RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The Indian Removal Act of 1830 forced some 60,000 Native Americans to west of the Mississippi River. Among them were Cherokee who made their way on foot from the North Carolina mountains to Oklahoma.
There were 4,000 who died on what became known as the Trail of Tears.
“The Cherokees alone, we lost approximately a third of our population. And think about that — a third of the Cherokee population was lost because of a decision that was made at the federal level to take our land and move us west. I mean, you want to talk about social injustice” said Michell Hicks. He served for more than a decade as the Principal Chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
Otherwise known as the Qualla Boundary, it is the home of those descended from the 800 Cherokee who escaped the forced removal.
“Natives represent less than 1% of the overall population of the United States, although we’ve been here for centuries,” Hicks said. “However, you don’t ever hear about it. And so, again, the thought of social injustice is not focused on one culture. It should be focused on all the related cultures to define the balance.”
The relocation order was made by President Andrew Jackson. Born in the Carolinas, Jackson’s statue sits outside the State Capitol in downtown Raleigh. Hicks said he’d like to see a marker alongside his monument telling the full story rather than see the monument removed.
“If statues are going to be displayed, then they need to be related to the true history and not just recognized for simply the positive things that occurred under the leadership. I mean, a true history is what natives have always asked for,” Hicks said.
He also thinks that would help bring attention to the needs of Native Americans. That includes the 25% who live in poverty.
“Let’s talk about people in general, people in their communities, and find ways to build infrastructure that really lifts up those that are living in these situations,” Hicks said.
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