On March 28, 1830, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, beginning the forced relocation of thousands of Native Americans in what became known as the Trail of Tears.
 
Not all members of Congress supported the Indian Removal Act. Tennessee Rep. Davey Crockett was a vocal opponent, for instance. Native Americans opposed removal from their ancestral lands, resulting in a long series of battles with local white settlers. But the forced relocation proved popular with voters. It freed more than 25 million acres of fertile, lucrative farmland to mostly white settlement in Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas. 
 
More than 46,000 Native Americans were forced—sometimes by the U.S. military—to abandon their homes and relocate to “Indian Territory” that eventually became the state of Oklahoma. More than 4,000 died on the journey—of disease, starvation, and exposure to extreme weather
 
Today, the Trail of Tears is a National Historic Trail stretching from Tennessee to Oklahoma. It specifically chronicles the removal of the Cherokee in 1838-1839, the largest contingent on the Trail of Tears.
abandon
Verb

to desert or leave entirely.

ancestral
Adjective

having to do with ancestors or historical background.

chronicle
Verb

to report.

civilize
Verb

to bring out of a savage or uneducated state.

Congress
Noun

legislative branch of the government, responsible for making laws. The U.S. Congress has two bodies, the House of Representatives and the Senate.

contingent
Noun

small, designated part of a larger group.

disease
Noun

harmful condition of a body part or organ.

eventually
Adverb

at some point in the future.

extreme weather
Noun

rare and severe events in the Earth's atmosphere, such as heat waves or powerful cyclones.

farmland
Noun

area used for agriculture.

fertile
Adjective

able to produce crops or sustain agriculture.

forced relocation
Noun

migration of people from one place to another, as ordered by the government or international authority.

impact
Noun

meaning or effect.

lucrative
Adjective

profitable or money-making.

military
Noun

armed forces.

Native American
Noun

person whose ancestors were native inhabitants of North or South America. Native American usually does not include Eskimo or Hawaiian people.

starvation
Noun

dying from lack of food.

tribe
Noun

community made of one or several family groups sharing a common culture.

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