This lesson brings to life the story of the Trail of Tears and the Cherokee Nation in the 1830s.
Andrew Jackson, Chief John Ross, the Indian Removal Act of 1830, Cherokee Nation, Cherokee Rose, treaties, forced relocation, Trail of Tears
Stage this activity as a simulation of the story of the Trail of Tears This story was perpetuated by the Indian Removal Act of 1830. According to civics-online.org, this Act was the Jackson-era legislation authorizing the president to transfer Eastern Indian tribes to the western territories promised (falsely) in perpetuity. The actual relocation culminated in the 1838 "Trail of Tears" forced march, one of the most shameful occurrences in the history of federal domestic policy.
Immediately after the start of class, have a person (dressed up like Andrew Jackson if possible) come into your classroom and present you and your students with the [Your School Districts Name Goes Here] Class Removal Act of 2006. Jackson or his emissary will deliver a scrolled document and leave.
As the teacher, you will open the document and deliver news to the class that they must relocate because another class is being moved into your school and they want your space. This document should say something to the effect that "this document demands the removal of [Your name here]s class from their current classroom. The class will have to relocate to [the school yard or multi-purpose room or] upon receipt of this document, or will be forced out."
In preparing the Class Removal Act document, you might adapt some of the language found in the actual Indian Removal Act of 1830. For example,
Be it enacted by the Board of Education of the ____ School District that it shall and may be lawful for the Superintendent of Schools to cause such territory belonging to any class to be relocated to another part of the school.
After reading the Act to the class, the teacher should then open up a discussion about what you and the students should do. The class could talk about what they could do to stop the removal, wonder aloud why they were selected as the class to be removed and so on. Provide at least 15 minutes for this serious discussion. (The Indian Removal Act of 1830 was not fully enforced until 1838. That is why you have built in this delay and time for classroom discussion.)
As the discussion winds down, Andrew Jackson or his emissary will return and demand that you leave now. The class will leave immediately, without being allowed to take anything. The class will then walk to a predetermined area. At this predetermined area, the teacher will give students writing paper and pens/pencils.
Give students time to record some of their thoughts in writing in their journals.
As students are wrapping up their writing, introduce to them the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Provide information about the Act and the Cherokees, who were largely affected by it; share some of the reasons behind the relocation and stories of the Trail of Tears and the Cherokee Rose; and read the poem "The Never-Ending Trail" by Abe "Del" Jones. You might also provide primary documents and/or pictures too.
Sources of Information
After sharing information about the plight of the Cherokees, give students another chance to reflect in their journals about their removal experience and about what they have learned. Students should make the connection between the class's forced relocation and the Cherokee Nation and the Trail of Tears. They can discuss and write in their journals about why they believe the Cherokees were removed.
To conclude, students might write letters to Andrew Jackson about their experience; in their letters they might tell him about his catastrophic mistake.
This lesson might be adapted to simulate Japanese forced relocation along the Pacific Coast during the time of World War II.
The teacher can assess students during the discussion before they are removed from the classroom and from their journal entries and letters written afterward.
Marcus Garcia, Lincoln School in Stockton, California
Copyright © 2010, 2015 Education World
Originally published 11/02/2006
Last updated 10/20/2014