Lesson Plans

Early National

Cherokee Removal
Author: Stella Anamelechi
School: Silver Spring International Middle School
Grade Level: 8th
Time Estimated: 6 days (40 minute periods)

Enduring Understanding

The focus of this quarter is on westward expansion. As America made the political and economic decisions to expand, their resolution resulted in the loss of land by other groups. Specially, this unit will highlight how Cherokee Nation of Georgia suffered as a result of westward expansion. Overarching themes, such as manifest destiny and ideas about being "civilized," help to fully capture an understanding as to how a painful event like the Trail of Tears could be sanctioned and condoned. Students will have background knowledge on the economic and political advantages expansion presented. In the end, they will have to evaluate whether or not the Cherokee Removal supported democracy and if the benefits outweighed the costs.

Through the use of primary source documents such as paintings, journals, inaugural address, maps, etc. students will be able to fully evaluate and analyze the historical context of the decision behind the Trail of Tears. Close reading and sourcing paintings and text will provide a better understanding of the perspectives that many political leaders had at this time. It will also allow students to draw inferences about many of the primary source documents in an effort to corroborate evidence. Corroborating evidence is a significant skill to stress in this unit since it will be the lens that will facilitate ideas, discussions, and perspectives on whether or not the Trail of Tears supported democracy.


Students will analyze the United States' relations with Native Americans, including treaty relations, land acquisition, the policy of Indian Removal, and the Trail of Tears by close reading and sourcing primary source images, documents, and journals analyzing maps, and watching videos in order to evaluate if the treatment of the Cherokee supported democratic actions by writing a five paragraph essay.


Unit 8.3: "Geographic and Economic Change Shape the Nation, 1815–1850"
Lesson 3.4: "The Trail of Tears: Democracy for Whom?"



Day 1

  1. Activating Prior Knowledge: Review concepts such as manifest destiny and westward expansion.
  2. Begin the class reviewing or frontloading vocabulary:
    1. Manifest Destiny: The belief that it was the fate of the United States to extend to the Pacific Ocean and spread democracy across the continent.
    2. Westward Expansion: The expansion of the United States west by acquiring land.
    3. (Suggestion: Use Vocabulary Log sheet to capture the Vocabulary words and draw symbols to assist with the understanding of the terms).
  3. Image Analysis of John Gast's "American Progress."
  4. Share out responses / Discussion.
  5. Read President Jackson's First Inaugural Address (Use Content Analysis Graphic Organizer).

Day 2

  1. Activating Prior Knowledge: What is the connection between Manifest Destiny and John Gast's "American Progress"?
  2. Short Reading on the Cherokee Nation of Georgia (teacher should include a short reading from a text book on the Cherokee Nation).
  3. Portraits of John Ross and Col-lee / Image Analysis.
  4. Timeline of Indian Removal

Day 3

  1. John Ross Protest on the Treaty of New Echota (Use Content Analysis Graphic Organizer)
  2. Video Segment (part)- "We Shall Remain: Trail of Tears" with guided questions (see materials link).
  3. Homework: Map of the Trail of Tears with guided questions

Day 4

  1. Trail of Tears map from the Museum of the Cherokee.
  2. Corroboration: Edward Deas Journal and "A Soldiers Recalls the Trail of Tears" (see Materials list).
  3. Discussion.

Day 5

  1. Graphic Organizer: Did the benefits of westward expansion outweigh the costs?"
  2. Work on graphic organizer to organize thoughts and write about on the essay question.

Day 6

  1. Write essay.


This unit has many different learning strategies. Many of the readings assigned to this unit will be scaffold according to skill level. Reading texts will be differentiated to meet the skill level of the students. All students will be provided graphic organizers to organizer their thoughts for writing and capturing significant information. Image analysis presents an opportunity for students who are not comfortable readers to demonstrate knowledge as well. Close reading the images can produce great incite to the materials and also allows the all students to equally participate in class discussions. Furthermore, the video and graphic images from the video seek to fulfill the aforementioned end objective.


Students will have to write a multi-paragraph essay exploring whether the Trail of Tears supported democracy or went against democracy. They will have to use the resources distributed throughout this unit to support their position.

References: Web

John Ross. "Chief John Ross protests the Treaty of New Echota." Letter from Chief John Ross to the Senate and House of Representatives, from Red Clay Council Ground, Cherokee Nation, September 28, 1836, in LEARN NC, North Carolina Digital History: Cherokee Removal and the Trail of Tears, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education. http://www.learnnc.org/lp/editions/nchist-newnation/4500
This was a detailed and passionate speech given by John Ross outlining the reasons that against the treaty.
John G. Burnett. "A soldier recalls the Trail of Tears." Birthday Story of Private John G. Burnett, Captain Abraham McClellan's Company, 2nd Regiment, 2nd Brigade, Mounted Infantry, Cherokee Indian Removal, 1838–39, in LEARN NC, North Carolina Digital History: Cherokee Removal and the Trail of Tears, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education. http://www.learnnc.org/lp/editions/nchist-newnation/4532
Vivid details about the Trail of Tears. Students would be able to image the atmosphere of the long journey.
"John Ross. A Cherokee Chief, from History of the Indian Tribes of North America," ca. 1843. McKenney and Hall (Publisher). Copy after Charles Bird King. Smithsonian American Art Museum.http://americanart.si.edu/collections/search/artwork/?id=17146
Portraits of John Ross and Col-lee to show different attitudes about assimilation.
George Catlin. "Col-lee, a Band Chief." 1834. Smithsonian American Art Museum.http://americanart.si.edu/collections/search/artwork/?id=4003
Portraits of John Ross and Col-lee to show different attitudes about assimilation.
American Experience. "We Shall Remain: Trail of Tears, Pt. 3 of 5." Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).http://video.pbs.org/video/1101800846
Video does a great job showcasing the Cherokee culture and their great leaders such as John Ross and Major Ridge. It explores the struggles of the Cherokee Nation to remain a sovereign nation on their land and still assimilate to the ways of the majority as a means of survival.
"First Inaugural Address of Andrew Jackson." Wednesday, March 4, 1829. The Avalon Project: Documents in Law, History, and Diplomacy, Yale Law School Lillian Goldman Law Library.http://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/jackson1.asp
Excerpt of Andrew Jackson's Inaugural Address expressing his intent as president. Great primary source to use to compare and contrast what Jackson "said" he was going to do and what he actually "did."
Edward Deas. "Journal of Occurrences." June 1838. From National Archives Record Group 574, Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Sequoyah Research Center, American Native Press Archives.http://anpa.ualr.edu/trail_of_tears/indian_removal_project/eye_witness_accounts/eye-witness6.htm
George A. Crofutt. (After 1872 also John Gast.) "American Progress." 1872. Prints and Photographs Online Catalog, Library of Congress.http://loc.gov/pictures/item/97507547
This is a great source to use to examine ideas of civilization. This image clearly displays westward expansion and American beliefs about Native groups.