"I fought through the War Between the States and have seen many men shot, but the Cherokee Removal was the cruelest work I ever knew." - Georgia soldier on the Trail of Tears
The "Five Civilized Tribes" are among the best known Native American groups in American history, and they were even celebrated by contemporary Americans for their abilities to adapt to white culture. But tragically, they are also well known tribes due to the trials and tribulations they suffered by being forcibly moved west along the "Trail of Tears".
Though the Trail of Tears applied to several different tribes, it is most commonly associated today with the Cherokee. The Cherokee began the process of assimilation into European America very early, even before the establishment of the Unites States, but it is unclear what benefits that brought the tribe. Throughout the colonial period and after the American Revolution, the Cherokee struggled to satisfy the whims and desires of American government officials and settlers, often suffering injustices after complying with their desires. Nevertheless, the Cherokee continued to endure, and after being pushed west, they rose from humble origins as refugees new to the southeastern United States to build themselves back up into a powerhouse both economically and militarily. The Cherokee ultimately became the first people of non-European descent to become U.S. citizens en masse, and today the Cherokee Nation is the largest federally recognized tribe in the United States, boasting over 300,000 members.