These activities are designed to help students understand issues related to WE SHALL REMAIN episode 3, "Trail of Tears."

Forced Relocation and Its Effects

Students will understand the outcome of U.S. policies of civilization, assimilation, and forced removal during the Jackson administration.

Have a classroom discussion. Ask students if any of them have ever moved to a new location. How did their clothing, food, shelter and lifestyle change as a result of their move -- or did nothing change?

Remind the class that under Jackson and his successor, Martin Van Buren, 70,000 Native people were forced westward. Between 1830 and 1838, most of the Five Civilized Tribes (Cherokee, Choctaw, Seminole, Creek, Chickasaw) were expelled from the southern states and were forced to make their way to Indian Territory formally created by the Indian Intercourse Act of 1834 (the territory that later became Oklahoma). Watch chapter 8, "Trail of Tears."

After screening the video, review with students: Native American leaders like John Ross opposed forced migration and relocation of their people, and were determined to stay on land to which they had deep ties. Others, like the Ridge faction, agreed to move west in order to live free of interference from whites. Continue the classroom discussion. Have students describe what they would have done under the circumstances.

Native Sovereignty

Have students research the difference between reservations, rancherias and pueblos. How many federally recognized tribes are there? Many tribes do not have reservations, but the federal government holds land “in trust” for them. What does that mean?

Useful Websites:

U.S. Department of the Interior: Map of Indian Reservations in the Continental U.S.

U.S. Census Bureau: Census 2000 Tribal Entity Counts

Navajo Nation v. U.S. Forestry Service

500 Tribe Listings Indian Country Diaries Tribal Sovereignty Lesson Plan

Beliefs About Land

Students will understand the profound differences between Native peoples and U.S. settlers in their beliefs about land and concepts of land ownership, and conflicts that arose from these differences.

As a class, review the following three film segments:

  1. After the Mayflower, chapter 2, The People of the First Light
  2. Tecumseh's Vision, chapter 2, Uncertainty and Betrayal
  3. Trail of Tears, chapter 1, A Civilized Life

Divide the class into four groups: Wampanoag, Shawnees, Cherokees, and Anglo-American settlers. Each group will make a chart of belief systems. What is their idea of creation or a creator? What animals are central to their beliefs and why? What does land mean to them?

Review the charts as a class and discuss whether, given the differences in beliefs between settlers and Native peoples, conflict was inevitable. What would have happened if the Wampanoag had not helped the white settlers, but instead opposed them? Would trade with outsiders inevitably have caused disease and conflict, even without English settlement?

Discuss “hot spots” in the world today where different belief systems contribute to conflicts over land. (Sudan, Israel/Palestine, Congo, Amazon Basin, Burma, Tibet, etc.)

Is it possible for groups with different belief systems to co-exist peacefully?

The Media and Democracy

Students will understand the importance of the Cherokee Phoenix as an instrument of resistance and analyze the role of the media in a democracy.

Each student will read issues of the Cherokee Phoenix online (, find an example of one of the following, and present his or her findings to the class:

  1. The Cherokees' determination to retain their lands
  2. News on the activities of the Cherokee government
  3. Relations with federal and state governments
  4. Accounts about Cherokees in Arkansas and elsewhere
  5. Social and religious activities
  6. Congressional debates over the Indian Removal Act
  7. Supreme Court decisions that affected Cherokee rights
  8. Georgia actions to assume title to Cherokee lands

As a class, find examples of the changing attitudes of editor Elias Boudinot, who at first was a strong supporter of John Ross, but by 1832 supported the ideas of John Ridge. Why did Boudinot change his allegiance?

As a class, examine the Cherokee Phoenix today. What are the headlines? Discuss its similarities and differences to the original newspaper. What is its value to Native peoples today?

Each student will research and find an example of media suppression today. (Examples might include China, Sri Lanka, Russia, Guyana, etc.). Is freedom of the press essential to a democracy?

Indian Removal and the Civil War

Students will understand how sectional differences over Jackson’s Indian removal policy prefigured Civil War divisions in the U.S.

  1. Divide the class into three groups: South, North, and West. Each group will examine and make a chart outlining the positions of their respective region in 1828 regarding:
    • Slavery
    • Voting rights
    • States rights
    • Territorial expansion
    • Immigration
    • Indian removal
    • Westward migration
  2. Have each group research the positions of their respective region on the same topics in 1850. Compare and contrast your findings. What economic, social and cultural differences led to regional differences?
  3. As a class, write summary descriptions of the Missouri Compromise of 1820, the Nullification Crisis of 1832, the Compromise of 1850, and the Kansas Nebraska Act of 1854. How did they all postpone sectional problems that ultimately led to the Civil War?
  4. In 1820, 120,000 Native people lived east of the Mississippi. By 1844, fewer than 30,000 were left, much of their land cleared for Southern agricultural expansion. Discuss as a class: did the decision of the state of Georgia to ignore a U.S. Supreme Court decision supporting Native peoples’ sovereignty lead to the South's empowerment to secede from the Union? Can this breakdown in North/South relations be seen as one cause of the Civil War?
Exclusive Corporate
Funding Provided by:
Liberty Mutual Insurance
Major Funding by:
Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
Additional Funding
Provided by:
American Experience