What Diseases Were The Common During The Trail of Tears?


The Trail of Tears was an event that took place in the 18th century. It was a movement of Native Americans who were forced to leave their land and relocate to Oklahoma. The Native Americans believed they were being forced to move because of their culture or religion. It is said that there were over 4,000 people that were left with no homes and no possessions when they were forced to travel on foot due to poor planning and preparation by government officials.

What diseases were present during the Trail of Tears, or why did so many people die?

During the Trail of Tears, Native Americans were forced to leave their homes, and travel through mostly unfamiliar territory. The diseases they were encountering were different than those found in their homelands; some had never even seen a vaccine. Some of these diseases we know today, like smallpox and measles.

Others such as:

  • Typhoid fever
  • Malaria
  • Yellow fever
  • Cholera

Remain relatively unknown today, as well as scarlet fever, whooping cough, and many others that weren’t uncommon at the time.

The Trail of Tears was a forced relocation.

The Trail of Tears was a forced relocation of more than three million Native Americans from their homes in what is now the southeastern United States to Indian Territory in present-day Oklahoma.

It started in 1838 and ended in 1839. The main goal of the relocation was for the native population to assimilate into American culture through assimilation and acculturation.

Some other motivations included:

  • Increasing military strength to suppress the tribes hostile to the U.S.
  • Expansion
  • Economic opportunity
  • Exploitation by frontiersmen who preyed on Indians as they migrated westward
  • Improved opportunities for education and Christianity.

The policy was carried out by several administrations over more than half a century beginning with President Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Proclamation of 1830 during which some 1.5 million Apache, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole were relocated eastward to areas that would become Indian Territory (the present-day state of Oklahoma).


It’s embarrassing to admit, we’ve all had the flu in our life. Most of us have come down with something. One of the most common diseases on the journey westward was Yellow Fever. Yellow Fever is a serious disease because it targets blood vessels and causes bleeding in major organs such as the liver, spleen, and heart. It’s no fun having to throw up or bleed out every day. But luckily there were also other common diseases that people came down with during this period that didn’t kill them right away like dysentery and measles.