Trail of Tears

From Wind Repertory Project
James Barnes

James Barnes

General Info

Year: 1990
Duration: c. 6:40
Difficulty: (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Southern Music Company
Cost: Score and Parts - $90.00   |   Score Only - $8.75


Full Score
Flute I-II
Oboe I-II
Bassoon I-II
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
B-flat Bass Clarinet
E-flat Contra-Alto Clarinet
E-flat Alto Saxophones I-II
B-flat Tenor Saxophones
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III
Horn in F I-II
Trombone I-II-III
Double Bass
Percussion, including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Crash Cymbals
  • Field Drum
  • Gong
  • Sleigh Bells
  • Snare Drum
  • Suspended Cymbal
  • Tambourine
  • Triangle

Players chanting and stamping


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Composed in the summer of 1989, Trail of Tears is a tone poem for wind band that describes the 150th anniversary of one of the most cruel, unjust and embarrassing official actions in the history of the United States government. In 1838-39, federal troops rounded up many members of the "Five Civilized Indian Tribes" who were living in the Southeastern U.S.: the Cherokees, Choctaws, Creeks, Chickasaws and the Seminoles. Despite a landmark decision rendered by the legendary Supreme Court Justice John Marshall stating that the members of these tribes could not be moved off their sovereign lands because of a prior treaty granting them this territory, troops were ordered to move all of these Native Americans by forced march in the dead of winter over 1500 arduous miles to what was then known as "Indian Territory", now the eastern portion of the state of Oklahoma.

On this tragic journey more than 4,000 Native Americans perished from starvation, exhaustion and exposure to the elements. It is an event that will be forever ingrained in the memory of our Native Americans; a tragic sequence of events inflamed by political pressure, the greed of white settlers for more land, and irrational fear of Indians, and downright racial bigotry.

The music opens with solo flute, intended to recall the bucolic non-aggressive nature of these "Five Civilized Tribes", who simply wished to be let alone and allowed to live in peace on their ancestral hunting grounds. The faster section portrays the strife between the Indians and the encroaching settlers, and builds to the ultimate tragic battle scene of 1838, when the U.S. Army used the cavalry to defeat the Indians. The dramatic last scene depicts the agony of the march itself and includes the recitation of a mournful poem in the Cherokee language by members of the ensemble:

Dedeeshkawnk juniyohoosa, (Let us mourn those who have died)
Dedeeshkawnk ahyoheest, (Let us mourn those who are dying)
Dedeeshkawnk daynahnohtee. (Let us mourn those who must endure)

The work concludes with a final statement of triumph for these Native Americans who survived the Trail of Tears and have managed to live and prosper in spite of all odds, and who today stand with pride and great honor as an important and integral part of our nation and its severely flawed history in the area of Native American affairs.

I wrote this piece because I believe it is imperative that we remain constantly aware that we are just as capable as any other nation of committing crimes against people who are weaker or different from us, regardless of our form of government and no matter what aspirations we might espouse every year on the Fourth of July. One needs only to recall the internment in concentration camps of all Japanese-Americans on the West Coast and Hawaii during those first dark months of World War II to realize that events such as the Trail of Tears are still within the realm of possibility in this "Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave". We must continue to acknowledge these highly distasteful episodes in our history in order to insure that drastic over-reactions such as these do not recur in the future of our nation.

- Program Note from score


(Needed - please join the WRP if you can help.)

State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • University of Lynchburg (Va.) Wind Symphony (Oeida M. Hatcher, conductor) - 20 October 2023
  • University of Oklahoma (Norman) Sooner Campus Band (Brian Britt, conductor) - 5 March 2023
  • Muskingum University (New Concord, Ohio) Wind Ensemble (David Turrill, conductor) - 5 November 2021
  • DuPage (Glen Ellyn, Ill.) Community Concert Band (Terry Redford, conductor) - 11 March 2019
  • The Ohio State University (Columbus) University Band (Onsby Rose, conductor) – 1 March 2018
  • West Virginia University Symphonic Band (Lindsey Williams, conductor) - 30 November 2017
  • University of North Carolina, Greensboro, University Band (William L. Lake, conductor) – 1 March 2017
  • Appalachian State University (Boone, N.C.) Symphony Band (Kevin Gray Richardson, conductor) – 16 February 2016
  • Southern Colorado (Canon City) Community Band (Mike Nolan, conductor) - 29 March 2015
  • North Shore Summer Music Experience, Duluth, Minnesota (Mark Whitlock, conductor) - 28 June 2014

Works for Winds by This Composer

Adaptable Music

All Wind Works


  • Barnes, J. (1990). Trail of Tears [A Tone Poem for Symphonic Band]. [score]. Southern Music: San Antonio, Tx.