Alexis de Tocqueville’s sentiments sum up the whole episode of The Trail of Blood. His visit to Memphis having been coincidental with the forced movement of the Choctaw Indians, Tocqueville paints a picture of gloom and oppression when he says, “the wounded, the sick, newborn babies and the old men on their point of death…I saw them embark to cross the great river. Neither sob nor complaint rose from that silent assembly” (Norton et al 236).This is the Trail of Blood for me. It is a clear portrayal of the conflict between innocent inhabitants and inhuman wealth seeking and powerful capitalists. It clearly shows how the government can come up with policies supporting the politically advantaged groups of people at the expense of less advantaged but deserving people. Through this episode, I learned that the fruits of civilization could be sweet. However, they are covered in blood stains and oppression. There were groups of people who had to pay dearly for this to be achieved.
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From the early forties through to the fifties, capitalist planters realized that their economic system based on slaves would be jeopardized by the prevailing economic climate. Accordingly, they had to take appropriate steps to ensure adequate protection and expansion of their system. This ambition was however impeded by the Indians’ occupation of the favorable lands for expansion. This marked the provenance of the Trail of Blood. Cherokees who inhabited great tracts of land in upper regions of Georgia and the Creek, Chickasaw and the Choctaw who also occupied vast tracts of land within Mississippi and Alabama had to be moved so that the capitalist farmers, also regarded to as “civilizers” would get land for expansion. Considering the fact that these native Indians could not move away from their lands within which they had established simple and harmonious coexistence between themselves and nature, the government had to flex its military muscles. Consequently, the camps that housed these natives were set ablaze by federal military agents as dejected Indians moved sadly to “Indian Territory” (Norton et al 236).
It is sad to realize that a government could go as far as subjecting its own citizens to torture and humiliation as evidenced in this episode where thousands of Indians lost their lives and culture. However, with political interests guiding our leaders, this is what happens. The capitalist farmers had all justification from the government. As President Jackson put it, no civilized man would allow good land to be wasted under forests and “a few thousand savages”. Civilization called for good cities and prosperous lands. This was also promoted through many treaties that were forced upon the native Indians.
As much as the current American society relies on “civilization”, its implication on the Indian community must not be forgotten. However, the society must also realize that politics will never, at any point of time, advance the interests of the common citizen. This is further evidenced about a century later when about 110,000 Japanese Americans are forcibly relocated by the government from their land in the regions neighboring the Pacific and forced to assume new residence within areas around the Sierra Nevada Mountains all through to the remote regions by the Mississippi River. This was attributed to the security of the nation, as perceived by the Western Defense Command (Virtual Museum par. 3). On the other hand, the native Indians were forced to undergo traumatizing experiences just because the people in politics needed the votes from “civilizers.” As a result, a quarter of the population of Indians died. In addition, they lost their land and independence as most of them started relying on the government for support. Above all, they were subjected to humiliation as they died from harsh winter condition, forced to migrate under military escort and also put in detention camps (Norton et al 240).
Norton, Mary, Sheriff, Carol, Katzman, David, Blight, David, Chudacoff, Howard and Logevall, Fredrik. A People and a Nation: A History of the United States. CA: Cengage Learning, 2008.
The Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco. Relocation of Japanese Americans. 2009. Web.