Indian Removal Act

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Indian Removal Act of 1830

1830 Indian Removal Act

Introduction
 
This page introduces the reader to a basic understanding of the 1830 Indian Removal Act. By discussing the US political environment and background surrounding the forced Indian removal, it assists in identifying the motives and causes which eventually resulted in the 1838 Trail of Tears. Common questions are also addressed. What was the primary purpose of the 1830 Indian Removal Act? What was the response of each of the Five Civilized Tribes? What was the US motive or purpose of said Act? After reading the lesson the student should be able to identify the basic facts and political motives surrounding the Indian Removal Act of 1830. An understanding of Washington's principal objective of the numerous Indian removal acts should also be articulated by the student. What was one major result or outcome of President Andrew Jackson's Indian policies? Do you believe that President Jackson had a hidden agenda for the Indians? If so, what was it? Leading to the forced Indian removal of the Cherokee Indians in 1838, known as the Trail of Tears, was a result of which Indian Removal Act? Identify major events and write an Indian removal timeline. Discuss the Indian removal implementation and the long term implications for the Cherokee Indians. How did the forced removal affect each of the Five Civilized Tribes? On a plain sheet of paper, draw a map of the United State, and then trace the route which one of the Five Tribes was forced to follow during the removal process. What impact did the 1830 Indian Removal Act have on the history and creation of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma? What are some major differences between the Eastern Cherokee Indian Tribe and Western Band of Cherokee Nation? Are you Cherokee? There are also free tools for tribal enrollment in the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians or Western Band of Cherokee Nation.

Indian Removal Map
Indian Removal Map.jpg
Indian Removal Map, indicating removal routes from Indian Tribal Territory to Indian Reservations

Indian Removal.gif

History
 
Early in the 19th century, while the rapidly-growing United States expanded into the lower South, white settlers faced what they considered an obstacle. This area was home to the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Seminole nations (aka Five Civilized Tribes). These Indian nations, in the view of the settlers and many other white Americans, were standing in the way of progress. Eager for land to raise cotton, the settlers pressured the federal government to acquire Indian territory.

Andrew Jackson, from Tennessee, was a forceful proponent of Indian removalIn 1814, he commanded the U.S. military forces that defeated a faction of the Creek nation. In their defeat, the Creeks lost 22 million acres of land in southern Georgia and central Alabama. The U.S. acquired more land in 1818 when, spurred in part by the motivation to punish the Seminoles for their practice of harboring fugitive slaves, Jackson's troops invaded Spanish Florida.

From 1814 to 1824, Jackson was instrumental in negotiating nine out of eleven treaties which divested the southern tribes of their eastern lands in exchange for lands in the west. The tribes agreed to the treaties for strategic reasons. They wanted to appease the government in the hopes of retaining some of their land, and they wanted to protect themselves from white harassment. As a result of the treaties, the United States gained control over three-quarters of Alabama and Florida, as well as parts of Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Kentucky and North Carolina. This was a period of voluntary Indian migration, however, and only a small number of Creeks, Cherokee and Choctaws actually moved to the new lands.

In 1823 the Supreme Court handed down a decision which stated that Indians could occupy lands within the United States, but could not hold title to those lands. This was because their "right of occupancy" was subordinate to the United States' "right of discovery." In response to the great threat this posed, the Creeks, Cherokee, and Chickasaw instituted policies of restricting land sales to the government. They wanted to protect what remained of their land before it was too late.

Although the five Indian nations had made earlier attempts at resistance, many of their strategies were non-violent. One method was to adopt Anglo-American practices such as large-scale farming, Western education, and slave-holding. This earned the nations the designation of the "
Five Civilized Tribes." They adopted this policy of assimilation in an attempt to coexist with settlers and ward off hostility. But it only made whites jealous and resentful.

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

Indian Removal Act
Indian Removal Act and Trail of Tears Map.jpg
Indian Removal Act and Trail of Tears Map

Other attempts involved ceding portions of their land to the United States with a view to retaining control over at least part of their territory, or of the new territory they received in exchange. Some Indian nations simply refused to leave their land -- the Creeks and the Seminoles even waged war to protect their territory. The First Seminole War lasted from 1817 to 1818. The Seminoles were aided by fugitive slaves who had found protection among them and had been living with them for years. The presence of the fugitives enraged white planters and fueled their desire to defeat the Seminoles.

The Cherokee used legal means in their attempt to safeguard their rights. They sought protection from land-hungry white settlers, who continually harassed them by stealing their livestock, burning their towns, and squatting on their land. In 1827 the Cherokee adopted a written constitution declaring themselves to be a sovereign nation. They based this on United States policy; in former treaties, Indian nations had been declared sovereign so they would be legally capable of ceding their lands. Now the Cherokee hoped to use this status to their advantage. The state of Georgia, however, did not recognize their sovereign status, but saw them as tenants living on state land. The Cherokee took their case to the Supreme Court, which ruled against them.

The Cherokee went to the Supreme Court again in 1831. This time they based their appeal on an 1830 Georgia law which prohibited whites from living on Indian territory after March 31, 1831, without a license from the state. The state legislature had written this law to justify removing white missionaries who were helping the Indians resist
Indian Removal. The court this time decided in favor of the Cherokee. It stated that the Cherokee had the right to self-government, and declared Georgia's extension of state law over them to be unconstitutional. The state of Georgia refused to abide by the Court decision, however, and President Jackson refused to enforce the law.

In 1830, just a year after taking office, Jackson pushed a new piece of legislation called the "Indian Removal Act" through both houses of Congress. It gave the president power to negotiate removal treaties with Indian tribes living east of the Mississippi. Under these treaties, the Indians were to give up their lands east of the Mississippi in exchange for lands to the west. Those wishing to remain in the east would become citizens of their home state. This act affected not only the southeastern nations, but many others further north. The removal was supposed to be voluntary and peaceful, and it was that way for the tribes that agreed to the conditions. But the southeastern nations resisted, and Jackson forced them to leave.

Jackson's attitude toward Native Americans was paternalistic and patronizing -- he described them as children in need of guidance and believed the removal policy was beneficial to the Indians. Most white Americans thought that the United States would never extend beyond the Mississippi. Removal would save Indian people from the depredations of whites, and would resettle them in an area where they could govern themselves in peace. But some Americans saw this as an excuse for a brutal and inhumane course of action, and protested loudly against removal.

Their protests did not save the southeastern nations from removal, however. The Choctaws were the first to sign a removal treaty, which they did in September of 1830. Some chose to stay in Mississippi under the terms of the Removal Act. But though the War Department made some attempts to protect those who stayed, it was no match for the land-hungry whites who squatted on Choctaw territory or cheated them out of their holdings. Soon most of the remaining Choctaws, weary of mistreatment, sold their land and moved west.

For the next 28 years, the United States government struggled to force relocation of the southeastern nations. A small group of Seminoles was coerced into signing a removal treaty in 1833, but the majority of the tribe declared the treaty illegitimate and refused to leave. The resulting struggle was the Second Seminole War, which lasted from 1835 to 1842. As in the first war, fugitive slaves fought beside the Seminoles who had taken them in. Thousands of lives were lost in the war, which cost the Jackson administration approximately 40 to 60 million dollars -- ten times the amount it had allotted for Indian removal. In the end, most of the Seminoles moved to the new territory. The few who remained had to defend themselves in the Third Seminole War (1855-58), when the U.S. military attempted to drive them out. Finally, the United States paid the remaining Seminoles to move west.

The Creeks also refused to emigrate. They signed a treaty in March, 1832, which opened a large portion of their Alabama land to white settlement, but guaranteed them protected ownership of the remaining portion, which was divided among the leading families. The government did not protect them from speculators, however, who quickly cheated them out of their lands. By 1835 the destitute Creeks began stealing livestock and crops from white settlers. Some eventually committed arson and murder in retaliation for their brutal treatment. In 1836 the Secretary of War ordered the removal of the Creeks as a military necessity. By 1837, approximately 15,000 Creeks had migrated west. They had never signed a removal treaty.

The Chickasaws had seen removal as inevitable, and had not resisted. They signed a treaty in 1832 which stated that the federal government would provide them with suitable western land and would protect them until they moved. But once again, the onslaught of white settlers proved too much for the War Department, and it backed down on its promise. The Chickasaws were forced to pay the Choctaws for the right to live on part of their western allotment. They migrated there in the winter of 1837-38.

The Cherokee, on the other hand, were tricked with an illegitimate treaty. In 1835, a small faction agreed to sign a removal agreement: the
Treaty of New Echota. The leaders of this group were not the recognized leaders of the Cherokee nation, and over 15,000 Cherokees -- led by Chief John Ross -- signed a petition in protest. The Supreme Court ignored their demands and ratified the treaty in 1836. The Cherokee were given two years to migrate voluntarily, at the end of which time they would be forcibly removed. By 1838 only 2,000 had migrated; 16,000 remained on their land. The U.S. government sent in 7,000 troops, who forced the Cherokees into stockades at bayonet point. They were not allowed time to gather their belongings, and as they left, whites looted their homes. Then began the march known as the Trail of Tears, in which 4,000 Cherokee people died of cold, hunger, and disease on their way to the western lands.

By 1837, the Jackson administration had removed 46,000 Native American people from their land east of the Mississippi, and had secured treaties which led to the removal of a slightly larger number. Most members of the five southeastern nations had been relocated west, opening 25 million acres of land to white settlement and to slavery. ...continue to related reading below.

Credit: PBS Online

Recommended Reading: Trail of Tears: The Rise and Fall of the Cherokee Nation. Description: One of the many ironies of U.S. government policy toward Indians in the early 1800s is that it persisted in removing to the West those who had most successfully adapted to European values. As whites encroached on Cherokee land, many Native leaders responded by educating their children, learning English, and developing plantations. Such a leader was Ridge, who had fought with Andrew Jackson against the British. Continued below...

As he and other Cherokee leaders grappled with the issue of moving, the land-hungry Georgia legislators, with the aid of Jackson, succeeded in ousting the Cherokee from their land, forcing them to make the arduous journey West on the infamous "Trail of Tears." ...A treasured addition for the individual remotely interested in American Indian history as well as general American history.

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Related Reading:
 

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.

 
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.
 
"The Thomas Legion Award Winner": Voices from the Trail of Tears (Real Voices, Real History Series). Description: Although British and American governmental policy had been pushing Native Americans westward for much of the 18th and early 19th centuries, passage of the Indian Removal Act of 1830 brought this policy to a head. This act, which provided for the exchange of American Indian lands in the East for lands west of the Mississippi River and for the removal of the Indians to those lands, resulted in the relocation of an estimated 100,000 Native Americans. Continued below...
Although many tribes were involved in this process, the most publicized removal was that of the Cherokees. In Voices from the Trail of Tears, Vicki Rozema draws from letters, military records, physicians' records, and journal excerpts to provide insight into what actually happened during this period. Through these primary sources, which are presented in chronological order, we follow the feuding within the Cherokee ranks about whether to accept the white man's ultimatum, and if so, how it should be implemented. We have firsthand accounts of how the Indians from Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee were rounded up to prepare for their removal. We hear the sympathetic white missionaries pleading for the Cherokees to be allowed to stay in their homeland, and we see how some of these same missionaries dealt with the testing of their faith as they accompanied the Indians on their westward journey. We read official reports and private musings from the soldiers who were ordered to carry out the removal, many of whom ended up sympathizing with their wards. We see the conditions that the people endured as they traveled on what they called "The Trail Where They Cried." We even follow the confusion that resulted when the new arrivals in the West faced assimilation into a culture already established by those who had emigrated 20 to 30 years earlier. In Voices from the Trail of Tears, the actual participants give us a perspective on what happened during this infamous chapter in American history.
 
Recommended Reading: Indian Removal: The Emigration of the Five Civilized Tribes of Indians (423 pages) (University of Oklahoma Press)

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