Indian removal: Wikis


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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.



Since the presidency of Thomas Jefferson, America's policy had been to allow Native Americans to remain east of the Mississippi as long as they became assimilated or "civilized." His original plan was for Natives to give up their own cultures, religions, and lifestyles in favor of western European culture, and a sedentary agricultural lifestyle.

Jefferson's expectation was that by assimilating them into an agricultural lifestyle, they would become economically dependent on trade with white Americans, and would thereby be willing to give up land that they would otherwise not part with, in exchange for trade goods.[1] In an 1803 letter to William Henry Harrison, Jefferson wrote:

To promote this disposition to exchange lands, which they have to spare and we want, for necessaries, which we have to spare and they want, we shall push our trading uses, and be glad to see the good and influential individuals among them run in debt, because we observe that when these debts get beyond what the individuals can pay, they become willing to lop them off by a cession of lands.... In this way our settlements will gradually circumscribe and approach the Indians, and they will in time either incorporate with us a citizens or the United States, or remove beyond the Mississippi. The former is certainly the termination of their history most happy for themselves; but, in the whole course of this, it is essential to cultivate their love. As to their fear, we presume that our strength and their weakness is now so visible that they must see we have only to shut our hand to crush them, and that all our liberalities to them proceed from motives of pure humanity only. Should any tribe be foolhardy enough to take up the hatchet at any time, the seizing the whole country of that tribe, and driving them across the Mississippi, as the only condition of peace, would be an example to others, and a furtherance of our final consolidation. [1]

There was a long history of Native American land being purchased, usually by treaty and sometimes under coercion. In the early 19th century the notion of "land exchange" developed and began to be incorporated into land cession treaties. Native Americans would relinquish land in the east in exchange for equal or comparable land west of the Mississippi River. This idea was proposed as early as 1803, by Jefferson, but was not used in actual treaties until 1817, when the Cherokee agreed to cede two large tracts of land in the east for one of equal size in present-day Arkansas. Many other treaties of this nature quickly followed. The process culminated in the idea of exchanging all Native American land in the east for land in the west, which became law with the Indian Removal Act of 1830.[2]

Indian Removal Act

Routes of southern removals.

In 1830, some of the "Five Civilized Tribes" — the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, Seminole, and Cherokee — were still living east of the Mississippi, while others had already moved to the Native American Territory. They were called "civilized" because many tribesmen had adopted various aspects of European-American culture, including Christianity. The Cherokees had a system of writing their own language, developed by Sequoyah, and published a newspaper in Cherokee and English.

In spite of this acculturation and acceptance of the law, the position of the tribes was not secure. Many white settlers and land speculators simply desired the land that was occupied by the tribes. Others believed that the presence of the tribes was a threat to peace and security, based on previous wars waged between the United States and Native Americans, some of whom had been armed by enemies of the United States, such as Great Britain and Spain.[citation needed]

Accordingly, governments of the various U.S. states desired that all tribal lands within their boundaries be placed under state jurisdiction. In 1830, Georgia passed a law which prohibited whites from living on Native American territory after March 31, 1831 without a license from the state. This law was written to justify removing white missionaries who were helping the Native Americans resist removal.

Missionary organizer Jeremiah Evarts urged the Cherokee Nation to take their case to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Marshall court ruled that while Native American tribes were sovereign nations (Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, 1831), state laws had no force on tribal lands (Worcester v. Georgia, 1832). President Andrew Jackson is often quoted as having responded to the court by defiantly proclaiming, "John Marshall has made his decision. Now let him enforce it!" Jackson probably did not say this, although he was criticized (then and since) for making no effort to protect the tribes from state governments.[3]

Andrew Jackson and other candidates of the new Democratic Party had made Native American Removal a major goal in the campaign of 1828. In 1830, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act over the opposition of Theodore Frelinghuysen. President Jackson signed it into law. The Removal Act provided for the government to negotiate removal treaties with the various tribes. The Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek with the Choctaw was the first such removal treaty implemented; while around 7,000 Choctaws ultimately stayed in Mississippi, about 14,000 moved along the Red River. Other treaties, like the dubious Treaty of New Echota with the Cherokee, followed, resulting in the Trail of Tears.

As a result, the five tribes were resettled in the new Indian Territory in modern-day Oklahoma and parts of Kansas. Some Native Americans eluded removal, while those who lived on individually owned land (rather than tribal domains) were not subject to removal. Those who stayed behind eventually formed tribal groups including the Eastern Band Cherokee, based in North Carolina.

In 1835, the Seminoles refused to leave Florida, leading to the Second Seminole War. The most important leader in the war was Osceola, who led the Seminoles in their fight against removal. While based in the Everglades of Florida, Osceola and his band used surprise attacks to defeat the U.S. Army in many battles. In 1837, Osceola was seized by deceit upon the orders of U.S. General T.S. Jesup when Osceola came under a flag of truce to negotiate peace[4][5]. He died in prison. The Seminoles continued to fight. Some traveled deeper into the Everglades, while others moved west. The Second Seminole War ended in 1842.

Southern Removals

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 [6] + 6000 black slaves Dancing Rabbit Creek (1830) 1831-1836 12,500 7,000 [7] 2,000-4,000+ (Cholera) n/a
Creek 22,700 + 900 black slaves [8] Cusseta (1832) 1834-1837 19,600 [9] ? 3,500 (disease after removal)[10] ? (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 [11] 250-500 [12] 700 (Second Seminole War)

Many figures have been rounded.

Native American Removal in the North

Tribes north in the Old Northwest were far smaller and more fragmented than the Five Civilized Tribes, and so the treaty and emigration process was more piecemeal. Bands of Shawnees, Ottawas, Potawatomis, Sauks, and Foxes 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.[13]

See also


  1. ^ a b Jefferson, Thomas (1803). "President Thomas Jefferson to William Henry Harrison, Governor of the Indiana Territory," (in English). Retrieved 2009-03-12. 
  2. ^ Prucha (1994), pp. 146-165.
  3. ^ Robert Remini, Andrew Jackson and his Indian Wars, page 257.
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Foreman, p. 47 n.10 (1830 census).
  7. ^ Several thousand more emigrated West from 1844-49; Foreman, pp. 103-4.
  8. ^ Foreman, p. 111 (1832 census).
  9. ^ Remini, p. 272.
  10. ^ Russell Thornton, "Demography of the Trail of Tears", p.85.
  11. ^ Prucha, p. 233.
  12. ^ Low figure from Prucha, p. 233; high from Wallace, p. 101.
  13. ^ Lewis, James. "The Black Hawk War of 1832," Abraham Lincoln Digitization Project, Northern Illinois University, p. 2D. Retrieved 20 September 2007.


  • 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.
  • 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.

External links



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