In 1838, the United States government forcibly removed more than 16,000 Cherokee Indian people from their homelands in Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, and Georgia, and sent them to Indian Territory (today known as Oklahoma). The impact to the Cherokee was devastating. Hundreds of Cherokee died during their trip west, and thousands more perished from the consequences of relocation. This tragic chapter in American and Cherokee history became known as the Trail of Tears, and culminated the implementation of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which mandated the removal of all American Indian tribes east of the Mississippi River to lands in the West.
The Trail of Tears National Historic Trail commemorates the removal of the Cherokee and the paths that 17 Cherokee detachments followed westward. Today the trail encompasses about 2,200 miles of land and water routes, and traverses portions of nine states.
The National Park Service, in partnership with other federal agencies, state and local agencies, non-profit organizations, and private landowners, administers the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail.
The Trail of Tears Association is a major partner with the National Park Service. The association is a national organization dedicated to the preservation, public awareness, and appreciation of the Trail of Tears.
Cherokee County Historical Museum
- The Cherokee County Historical Museum is located in the two-story, stone Carnegie Library Building, 87 Peachtree Street, in Murphy, North Carolina. Trail of Tears exhibits are being developed for the first floor of the museum. (828) 837-6792.
Museum of the Cherokee Indian
- The Museum of the Cherokee Indian is at the intersection of U.S. Highway 441 and Drama Road in Cherokee, North Carolina. New museum exhibits combine technology (lighting and audio, holograms, computer-generated images) and a display of artifacts. The museum also offers a gift shop, archives, and library. (828) 497-3481.
You can reach most trail sites by auto or bicycle, or on foot. Some sites are along unpaved roads or along river corridors. An auto tour route has been marked along major highways that closely follow the original trail route. Follow the signs exhibiting the distinctive Trail of Tears National Historic Trail logo. Use guidebooks or ask locally for directions to individual trail sites.