Lesson Plan 5: The Cherokee Removal

By Jennifer Erbach



Students will examine the issue of Cherokee removal from the perspectives of Andrew Jackson, members of Congress, and members of the Cherokee nation.

Students will adopt one of the perspectives and engage in debate with their classmates over the issue of Cherokee removal.

 Day 1


It is 1830. The population of U.S. citizens in Georgia is growing rapidly and pushing into the western portions of the state. However, the Cherokee nation occupies a large area of western Georgia. Treaties signed between the United States and the Cherokees guaranteed them the rights to this land, but settlers have begun to move into these territories, sparking conflicts with the Cherokees that were growing violent. The discovery of gold within the Cherokee territory in 1828 has only made the situation worse. At the urging of President Andrew Jackson, the Committee on Indian Affairs drafted a bill that would give the President the power to order the removal of all Native Americans living east of the Mississippi River to designated lands west of the Mississippi.

 Part I

Divide the class into four groups. Each group will examine documents and gather information on their viewpoint's arguments and position on the question of removing the Cherokees.

 Part II

Directions: In your group, read and discuss the documents pertaining to your viewpoint. The best way to do this will be to outline your viewpoint's argument. Some of you will agree with your viewpoint, others won't. For the purpose of this exercise however, try to put aside your perspective, and make this viewpoint your own. Remember, you have to convince the others that your way is the right way!

 Day 2

 Part III

Directions: Now it's time to debate. Each group will have no more than 5 minutes to present their view on the situation to the class with no challenges, rebuttals, or interruptions. After every group has spoken, the floor can be opened up for debate and discussion.

With remaining class time, or for homework, write 2-3 paragraphs reacting to the debate. Did any of the arguments surprise you? Why? Which arguments do you agree with most? Disagree with most? Why? What other perspectives might we have considered?


So what ultimately happened? The Indian Removal bill passed in both houses of Congress by a narrow margin and was signed into law by President Jackson. The Cherokees responded by declaring themselves to be a sovereign nation not under the control of the United States, a declaration upheld by the Supreme Court. This meant that the U.S. government could not order them to move west of the Mississippi River unless the two nations came to an official agreement on the issue. As seen in the documents for group D, the majority of the Cherokees did not want to leave their ancestral homes. However, in 1835, a small group of Cherokees who did favor removal signed a treaty with the United States on behalf of the entire Cherokee nation (but without their consent), agreeing to remove west of the Mississippi. In 1838, U.S. troops began rounding up members of the Cherokee nation and marching them to a reservation on the western side of the Mississippi on what became known as the "Trail of Tears."

 State Standards Addressed:

16.A.4a Analyze and report historical events to determine cause-and-effect relationships. 16.A.5a Analyze historical and contemporary developments using methods of historical inquiry (pose questions, collect and analyze data, make and support inferences with evidence, report findings). 16.B.5b (US) Analyze how United States political history has been influenced by the nation's economic, social and environmental history.

  Notes for the Instructor

  • Time required should be about two class periods
  • The documents for group C are more challenging than the rest — teachers may want to place students working at higher levels into this group, and should definitely avoid placing any student with reading difficulties into this group.