Re-Telling The Story Of 'The Trail Of Tears'

The trail of tears — The forced migration of thousands of Native Americans from their ancestral homeland in the south West to Oklahoma — is taught in many classrooms as one of the darkest moments in American history.

The episode is typically understood as a single event that happened to the Cherokee people and many other Native American tribes. But that isn't the full story, argues historian and filmmaker Daniel Blake Smith. His book, An American Betrayal: Cherokee Patriots and the Trail of Tears, depicts the series of events and decisions that led up to the relocation of the Cherokee — decisions made not only by the federal government, but by actors from within the Cherokee nation as well.

NPR's Brian Naylor talks with Smith about the long and complicated relationship between the Cherokee nation and the U.S. government, and the present day legacy of the trail of tears.

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