CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (UTC/The Loop) – The Trail of Tears is the name of the route Native Americans took on their forced removal from their homes in the 1830’s. This path cuts right through the heart of Chattanooga and continues all the way to Oklahoma. The forced relocation of these people was nothing short of ethnic cleansing and remains a barbaric and heart breaking mark on early American history. With such a substantive role in local history, it is shocking UTC doesn’t offer study programs to educate the community about the atrocious acts that happened right here.
The Native Americans lived on southeastern land rich in natural resources. The government wanted to exploit these resources. When the Native Americans refused to give up their land, the American government created a law called the Indian Removal Act. Thousands of Native Americans from Cherokee, Seminole, Choctaw, and Chickasaw tribes had days to gather a few meager belongings and begin the thousand mile walk to a reservation in Oklahoma. Four thousand Cherokee alone did not make the journey, succumbing to disease and dying from exposure to the harsh elements. A few hundred Cherokee hid in the mountains and their descendants now live on a reservation in Cherokee, North Carolina.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” This famous quote from the poet George Santayana is a stern warning to the current “Generation Me”, a generation known for selfies and a new level of narcissism and entitlement. UTC needs to start offering programs that educate the community about the Native American culture that thrived right here on the land the campus sits on, if not to understand their contributions to society, but so students can recognize how dangerous an unchecked government can be.