Rural Missouri - June 2021 - 51

Previous page: The History Museum on the Square's " Trail of Tears through Springfield " mural by Andy Thomas evokes emotions Native
Americans may have felt during their journey. Above: Exhibits at Trail of Tears State Park in Jackson depict the journey of Native Americans forcibly
removed from their lands in the 1830s. Park Superintendent Denise Dowling says the park's visitor center is a popular destination for travelers
wanting to learn more about the cultural history of Southeast Missouri. Below: Battlefield City Administrator Steve Bodenhamer and Mayor
Debra Hickey walk through Cherokee Trail of Tears Park. The trail in Battlefield also is designated as part of the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail.
by Jim Denny | info@ruralmissouri.coop
photos by Zach Smith | zsmith@ruralmissouri.coop

A

t the time of statehood in 1821, there were roughly
5,000 Native Americans residing in Missouri. By
1839, there were no Native American tribes in
Missouri. The story of the massive relocation of
these tens of thousands of Native Americans to reservations beyond the borders of Missouri might have been a
bloody and violent one. That it wasn't was largely due to
the steady guiding hand of William Clark.
	 After the Louisiana Purchase, in 1803, President
Thomas Jefferson envisioned the Missouri Territory as a
refuge for Native Americans who voluntarily moved there to
avoid extermination in the East. But such a vision had no
realistic possibility of being put into practice.
	 Missouri experienced a population surge as white settlers poured across the Mississippi River to take up lands
in the newly formed state. These newcomers had no intention of sharing their home with the original occupants.
	 The Shawnee and Delaware were among the first tribes
in Missouri to experience the arrival of land-hungry Americans. In the early 1790s, these tribes had been invited
by the Spanish to cross the Mississippi and settle on a
large land grant in today's Southeast Missouri. In a manner similar to the Cherokees in Georgia, they erected log
houses and barns, built fences, and cleared land for crops.

Their lifestyle was virtually indistinguishable from that of
their Spanish, French and more recent Anglo neighbors.
During the Spanish era, the predominantly French and
Native American residents coexisted peacefully with each
other in mutually beneficial settlements.
	 With the American takeover, however, all lands had to
be surveyed before public land sales could commence.
Previous titles held by Spanish, French and pioneer Americans had to be confirmed before any public land could
be offered for sale. This tedious process dragged on until
1818.
	 But the unstoppable flood of new settlers was already
starting to occupy both unsurveyed and Native American
lands. This frustrated American authorities, who could do
little to stop either. In response, the Shawnee and Delaware tribes took a different course than that followed by
the Cherokee holdouts in Georgia, whose tragic forced
march west was along a " Trail of Tears " of suffering and
death. In the fall and winter of 1838-39, Cherokees and
other tribes were removed by military force from their
traditional homelands in the southeastern United States.
Compelled to make their trek by land in extreme weather
conditions, thousands of Cherokees succumbed to disease,
privation or harsh weather conditions before reaching their
destinations in what was then referred to as the Indian
Territory in modern-day Oklahoma. At least three of the
several land routes they followed led through Missouri.

JUNE 2021 | RURALMISSOURI.COOP

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Rural Missouri - June 2021

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