources

Cherokee in West Virginia (1996)

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In this interview, West Virginian Ken Wills talks about the descendents of Cherokee who remained in West Virginia and gave up their culture in order to avoid the Trail of Tears.

Cherokee Memorial (1830)

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A transcription of this audio excerpt from a Cherokee memorial to Congress was printed in Nile's Weekly Register in 1830.

In it, the Cherokee requested that Congress enforce its signed treaties and leave them unmolested on the land of their forefathers. The memorial also included a stark and frank description of the territory that the federal government proposed to trade for their settled, productive land. It was, in short, a wasteland plagued by nomadic savages who would understandably resist the arrival of the Cherokee Nation.


We wish to remain on the land of our fathers. We have a perfect and original right to remain without interruption or molestation. The treaties with us, and laws of the United States made in pursuance of treaties, guaranty our residence and our privileges, and secure us against intruders. Our only request is, that these treaties may be fulfilled, and these laws executed.

But if we are compelled to leave our country, we see nothing but ruin before us. The country west of the Arkansas territory is unknown to us. From what we can learn of it, we have no prepossessions in its favor. All the inviting parts of it, as we believe, are preoccupied by various Indian nations, to which it has been assigned. They would regard us as intruders.

All our neighbors . . . would speak a language totally different from ours, and practice different customs. The original possessors of that region are now wandering savages lurking for prey in the neighborhood. . . . Were the country to which we are urged much better than it is represented to be, . . . still it is not the land of our birth, nor of our affections. It contains neither the scenes of our childhood, nor the graves of our fathers.

Departure Song (ca. 1830s)

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In 1830, the U.S. Congress passed the Indian Removal Act. It mandated that Native Americans in eastern states move west of the Mississippi River. With inadequate protections and supplies, all but a few hundred of the Seminole took part in a deadly forced march out of Florida and along the Trail of Tears to Oklahoma’s Indian territory. This is a song about their departure.

From "The Memorial of the Non-Freeholders of the City of Richmond" (1829)

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Transcript

Your memorialists...belong to that class of citizens, who, not having the good fortune to possess a certain portion of land, are, for that cause only, debarred from the enjoyment of the right of suffrage....Comprising a very large part, probably a majority of male citizens of mature age, they have been passed by, like aliens or slaves, as if . . .unworthy of a voice, in the measures involving their future political destiny....The existing regulation of the suffrage...creates an odious distinction between members of the same community; robs of all share, in the enactment of the laws, a large portion of the citizens,...and vests in a favored class, not inconsideration of their public services, but of their private possessions, the highest of all privileges....[We] cannot discern in the possession of land any evidence of peculiar merit, or superior title [to]moral or intellectual endowments....Such possession no more proves him who has it, wiser or better, than it proves him taller or stronger, than him who has it not....Let us concede that the right of suffrage is asocial right; that it must of necessity be regulated by society....For obvious reasons, by almost universal consent, women and children, aliens and slaves, are excluded....But the exclusion of these classes for reasons peculiarly applicable to them, is no argument for excluding others....They alone deserve to be called free, or have a guarantee for their rights, who participate in the formation of their political institutions, and in control of those who make and administer the law.