"The Trail of Tears" is oil on canvas painted by Jerome Tiger, a full blooded Creek/Seminole Indian. In the painting, Tiger conveys with dignity and restraint one of the darkest hours of his Native American people. In 1830, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act to free more eastern land for white settlement. This act allowed President Andrew Jackson to forcibly remove the eastern American Indian tribes to land west of the Mississippi River. Within ten years, the United States government had uprooted more than 70,000 American Indians and moved them into Oklahoma Indian Territory, now the state of Oklahoma. The long Journey that was filled with the most extreme suffering and hardship caused the deaths of tens of thousand of American Indians.
In "The Trail of Tears" tiger portrays this mass exodus from the eastern United States, and the hardships associated with it through very subtle ways. First, he painted on the white background. This is very common in Tiger's work. It forces you to look at the focal points of the painting. You begin with the group in the center foreground. The woman in the front wearing the turquoise blanket is carrying a small child. The man in the animal skin coat is using a staff to walk. The woman atop the grey horse is also carrying a small child. Throughout the painting this is a recurring theme. The trudging on of women, children, men, and elders is present in each of the struggling groups. The absolute brutality of the situation is portrayed through imagination, we could not fathom the difficulty of walking thousands of miles carrying children, clothing, food, and the everyday necessities of life. That is what makes the Native Americans perseverance, their instinct to survive, all the more noble.
The painting starts your focus on the aforementioned group, and leads you counter-clockwise through four groups until you reach the final group in the center background.