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Photo Credit: Cherokee people composite – Dr. Brett Riggs Trail of Tears exhibits

This is the story of the struggle of five hundred Cherokees to remain in North Carolina before and after the 1835 Removal Act and 1838 Removal to the West. A pioneer white boy raised among the Cherokees, an old set of law books changed history.


“Why ask us to remove West?  We once owned all the land that could be seen from the tops of our highest mountains; will you not permit us to enjoy in peace the small quantity we have purchased? 

They ask, where are our brothers, who were forced from the mountains of North Carolina?  Two-thirds have been buried on the road to Arksansaw and in that sickly country.  Where are the Ridges and Boudenotts, who were promised protection?  Have they not been massacred?  Have they not been pardoned by the Cherokee government, without trial, contrary to both law and treaties? 

Will you then ask us to remove and join a government too weak and unjust to protect us, and leave a State where our lives, liberties, and property are secured?”    

W.H. Thomas, spokesman for the Cherokees, March 22, 1851