In 1836 Eliza Spalding and Narcissa Whitman, along with their husbands, travelled by land from Missouri to the Pacific Northwest.
They were Presbyterian missionaries who wanted to convert Native Americans to their beliefs.
On July 4 they became the first white women to cross the Rocky Mountains in Wyoming, although many Native American women had already done this. The entire trip took four months, with the women riding horseback most of the way.
The Spaldings settled in Idaho, where they tried to convert the Nez Perce to Christianity. The Whitmans set up a mission in Washington to teach their Presbyterian beliefs to the Cayuse.
As more and more white people moved into the area, however, the Cayuse became angry; they eventually killed the Whitmans and several other missionaries.
Native peoples were continually moving farther west as white Americans settled on their lands. Some were actually forced to move west by the U.S. government.
A tragic example occurred during the winter of 1838-39, when the U.S. Army made the Cherokee people leave their homes in the Southeast and march 800 miles to so-called Indian Territory (later part of Oklahoma).
Thousands of Cherokees, including many women and children, died on that long, cold trip. Quatie Ross, the wife of Chief John Ross, was one of those who did not survive.
After she covered a sick child with her blanket, she became chilled and fell ill with pneumonia. Cherokees continue to remember the route to Indian Territory as Nunna daul Tsunyi (“the Trail of Tears” or, more precisely, “the trail where we cried”).