The heartbreaking story of the Choctaws tribe's march from their ancestral lands in Mississippi and to their new settlement in the wilds of Oklahoma. Forcibly removed from their homeland, people suffered with many dying on this treacherous journey.(1992)
Trail of Tears is the name given to treacherous journey undertaken by the Choctaw tribe when their people were driven from their ancestral homeland in Mississippi to a new reserve in Oklahoma. The forced relocation was carried out by government authorities following the passage of the Indian Removal Act in 1830 after years of treaties between the American Government and the Choctaw Nation. The Indian Removal Act was passed by President Jackson and it extinguished Indian title to lands in the Southeast.
The Choctaw people were devastated to leave their ancestral home and the legend goes that they hugged the trees and rocks as they were leaving, knowing that they would never see that beautiful countryside again. The tribes left Mississippi almost in the dead of night to embark on this dangerous trek through dense forests and across flooded swampland in one of harshest winters on record.
The Choctaw Nation lost many thousands of people on this forced relocation from their sacred lands to the new reserves in Oklahoma. 21,000 people started out on this journey with only 7,000 people making it to their final destination. Their people faced terrible hardships en route to the new reserves, they didn't have the food promised or the proper clothing, and many perished from exposure, starvation and disease.
Their experience of great suffering lent them to identify with the plight of the Irish people during the Great Famine and they sent over a donation of $170 to help the victims of the Famine – a sum equivalent to approximately €4,000 in today’s money. This generosity has led to a warm connection and strong bond between the Irish people and the Choctaw Nation.
What does the Trail of Tears mean to the Choctaw tribe today? What did they leave behind in Mississippi?
Part one of a two-part documetary.
Produced by Colin Morrison and presented by Donncha O Dulaing ( First broadcast on the 12th of December 1992)