The Trail of Tears
Lesson #1: Introduction ofThe Indian Removal Act


-to identify changes in United States government policy towards Native Americans from Washington to Jackson

-to analyze and evaluate conditions, actions, and motivations that contributed to the Indian Removal Act


-Computers with internet access for each student

-Portrait depicting the Trail of Tears experience



1.       Present students with the image depicting life on The Trail of Tears.  Ask the following questions:

In your opinion, what is being depicted in this picture?

What is the overall tone?

What time of year is it?

Do you notice anything about the people riding in and around the wagon?

Does this journey look voluntary?

2.       Pass out the timeline and use it to review the changes in United States government policy towards Native Americans from Washington to Jackson.

Students should be familiar with presidential Indian policy, beginning with Thomas Jefferson's policy of acculturation and assimilation.  Students should recognize Jefferson's expectation that assimilation would put Indian land into white hands.  For those nations that did not wish to assimilate, Jefferson offered them removal to territory west of the Mississippi. Within two decades, at the insistence of the Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi legislatures and the urging of Andrew Jackson, removal became the nation's official policy. This policy had widespread public support among Americans.

3.       Students will then move to the computer lab where they will each be assigned to an individual computer.  The following web pages, which review the Indian Removal Act, will be reviewed:

Students will answer the following:

·         Why did white Americans consider Native Americans an obstacle?

·         What actions did Andrew Jackson take against Indians from 1814-1824?

·         Explain the "right of occupancy" vs "the right of discovery."

·         What did Native Americans do in response to the threat of losing their land?

·         Did white settlers harass the Indians?  How?

·         Why do you think whites and Indians could not live in Harmony?

·         What was the Indian Removal Act?

·         How did the Choctaws react to the act? the Seminoles? the Creek? the Chickasaw? the Cherokee?  What was the result of each tribes efforts?

·         What is the Treaty of New Echota?

Evaluation and Assessment

-Students will review the following web pages:

Students will choose one of the following two roles: Native American on the Trail of Tears or a member of General Winfield Scott’s army, and write a journal entry describing life on the Trail.  Students are to consider physical conditions, treatment of Native Americans, deaths/births, illnesses, family life, etc.