Indian Removal

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Indian Removal, Cherokee Trail of Tears, and Indian Territory
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Indian Removal

Indian Removal Treaty
Native American Indian Removal Treaty.jpg
(Native American Removal)

Indian removal was a nineteenth century policy of the government of the United States to relocate Native American tribes living east of the Mississippi River to lands west of the river. The Indian Removal Act, part of a United States government policy known as Indian removal, was signed into law by President Andrew Jackson (D) on May 26, 1830.

In the first four decades of the nineteenth century, the United States cajoled, bribed, arrested, and ultimately removed approximately seventy thousand American Indians out of their ancestral lands in the American South. Although President Andrew Jackson is often deemed the architect of this program, the removal of the Chickasaw, Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole (commonly referred to as the Five Civilized Tribes) began years before the 1830 Indian Removal Act and Jackson's subsequent use of the military to relocate the Indians. (See: Indian Territory and Westward Expansion: 1803-1861.)

In 1802 the state of Georgia agreed to cede its westernmost lands to the federal government, and in return the government vowed to extinguish the Indian title to lands within Georgia as soon as possible. In the following years the United States made only a few serious efforts to live up to that promise. After the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, President Thomas Jefferson pressured the Cherokee and other Indian nations to exchange their eastern domains voluntarily for regions in the newly acquired western territory. Only a few tribes accepted the offer. After the War of 1812 the United States obtained thousands of acres of Creek lands in Georgia and Alabama, but the acquisition did not accompany a larger plan for Creek removal.

Finally, in the 1820s, Georgians began to demand that the United States extinguish the Indian title to lands within their state. President James Monroe determined that arranging the exchange of acreage in the East for areas in the West was the best means to accomplish this goal. While the federal government tried to create inducements to convince the Southeastern Indians to leave their homes, the discovery of gold in Georgia led to more aggressive demands for immediate Indian removal.

The United States would later justify its Indian removal policy as Manifest Destiny.

Native American Indian Removal Map
Native American Indian Removal Map.jpg
Native Americans, aka American Indians, and Indian Removal and Trail of Tears Map. High Resolution.

The election of Andrew Jackson to the presidency in 1828 encouraged Georgia and its land-hungry settlers. Jackson made his position clear in his first message to Congress. He told the Cherokees that they had no constitutional means to resist and that it was in their best interest voluntarily to move west. Staying would lead to their destruction. As Congress debated the issues, several Cherokees negotiated a removal agreement with the United States. Major Ridge, a Cherokee planter and soldier, his son John Ridge, and his nephew Elias Boudinot conducted these negotiations with the United States despite the expressed wishes of the majority of their nation. Most Cherokees, including Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation John Ross, protested and tried to stop Ridge and his so-called Treaty Party.

American Indian Removal
(Native American Indian Removal.jpg
(Native American Removal Treaty)

On May 28, 1830, while Ridge and his supporters negotiated terms of removal with the United States, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act. This law provided the president with $500,000 to establish districts west of the Mississippi River, to trade eastern tribal lands for those districts, to compensate the Indians for the cost of their removal and the improvements on their homesteads, and to pay one years worth subsistence to those who went west. Armed with this authority, President Jackson authorized agents to negotiate and enforce treaties.

Chief John Ross hired former attorney general William Wirt to represent the Cherokee in Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (1831) and then in Worcester v. Georgia (1832). In each case the U.S. Supreme Court recognized the sovereignty of the Cherokee tribe. The latter determined that Georgia could not make laws for the Cherokee people. The Supreme Court's rulings, however, could not prevent forced removal. Georgia and the United States ignored the ruling and refused to recognize Cherokee sovereignty.

President Jackson embraced Ridge and the Cherokee minority, and together they signed the Treaty of New Echota in 1835. Ridge ceded all Cherokee lands east of the Mississippi in return for territory in present northeastern Oklahoma, five million dollars, transportation west, and one year of subsistence. Amid a chorus of protests by Cherokees and their American supporters, the U.S. Senate ratified the treaty. Nearly two thousand Cherokees moved west in accordance to the agreement, but most of the nation remained. They still hoped that their Constitutional victories and the illegalities of the treaty might be recognized. In 1838 the United States sent armed soldiers to enforce the law. The federal troops confined the Cherokees in disease-ridden camps for several months before forcing them to proceed west via Trail of Tears. Death and hardship was common, and nearly one in four Cherokees died.

Enhanced High Resolution Map of Indian Removal
High Resolution Map of Indian Removal.jpg
The Only Online High Resolution Map of Indian Removal with Topography Feel Affect Technology

Southern Native American Indian Removals

Indian Removal.gif

Nation Population east of the Mississippi before removal treaty Removal treaty
(year signed)
Years of major emigration Total number emigrated or forcibly removed Number stayed in Southeast Deaths during removal Deaths from warfare
Choctaw 19,554 + 6000 black slaves Dancing Rabbit Creek (1830) 1831-1836 12,500 7,000 2,000-4,000+ (Cholera) n/a
Creek 22,700 + 900 black slaves Cusseta (1832) 1834-1837 19,600 ? 3,500 (disease after removal) ? (Second Creek War)
Chickasaw 4,914 + 1,156 black slaves Pontotoc Creek (1832) 1837-1847 over 4,000 hundreds a few from disease n/a
Cherokee 21,500
+ 2,000 black slaves
New Echota (1835) 1836-1838 20,000 + 2,000 slaves 1,000 2,000-8,000 n/a
Seminole 5,000 + fugitive slaves Payne's Landing (1832) 1832-1842 2,833 250-500 700 (Second Seminole War)

The other southeastern Indian nations experienced similar stories of upheaval and dislocation. Although each resisted, the Choctaw (1831-32), the Chickasaw (1837-38), the Creek, and the Seminole too found their ways westward on Trail of Tears. Divisions within the Creek Nation led to the execution of William McIntosh, one if its prominent chiefs, for signing the 1825 Treaty of Indian Springs. Ironically, McIntosh was killed in accordance to a law that he had created only years earlier. Despite their continued opposition, most of the Creek Indians trekked west in 1836. Hundreds of Seminoles moved to Indian Territory in 1832, but many more refused to leave the swamps of Florida. Instead, they fought the Second Seminole War (1835-42), and some moved further into the Everglades. (See Indian Removal and Trail of Tears: A History and Indian Removal and Trail of Tears.)

Indian Removal Map
Indian Removal Map.jpg
Map of Indian Removal is absent the Plains Indians which relocated onto reservations by 1890

Northern Native American Indian Removals

Tribes in the Old Northwest were far smaller and more fragmented than the Five Civilized Tribes, so the treaty and emigration process was more piecemeal. Bands of Shawnee, Ottawa, Potawatomi, Sauk, and Meskwaki (Fox) signed treaties and relocated to the Indian Territory. In 1832, a Sauk chief named Black Hawk led a band of Sauk and Fox back to their lands in Illinois. In the Black Hawk War, the U.S. Army and Illinois militia defeated Black Hawk and his army.

The Iroquois were also supposed to be part of the Indian removal, and the Treaty of Buffalo Creek arranged for them to be removed to land in Wisconsin and Kansas. However, the land company that was to purchase the land for the territories reneged on their deal, and subsequent treaties in 1842 and 1857 gave back most of the Iroquois' reservations untouched. Only the Buffalo Creek Reservation was ever dissolved as part of the removal program, and a small portion was repurchased over a century later to build a casino.

Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma History Map
Indian Removal, Cherokee Trail of Tears Map.jpg
Indian Removal, Cherokee Trail of Tears, and Indian Territory Map

(Sources listed at bottom of page.)

Recommended Reading: The Cherokee Removal: A Brief History with Documents (The Bedford Series in History and Culture) (Paperback). Description: This book tells the compelling story of American ethnic cleansing against the Cherokee nation through an admirable combination of primary documents and the editors' analyses. Perdue and Green begin with a short but sophisticated history of the Cherokee from their first interaction with Europeans to their expulsion from the East to the West; a region where Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Alabama connect. Continued below...

The reader is directed through a variety of documents commenting on several important themes: the "civilizing" of the Cherokee (i.e. their adoption of European culture), Georgia's leading role in pressuring the Cherokee off their land and demanding the federal government to remove them by force, the national debate between promoters and opponents of expulsion, the debate within the Cherokee nation, and a brief look at the deportation or forced removal. Conveyed in the voices of the Cherokee and the framers of the debate, it allows the reader to appreciate the complexity of the situation. Pro-removal Americans even made racist judgments of the Cherokee but cast and cloaked their arguments in humanitarian rhetoric. Pro-emigration Cherokee harshly criticize the Cherokee leadership as corrupt and possessing a disdain for traditional Cherokee culture. American defenders and the Cherokee leadership deploy legal and moral arguments in a futile effort to forestall American violence. “A compelling and stirring read.”

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Recommended Viewing: The Trail of Tears: Cherokee Legacy (2006), Starring: James Earl Jones and Wes Studi; Director: Chip Richie, Steven R. Heape. Description: The Trail Of Tears: Cherokee Legacy is an engaging two hour documentary exploring one of America's darkest periods in which President Andrew Jackson's Indian Removal Act of 1830 consequently transported Native Americans of the Cherokee Nation to the bleak and unsupportive Oklahoma Territory in the year 1838. Deftly presented by the talents of Wes Studi ("Last of the Mohicans" and "Dances with Wolves"), James Earl Jones, and James Garner, The Trail Of Tears: Cherokee Legacy also includes narrations of famed celebrities Crystal Gayle, Johnt Buttrum, Governor Douglas Wilder, and Steven R. Heape. Continued below...

Includes numerous Cherokee Nation members which add authenticity to the production… A welcome DVD addition to personal, school, and community library Native American history collections. The Trail Of Tears: Cherokee Legacy is strongly recommended for its informative and tactful presentation of such a tragic and controversial historical occurrence in 19th century American history.

 
Recommended Reading: Indian Removal (The Norton Casebooks in History). Description: This casebook traces the evolution of U.S. Indian policy from its British Colonial origins to the implementation of removal after 1830. Placing Indian removal in political and social contexts, the editors have selected contemporary primary-source documents that reveal the motives and perspectives of both whites and Indians and cover the complicated influences of Jacksonian Democracy and the early stirrings of what would later be referred to as Manifest Destiny. Continued below...
Letters, treaties, and journal entries give readers a sense of the ordeal of removal for American Indians.
 
Recommended Reading: Indian Removal: The Emigration of the Five Civilized Tribes of Indians (423 pages) (University of Oklahoma Press)
 

Recommended Reading: The Cherokee Nation: A History. Description: Conley's book, "The Cherokee Nation: A History" is an eminently readable, concise but thoughtful account of the Cherokee people from prehistoric times to the present day. The book is formatted in such a way as to make it an ideal text for high school and college classes. At the end of each chapter is a source list and suggestions for further reading. Also at the end of each chapter is an unusual but helpful feature- a glossary of key terms. The book contains interesting maps, photographs and drawings, along with a list of chiefs for the various factions of the Cherokee tribe and nation. Continued below...

In addition to being easily understood, a principal strength of the book is that the author questions some traditional beliefs and sources about the Cherokee past without appearing to be a revisionist or an individual with an agenda in his writing. One such example is when Conley tells the story of Alexander Cuming, an Englishman who took seven Cherokee men with him to England in 1730. One of the Cherokee, Oukanekah, is recorded as having said to the King of England: "We look upon the Great King George as the Sun, and as our Father, and upon ourselves as his children. For though we are red, and you are white our hands and hearts are joined together..." Conley wonders if Oukanekah actually said those words and points out that the only version we have of this story is the English version. There is nothing to indicate if Oukanekah spoke in English or Cherokee, or if his words were recorded at the time they were spoken or were written down later. Conley also points out that in Cherokee culture, the Sun was considered female, so it is curious that King George would be looked upon as the Sun. The "redness" of Native American skin was a European perception. The Cherokee would have described themselves as brown. But Conley does not overly dwell on these things. He continues to tell the story using the sources available. The skill of Conley in communicating his ideas never diminishes. This book is highly recommended as a good place to start the study of Cherokee history. It serves as excellent reference material and belongs in the library of anyone serious about the study of Native Americans.

 

Recommended Reading: 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus. Description: 1491 is not so much the story of a year, as of what that year stands for: the long-debated (and often-dismissed) question of what human civilization in the Americas was like before the Europeans crashed the party. The history books most Americans were (and still are) raised on describe the continents before Columbus as a vast, underused territory, sparsely populated by primitives whose cultures would inevitably bow before the advanced technologies of the Europeans. For decades, though, among the archaeologists, anthropologists, paleolinguists, and others whose discoveries Charles C. Mann brings together in 1491, different stories have been emerging. Among the revelations: the first Americans may not have come over the Bering land bridge around 12,000 B.C. but by boat along the Pacific coast 10 or even 20 thousand years earlier; the Americas were a far more urban, more populated, and more technologically advanced region than generally assumed; and the Indians, rather than living in static harmony with nature, radically engineered the landscape across the continents, to the point that even "timeless" natural features like the Amazon rainforest can be seen as products of human intervention. Continued below...

Mann is well aware that much of the history he relates is necessarily speculative, the product of pot-shard interpretation and precise scientific measurements that often end up being radically revised in later decades. But the most compelling of his eye-opening revisionist stories are among the best-founded: the stories of early American-European contact. To many of those who were there, the earliest encounters felt more like a meeting of equals than one of natural domination. And those who came later and found an emptied landscape that seemed ripe for the taking, Mann argues convincingly, encountered not the natural and unchanging state of the native American, but the evidence of a sudden calamity: the ravages of what was likely the greatest epidemic in human history, the smallpox and other diseases introduced inadvertently by Europeans to a population without immunity, which swept through the Americas faster than the explorers who brought it, and left behind for their discovery a land that held only a shadow of the thriving cultures that it had sustained for centuries before. Includes outstanding photos and maps.

Sources: National Park Service; US Army (History.Army.Mil); Grant Foreman, Indian Removal: The Emigration of the Five Civilized Tribes of Indians (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1932). Francis Paul Prucha, The Great Father: The United States Government and the American Indians (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1984). Theda Perdue and Michael D. Green, ed., The Cherokee Removal: A Brief History with Documents (Boston: Bedford Books of St. Martin's Press, 1995). Andrew K. Frank, Oklahoma Historical Society; Anderson, William L., ed. Cherokee Removal: Before and After. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 1991. ISBN 0-8203-1482-X; Ehle, John. Trail of Tears: The Rise and Fall of the Cherokee Nation. New York: Doubleday, 1988. ISBN 0-385-23953-X; Foreman, Grant. Indian Removal: The Emigration of the Five Civilized Tribes of Indians. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1932, 11th printing 1989. ISBN 0-8061-1172-0; Handbook of North American Indians. Vol. 4: History of Indian-White Relations. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington D.C. 1988. ISBN 0-16004-583-5; Prucha, Francis Paul. The Great Father: The United States Government and the American Indians. Volume I. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 1984. ISBN 0-8032-3668-9; Prucha, Francis Paul. American Indian Treaties: The History of a Political Anomaly. University of California Press, 1994. ISBN 0-520-20895-1; Remini, Robert V. Andrew Jackson and his Indian Wars. New York: Viking, 2001. ISBN 0-670-91025-2; Satz, Ronald N. American Indian Policy in the Jacksonian Era. Originally published Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 1975. Republished Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 2002. ISBN 0-8061-4332-1 (2002 edition); Thornton, Russell. American Indian Holocaust and Survival: A Population History Since 1492. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1987. ISBN 0-8061-2074-6; Wallace, Anthony F.C. The Long, Bitter Trail: Andrew Jackson and the Indians. New York: Hill and Wang, 1993. ISBN 0-8090-1552-8 (paperback); ISBN 0-8090-6631-9 (hardback); Zinn, Howard. "A People’s History of the United States: American Beginnings to Reconstruction". Vol. 1. New York: New, 2003. ISBN 978-1-56584-724-8.

Indian Removal Act, Trail of Tears 1838, Treaty of New Echota 1835, History Forced Removal of Cherokees West, Oklahoma Territory, Cherokee Indian Nation, Principal Chief John Ross Cherokee Nation Oklahoma

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