The Indian Removal Act, signed on May 28, 1830, gave President Andrew Jackson the ability to grant Indian tribes western lands in exchange for the land they had in existing states in the East.
What Was The Indian Removal Act?
After the act was passed, many northern tribes were peacefully resettled in western lands. However, the Indians in the Southeast were less willing to move off of their land. They didn't want to trade their homeland for an unknown territory in the west.
The Indian Removal Act negotiates with the eastern tribes and pays them for their lands. But, the government resorted to force to remove the Indians. The military evicted about 100,000 eastern Indians. Nearly 25% of Indians, most of them in shackles, died as they unwillingly marched westward.
The Indians were promised ownership rights to the lands in the west. But in the years following the removal of eastern tribes, white settlers began to move westward. Upon crossing the Mississippi, they moved the Indians off the land that the act had “guaranteed” them.
Thousands died on the way. It was, one Choctaw leader said to an Alabama newspaper, a “trail of tears and death.” Hence the name Trail of Tears due to the many deaths that occored along the trip to Oklahoma.