This name ("The Trail of Tears") comes from the Cherokee phrase "Nunna daul Tsuny", which means "The Trail Where They Cried".
In 1829, white settlers discovered gold in Georgia on Cherokee land. They wanted the land for themselves and requested the removal of the Cherokee. Supporters of President Andrew Jackson, who was an Indian fighter, helped pass the Indian Removal Act of 1830 in congress. Their new land, in what is now Oklahoma, became known as the Indian Territory. In 1835 some agreed to move and signed the treaty with the government, but most of the Indians, led by the Cherokee leader John Ross, wanted to stay.
Beginning May 23, 1838, the U.S. Army forced the Cherokee into stockades to prepare for removal. In June of 1838 the first group of Cherokee was forced to move west under Federal guard but, the removal was aborted because of drought. Over 13,000 Cherokees were imprisoned in military stockades waiting for a break in the drought, approximately 1500 died in confinement.
In September the drought broke and the forced exodus to the Indian Territory in Oklahoma began. This is when the "The Trail of Tears" started. They had traveled nearly 1,000 miles in the rain and other bad weather through Tennessee, Kentucky, the southern tip of Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, and finally into Indian Territory. In December John Ross left the Cherokee homeland, carrying the records and laws of the Cherokee Nation, with the last group. 5,000 Cherokees were trapped east of the Mississippi by the harsh winter; many died.
In March of 1839 the last group, headed by Ross, made it to Oklahoma. More than 3,000 Cherokee died on "The Trail of Tears", about 1600 in stockades and about the same amount en route. Soon after the Cherokee began to build houses, clear land, plant, and start to rebuild their nation. .
In 1859 the Five Civilized Tribes, a loose confederation, was formed by the Native Americans in Indian Territory (Oklahoma).