In 1832, after gold was discovered in Georgia, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act and Georgia allocated Cherokee land to white settlers, even though the Cherokee Nation never ceded the land to the state.
In May 1835, a small committee of Cherokee, hoping to ease the incessant pressures they were under, signed the Treaty of New Echota and ceded the homelands in exchange for $5,000,000 compensation and safe passage to new lands in the west.
Chief John Ross, their principal chief, was not among the signers. This is from his letter to the United States Senate and House of Representatives:
“By the stipulations of this instrument, we are despoiled of our private possessions, the indefeasible property of individuals. We are stripped of every attribute of freedom and eligibility for legal self-defense. Our property may be plundered before our eyes; violence may be committed on our persons; even our lives may be taken away, and there is none to regard our complaints. We are denationalized; we are disfranchised. We are deprived of membership in the human family! We have neither land nor home, nor resting place that can be called our own. And this is effected by the provisions of a compact which assumes the venerated, the sacred appellation of treaty.
We are overwhelmed! Our hearts are sickened, our utterance is paralyzed, when we reflect on the condition in which we are placed, by the audacious practices of unprincipled men, who have managed their stratagems with so much dexterity as to impose on the Government of the United States, in the face of our earnest, solemn, and reiterated protestations.
The instrument in question is not the act of our Nation; we are not parties to its covenants; it has not received the sanction of our people. The makers of it sustain no office nor appointment in our Nation, under the designation of Chiefs, Head men, or any other title, by which they hold, or could acquire, authority to assume the reins of Government, and to make bargain and sale of our rights, our possessions, and our common country. And we are constrained solemnly to declare, that we cannot but contemplate the enforcement of the stipulations of this instrument on us, against our consent, as an act of injustice and oppression, which, we are well persuaded, can never knowingly be countenanced by the Government and people of the United States; nor can we believe it to be the design of these honorable and high-minded individuals, who stand at the head of the Govt., to bind a whole Nation, by the acts of a few unauthorized individuals.
And, therefore, we, the parties to be affected by the result, appeal with confidence to the justice, the magnanimity, the compassion, of your honorable bodies, against the enforcement, on us, of the provisions of a compact, in the formation of which we have had no agency.”
General Winfield Scott arrived at New Echota on May 17, 1838, in command of 7,000 soldiers. The Cherokee were removed at gunpoint from their homes, concentrated together in camps, and forcibly removed to Oklahoma.