What was supposed to be a relatively quick and manageable project spanned nine U.S. presidencies and cost more than 40 times the amount originally estimated. In 1837 and 1838, removal constituted a full 20 percent of the federal budget. The boom enriched contractors, who provided cattle, pork, coffee, sugar, corn, flour, salt, wagons, teamsters, pack horses, boats, ferrymen, road builders, rifles, and ammunition.
Removal was also brutal, and a catastrophe for Indians. Poor planning, incompetence, bad weather, and unforeseen circumstances contributed to extraordinary suffering. About 68,000 Native people were exiled from their southeastern homelands. Even after they rebuilt in Oklahoma, Indian nations endured devastating assaults on their rights of self-government. Against all odds they are thriving today.