Analysis Questions

These analysis questions challenge the student’s careful viewing of “Trail of Tears." They can be used as a handout for students to fill out as each answer is revealed in the film.

Chapter One, A Civilized Life

Preserving the Cherokee Nation; John Ross

  1. Compare the Cherokee nation of John Ridge’s youth to that of 1805. What forces threatened his people?

    Map 1: the Cherokee Nation in 1771

    Map 2: the Cherokee Nation in 1805

  2. What was the U.S. government policy of “civilization” and how was it introduced to the Cherokees?
  3. John Ross was a mixed-blood Cherokee. Describe the various types of people that entered his family’s store.
Chapter Two, Among the White People

John Ridge

  1. What was Major Ridge’s hope for the future?
  2. Where were John Ridge and Elias Boudinot sent to be educated? What did the assimilated John Ridge tell President James Monroe in his essay?
  3. What did John Ridge do to win over Sarah’s parents and what was the community response in Cornwall to their marriage? How did this change John Ridge?
Chapter Three, Cherokee Nation on the Rise

Cherokee literacy, constitution, and sovereignty

  1. What pressures did John Ross see threatening the Cherokee Nation? What was his reaction to these pressures?
  2. Who among the Cherokees owned slaves?
  3. How did the lives of traditional Cherokees differ from that of the Ridge family?
  4. What did Sequoyah do that no one had ever done before? How did a written language revolutionize Cherokee society?
  5. In the 1820s how did the Cherokee nation rise and prosper?
  6. What were some of the elements of the Cherokee constitution that John Ross authored in 1827?
  7. What effect did strong Cherokee unity and the tribe's declaration of absolute sovereignty of their lands have on the white people of Georgia?
Chapter Four, "I Ask You, Shall Red Men Live?"

Andrew Jackson, states' rights, and the Indian Removal Bill

  1. What two events occurred that were disastrous for the Cherokees?
  2. What was President Andrew Jackson’s first priority and how did he accomplish it?
  3. What did the Cherokees do as other tribes prepared for removal?
  4. What happened after the Indian Removal Bill passed? How did the state of Georgia respond?
  5. Newly elected as Principal Chief, John Ross rewrote the blood law. What was its purpose?
  6. The Cherokees filed more than a dozen suits in federal court; two made it to the Supreme Court. What was the question at the center of those two cases?
  7. What happened in Worcester v. Georgia? Which Chief Justice of the Supreme Court wrote the opinion?
  8. John Ridge visited Andrew Jackson at the White House and asked the president if he would force Georgia to comply with the Supreme Court order. What was Jackson’s reply?
Chapter Five, The Scent of Blood

Rift among Cherokees: Is yielding land inevitable?

  1. What choice did the Ridges make that set them against John Ross?
Chapter Six, Two Years to Leave

Ridge faction signs treaty; Ross petitions to overturn it

  1. What treaty did the Ridge faction negotiate in defiance of Chief Ross and the National Council? Why did they do this?
  2. Ross presented to the Senate a petition to overturn the treaty. What happened to it on the Senate floor?
Chapter Seven, Trail of Tears

The forced migration, revenge, death and loss

  1. When the majority of Cherokee would not leave their land after the removal deadline passed, how did the U.S. and Georgia governments respond?
  2. What does Russell G. Townsend say is a “stain...upon our national honor”?
  3. What ultimately happened to many members of the Ridge faction?
Chapter Eight

Revenge, death, and loss

  1. How did the Cherokee Nation fare in Indian Territory under Ross?
  2. In what respect does writer Jace Weaver think the Cherokees were “lucky”?

Comprehension Questions

These comprehension questions challenge students to make connections and understand the effects of historical circumstances on this particular chapter of history, the cause and effect relationships between historical events and social movements, and the effects of implementation of U.S. policy.

  1. Whose side did many Indian tribes take in the American Revolution? How did Thomas Jefferson’s view of Native peoples change following those events? Examine the Cherokee response in 1776 to American independence. How did this determine the Cherokee nation's direction in the 1800s?
  2. During the War of 1812, General Andrew Jackson led an army of Tennessee militia and Native American allies (including 500 Cherokee) at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in 1814 to fight Red Stick Creeks, followers of Tecumseh’s call for unity. What were the divisions among the Creek that led to the Creek Civil Wars? What was the outcome of the Battle of Horseshoe Bend? What were the terms of the Treaty of Fort Jackson? What did Jackson’s popularity following this war reveal about the attitude of white settlers toward Native peoples at this time?
  3. What is the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution? How did trade and the need for more land cause regional differences toward states rights, and how did this affect Native peoples? Who had jurisdiction over them? What were the pros and cons of states' rights versus federalism?
  4. As treaty commissioner in 1814, Andrew Jackson played a key role in the use of "civilizing" treaties that introduced competition and division among Indian tribes. How did he implement this policy?
  5. Between 1800 and 1820 Americans moved west in enormous numbers. What new states came into existence during this time? How did the population change? What tensions did this cause between settlers and Native peoples?
  6. As trade expanded into the new states, a spirit of nationalism pervaded American politics. How did Andrew Jackson use U.S. government policy toward Native peoples to force the ceding of Florida from the Spanish in 1819? What was the Monroe Doctrine of the 1820s and how did it effect the lands of Native peoples?
  7. Why did Andrew Jackson’s presidential victory in the election of 1828 usher in the “era of the common man”? What political divisions existed in the U.S. at this time? How did geographical regions differ? How did the Jackson presidency transform American politics?
  8. Before the American Revolution, Thomas Jefferson had believed that Native people were capable of integration into the American system if they adopted white culture. Several decades later, however, Andrew Jackson leaned towards removal of Indian peoples. What forces caused a shift in attitude and federal government policy toward the Native Americans? What role did the invention of the cotton gin play?
    (Review film chapter 4, "I Ask You, Shall Red Men Live?")
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