The Cherokee would call it Nu-No-Du-Na-Tlo-Hi-Lu, "The Trail Where They Cried." On May 26, 1838, federal troops forced thousands of Cherokee from their homes in the Southeastern United States, driving them toward Indian Territory in Eastern Oklahoma. More than 4,000 died of disease and starvation along the way. For years the Cherokee had resisted removal from their land in every way they knew. Convinced that white America rejected Native Americans because they were "savages," Cherokee leaders established a republic with a European-style legislature and legal system. Many Cherokee became Christian and adopted westernized education for their children. Their visionary principal chief, John Ross, would even take the Cherokee case to the Supreme Court, where he won a crucial recognition of tribal sovereignty that still resonates. Though in the end the Cherokee embrace of "civilization" and their landmark legal victory proved no match for white land hunger and military power, the Cherokee people were able, with characteristic ingenuity, to build a new life in Oklahoma, far from the land that had sustained them for generations. This is the third of a 5-part American Experience mini-series.moreless
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