American Westward Expansion
The Oregon Trail & The Trail of Tears
The American West is a land of wonder and excitement often spoken of in terms of mystery, hope and legend. In the early years of the American Republic the western frontier was the inspiration to many people who dreamed and hoped for a better future. Manifest Destiny and the American Dream are rooted in these western lands and are a significant part of who we are as Americans today. However, it must be known the great sacrifice and triumphs that were necessary to fulfill these dreams and acquire the lands of the American West.
The expansion of the United States westward relied heavily on trail systems which made traveling west more feasible. Perhaps the most famous of these trails is the Oregon Trail. Stretching over 2,000 miles the Oregon Trail represented opportunity, self-reliance, and freedom. It gave many the chance to move westward and seek out a new and exciting future on the west coast of the North American continent. The Oregon trail came to represent what it meant to be an American.
On the other side of the spectrum is another trail less glorified in American folk lore, The Trail of Tears. This is trail that would come to symbolize the failures of the American promise that all men are created equal. The Trail was created as a way to move Native Americans westward as white Americans, looking to expand their farms west began to encroach further into Indian territory.
Although both trails symbolize very different values, they both play a crucial role in America’s movement westward. It is with these trails systems, rife in wonder and horror, freedom and despair, which laid the foundations to what we have come to know as the United States today and it is only fair to uncover the stories and the experiences of the men, women and children who followed these trails and their paths.