The Death And Burials Of The Cherokee

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The death and burials of the Cherokee along the Trail of Tears, will determine if the forced relocation can be considered an act of genocide. However, determining the number of how many people lost their lives on the Trail of Tears is difficult to calculate. An exact death toll of the round-up alone cannot be verified by historians. Most modern historians and other professionals agree on the number 4,000 deaths or one-fourth of the Cherokee Nation (Thornton, 1984). 4,000 deaths, is an estimate determined from the 1835 Census that tallied roughly 16,000 Cherokee in Georgia. Only 12,000 made it to Oklahoma, so the death estimate is 4,000 (Wilkins, 1986). A missionary by the name of Dr. Butler, who traveled with the Cherokee, estimated the death toll using eyewitness accounts and his personal observations along the journey. One traveler from Maine described an encounter of one of the detachments stating, “…we learned from the inhabitants on the road where the Indians passed that they buried fourteen or fifteen at every stopping place, and they make a journey of ten miles per day only on an average,” (Wilkins, 1986). Observations like the traveler’s, were the kind Dr. Butler would use to determine his estimate. Later he did bump his estimate up to 4,600 Cherokee deaths when presented with more evidence. However, the 4,600 is still an estimate and the exact number of lost lives is still unknown.
The cause of death among the Cherokee ranged person to person, but everyone was at
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